JAPAN

Outrage at Olympic all-girl pop group plan

Synchronised dancing by young girls in miniskirts not appropriate, say critics

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 31 January, 2015, 5:15am
UPDATED : Saturday, 31 January, 2015, 5:15am

The founder of all-girl mega-band AKB48 is reportedly planning to create yet another iteration of the concept to star in the opening ceremony at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, triggering a horrified response from some sections of the entertainment industry and the public.

Yasushi Akimoto created the first AKB "idol group" in 2005, named after the Akihabara suburb of Tokyo. The group is also named for its supposed 48 members, although it has had more than 100 at any time, ranging in age from pre-teen to mid-20s.

AKB48 was swiftly followed by SKE48 (Sakae, Nagoya, 2008), NMB48 (Namba, Osaka, 2011) and HKT48 (Hawk's Town, Fukuoka). All perform primarily in dedicated home-town arenas.

Akimoto has now announced the formation of a fifth outfit, to be based in Niigata and known as NGT48. Auditions will start in March and Akimoto said he intends to create others in Sapporo and Okinawa in the near future.

Ultimately, he said, the aim is to be able to choose the most popular 48 girls from among all the groups to create a Japan48 group to perform at the Games.

Akimoto is on the executive board of the organising committee for the Olympics and will have a significant say on the occasion.

One of the highest-earning musical acts in Japan, AKB48 recorded sales of more than US$128 million in 2013 and has sold well over 30 million records.

Critics say bubblegum pop and synchronised dancing by girls as young as 11 in miniskirts are inappropriate Olympic fare.

Social commentator Matsuko Deluxe said the plan to have an AKB48-style band front the Olympics was "embarrassing".

"I absolutely don't want them to perform at the opening ceremony," Deluxe said on radio.

"As long as they are not part of the opening or closing ceremonies, I don't care what they do," Deluxe said. "But please use somebody for the opening and closing ceremonies that wouldn't be an embarrassment."

Reaction on internet chat sites overwhelming agreed.

"If all Japan can field at the Olympics is AKB48 then it would surely be a massive shame for a country with such a rich and varied history," wrote one disgruntled commenter on the JapanToday website.