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Islands of eight-million smiles : pop-idol performances and the field of symbolic production Aoyagi, Hiroshi 1999

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ISLANDS OF EIGHT-MILLION SMILES: POP-IDOL PERFORMANCES A N D THE FIELD OF SYMBOLIC PRODUCTION by HIROSHI A O Y A G I B.A. , WASHINGTON STATE UNIVERSITY, 1988 M.A. , UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA, 1991 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in THE F A C U L T Y OF G R A D U A T E STUDIES (Department of Anthropology and Sociology) We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH C O L U M B I A July, 1999 © Hiroshi Aoyagi, 1999 in presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. 1 further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. Department The University of British Columbia Vancouver, Canada 7 DE-6 (2/88) ABSTRACT This dissertation focuses on the production and development of a conspicuous, widespread culture phenomenon in contemporary Japan, which is characterized by numerous young, media-promoted personalities, or pop-idols, who are groomed for public consumption. The research, based on eighteen months of in-depth fieldwork in the Japanese entertainment industry, aims to contribute to the understanding of the allegorical role played by pop-idols in the creation of youth culture. Pop-idols are analyzed as personified symbols that function as vehicles of cultural production. The principal issues suggested in this research include: the criteria of pop-idol production; the ways in which pop-idols are produced; the perceptions of pop-idol performances by producers, performers, and consumers; the ways in which idol personalities are differentiated from each other; the ways in which pop-idol performances are distinguished from other styles or genres; and the social, cultural, political, economic, and historical roots as well as consequences of pop-idols' popularity. These issues are explored through the examination of female pop-idols. The single, most important function of pop-idols is to represent young people's fashions, customs, and lifestyles. To this end, the pop-idol industry generates a variety of styles that can provide the young audience with pathways toward appropriate adulthood. They do this within their power structure as well as their commercial interest to capitalize on adolescence - which in Japan is considered the period in which individuals are expected to explore themselves in the adult social world. The stylized promotion, practiced differently by promotion agencies that strive to merchandise pop-idol images and win public recognition, constitutes a field of symbolic contestation. The stage is thus set for an investigation of the strategies, techniques, and processes of adolescent identity formation as reified in the construction of idol personalities. ii This dissertation offers a contextualized account of dialogue that occurs between capitalism, particular rhetoric of self-making, and the lifestyle of consumers, mediated by pop-idols and their manufacturing agencies that function together as the cultural apparatus. The analysis developed in this dissertation hopes to provide theoretical and methodological contributions to the study of celebrities in other social, cultural, and historical settings. TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract i i Table of Contents iv List of Figures vii Acknowledgements ix Chapter I - Introduction 1 Idol Performances: Research Goals and Problems 1 A Vignette of an Emerging Pop-Idol 8 Research Rationale 12 Theoretical Orientations 15 Basic Terms and Theoretical Definitions 15 Selfhood and Identity 15 Performance 20 Celebrity 28 Analytical Framework: Idol-Performances and the Formation of Adolescent Identity in Japan's Postwar Consumer Society 30 Pop-Idol Performances and Adolescent Socialization 31 The Question of Class 33 Gender Identities 34 The Social Construction of Ethnicity 36 In Search of Pop-Idols: Thesis Outlines 39 Notes 41 Chapter II - Methods of Doing Fieldwork 44 Idology: The Study of Performing Identities in the Japanese Entertainment Industry 45 The Actors 45 The Environment: Japanese Mass Culture and Consumer Society 50 Young Pop-Idols 53 Other Genres of Popular Performances 54 Fieldwork in an Arena of Idol-Production 56 The Research Setting 56 Developing Relationships in the Field 58 Ethical Concerns 66 Research Methods 68 Observation 69 Conversation 69 Participation 71 Other Research Methods 73 Notes 74 Chapter III - The Making of Adolescent Role-Models 76 Adolescence and Socialization 77 Theorizing Adolescence: Betwixt and Between Childhood and Adulthood 77 Adolescence in Japan 80 Pop-Idol Performances as the Embodiment of Youth Culture 86 Pop-Idols: Marketing Life-Sized Adolescent Companions 86 The Fantastic World of Cute Idols 96 Pop-Idols, Youth Culture, and Postwar Socioeconomy 104 Summary 107 Notes 108 Chapter IV - In the Name of Show Business: Idol Performances and Gender Identities 110 Pop-Idol Performances and the Images of Adolescent Femaleness 114 Case 1: Contestations in the Production of Cute-Idols 114 Embodying Adolescent Femininity 115 Case 2: Becoming Vibrantly Sexual 122 Empowering the Body through Dance 128 Audience Tastes and Reactions 134 The Analysis: Gender Construction as Performative Expertise 143 Japanese Women: Gender Roles and Ideological Stereotypes 143 The Idea of'Good Wife, Wise Mother' 143 The Impact of Gender Ideology Upon Women's Life in Modern Japan 144 Elements of Transmutation, Resistance, and Conformity 148 The Idol-Manufacturing Industry: Contextualizing the Field of Gender Contestation 152 Summary 154 Notes 157 Chapter V - In the Footsteps of a Pop-Diva: Life Stories and Stage Performances 160 Style as the Dramatization of Self 162 From Maiden to Villain, to Saint: The Biography of Seiko Matsuda 166 The Personal Background 166 The Projection of Matsuda in Printed Materials 169 Tabloids 170 Promoting Articles 180 Analytical Essays 184 Autobiographic Essays 188 Staging the Lifestyle: It's Style '95 196 Summary 207 Notes 208 Chapter VI - The Field of Competing Styles 211 Into the Islands of Eight-Million Smiles 213 The Mythological Interplay 213 Creation Stories 223 