Arama They Didn't

4:23 pm - 03/27/2012

AKB48 Visits DC; Is Subjected to Condescending News Coverage

[Photo credit: Washington Post]

The girls of AKB48 arrived in Washington this week, a buoyant, giggling mass of knees, dimples, hair bows, teeth.

Do the girls of AKB48 own any pets? The American students were questioning the Japanese pop stars on the occasion of their first visit to the U.S. capital.

Aki Takajo owns two Chihuahuas, she informed the students through a translator, beaming with the sheer delight of it all.

Her two companions were elated by the news of these dogs; Sae Miyazawa began clapping her hands, and Rina Hirata — call her Hilary, she encouraged — revealed that she personally kept two snakes for pets.

Oh no! The second-graders of Strong John Thomson Elementary School protested.

Oh yes! Snakes, Hilary, 13, revealed, are very cute. She, like Takajo, 20, and Miyazawa, 21, wore a navy plaid blazer over the smallest schoolgirl skirt, followed by yards of gangly legs, then knee socks. A wee, jaunty top hat perched on her head.

AKB48 is an all female singing group. Sixteen of its members were in town for just 36 hours, a whirlwind cultural exchange to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Japanese gifting of the cherry blossom trees. They visited the school, accompanied by approximately 22 members of the Japanese press. They visited the residence of the Japanese ambassador, Ichiro Fujisaki, who speculated that “AKB” stood for Adorable, Kind and Beautiful. How he jokes, that ambassador. Everyone knows that the group name is a play on “Akihabara,” the Tokyo neighborhood in which the group holds nightly performances. On Tuesday, they were scheduled to perform two free concerts at the Lincoln Theatre.

How to explain AKB48. The group contains 57 members, making it the largest pop group in the world. They are split into four teams, which perform on revolving nights. When the girls get older, they “graduate” and are replaced with trainee AKB48s. The group’s past 11 singles have topped Japanese charts. They are huge. It is as if Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and the entire cast of “Twilight” were placed into a sauce pan and simmered on a low boil until nothing remained but the cloying, sticky essence of their fame, and if that fame was then poured into pleated tartan skirts and given pigtails.

Is AKB48’s target audience tweenage girls? Teenage girls? Teenage girls trapped in the bodies of middle-aged men? Middle-aged men who spend too much time looking at the bodies of teenage girls?

The group plays on all of this: The cutesy-sexy stereotype is not exactly subliminal. Anyone who thinks they are solely G-rated has not seen their Puccho candy commercial, in which the members of AKB48 pass each other taffy, lips to lips, no hands at all.

Back at Thomson Elementary, the students wanted to know: Who is your favorite cartoon character, Hilary?

She pointed to a picture of a Japanese manga character and nodded enthusiastically. “Because he’s blue and round and has a pocket that is a door, and you can open the door and go anywhere you want.” Hilary was born in Arizona, and so she said this in English. The other girls nodded approvingly.

After this cultural Q&A, the three girls sat with the students and helped them write messages of goodwill to residents of Japan on pink cutouts of cherry blossoms.

“Just draw anything?” Takajo, through her translator, asked the young girl who has pressed a crayon into her hand and asked for assistance. The girl nodded. Takajo took the crayon and carefully sketched a small figure. It was Hello Kitty.

Then the girls were whisked away, waving cheerfully. The approximately 22 members of the press also dispersed, catching taxis to the ambassador’s residence, where the girls were scheduled to give a press conference.

The girls arrived about 10 minutes late to the open, airy room decorated with pictures of the Japanese emperor and empress. These girls were new girls, three different members of AKB48. There were no top hats in this group, and one wore a beret. The skirts and blazers were identical, however, and the replacement girls appeared to be equally adorable, kind and beautiful.

A member of the media asked the new girls how they felt to be visiting Washington.

“We are looking forward to giving you our show,” one girl says. “We are so honored and pleased.”

