Virginal reputation paramount for Japanese pop idols, scholar says

Nineteen-year-old Rino Sashihara was removed from the wildly popular Japanese girl group AKB48 and transferred to a far-less-celebrated sister group HKT48 after a a man claiming to be an ex-boyfriend said he had half naked pictures of her. She denied the allegations, but the damage to her reputation was done. (Photo from HKT48 official website)

Taylor Swift turns her romantic heartaches into country music gold. Teenage girls eat up all the details of the latest “it” couple Justin and Selena.

While celebrity dalliances have long been fodder for consumers of American tabloids, it’s the complete opposite in Japan where public pureness is expected from its pop singers. That means a complete dating ban. Even a whiff of a romantic interest can torpedo a pop career.

Performers in Japan are fantasy products and keeping them pure and innocent allows fans to imagine them as potential partners, according to Laura Miller, a prominent Japanese scholar who is the Eiichi Shibusawa-Seigo Arai Professor of Japanese Studies at the University of Missouri–St. Louis.

Miller was quoted in a story in The Atlantic about the dating prohibition enforced by Japan’s entertainment industry. And she doubts the dating ban will end anytime soon.

“It’s in their interest and those who are trying to make money off them to keep their actual lives, personalities, and humanity separate,” she said.

Click here or below to view a music video from the immensely popular Japanese girl group AKB48.



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