Strategies and Techniques of Idol-Promotion 228 Criteria of Marketability 228 The Nori-P Phenomenon 232 Becoming an Idol-Like Personality 238 Being Recruited 238 Being Transformed from Researcher to Idol-Like Personality 239 Being Produced 244 Outcomes 253 The Arena of Symbolic Competition 255 Summary 263 Notes 264 Chapter VII - The Spread of Pop-Idol Performances in Asia 266 The Symbolic Flow of Pop-Idols: Japan and Beyond 266 The Development of Pop-Idol Performances in Asia 272 Japanese-Style Pop-Idols as the Motif-Dissemination Point 275 The Symbol of Socioeconomic Affluence 275 Idol Symbolism and Social Transformation: A Pop-Idol Consumer in Hong Kong 282 The Informant 282 The Environment 283 The Development of Pop-Idol Performances in Hong Kong 284 Interview Data 285 Hegemony, Symbolism, and Culture Contact 301 Summary 303 Notes 306 Chapter VIII - General Conclusions 308 Adolescence and Identity Formation 309 Pop-Idol Performances and Middle-Class Identities 312 Pop-Idols and the Logic of Late Capitalism 315 Suggestions for Future Research 317 Bibliography 319 Appendix I - Japanese Textual and Media Sources on Pop-Idols Consulted 343 Popular Books and Articles 343 Books Written on Pop-Idols by Journalists and Promoters ..343 Essays Purportedly Written by Pop-Idols 346 Pop-Idol Magazines for General Readers 347 Pop-Idol Magazines Targeted for Young Adult Men 347 Magazines Including Featured Articles on Pop-Idols, for General Readers 347 Magazines Including Featured Articles on Pop-Idols, Targeted for Young Adult Men 347 Magazines Including Featured Articles on Pop-Idols, Targeted for Young Adult Women 348 Tabloid Magazines for General Readers 349 Tabloid Magazines, Targeted for Adult Men 349 Tabloid Magazines, Targeted for Adult Women 349 Promotion Videos 349 Mini-Communication Magazines, Published by Students and Support Groups 350 Academic and Semi-Academic Sources 350 LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1. An NTT DoCoMo advertisement poster featuring RySko Hirosue 10 Figure 2. A scene from a TokyS kiosk 47 Figure 3. A sample press-conference memorandum 62 Figure 4. A sample column by the author 64 Figure 5. A typical cover-page of a fashion magazine An-An .85 Figure 6. The front cover of Seiko Matsuda's essay-book, MoIchido Anata 91 Figure 7. Fans and amateur photographers around their pop-idol 93 Figure 8. The cover-page of the October 1, 1997 issue of An-An 95 Figure 9. A cover of an anti-drug campaign brochure 97 Figure 10. An Example of "cute and exotic" representation from the prewar period 99 Figure 11. Examples of Maruberudo's star-photos 100 Figure 12. Pop-idol Naoriko Sakai and "Nori-P chan" 101 Figure 13. Examples of "cute" gestures 119 Figure 14. Namie Amuro, considered "stylish" and "powerful" 124 Figure 15. Sample CD jackets featuring idol dancers 125 Figure 16. A dancing practice scene from the Okinawa Actor's School 127 Figure 17. An image of powerful femaleness 133 Figure 18. Resemblances in Lolita images 138 Figure 19. The first cover-page from the March, 1983 issue of Bomb! 181 Figure 20. The cover jacket of Seiko Matsuda's live concert video, It's Style '95 199 Figure 21. An example of the mythical presentation of pop-idols 215 Figure 22. An example of pop-idol genealogy (1) 217 Figure 23. A sample pop-idol ranking chart 219 vii Figure 24. A chart showing the history of imperial reign 220 Figure 25. An example of pop-idol genealogy (2) 221 Figure 26. The front cover of Shogakkan's comic special, Hina Ni Mune-Kyun 226 Figure 27. A Kanebo lip-stick poster featuring Takuya Kimura 231 Figure 28. Scenes from SPA! Photographing 247 Figure 29. The first cover-page from the November 15, 1995 issue of SPA! 250 Figure 30. The second cover-page from the November 15, 1995 issue of SPA! 251 Figure 31. The third cover-page from the November 15, 1995 issue of SPA! 252 Figure 32. Japan's Puffy, mimicked by Taiwanese duo, A My-My 268 Figure 33. Celebrating Asian pop-idols 271 Figure 34. Tokyo Performance Doll and Shanghai Performance Doll 274 Figure 35. Eric Suen and Noriko Sakai in duet 281 Figure 36. An article in Hong Kong's popular magazine featuring Japanese pop-stars 286 Figure 37. A hierarchical arrangement of Japanese, British and Cantonese pop-idols 293 Figure 38. A sample internet home page 300 viii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to thank Dr. Millie Creighton, my thesis supervisor, as well as Dr. William McKellin, Dr. Kenneth Stoddart, and Dr. Elvi Whittaker, my committee members. This dissertation could not have been completed without their guidance and support. I am also thankful to Dr. Julia Cruikshank, who helped me develop a paper that became the blueprint of this thesis. I am also indebted to Dr. John Barker, Dr. Sharolyn Orbaugh, and Dr. Jenniffer Robertson, who participated as the examiners of this thesis and provided me with many insightful comments that contributed to the substantial improvement of this thesis. For examples of friendship throughout my life in graduate school, I thank Steven Andersen, Rob Atkins, Victor Barac, Zohreh Bayatrizi, Anne Bennett, Roy Burkholder, Louisa Cameron, Alexander Cochrane and his family, Tanya Goudie, the Haaland's (Bonnie, Jay and Jordie), Scott Hurley, Marilyn Iwama, Patricia Kachuk, Sfir. Carmen Lazo, Ginger Mason, Tim Paterson, David Ryniker, Helen Sturdy, Naoki Tabeta, Claudio and Naomi Vidal, Matt Zimbel, and Beatrix Zumsteg. David Ryniker and Scott Hurley, mis gran companeros, deserve special thanks for taking their precious times to proofread this thesis and giving me many critical comments. In Japan, I want to thank Toshihiko Asai for his support. Appreciation also goes to Mr. Masahisa Aizawa, Mr. Takashi Fukuda, Mr. Yoshitaka Ichikawa, Professor Tatsuo Inamasu, Mr. Yasuhiro Kitagawa, Mr. Katsuhiko Komatsu, Mr. Masayuki Makino, Mr. Masanobu Naito, Mr. Akio Nakamori, Mr. Yoshiharu Noda, Mr. Junichiro Ono, Mr. Hiroyuki Takahashi, Mr. Makoto 'Kankuro' Takahashi, Ms. Chisa Yamanouchi, and Mr. Makoto Yasui. My fieldwork in the entertainment industry would not have been possible without the guidance of these people. My parents, Satoko and Minoru Aoyagi, deserve their credits for providing me with their unconditional support throughout my life. I would also like to