A Japanese idol (アイドル; aidoru) is a celebrity who Japanees Idols achieves widespread popularity and fame in Japan largely by virtue of her looks. The term usually refers Japnese Idols to female performers in their late teens and early twenties who are considered "kawaii" (pretty, Jappanese Idols cute) and achieve fame through Japanse Idols publicity in the mass media. Male performers such as Masahiro Japannese Idols Nakai (aka "Nakai-kun") from the singing group SMAP are also commonly referred to (and refer to themselves as) "idols." Japanese Japanee Idols idols are predominantly singers and actors, as well as models (in the Apanese Idols case Japaese Idols of females) for weekly men's magazines such as "Friday" and "Shūkan Gendai". Some of Japamese Idols them may also appear as TV personalities (tarento).
- 1 History
- 2 Culture
- 3 See also
- 4 External Links
The idol phenomenon began during the early seventies, reflecting increasingly materialistic and richer Japanese youths
. Teenage girls, mostly between 14 and 16, began rising to stardom. One in particular, Momoe Yamaguchi, was a huge star until her marriage and retirement in 1980. Idols dominated the pop music scene in the 80s; and this period is known as the "Golden Age of Idols in Japan". In a single year, as many as 40 or 50 new idols could appear, only to disappear from the public spotlight shortly afterwards. A few idols from that era, such as Seiko Matsuda, are still popular. In the 90s, the power of Japanese idols began to wane, as the music industry shifted towards rock musicians and singers for whom music was a more important sales point than looks or wholesomeness, as well as towards genres such as rap that were harder to square with conventional prettiness. The Japanese idol phenomenon has had a large impact on popular culture in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
It is commonly said female Japanese idols represent the perfect female form in Japanese society. They are symbols of female sexuality and are often dressed erotically. For this reason they are often idolised by both males and females. Male audiences' infatuations with an idol's good looks are fed with detailed information about the idol's measurements, favourite colours, food, hobbies, blood type etc. Female audiences are interested in imitating their style, hair colour, fashion etc. Good examples of fashion-leader idols are Ogura Yuko, Ayumi Hamasaki, hitomi, Noriko Sakai, Ryoko Hirosue and Namie Amuro.
Namie Amuro was the most popular idol in the late 1990s, although marketed as more sexy and mature than other idols. She began her career in 1992 as a vocalist for the pop group Super Monkeys, but the group flopped very quickly. Producers liked Amuro, and in 1995, she went solo, enjoying massive success. One of her recent CDs, "Sweet 19 Blues", sold three million copies in advance sales, and went on to become the best-selling album in the history of Japan. This number has since been eclipsed by Hikaru Utada who is known as the current diva.
A diversification occurred in the 1990s and instead of few idols vying for popularity, a number of idols with specific characteristics divided the market. In the mid 1990s, idols became much younger than before, and groups of idols like Speed and Morning Musume became prominent. A new genre of idols called Net Idols became known in the late 1990s, only appearing on websites. In 1997, there appeared Kyoko Date, the first "cyber idol" or "virtual idol". Kyoko Date has a fabricated history and statistics and her own songs. Meanwhile, gurabia aidoru (グラビアアイドル, i.e. "[photo]gravure idols") such as Yoko Matsugane, Rio Natsume and Eiko Koike have largely appeared skimpily clad in "cheesecake" photographs.
Whereas in previous years an idol kept up her idol image until she chose to retire or was simply too old to continue being a credible idol, in recent years several ex-idols have successfully matured from being an idol to becoming full-fledged actresses, singers or musicians who are respected for their craft instead of (or in addition to) being admired for their looks and image. A good example of an ex-idol who is now a respected singer, songwriter and musician is hitomi (now 30), who is known for writing her own lyrics, being heavily involved in the composition and production of her own music, and playing her own guitar, though she does from time to time tease her fans by modelling sexy outfits ordinarily worn by younger women. In addition, hitomi is well-known for maintaining a successful pop career after marriage and motherhood.
The culture of Japanese idols has changed over the years and it is questionable whether past idols would have the same amount of success if given the same opportunity today. Most of those called idols have sung songs that would fit J-Pop and they are generally pretty, cute, or fresh-faced, if not beautiful. However, there are exceptions to the norm. For example, Ogura Yuko, Namie Amuro are both acknowledged as being very beautiful women.
In the 1970s, idols had an aura of mystique that left much of their lifestyles secret. Their public and "private" lives were carefully orchestrated—they always appeared perfect in all situations and seemed to enjoy a lavish lifestyle that most Japanese could only dream about. In reality, however, they were placed under continuous surveillance by their promotors and were unable to enjoy the private lives invented for them. Their pay was surprisingly low. They were often overworked and even if their songs sold well most of the money went to the musicians and writers. Fans had few opportunities to see them beyond a few minutes on TV or radio and it was difficult to share their interests. Magazines were the best source for information and many idols had an official fan clubs that periodically mailed what little information could be released.
In the 1980s, idols became much closer to an average Japanese person, because the average lifestyle of the Japanese improved. While still tightly controlled, idols were allowed to show more of their actual personalities and were permitted to let out some carefully scripted outbursts. The media often fabricated "competitions" between two or more idols, based on things like the number of records sold, the number of fans in the official fan club, etc. In the late 1980s, instead of relying on magazines and TV, some started experimenting with new media and technologies like video games, with mixed results. The working conditions of idols improved and even those with a limited success can live modestly and more of the money made was paid to idols themselves, though they still only received a small proportion.
In the 1990s, instead of being marketed as people who lived better and were better than average, idols became people who just happened to have a little something to become popular. Where the tastes of past idols had to be saccharine, it was now acceptable for an idol to simply love eating ramen or to display something other than a smile, to lament having got a little out of shape or to admit to shopping around for lower prices. Idols also became a fixture in countless anime by singing opening or ending songs that have little relevance to the anime itself. Some experimented with being seiyu, and seiyu themselves became somewhat like idols, becoming increasingly popular. Even today, some are still involved with the video game industry, not entirely successfully.
- List of Japanese idols
- Gravure idol
- List of Japanese celebrities
- Japanese AV Model Galleria
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