If you’re not familiar with AKB48 let me take quick second to briefly break it down for you. They are a girl idol group from Akihabara, Tokyo that has a massive and cult following and is also one hell of a marketing machine. There are also “sister” groups from other parts of Japan such as SKE48. It’s a group of roughly 48 girls broken into “teams” and perform many catchy songs that you see in the Top 10 around Japan.
Many people do not care for them due to how it portrays women, but I am not going to get into that. That’s a whole other topic within itself. I’m here to talk about my experience with what is called a Handshake Event, where you literally get to shake hands with your favourite members from AKB48.
Tickets to the Event
To obtain a ticket to the event you must buy their CD, which will come with only one ticket. This is where marketing comes into play. There is no limit on how many tickets you can get, so there are people who will buy quite a few CDs just to shake hands with their favourite idol numerous times. This is part of the reason why their songs seem to jump to the top of the charts more often than not.
A good friend of mine wanted to go to the Handshaking Event in Yokohama, and asked if I wanted to come. This is not something I would normally do, even though I do enjoy their music. It’s typical throw away pop music, sometimes you need that. I figured, since I’m here I might as well experience as much as I can.
The event was at the hugely impressive Yokohama Stadium. Before the event started, members from the group put on a very short show performing one of their popular songs. After they would do some more marketing by promoting their newest album.
Afterwards the tickets we got from the CDs would be turned in for another ticket that gave us a number. This is when we could come back and get in line to shake hands with our favourite idols. We had three tickets each. There were some people who had well over 1000 tickets, and I wish I was joking. That’s how far some people will go to meet their favourite idol. In fact if you have 10 or more tickets you can spend more time with the idol of your choosing at the end of the event.
Waiting in Line
Our ticket numbers were about 14000 and the idol we wanted to shake hands which had an incredibly long line up. Her name is Yuko Oshima and is currently one of the fan favourites from the group, she also recently announced her “graduation” from the group. Meaning, she is leaving. There were already rumours of her departure so that was another reason for her long line.
Shaking their Hands
Where you shake hands was in tents that were setup on the baseball field in Yokohama Stadium. The names of the idols were above the tents where you knew where to line up. The line we were in was an hour and a half long. Once you got up to the front of the line there were security guards who checked your hands. I asked why this was and it was to ensure the safety of the idols, since they actually do shake your hand. Making sure you have nothing that can hurt them such as weapons or open cuts.
You enter the tent and there were more security guards who would grab you by the waist as you rounded the corner. They would guide you through the line up so you did not spend too much time with the idol as she shook your hand. You got to see them for maybe 2-3 seconds at the most. It was like a human conveyer belt as the security guided you along.
It shocked me at first to have some huge Japanese security guard grab my, not so tiny, waist and guide me along as I tried to conjure up what to say to the girls. When I saw the girls, they all gave me the same reaction, which was something along the lines of “Wow, a foreigner!”. A couple of them even asked me where I was from. While, I’m sure I was not the only foreigner there, I did not see any other ones.
The entire experience was pretty unique in itself and somewhat overwhelming. The whole AKB48 phenomenon is rather interesting and I am happy to have been able to see what it was all about. Here I leave you with one of their biggest hits of 2013, 恋するフォーチュンクッキー (Koisuru Fortune Cookie).
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