Remorseful and freshly shorn AKB48 idol Minami Minegishi has generated yet more controversy in Japan and beyond, with the international media castigating the Japanese for their shameful treatment of the girl and with Japanese castigating her for making the rest of the world think her antics are somehow considered normal or reasonable by the majority of Japanese.
Her humiliation and apology were widely reported in the international media, no doubt in no small part due to her striking new look and the fact her tearful apology was posted on YouTube, sparking some .
One representative if uncritical piece from the BBC explains, also touching upon the criticism she has attracted in Japan:
Minegishi’s apology came hours after a tabloid newspaper published photographs of her leaving the apartment of her boyfriend, Alan Shirahama, a dancer in a boy band.
In the video posted on AKB48’s official website, she said she had made the decision to shave off her long hair to show contrition for her “thoughtless and immature” actions.
“I don’t believe just doing this means I can be forgiven for what I did, but the first thing I thought was that I don’t want to quit AKB48,” she said.
At times sobbing and bowing her head during the nearly four-minute-long video, she also said: “If it is possible, I wish from the bottom of my heart to stay in the band. Everything I did is entirely my fault. I am so sorry.”
The condition for being part of such a successful act is that the girls must not date boys, so as not to shatter their fans’ illusions.
AKB48’s management office said Minegishi had been demoted to a trainee team as punishment “for causing a nuisance to the fans”.
But author and critic Hiroki Azuma said it was “disgusting” that the star felt she should resort to a traditional act of contrition when the only rules she had broken were those of her band’s.
Some fans and commentators say Minegishi went too far with her public apology, and that it was unnecessary.
“What’s the point of this public execution show? It’s like something from the war or a totalitarian state,” one fan said on Twitter.
Most Japanese seem to have recoiled from such an extreme act of contrition (not least at a missive from one of her fans decrying her “betrayal”), but the reaction she has provoked from an even more perturbed overseas audience has inspired yet more criticism from Japanese concerned about being made to look a bunch of crazies by AKB48’s antics:
“This bitch knew this would happen if she put it on YouTube yet did it anyway and shamed Japan in the process!”
“Look, I bet nobody told her to do this…”
“Just getting busted for spending a night with her boyfriend really blew up this time…”
“The only crazies involved in this are her fans. Don’t blame it on Japan.”
“Any normal Japanese person is just as shocked as they are.”
“Most Japanese have never even heard of her!”
“She just did it to garner attention.”
“If it wasn’t apparent from the ‘hand-bra’ stunt, it should be very clear now that the promotion of AKB48 is reliant on generating mass media controversy through sensational stories like this.”
“Those foreigners think someone made her do it!”
“Blame it on her. She should have been fired, instead she shaved herself to try and keep her job.”
“I don’t believe for a second she decided to do this herself. Her management violated her rights and the whole group should frankly be disbanded.”
“It is upsetting to think that overseas something like this is presented as a Japanese idol.”
“We’re not saying they can’t date or have sex. That’s their own rule, you stupid filthy hairy barbarians.”
“Catholic priests take the same vows, I don’t want to hear criticism of this from the west!”
“Westerners ought to concentrate on criticising Islam’s treatment of women, not some stupid variety show.”
“Foreigners won’t understand the whole sham-romance aspect of a group like this, they are more similar to the hostess industry than they are to a conventional music group.”
“I wish these overseas reports would actually mention the whole sordid business of them selling handshaking event tickets.”
“Hurry up and realise the whole thing is just another aspect of their performance.”
“Japanese artists aren’t prohibited from dating. This is just a performing harlot.”
“AKB are not artists or musicians to begin with.”
“AKB and their fans are abnormal.”
“I don’t get why this is about Japanese now. They say themselves they don’t have boyfriends, she got herself one anyway, and then she decided to shave her head herself.”
“AKB and their ilk are the shame of Japan, why do they have to insult the rest of Japan by doing these idiotic things?”
“They just want to ruin Japan’s image.”
“The real issue is that our government keeps trying to use yakuza groups like AKB48 in its stupid ‘Cool Japan’ marketing.”
“This is a national disgrace. I wish the media would drop it, but they are going to keep covering it.”
“I can’t believe because of this bitch everyone is going to think Japanese are bunch of crazies who expect this stuff…”
“Calling a group like this ‘national idols’ is a joke. They are an embarrassment even to the world of show business, and are more in danger of being classed as child porn or child abuse than a girl band.”
“The whole thing reeks of a publicity stunt. The people who run AKB48 are seriously messed up.”
“What the foreign media to people is not reporting is that this group is comprised of ugly talentless girls who can barely sing or dance, but who are being used to milk vast sums from fans by selling pseudo-dating rights to them with handshaking events and the like. Normal singers are not expected not to date.”
“Anyway, I think we can all agree that AKB48 and their fans are the shame of Japan.”
“Please let this blow up into an international scandal which ends in their dissolution!”
As if all this were not enough, she has stirred up yet more controversy – this time by posting pictures of herself happily showing off her new hairstyle with friends in a “double peace” pose, in what has been taken as either a total lack of remorse or an indication that the whole thing was an elaborate publicity stunt: