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There are many mentally unwell girls in AKB48, claims ex-member

29 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

Being an idol singer in Japan is at least as much about the personality you radiate as the vocals you produce. Sure, idol songs may be almost invariably sweet and sugary, but the performers themselves are expected to be even more cheerful, cultivating the sort of earnest, plucky persona that attracts loyal fanbases.

But every day isn’t all sunshine and rainbows for idols, even those who are part of the industry’s most successful and prestigious group, AKB48. On Jan 14, former AKB48 member Miki Nishino, who was with the Akihabara-based unit from 2012 to 2017, appeared on streaming service Abema TV’s "Ogiya Hagi no Busu" TV talk show. Now a TV and media personality, during her appearance the 19-year-old Nishino said: "There are a lot of mentally unwell girls in AKB48.”

Screen Shot 2019-01-16 at 13.13.44.png

Nishino gave examples of AKB48 members who would set up their Line messaging app profiles with statements like “I think someday things will start going my way,” or “If I keep looking forward, I can see that things will get better,” or who would make their profile pictures a solid black field. Describing such actions as “attempts to get attention,” Nishino said “It’s obvious that they’re hoping someone will help them,” and voiced her opinion that it would be better for them to “just come right out and say so.”

It’s worth considering why idols might be suffering from mental or emotional distress. Though Nishino gave an obvious potential source by saying “AKB has a busy schedule, so a lot of girls [feel that way],” there’s also an intense amount of pressure placed on its members. Aside from competition with other groups in an era when the Japanese idol market is more crowded than ever before, part of the marketing for AKB48 (as well as many other idol groups) involves regularly holding “elections,” popularity contests in which fans cast votes for their favorite idol within the group, with the tallied results and rankings being publicly announced and tracked. At the same time, being part of a musical team, as with any team in Japan, comes with intense pressure to perform as closely as possible to perfection, since Japanese culture routinely stresses the importance of fulfilling responsibilities to the group over personal satisfaction.

Still, just about everyone in Japan, whether they’re a fan of idol music or not, agrees that being an idol is hard work, and so an idol coming out and saying “I’m in a bad place mentally right now, and I need some help” doesn’t seem like it should be such a shocker. However, a commonly heard sentiment from idol fans is how much they enjoy seeing their favorite singer trying her best and improving as a performer, and so maybe it’s not so surprising that idols and/or their talent agencies are loath to do anything that’s a departure from that narrative, since it’s been the tried-and-true path to idol success for so long.

As an example, look at the ongoing situation with idol Maho Yamaguchi, a member of AKB48’s Niigata-based sister group NGT48. After being attacked by two stalkers outside her home and waiting a month for her managers to take more decisive action in addressing her concerns about the attack, Yamaguchi herself finally spoke out about the incident, only to issue a tearful on-stage apology at NGT48’s very next concert for “causing a large commotion.” Of course, fans in attendance immediately shouted that Yamaguchi hadn’t done anything wrong and had nothing to apologize for, and NGT48’s direct manager has since resigned from the position, perhaps idol fandom is evolving to the point where idol singers can start to trust that it’s becoming more acceptable to be open about the mental strains that come with their job.

Source: Livedoor News/Abema Times via Jin

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Japanese idol singer who was attacked at home makes on-stage apology for “causing commotion

-- Japanese idol group bans all gifts from fans to teen singers to help protect their values

-- Idol group AKB48 sells 2.5 million copies of new CD, bags full of them end up in trash days later

© SoraNews24

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

29 Comments
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Depressed and delusional. TIJ!

1 ( +9 / -8 )

They are certainly being taken advantage of - most people can see that.

They are sexualised, forced to work very long hours with very few holidays, and have contracts with clauses stating they must not have boyfriends (and god know what else).

I’m pretty sure a large number of them are mentally unwell.

14 ( +18 / -4 )

There's a revelation.  Many of their fans mentally unwell also. 

Poor young exploited people.

20 ( +24 / -4 )

As an ugly man I never have to worry about being an idol. And for that I am grateful.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

...and there are only 48 of them. Imagine the number of mentally ill among their fan boys.

13 ( +18 / -5 )

@expat--sorry if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure the 48 is not the number of members, just some apparently lucky digits tacked on after the city code letters differentiating all these stylistically related groups. Serves as a branding tool for their management company, kind of like saying "Johnny's" to refer to the dozen or so male groups affiliated with that one recording and concert promotion company.

Mega pop music business seems almost predetermined to do mental damage to the young "artists" though. I was reading about an old UK boy group, Bros, that recently had a revival in a popular online documentary over Christmas. They seem to have never really gotten over their early success--one brother's follow up act was doing shows in Vegas (shades of Elvis, another sufferer of excessive early fame).

0 ( +3 / -3 )

This report is ludicrous. Why would anyone be surprised by this "news"?