And do they have any tourist plans?

“We wanted to see the beautiful cherry blossoms,” Minami Takahashi says through an interpreter, though she is not sure they will have time. “We appreciate the many famous things in Washington, D.C.”

The resulting applause seems the slightest bit outsized for the girls’ responses, but they were very personable, and it is possible that something was lost in translation.

Source and a slide show that is worth clicking through to.

WTF, WaPo. Could you have put less effort into this? The comments to the article are even worse. AKB48 are cuter than you. Get over it.
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crimsonbreeze 27th-Mar-2012 11:35 pm (UTC)
Nowadays I only read news from sources like Oricon and the kind. Overseas coverage of AKB48 seems to be filled with sarcasm and hatred. I'll never get why they have more haters outside of Japan than inside.
asweetsymphony 27th-Mar-2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
Probably because AKB's appeal is more for Japan. They're not very Western friendly...
liime_arix 27th-Mar-2012 11:39 pm (UTC)
Some of the other sites had better coverage.
jeauexe 27th-Mar-2012 11:47 pm (UTC)
can you supply a link please? (: i want to read something that doesn't sound so... :///
molly_hime 27th-Mar-2012 11:40 pm (UTC)
Wow. I don't like AKB48 in the slightest but this article was fucking ridiculous. I don't know if I have a right to be offended, but I feel offended by how this was written.
icehism 27th-Mar-2012 11:44 pm (UTC)
i read this earlier today in class and they wondered why i headdesked really loudly.

Writer needs to learn some common sense.
liime_arix 27th-Mar-2012 11:45 pm (UTC)
What is worse is that they switched Sae and Aki's name *facepalm* Fail on their part.

kachuusha 27th-Mar-2012 11:47 pm (UTC)
they clearly did as little research about the group that they needed to.
kachuusha 27th-Mar-2012 11:46 pm (UTC)
aw, hilary and her snakes~

too bad this article is shit.
funkaliciousss 28th-Mar-2012 07:41 am (UTC)
is she serious about those snakes? lmao I think she's my kenkyusei oshii now.
jeauexe 27th-Mar-2012 11:48 pm (UTC)
wow i have no words for this immensely crap article and the comments accompanying it
ohprecioustime 27th-Mar-2012 11:48 pm (UTC)
I don't get it .__.
wasn't really offensive...
the_lilone 28th-Mar-2012 02:46 pm (UTC)
I didn't see it either. But I'm an anti-AKB person so....
jell_o_jello 27th-Mar-2012 11:49 pm (UTC)
Apparently someone who wrote this is not one who understands/likes the idol culture.
The whole article is a mockery.
misty__eyed 27th-Mar-2012 11:50 pm (UTC)
:| I wonder if I should bother to comment on the actual site.

asweetsymphony 27th-Mar-2012 11:52 pm (UTC)
Why are they in Washington? lmao.
kachuusha 27th-Mar-2012 11:53 pm (UTC)
for the yearly cherry blossom festival
beauregardes 27th-Mar-2012 11:54 pm (UTC)
ahh the pictures are so cute! too bad the article/"research" itself is

Edited at 2012-03-27 11:55 pm (UTC)
phishn37 27th-Mar-2012 11:57 pm (UTC)
Look, I get that foreign news outlets don't really "get" AKB48 because it's a very Japanese concept and group, but my god, can they at least TRY to report facts about the group without me being able to literally hear their sarcasm through the words all the way over here!?! Not that I expect them to talk about AKB just like she's Beyonce or Rihanna or something they're used to, but this article's effort was pretty pathetic.
emeraldxdew 28th-Mar-2012 12:01 am (UTC)
Wow, this writer makes Stephanie Meyer's writing look subtle.
vickyblueeyez 28th-Mar-2012 12:01 am (UTC)
This was fucking offensive. I hate reporters. They did the same stuff when they interviewed me about my Anime club way back when.
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