send my bows to Tangen Harada Roshi for his spiritual support. I would like to thank the Faculty of Graduate Studies as well as the Department of Anthropology and Sociology, University of British Columbia, for University Graduate Fellowship, under which a large portion of fieldwork for this research has been conducted. Finally, I dedicate this thesis to Dr. Hortense Powdermaker, whose critical spirit in anthropology provided me with the source of inspiration for this research. ix C H A P T E R I - I N T R O D U C T I O N Idol Performances: Research Goals and Problems In myth, Japan has been characterized as islands inherited by the so-called yaoyorozu no kami or "eight-million gods." Each of these gods has a name, gender, and personal quality. Each performs a role, interacts with other gods, and uses divine powers to bring forth various earthly effects. Indeed, each god is considered an architect of the Japanese landscape and a protector of a local community. In the religious tradition of shinto or the "way of the gods," Japanese people look up to these gods as sacred figures. Seasonal rituals are held to honor these gods, and people make visits to local shrines and worship them. In this anthropological study, I intend to characterize the present-day Japanese consumer society as "islands of eight-million smiles" in reference to numerous images of young, media-promoted personalities who are known as aidoru or "pop-idols." Like yaoyorozu no kami, pop-idols are projected as public personae, and they are adored by many of their followers. Yet, these personalities and their images are produced and used by their manufacturing agencies for commercial profit. Pop-idols are created and groomed for public consumption, especially consumption by Japanese adolescents for whom they are designed to perform as role models in fashions and lifestyles. This thesis will focus on the process in which young women are transformed by the entertainment industry into pop-idols. The principal issues suggested in this research include: the characteristics of pop-idols; the ways in which pop-idols are produced; the perceptions of pop-idol performances by producers, performers, and consumers; the ways in which idol personalities are differentiated from each other; the ways in which pop-idol performances are distinguished from other styles or genres; the social, cultural, political, economic, and historical roots as well as the consequences of the popularity of pop-idols; and the ways in which pop-idols influence their fans. These issues will be explored through the venue in which female pop-1 idols are produced for public consumption, particularly for male fans. The theme of this thesis contributes to the understanding of a social institution that mass produces prefabricated fantasies, customs and trends as a form of contemporary folklore. Over the last three decades, the pop-idol industry has been a vital domain of popular culture production in Japan. As entertainers who sing, dance, and act, pop-idols commonly appear in television programs, release CDs, and strike shapely poses in fashion magazines, posters and billboards. Hundreds of teenagers, female and male, are recruited every year, each hoping to become one of the adorable public figures who represent youth in Japanese society through stylized performances. Many independent support groups develop when hopeful candidates make their debut. The entertainment industry responsible for the creation and promotion of these performers organizes advertising campaigns and official fan clubs to capture public attention, enhance imagination, manipulate the desire of love-struck fans, and absorb young people into the system of capitalist production. This study will investigate how these activities and events are organized in reference to the idea of marketing of female pop-idols particularly for male audiences. Images of pop-idols are commoditized in a variety of so-called "idol goods" or aidoru guzzu, including photo albums, promotion videos, and calendars. Pop-idol images also appear on stationery, with their smiling faces printed on notebook covers, note pads, pencil cases, and numerous accessories. They are also represented in mass market print media. Hundreds of books and articles on pop-idols can be classified into popular, semi-academic, and academic genres — some of which are written by journalists, while others are written by cultural critics and researchers (see appendix A). Many essays, purportedly written by pop-idols and presented as first-person accounts, are published and sold each year. In addition, there are university idol fan-clubs and support-groups that publish their own magazines, otherwise known as aidoru mini-komi shi or "idol mini-communication magazines," which contain heated discussions 2 about adorable idol personalities as well as idol pop-song ranking charts based on fan evaluations (appendix I, section 3). Together these events and commodities constitute the so-called, aidoru bumu or "pop-idol fad." The pop-idol phenomenon is anthropologically significant because it demonstrates how the commercial industry operates as an institution that creates and reproduces substantiating symbols and rituals in a form of popular art. This system of production utilizes its human resources as capital, packaging young performers as pop-idol commodities. Packaging involves stylizing performers into personalities who can represent both prominent cultural values as well as innovative social and commercial trends. To be an adorable idol is to become a "true representative of the Japanese youth of this time." Thus, pop-idol production, the goal of which is to influence the public, is exercised in social, cultural and historical contexts. The pop-idol industry can be perceived as a terrain in which cultural symbols and their images are constantly generated, contested, and refined. In this sense, I use Bourdieu's (1993) "field of cultural production" as a working framework for subsequent analyses in this thesis. This will allow me to examine the process of cultural construction by focusing on an arena in which symbolic images and art-forms are produced, contested, and changed through the interactions of individuals who occupy different positions