It's an American study, but still - the National Institute of Mental Health (https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml) reports that:

-6.7% of all American adults have suffered from at least one major depressive episode

-Females have higher rates of depressive tendencies than males

-The age range with the highest percentage of occurrences was 18-25

And this is just depression alone - not considering the wide range of other mental health disorders and struggles that many people have.

So why would anyone be surprised that large groups of young female "idols" (who have really stressful lives on top of everything else) would include people affected by these issues? Is this part of the "fantasy" where fans are supposed to believe that these poor singers are somehow superhuman, innocent, pure, and exist solely to serve the fantasies of their small-minded fans?

0 ( +7 / -7 )

Nishino gave examples of AKB48 members who would set up their Line messaging app profiles with statements like “I think someday things will start going my way,” or “If I keep looking forward, I can see that things will get better,”

Those statements do not mean that someone is mentally unwell.

In my teens and early twenties, I too often thought things like that. I struggled at times, but reminded myself (and even told my family and friends) that the future would be better if I only kept trying and remained faithful.

Saying such things doesn't mean a person has mental problems.

In fact, it may mean they are optimistic, even when they currently struggle. Isn't that a sign of mental strength?

I assume Nishino-san is not a psychiatrist, so I doubt she can pronounce anyone "mentally unwell" with any authority.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

No sympathy. Why be an idol if you can't handle all that it encompasses? How can you call it exploitation when a simple Yahoo search details exactly what you'll be getting into. It's not exactly a mystery. They willingly accepted it.

It's like joining the army, and then complaining about getting yelled at or having to clean the toilets.

Whether you are a babysitter, doctor, parking attendant, rapper, teacher, etc... every industry has it's ups and downs, you have to be able to cope with the hardships of the job.

Spotlight and attention on them is what gets them paid.

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

Wait a second. Does this mean that :

Starting to work basically full time well before becoming an adult

Starting to do so before being fully educated

Having your parents basically let go of you since you cannot meet them regularly

Being sexualized by thousands of men at such a young age

Being forced to meet some of some those men who are just plain perverts

Being paid a ridiculous amount of money

Probably being forced to a lot of weird things with the managers and other staff

Being threatened to have to pay back huge amounts of "training money" if you quit

Being forced to sign "non-dating" contract where you renounce your own feelings and sexuality (contrary to basic human rights)

is not good for the mental health of kids ? Shocker.

In any real civilized country, only checking 2 or 3 of the points above would lead to jail time for a quite a few people and a huge amount of support for their victims.

3 ( +8 / -5 )

Pop slavery. Saddened, but not surprised by this news. The entertainment industry is brutal and unforgiving.

The stories of these exploited women should serve as a warning that they are still seen as product and not people.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

@Tony G

Your arguments are perfectly valid when considering adults : fully "formed" mentally, and 100% responsible of their own actions.

In this case, many of those girls start joing at 14, 15 years old. Sometimes even less (for the junior idols).

And normally, child labor has very strict rules (education must continue, it cannot be full time and much less overtime, etc.). This is absolutely not the case here.

They cannot be considered as fully responsible of their own actions (they are not legally anyway but fall under a very strange loophole). And even if they were, one has to understand that they can make mistakes as they are children, and they should have way to be supported and "escape" as soon as they express their will to do so.

How can it be normal to start voting at 20 years old, while taking a direction that might destroy your own life can happen as soon as your enter your teen years ?

1 ( +6 / -5 )

Some strange downvotes today in an otherwise interesting conversation. No doubt there are many who rise above the stink of the industry and good on them but as we've seen, be it Hollywood or here - exploitation is rife.

Time for the industry and those who ignore the fallout to take a good look at themselves.

-1 ( +4 / -5 )

@Toasted Heretic, I think everyone would agree with you about it being "time for the industry and those who ignore the fallout to take a good look at themselves." But that will never happen. People have been using people for centuries. Sad, but true.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

「明らかに病んでて」could just as easily be translated as 'clearly hurting inside'.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Idols and would-be idols should go independent. Social media and youtube give that possibility. Set your own hours, keep all your pay, and other perks.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

These young women are being exploited and have little autonomy. It's a disgrace.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Is being a member of AKB48 compulsory?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

These young women are being exploited and have little autonomy. It's a disgrace.

Yes - and everyone knows they are being used but all involved are willing to do it anyway- the management companies, the parents, and the young girls (and boys) that try so hard to succeed at it. Thinking about it, young people with all kinds of proclivities are pushed or voluntarily engage in activities that are very arduous and exploitive hoping to achieve some hoped for benefit down the road. It could be popularity, notoriety, fame and fortune or even as a means to assuage a certain mental issue they are dealing with.

