Welcome back to the Senshu 2017 café tour for our final blog! Unfortunately we had a change of plans, originally we planned on visiting an anime café but due to the immense popularity, most of the cafés were busy to the point where there were hour long waits. Anyways, back on topic. This week we decided to visit a idol café, AKB48 café, housed in Akihabara. The café is based on the idol group AKB48. AKB meaning "Akihabara" and 48 which is a symbolic number indicating the variety of members.
The café carried through the concept of AKB48: “idol you can meet”. In the café, they were collecting birthday messages from fans for members and the walls inside the café were full of signatures of 48 group members. That feels like you are in the same space with the idols, but it takes time if you are looking for signature of one specific member. It is also a paradise of AKB48 fan meetings. In the café, everyone interested in AKB48(at least they are all have positive feelings toward the group) so the fans can talk about their idols freely while watching AKB48 shows on screen. For idol fans, watching idols is like charging batteries of your soul. The café provides them a place to jump from the real life to the dream place so they can escape from the stressful life for a few hours. They will become energetic again because they are moved by the idols who were trying hard on stage and they want to pay the same effort in work. I strong recommend this café to who are fan of AKB48 or interested in Japanese idols.
Learning How to Become an Idol
In Japanese culture アイドル or "aidoru" is a young media personality. Usually, idols start their careers at a very young age, around teenage years, and is depicted as a cute and innocent image. But where did this all start? Well in the 1970s a french movie called "Cherchez l'idole" ("Looking for an Idol") under the Japanese name, アイドルを探せ ("aidoru wo sagase"), aired in Japan. The movie featured a young french actress by the name Sylvie Vartan. When the movie was released in 1964 she and the film saw huge popularity in Japan. So the term "idol" was donned, meaning a young girl who has started her career in stardom.
For someone to become an idol they would need to go through auditions held by talent agencies and afterwards, if they are selected, go through training such as dancing and singing. Since the idol is the center of attention for idol-frenzied fans they must display the ideal image of a perfect girl. For idol otakus, this means a pure, sweet, innocent girl; oh, and of course pretty. As for skills it is necessary for the idol to be able to sing, dance, act, and even model. Truly a life of an idol is a road filled with hardships.
The Remains of Idols
When we entered the AKB48 café, we have recognized that messages and drawings from some of the AKB48 members were framed in gold to welcome customers, that gave us a very homely feeling. However, since we chose the seats in the theatre area, we were able to watch the latest concert of AKB48 on the big screen while we ate our meal. For people who have ordered food in the café, there was a one-time chance for each order to win a coaster with a member’s face. This gives customers, especially fans of AKB48, an exciting experience since you won’t know which member’s coaster you will be getting until you draw. Again, it will be pleasant if the coaster that you won is your favorite member. We also recognized that messages from the members were written on the walls of the theatre. Members tend to express their ideas through these messages for customers who come the café and thank for their support. In addition, an AKB48 shop is connected to the AKB48 café on the other side. After the meal, we browsed many AKB48 goods such as small panels and rulers with pictures of members on them. Most of us only have chance to watch performances from video clip, however, there was also an exhibition of a member’s live-performing cloth in the front of the shop that customers can get closer to have a look and take pictures. This gave us an unforgettable and rare experience as usually these clothes are only worn for live performances. Moreover, there was another side of view in the hallway to the washroom, we have recognized that pictures of all AKB48 members are on both sides of the wall, that customers can take pictures. We have also recognized there were also messages written in Chinese from SNH48 (another 48-group idols) as SNH48 members mainly active in China. We have felt that all idol groups bring people all over the world together, and the café gives them an opportunity to share the same interest and the enjoyable atmosphere that customers have a feeling in which they are getting closer to the idols.