Fans of Japanese girl group AKB48 gather for result of leader vote

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 June, 2014, 5:33am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 June, 2014, 5:33am


Thousands of fans of Japanese girl group AKB48 gathered yesterday for the results of a ballot on which member will lead the band for the next year amid tight security after two members were attacked by a man wielding a saw.

Organisers were to announce results of the popularity vote late last night at a soccer stadium in Tokyo. Some 300 members were running for top spot in one of the world's highest-grossing acts.

Fans finished voting by Friday for the girl they want to lead the collective for the next year, using ballot slips only available with the purchase of their latest single.

AKB48 is part talent show, part pop act - a venture in which a pool of more than 300 girls and young women at home and overseas compete for a spot in the limelight with each new catchy but formulaic hit.

The annual vote was overshadowed by last month's attack on two teenage members at one of the band's meet-the-fans events in Iwate, northern Japan.

"People were gathering as we opened the gates as scheduled," a stadium official said, adding that he had not received any reports of trouble at the venue. Organisers doubled the number of guards to search people entering the stadium and set up metal detectors at the gates for the nationally televised extravaganza, local media reported.

Rina Kawaei, 19, and Anna Iriyama, 18, both suffered broken bones in their right hands and cuts to their arms and heads after a 24-year-old man attacked them with the 50-centimetre saw.

Kawaei and Iriyama are running for the top spot but may not show up at the venue as they are still under treatment, news reports said.

The popularity of the group - one of the most successful acts of all time in monetary terms - is partly built on their accessibility to their legions of fans. They appear at regular events all over the country to shake hands and pose for pictures, as well as on social networking sites.

Satoru Umeda, arrested for injuring the two band members on May 25, reportedly told investigators: "I attempted to kill people. I didn't care whom." It has been reported he will soon undergo psychiatric tests.

Violent crime is rare in Japan. Carrying a blade without reason - even a pair of scissors, a box-cutter or a survival knife - is banned.