in a society. This bares similarity to Robertson's (1998) concept of "encompassing cultural matrix" that focuses on popular culture as a site in which certain art-forms are selected and appropriated by actors who make various assumptions about culture, history, society, ideology, identity, gender, race, class, and so forth. In popular culture, one can examine the particular configuration of these assumptions at particular times and in specific places. As Robertson elaborates: I locate popular culture in an encompassing cultural matrix... in which sociohistorical forces and relations are generated and reproduced, stimulated by encounters with ideas, things, and peoples both within and outside the matrix as a whole or any area in particular... The figure-ground relationship between popular culture and culture emerges and develops continuously as a complex 3 series of communications technologies, increased literacy, a market economy (nominally) premised on choice and competition, and other factors; these factors, moreover, appear in different combinations at different historical moments (Robertson 1998:35). Anthropological analysis of popular culture itself, therefore, contributes to the understanding of a process in which the ideas, images, worldviews and practices of a segment of society are framed to become part of cultural competence. While Robertson's indication is made in reference to a specific genre of all-female popular theatre, takarazuka revue, that has existed in Japan since 1914,1 will investigate the more recent and widespread popular cultural phenomenon that constitutes Japan's entertainment industry as well as commercial network. I take the female pop-idol industry as a socializing agent, or agent of public education in the broad sense of the term (see, for example, Mukerji and Schudson 1991; Barnouw and Kirkland 1992; Creighton 1994a). Just as the Hollywood system of production socializes American adults into the values and dreams of their society through representations of glamorous movie stars in films, Japanese pop-idol performances educate the public by means of patterns that appear through such forms of mass communications as human relations and attitudes. Unlike school education, the entertainment function of female pop-idol performances appeals to the emotions and desires rather than to the intellect (see Powdermaker 1950:14). There is a great deal of discussion in the social sciences about celebrities, especially regarding issues such as how popular personalities represent social values and affect the way people view their world. While some of these studies describe how pop-star texts can be read and interpreted sociologically, the vast majority tends to theorize about consumption in discussions of fan attitudes and activities. The current research concentrates on an area that has not previously been well investigated: that is, the selection and production of pop-idols themselves, and constellation of in the probable meanings attached to these young personalities by their producers in the entertainment industry. There are numerous published sources on the 4 idol-boom phenomenon in the Japanese language, including academic, semi-academic, and popular references. Provocative but somewhat underdeveloped discussions of pop-idols by Japanese academics include case studies by Ogawa (1988) from the standpoint of ethnomusicology (i.e., pop-idols as personal constituents of urban sound-production in present-day Japan), Inamasu (1989) using media theory (pop-idols as signifiers of young people's lifestyles and modes of communication in the age of television), and Ogura (1989,1990,1991) taking a feminist perspective (pop-idols as objects of sexual fantasies and gender identities)(appendix I). Arguments presented in these works, however, are often anecdotal, and analyses rarely go beyond the authors' own interpretations of selective idol-texts. In recent years, more theoretical and ethnographic work has been done on Japanese popular culture in English, some of which include studies of the pop-idol phenomenon as part of analyses of popular expressions of gender, adolescent imagery, and commodity forms (Skov and Moeran 1995; Allison 1996; Robertson 1998). Yet, the system of pop-idol production and its commercial basis have not been investigated. This thesis is based on 18-months of ethnographic fieldwork in the Japanese entertainment industry, with a focus on celebrities as sites where culture is embodied in forms of the collective representations of idolized "selves." This thesis will demonstrate how performers, producers, and the managers who participate in pop-idol promotion manipulate and are manipulated by the system of commercial production as well as the industrial ideology which reinforces this system. The consumption of idol images and interpretation by fans will not be examined, except as an integral part of the process of constructing and distributing pop-idols as cultural commodities. I will suggest ways that images produced by the entertainment industry may be read by consumers, but I did not canvas the consumers or their literature to discover how they understand these images or what they actually do with them in present-day Japanese society. On the other hand, I will illustrate the opinions and activities of the people who 5 produce and embody pop-idol performances in order to reveal what cultural meanings these producers and actors use in framing the images they try to produce. Relevant to this investigation is a series of guiding concepts that generate the theoretical understanding of identity formation in the Japanese entertainment industry, such as idol, celebrity, and performance. This will be elaborated in subsequent discussion. I will use these concepts to examine how young performers craft their selves into popular personalities as they interact with their producers and fans. Since their emergence in Japan as a commercial genre during the late 1960s, pop-idol performances have become a nationwide phenomenon: a whole domain of popular culture, built around youth and heavily sponsored by the mass media, the advertising business, and corporations specializing in the creation of profit-generating teen-oriented fashions. Promotion agencies