30 Dec 2022


Why Japanese Idol Culture is Popular

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Academic level: College

Paper type: Research Paper

Words: 1513

Pages: 6

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The Japanese idol refers to a pop culture that is entrenched deeply in the Japanese entertainment industry where young manufactured talents are marketed for customer admiration. Japanese idols have continuously come out as being talented in acting, dancing, and singing, unlike mainstream media personalities who are famous but not necessarily with unique talents (Iwabuchi, Tsai, & Berry, 2017). Japanese idols are popularized by talent agencies in Japan that identify and nurture talent through auditions where young individuals who are green in the entertainment industry are marketed by the talent agencies.

Culture about pop idol 

Japanese popular culture is a combination of Japanese cinema, television programs, cuisine, manga, anime, and music which have literary and artistic traditions with their themes traceable from the Japanese traditional art forms. According to Iwabuchi et al., (2017), the pop culture in Japan aims amongst other things to provide entertainment and showcase the distinguishable differences between of Japan and the modern world. The Japanese culture is largely viewed as influenced by the American media mainly because the United States at one point occupied Japan. Consequently, the Japanese have copied American culture but rather than complete copying the Japanese take only parts of the culture making the Japanese culture stand out today as among the leading and prominent popular cultures.

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The popular culture in Japan can be seen from studies to have partly emanated from the fact that they were defeated in the Second World War where they wanted to become a colonial power. Given the defeat and ensuing economic struggles, Japan sought to present itself to the world by using the media and culture. As a result, Japan set to export its appealing culture in television programs, animation, films, fashions, and popular music (Iwabuchi et al., 2017).

As part of re-establishing itself in the world, Japan developed the Japanese Idols where idealized celebrities are created from young talents meant to acts as role models adored by everyone and thus promoting desirable images of fantastical happiness. The idols are viewed as needing to hold a perfect public image setting good examples to young people. Japanese Idols play a variety of roles as media personalities, pop singers, actors, models and program panelists. However, unlike the media personalities who are largely famous but not necessarily rich in talents, the idols are seen to have a pool of abilities and talents.


The modern era of artists being an always-on fan has increasingly changed the marketing of media personalities as well as Japanese Idols. The idol system having had a ‘First Idol Boom’ in the later years of the twentieth century resulted into creating televised talent searches with more emphasis put on the theatrics and appearances of the stars rather than the sound and quality of music by the stars (Atkins, 2017). Given the successes of the televised star searches, the music industry sought to market the pop idol culture both in the local and international markets using various means with the numerous managing agencies taking center stage in engineering marketing strategies for their idols.

First, the idols are marketed through the sale of merchandise disguised as albums. Having a technologically sophisticated country like Japan market its artists through physical merchandise is a strategy worth keenly focusing on. Rather than selling music through the modern online platforms as in the United States and other modern parts of the world, the Japanese pop culture promotes sales through the compact discs. The CDs which normally would have an album comprising of different tracks and varied artwork, as well as packaging, are made of same music tracks and artwork only that they have a gift different from the previous works. The marketing strategy is largely seen to ride on the fact that super fans will buy all editions of the same music.

The idol artists are a product of Japan’s reality television shows that are similar to the American version of the XFactor as well as American Idol reality shows. Unlike the American reality shows that comprise competing acts, the Japanese Idol shows mainly focuses on one act. Consequently, the Japanese Idol differs from the American shows in that the voting systems for favorite talents are varied. In the American systems, the voting is undertaken using premium phone lines while the Japanese systems incline more on official voting slips. The voting slips which are conveniently found on the idols’ newest CDs make it possible for one fan to cast more than one votes. Recent studies have shown that during the idol searches, fans purchase CDs not to listen to music but rather as a voting forum where voting is unlimited provided the fans purchase more CDs (Iwabuchi et al., 2017).

Another forum for marketing that the Japanese Idol platforms use is the handshakes which fans value greatly. The companies that are engaged in the idol acts employ various means to see the idol’s fans outdo each other in spending in a bid to have their favorites emerge the victor. In several occasions, the companies release music by the idols where they stage handshake events that attract huge fans assemblies where the fans that purchase more get more than handshakes with even dates being arranged although highly chaperoned.