If there is indeed rampant mental illness as Nishino says, it’s the parents who are ultimately responsible- at least until the children become adults. Many quit or burnout and leave. Any parent that bothers to learn about the industry knows of the dangers of overwork, sexualization, and potential for mental, physical, and yes sexual abuse. If a parent is unable to satisfactorily supervise their minor child who participate in the idol business, they shouldn’t put their child at risk.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Reminds me of the advice Noel Coward wrote in the song Mrs Worthington:

Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington

Don't put your daughter on the stage 

The profession is overcrowded

And the struggle's pretty tough

And admitting the fact 

She's burning to act

That isn't quite enough

She has nice hands

Give the wretched girl her due

But don't you think her bust is too 

Developed for her age?

I repeat, Mrs. Worthington

Sweet Mrs. Worthington

Don't put your daughter on the stage

Regarding yours

Dear Mrs. Worthington

Of Wednesday the twenty-third

Although your baby 

May be keen on a stage career

How can I make it clear

This is not a good idea?

For her to hope

Dear Mrs. Worthington

Is, on the face of it, absurd

Her personality

Is not, in reality

Exciting enough

Inviting enough

For this particular sphere

Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington

Don't put your daughter on the stage

She's a bit of an ugly duckling

You must honestly confess

And the width of her seat 

Would surely defeat

Her chances of success

It's a loud voice

And though it's not exactly flat

She'll need a little more than that

To earn a living wage

On my knees, Mrs. Worthington

Please, Mrs. Worthington

Don't put your daughter on the stage

Don't put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington

Don't put your daughter on the stage

Though they said at the school of acting

She was lovely as Peer Gynt

I fear on the whole 

An ingénue role

Would emphasize her squint

She's a big girl

And though her teeth are fairly good

She's not the type I ever would

Be eager to engage

No more buts, Mrs. Worthington

Nuts, Mrs. Worthington

Don't put your daughter on the stage

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Not a surprise..

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

The decision to enter a pop idol group is one made by the girls along with thier parents. I'm sure that the girls themselves have heard how difficult pop idol life is before entering, but being young and starry eyed perhaps don't realize just how hard it will be. But thier parents ought to know better. Personally I wouldn't want my girls to join such a group. The exploitation and other negatives just aren't worth the so called benefits.

And a word for the managers, entertainment industry and others who profit off these naive and vulnerable girls.......

They ought to be ashamed of themselves. Pathetic.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Constantly being compared about your "cuteness" to other members, and members of other groups. Though they perform as a group on stage, back stage it's all back stabbing. At a young age like this, instead of building relationships with peers, you're asked to compete, no place to vent, probably not even family who push them to "ganbaru", no wonder they're all mentally ill.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Nishino Miki was a minor member who’s looking for some attention herself.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Nishino Miki was a minor member who’s looking for some attention herself.

Maybe so. Or maybe she was just asked her opinion and she gave an honest answer. She could be right - maybe she isn't. She would know better than anyone posting here.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

None of the girls are forced to join or forced to stay. They can quit at any time, yes, even with a contract. They stay because they view celebrity and stardom over their happiness, sanity, the boredom of normalcy, etc.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

From outside, people think it's disgusting pop culture.

From fans, it's a good way to have fun in their life

From Industry, very good or (might be evil) way to earn huge.

From idols, i want to be like that too, some tries, some will work her way, some won't with disappointings.

So it's each to their own.

But i think, there should be class/lesson at high school/college about the decion making of future idols wannabe.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The decision to actually be an idol - successfully audition, be given a contract to sign, and signing it - comes down to basic common sense and research if nothing else, and an entertainment lawyer with no ties to the idol management company/agency if one is smart.

Whether the idol-in-wait has only one parent or both of them, coming from upper, middle or lower class family, or any other ranking on the life spectrum - it would take less than 5 minutes to Google a slew of news stories, blog posts, etc, on the life of an idol (good and bad). Taking those stories into consideration (or not), you would then actually read the contract. Even if you don't understand all the industry terminology and lingo, you'll notice the sections that will state pay rate (whether monthly salary, per show rate, etc), restrictions (no dating/sex, commiserating with fans, etc), clauses on terminating contract , and maybe most importantly, how long the terms of the contract are for.

If you know the basic knowledge on the scandals and bs of all the idol groups in Japan and simply sign on the dotted line anyway, with no negotiations, objections or amendments, then you basically get exactly what you deserve.

Would these same parents sign an apartment lease, car loan, or other major contract without reading it? If they didn't like something in the contract - like you pay x amount per month for your apartment but then you find out you aren't allowed to stay there on weekends, for example - would they still sign it or actually request that part is removed/amended?

As said before, nobody forces you to be an idol. No gun to your head.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They are being taken advantage of and it gets worse but I’m going to fix it and I need a lot of help from people that care I’m trying to message a couple of them and telling them I care and I don’t like what’s happening to the group behind closed doors. I’m hoping at least one of them will want my help so I can save them all it makes me sick to see this going on and I love there music Adam Pilon is my name on Facebook if you wanna help fight this cause and others and save them . Cause I won’t turn a blind eye and let this go on

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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