orchestrate the development and marketing of pop-idols and idol-groups, attracting hundreds of young men and women each year who hope to become stars, if not members of the adoring audience who consume their performances. Yet, many "wanna-be" novices who eagerly join the pop-idol industry themselves find that there is more to the crafting of their images than just presenting themselves before the public. They are subjected to overt forms of cultural and commercial discipline that transform them into popular and marketable personalities. Many idol candidates were made to perform in ways their producers want them to perform, and they are scorned and even yelled at by the producers if they cannot perform well. Each day, these novices were put through many hours of voice training and choreography lessons. For some of these performers, the industry provided nothing but competitions and hardships. Subsequent chapters will investigate specific ways in which the performers' self is transformed, capitalized and exploited in order to uncover the ideological mechanism of the pop-idol industry. Pop-idols, referred to in Japan as aidoru from the English "idols," is a derivation of a term that originally referred to an image of a person or thing used as an object of devoted worship, or 6 something visible but without substance.1 As such, this word connotes what Bacon once defined in the following philosophical terms: The idols imposed by words on the understanding are of two kinds. They are either names of things which do not exist..., or they are names of things which exist, but yet confused and ill-defined, and hastily and irregularly derived from realities... The [latter] class, which springs out of a faulty and unskillful abstraction, is intricate and deeply rooted... For it both signifies that which easily spreads itself round any other body; and that which in itself is indeterminate and cannot solidize; and that which readily yields in every direction; and that which easily divides and scatters itself; and that which easily unites and collects itself; and that which readily flows and is put in motion; and that which readily clings to another body and wets it; and that which is easily reduced to a liquid, or being solid easily melts (Bacon 1985[1625]:284). As this statement shows, idols, or idolized things, are subject to meaningful representation and transformation. One of the tasks of the social sciences and humanities, as proposed by Bacon, is to uncover through an inductive method of analysis the social function of idols in specific cultural contexts. Such a task must focus on the process in which particular individuals, groups and institutions, in their attempts to create a meaningful lifestyle, idolize things in the world. With this in mind, the skillful use of the modern Japanese mass media and marketing techniques by actors, board of directors, stockholders, advertisers, and distributors to assure the place of pop-idols in popular culture and consumer society will be specified in concrete instances and cultural settings. Labor relations between these actors and their cultural significance will be shown ethnographically. Pop-idols include young female and male personalities who are considered to be "the girls and boys next door." As such, pop-idol production presumes the construction of gender ideals and sexual stereotypes. Male and female pop-idols reflect two gender categories: maleness and femaleness. There are also some individuals and groups whose performances represent androgyny by challenging the stability of sex-gender representation premised on a male versus female dichotomy. My focus in this thesis will be on the production of female pop-idols as representatives of Japanese adolescent femaleness, particularly for male fans. This focus is 7 determined by my theoretical interest and by practical limitations. On the one hand, I became interested in understanding how women are the focus of representation in popular culture in a society that has been characterized as "male dominated." As I stepped into the Japanese entertainment industry, I immediately became aware that pop-idol producers were nearly exclusively men, although the number of female pop-idols surpassed that of male pop-idols. Images of adolescent femaleness became the subject of constant contestation, differentiation, and reformation among these male producers. Thus, I wanted to examine the ideological implications of femininity represented by female pop-idols in the Japanese commercial industry. On the other hand, I had limited access to the small number of producers and performers who controlled the production of masculinity through the performances of male pop-idols. In the end, I could not gather sufficient data for my thesis from these people. A Vignette of an Emerging Pop-Idol In the spring of 1996, Japan's mega telecommunications corporation, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT), posted a large billboard amidst a busy street in the Shibuya district of Tokyo. On this billboard was the image of Ryoko Hirosue, a slender 16 year-old who made her way into the Tokyo-based entertainment world from the local prefecture of Kochi to join approximately 1,100 of the so-called female pop-idols (josei aidoru).2 Hirosue acquired her chance to pursue a career in Japanese show business by entering an audition, known as the Clearasil Shiny Face Contest, and winning its grand prize. On the billboard, Hirosue appeared in short black hair, a clean white shirt and short brown skirt. She was crouching down to making direct eye contact with the viewer. In her hand was DoCoMo, a miniature paging machine that NTT had invented. Toward her right was a catch phrase, "[I] will start improving. Ryoko Hirosue" (yoku nam, o hajimemasu. Hirosue Ryoko), 8 that complemented another statement toward her left, "Improving. DoCoMo" (yoku nam. DoCoMo). Identical billboards and posters appeared in various other locations throughout Japan, along with the airing of television commercials that advertised DoCoMo and featured Hirosue in action (figure 1). The Japanese advertising industry often uses puns to make an impression on the public. The word DoCoMo can be a pun that stands for dokomo, which means "every part" or "all