The managing agencies and recording labels of various artists understand the Japanese market, and thus they make numerous efforts to create forums that boost sales through encouraging multiple CD purchases. Since the fans view idols as individuals who are a source of inspiration, support, and motivation in life, they are willing to make extra expenses to support these idols. The fanatical following of idols in Japan is best seen in Spotify’s attempts to enter the Japanese entertainment industry to market music through online platforms. Despite the huge expenses accruing to purchasing CDs, Spotify did not kill the CD sales in the Japanese industry.

How to become an idol 

Japanese pop idols are arguably an influential and powerful institution in the pop culture possibly even to a greater extent than most of the Western idols (Atkins, 2017). Consequently, the idols are highly appreciated in the society especially as role models, inspiration as well as motivation sources for the younger generation. The appreciation and the center-stage that the idols play in the Japanese culture makes becoming an idol highly coveted.

The success stories of the pop idols have come with much efforts being made to achieve the results. Since the prominence of the Japanese idols is huge, the narratives on how obscure people have risen to amazing heights of stardom show that their rise to idol positions have come to be by passing through grueling tests of abilities. Most notably, the idols have to go through talent search agencies and prove their abilities and talents.

A look at one of the most successful and influential idols, Oshima Yuko, proves the intense grueling that future idols have to undergo to make it to the top flight. Oshima, a multi-talented individual, proves that becoming an idol, one has to possess a variety of talents to gain a considerable fan base (McLelland, 2017). In addition to having noticeable talent and abilities, one has to be consistent to maintain the fan base consequently becoming an integral part of the pop culture and immortalized as an idol in the culture. Oshima has continuously maintained a top flight position captaining the group ‘AKB48’s Team K. As a result of her consistency, Oshima went on to graduate from the idol group propelling her to her future position in the global entertainment scene.

Additionally, making it to the Idol stage, aspiring idols must invest time in rigorous training in all aspects of the entertainment industry ranging from dancing, acting, language classes as well as singing with the company that individual trainees have signed for (Atkins, 2017). Maintaining a good look is integral in the idol scenes thus requiring strict dieting which takes intense discipline to achieve.

System for the idol and rules 

There exist numerous rules and regulations that determine the running of the idol culture. The Japanese idol culture operates in a ‘Kayfabe’ system. The ‘Kayfabe’ system operates mainly among the professional wrestlers where the athletes are forbidden from going against their onstage character. Similarly, the idols are forbidden from having relationships, and when they engage in known relationships, they might be expelled from the idol shows for going against the conventional rules (McLelland, 2017). At one point a top flight idol who was found coming out of a house belonging to a male member of their idol group was subsequently dropped and forced to shave her hair for ‘the thoughtless act.’

Additionally, the modern era idol culture has seen many idol groups and artists develop consequently competing for a limited fan base. According to McLelland (2017), the rivalry and competition have seen the development of a system where shows for major idols are planned on similar days to ensure that fans only attend the shows connected to the idols that they support.


The Japanese idol and pop culture have significantly grown over time. The existence of talent managing agencies has acted to play a pivotal role in boosting the image of Japanese idols and the pop culture. Most importantly, the need to become a global leader in culture by Japan has led to the growth of the pop culture. The need for cultural leadership emerged given that Japan had failed to emerge as a colonial power.

Having idols in the pop culture growing has resulted in several unorthodox practices that have acted to affect the culture and its global acceptability (McLelland, 2017). Japan as a nation is still lagging behind in fighting sexism and sexual harassment which has seen many idols who are teenage school girls being sexually abused by their employers and managing agents mainly men. Additionally, the fanatical fan bases have grown rivalry between different idols and idol groups creating an unhealthy business environment.


Atkins, E. T. (2017). A history of popular culture in Japan: From the seventeenth century to the present .

Iwabuchi, K., Tsai, E., & Berry, C. (2017). Routledge handbook of East Asian popular culture .

McLelland, M. (2017). The end of cool Japan: Ethical, legal, and cultural challenges to Japanese popular culture .

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