Episode 378 – A Star Is Born

This week, we’re talking about the birth of the idol industry in Japan. What are idols, how are they made famous, and what does all of this say about the nature of consumer culture in modern Japan?


Galbraith, Patrick W and Jason G. Karlin, eds. Idols and Celebrity in Japanese Media Culture.

Ni, Jindan. The Tale of Genji and its Chinese Precursors: Beyond the Boundaries of Nation, Class, and Gender (this was the thing I had to read in grad school about comparisons between AKB48 and women in the Heian Period)

Ian Martin’s fantastic article on the golden age of kayokyoku music for the Japan Times.

An article about Nishino Miki and mental health in AKB48 from Japan Today.


AKB48 during a performance in LA in 2010.
Sophie Vartan on the Japanese poster for Cherchez L’Idole (1964).
Hatsune Miku on the cover for Yamaha’s vocaloid software.
Minegishi Minami during her apology press conference. This story is emblematic of the sort of intense pressure Japanese idols live with.
Onyanko Club, one of the first big idol groups, in the 1980s. The three girls in front in the schoolgirl uniforms are the cast of a TV show (Sukeban Deka, or ‘Delinquent Girl Detective’); this photo is an example of cross-media branding in action!

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