aspects." This helps the industry to signify the paging machine as something that is improving in all aspects of technology. At the same time, it signified Hirosue as someone who can improve herself in all aspects of personal quality. On the other hand, DoCoMo can stand for another Japanese word dokodemo, which means "anywhere" or "everywhere." This represents the paging machine as something that can accompany its users wherever they go, and Hirosue as someone whose name and face can be known everywhere. Whichever is the case, the paging machine and Hirosue are marked as "valuable." It did not take long for Hirosue to attract public attention and become one of the celebrated public personalities of the year. Considered by many people as cute-looking, bright, and healthy, Hirosue appeared in numerous magazines, television shows, and radio programs. Her photo album was published in September, 1996, followed by the release of her debut single in April, 1997, with a song composed by Maria Takeuchi, a well-known singer and a song writer. Sources report that more than 360 thousand copies of the photo album (SPA! 10/23/1996:11), and 600 thousand copies of the CD (Josei Jishin 6/17/1997:10) were sold. These figures signify smash hits according to Japanese standards. In spite of growing popularity, Hirosue down-played her celebrity status. In a column, People This Week, that appears in one of Japan's most widely read Japanese weekly magazines, 9 Figure 1 . An NTT DoCoMo advertisement poster featuring Ryoko Hirosue. 10 for instance, the editor characterized Hirosue's talent as marvelous, to which Hirosue responded that she was "just ordinary." Hirosue argues: It's amazing for me to receive such a comment, but there is nothing unusual about me. I am told that to be nothing unusual is my charm. ...I mean I am just an average person. I get many fan letters from young women these days, and they say they want to "enter show business, too." When I told the members of my staff about it, they said "Doesn't it mean that i f little Ryoko can do it, I can do it, too?" I wonder if this is a compliment or not (SPA! 10/23/1996:11). Rather than confirming her uniqueness and accepting her celebrity status as many Western personalities might do, Hirosue presented herself as remarkably ordinary, leading the editor to comment that "her unaffected purity is the source of her cuteness and popularity" (1996:11). This is only one of many cases that demonstrates not only the way in which an idol personality is produced and packaged by marketing corporations and popularized by the mass media, but also how appearances and attitudes qualify as an adorable personality. Hirosue's success story addresses the problem of socialization and in particular the formation of pop-idol identity through the interaction between 1) the performer and the industry, and 2) the industry and the public. It is a symbolic process whereby Hirosue frames her personality in a publicly adorable way and transforms herself from an ordinary young woman to a renowned public figure in Japanese popular culture and consumer society. This packaging of self, in which an adolescent persona is signified as "cute," "pure," "modest," and "full of promise," is, then, a cultural practice that aims to collectivize public imagination, taste, desire, or consciousness. Many anthropological studies have previously demonstrated the significance of symbols in cultural performances and folk rituals to heighten the intensity of communication and thereby enhance the experience of those who are in need of transforming themselves. For example, among the Cuna of Panama, sacred wooden figures called nuchu that represent tutelary spirits are used by shamans to encourage women during difficult childbirth (Levi-Strauss 1963). In central Africa, when a Ndembu boy is initiated into the moral community of matured tribesmen, 11 blood of circumcision marks his passage into adulthood (Turner 1969,1974). Ritual flutes serve as funnels between the two sexual poles in the Sambia male-initiation ceremony of Papua New Guinea (Herdt 1982). Lenin became the charismatic symbol of the Russian revolution, leading people to transform their socio-political state of being. In France, the red and black banner became a politically meaningful symbol that heightened the spirits of French people to act against their social crisis in an event known in history as the Commune of 1871 (e.g., Moore and Myerhoff 1974; Schechner and Appel 1990; Laderman and Roseman 1996; Goody 1997). Subsequent chapters will elaborate on scenes in which female pop-idols are employed as an allegorical means to achieve utilitarian ends, namely to create trends, merchandise commodities, and obtain commercial profits. The public celebration of pop-idols such as Hirosue in highly-industrialized present-day Japanese society demonstrates how traditional anthropological theories on symbolic ritual can be applied to the analysis of contemporary complex organizations that are attributed to capitalism.3 Given this approach, I will attempt to illustrate different aspects of pop-idol transformation in the Japanese entertainment industry and in particular the industry's attempt to capitalize on the transformation of adolescent female selves as they use pop-idols as the symbolic tool to organize youthful fashions and lifestyles. This will add a new dimension to the growing body of anthropological literature on adolescence and socialization. It will emphasize youth as a process wherein culture, including gender, ethnicity and class-values, is negotiated (or contested) and transmitted between adults and young people, as well as between peers (e.g., Davis and Davis 1988; Sato 1991a; White 1993; Pilkington 1994; Wulff 1995a). Research Rationale Pop-idol performances, known collectively as aidoru poppusu or the "idol-pop," emerged in Japan in the late 1960s in the general category of popular music, or kaydkyoku. Unlike many of 12 its predecessors in popular performance that touched on more mature subjects and were targeted mainly at adults, pop-idols came to represent adolescence. In some aspects, they are roughly equivalent to performances of young idol pop-stars in other countries: the young Frank Sinatra and early Tony