In Japan, Idol (アイドル) is the term used to describe young manufactured stars working as singers, but also as actresses/actors or models. Keep on reading to know more about the concept of idol, some popular idol groups, and the best spots to find idol goods.
Idol, a concept specific to Japan
In Japan, idols are not considered as artists or singers. Indeed, more than singing or dancing skills, physical appearance and personality are important. Unlike Korea, idols in Japan should not be “perfect”. The fact that they are unpolished and that fans can watch them progress is the most important.
Idols basically start their career very young, around 6-10 years old, until they late 20s. Many of them then try to become “real” singers, models or actors/actresses. Since they must keep a pure, young and innocent image, they are prohibited to date someone, and many idols are forced to resigned because of scandals about them having a boyfriend/ girlfriend, smoking or drinking. Actually, even if they don't have to face a scandal, most idols resigned before turning 30, to get married or because they are already “too old” and therefore not attractive (this particularly tends to be true for female idols.) On the other hand, male idols tends to be even more popular when they are older.
Female idol fans can be divided into 2 main categories: young girls and sometimes boys, who see into them a role model and like them because of their cuteness, and middle-aged men, who are single and spend a lot of money on them.
By the way, since all male idols are produced by the agency Johnny’s & Associates, they are commonly called Johnny’s.
Famous Japanese idols
If you want to know more about idols, here is a list of famous idols in Japan:
・48/46 groups: They are the most well-known idol groups. AKB48, SKE48, NMB48, HKT48, NGT48, Nogizaka46, Keyakizaka46...Each group have a lot of members who are rotating to perform events everyday.
・Hello! Project groups: Hello! Project is known for focusing more on singing and dancing skills than other agencies. You can search for Morning Musume, Angerme, Juice=Juice, Kobushi Factory...
・Johnny’s groups: Arashi, Kinki Kids, Hey!Say!JUMP, Kis-My-Ft2, Kanjani8, Sexy Zone, KAT-TUN, NEWS...
・Finally, if you are interested in old idols, you can check about Matsuda Seiko, Akina Nakamori and Momoe Yamaguchi, as well as groups like SMAP, Hikaru Genji and Shonentai.
Finding idol goods
If you’re an idol fan, Akihabara and Nakano Broadway are two good places to find some idol goods.The AKB48 Theater and the Hello! Project Shop are both located in Akihabara. On the other hand, the Johnny’s Shop which is selling official pictures, is located in Harajuku.
Last but not least, if you understand Japanese, the site Idolscheduler can be very useful to help you search about your favourite girl group and to check about their upcoming events and concerts.
Idol is a part of Japanese subculture, along with anime and manga. And if you come to Japan, you will be surprised by the number of commercials, posters, and other goods featuring them!