Bennett, the Shirelles, the Shangri-Las, Debbie Gibson, Candi, the New Kids On The Block, and the Back Street Boys of the United States; the Beastie Boys, Shampoo, and the Spice Girls of the United Kingdom; Paul Anka of Canada; Menudo of Mexico; and 2 be 3 of France. Although they are employed in various settings, pop-idols are enmeshed in the rise and popularity of a particular media: television. In Japan, television ownership became a mark of the nation's socioeconomic well-being, or the primary means for codifying the middle class as a consumption category (e.g., Ivy 1993:248,249). Although their apparent crudeness was ridiculed by many Japanese adults at the time, idol performances developed into a nationwide phenomenon, triggering a teen-craze and producing a domain of popular culture sponsored by media institutions, advertising agencies and retail corporations that specialize in the creation of trends and customs. Contests were held each year in which hundreds of young women and men participated, hoping to become teen-idols. Many support groups and official fan clubs developed as idol candidates strove to make a career that could be traced through numerous media programmes, events, and publications. Together, these practices constituted the so-called "idol boom" (aidoru bumu) of the 1970s and 1980s. These practices not only continue today but are becoming widespread in other Asian countries as well. Much has been written recently on the subject of popular performances, such as film, pop and rock music, fashion, and adverting. Many of case studies have used theories and methods that are derived from sociology, communications, business, economics, and history, contributing to the development of the hybrid discipline called cultural studies (e.g., Ewen 1976; Williamson 1980; Frith 1983,1988; Fiske 1989a,b; Ewen and Ewen 1992; see also 13 Grossberg et al. 1992; During 1993).4 Most of these studies analyzed meanings of popular art-forms in modern Europe and North America based on assumptions about the world or social reality that are part of the researchers' own upbringing in these cultures. Others provide broad descriptions of popular arts and performances around the world or in certain regions of the world they call "non-Western," such as Asia, Africa, South America, and Polynesia (e.g., Lull 1987; Manuel 1988; Tomlinson 1991; Stokes 1994). The present case study in anthropology is distinguished from these works in cultural studies by its ethnographic orientation. I approach idol performances as a field of cultural production rather than some meaningful social product - that is, a site where I can observe particular individuals, groups, and institutions interact with each other according to conventional norms, goals and interests. What these individuals, groups, and institutions do, how they do it, and how they account for what they do are all part of the empirically-based field research upon which this dissertation is founded. The analysis presented in this study could be used as a framework for understanding commercial organizations involving symbolic performances and interactive rituals elsewhere. Primary data for this study was gathered during eighteen months of in-depth field research in Tokyo, Japan, between the fall of 1994 and the summer of 1996, followed by supplementary fieldwork conducted intermittently until the summer of 1997. Although comparative cases are drawn in places from the popular performances of North America, Europe, and Asian countries outside Japan, the main objective of this study is not to be comparative. This study is intended to grasp the development of symbols as they are played out in the lives of Japanese people from their perspectives. Along with the discussion of physical and emotional concerns that may beset researchers undertaking fieldwork in a highly impersonal field of corporate institutions, this study provides a theoretical and methodological contribution to the anthropological literature on socialization and identity formation. 14 Theoretical Orientations The self is a work of art rather than given to us (Foucault 1984:350,351). It is a fluid category that is incessantly constructed and reorganized in the course of culturally patterned interactions (especially as it is brought to different forms of imaginary order), rather than a prefixed personal category that essentially characterizes an individual (Battaglia 1995:2; see also Schweder and Bourne 1984:194; Crapanzano 1990:403). With this in mind, a theoretical framework will be proposed in reference to comparative symbology and its applied significance to contemporary complex organizations. This framework will be used in the subsequent analysis of socialization as manifested in celebrities and their image-making agencies. The analysis will concentrate on the production of adolescent role models that provide the public with sources for experiencing selfhood in youth as fashioned, and therefore enhancing the creation of organizational reality in the context of popular culture and mass society. Basic Terms and Theoretical Definitions Before developing a research framework, some key terms or concepts that appear throughout this thesis require definition. These include self, identity, performance, performing identity, celebrity, and idol. Rather than simply provide their dictionary definitions, I will try to contextualize each of these concepts in the light of existing anthropological literature. Theory, as Giddens notes, provides useful schemes to order and inform processes of inquiry into concrete aspects of social life (Giddens 1984:ix; see also Ortner 1984; Duranti 1988). Selfhood and Identity By self, I mean the fundamental qualities that distinguish one person from another. A n individual's consciousness of her or his own being in the world, or in relation to the society to which she or he belongs, will be referred to as identity. While the self will be treated as the 15 individual quality, identity will be used to mean the set of personal and behavioral characteristics by which this individual is recognizable as a member of a group. In the recent discourse of anthropologists and other social scientists, the self is regarded as essentially entwined with the nexus of social interaction. The self is continually created and recreated under the influence of ideological forces. It is also affected by other subjects' histories, experiences, and representations (Battaglia 1995:1,2; see also Merleau-Ponty 1960; Mead 1962[1934]; Strathern 1979; Rosaldo 1984; Schweder and Bourne 1984; Crapanzano 1990; Ewing 1990). This understanding of selfhood ~ as multifaceted and socially involved ~ in the phenomenological and poststructural discourses of European and American social sciences has much to share with anthropological literature on Japan. For example, Doi's (1973) classic analysis of the popular Japanese concept amae or "indulgence" shows that selfhood is structured on the empathetic relationship between the one who seeks indulgence (amaeru) and the one who provides that indulgence (amayakasu). The most fundamental form of relationship based on indulgence is seen in the bond between Japanese children and their mothers. Hamaguchi (1977) theorizes the idea of a "contextualized human-being" (kanjiri) a la Watsuji's (1935) discussion of aidagara or "interpersonal relationship," emphasizing the Japanese focus on the interconnected self vis-a-vis what Japanese researchers consider to be "Western" individualism (see also Nakane 1970; Makino 1978). Moeran's (1986[1984]) study of the development of Japanese advertisements demonstrates that the strong cultural emphasis on the group prevents a strong form of individualism from developing in Japan, despite an increasingly occidental lifestyle accompanied by forms of consumerism in Japanese life. The extreme suspicion of individualism, considered as negatively ego-centric by the Japanese people, led advertisers to utilize the concept of kosei or "individuality" to imply personal creativity that does not lack the actor's concern for the good of 16 the group. Kosei is a term that neatly adopts the advantages of "Western-style" individualism without disrupting the spiritual unity felt by the Japanese public (1986:75). Some of these concepts and model-oriented studies are part of a whole literature known as nihonjinron or "theory on Japanese" that is concerned with differentiating Japanese national identity from other, especially European and American, countries by pointing out aspects of Japan's cultural uniqueness (e.g., Mouer and Sugimoto 1986; Clammer 1997). What one sees in these theories is an effort to withstand reification of person, self, or identity as concepts rooted in ego-centrism by means of analyzing and developing folk models of self as embedded in interpersonal relationships. Of course, these alternative models of selfhood devote to the reinforcement, in academic language, of ideological and even racist cultural discourse (cf. Rosaldo 1984; Shweder and Bourne 1984).5 The reified Western notion of self is not adequate as an analytical construct for cross-cultural analysis. Therefore, Dumont (1986:9) calls for a liberation from modern individualistic preoccupations thereby allowing a more meaningful understanding of societies. For instance, Bharati (1985) has shown that the self is considered actionless and always attained in India. Building on these views, Whittaker holds that the idea of selfhood needs fundamental redefinition with respect to its perceptive difference between cultures. Whittaker writes: The work of ethnography knits together the social ambience created by people talking about their experiences and their beliefs, and this talk falls readily into the coffers of that particular Western metaphor. Discourses about the self serve cultural proclamations about persons and individuals, as we know them, and as we believe them to rightfully exist. In other cultures, however, research interests that focus on self could well be embarrassing, ethically questionable, and often a matter of some discomfort for those individuals invited by the anthropologist to conspire in the constructing of selves. ...The idea of self may mean very little, indeed, in the face of ascribed, prescribed, and even inscribed statuses and identities (Whittaker 1992:209). Following this view, Whittaker contends that the study of selfhood and identity must be situated within the context-sensitive task of ethnography. As she continues: 17 Reification of a concept, as in the case of the self, involves epistemological blunders anthropologists usually avoid. Imposing the concept uncritically puts into question the practice of grounded theory, where concepts are expected to emerge from the field. The concept cannot be assumed to be viable cross-culturally, despite the universalism implied in the notion of self and often revered as unquestioned truth. It will need careful examination in the light of comparative data (1992:209). Thus, the meaning of concepts such as the self must be examined in accordance with the different cultural contexts in which the concept is used. Such an attempt to move away from the presumed dichotomy between Western and non-Western selves, or between the self and the group, in the case of Japanese studies, is demonstrated by those who focus on the crafting of selves as embedded in reciprocal relationships. Kondo (1990), for instance, illustrates how the self and the social constitute one another in a small family business, or a training center for businessmen, where Kondo analyzed her own identity as a Japanese-American researcher through her participation in daily work and training programs. Based on her observations, Kondo (1990:48) postulates four analytical aspects of Japanese selfhood. These are: 1) Personhood and work are inextricable from each other, and people transform themselves as they transform the material world around them while engaged in their work or activities. 2) Identity is not a static object, but a creative process. Thus, the construction of self is a life-long occupation. 3) The crafting of self implies a concept of agency: that human beings create, work on, and enact their identities, sometimes by challenging the limits of the cultural constraints which constitute both selves and the ways these selves can be crafted. 4) One should speak of selves in the plural form, rather than the self as a global entity. Kondo's more recent work applies this notion of the multiplicity of the self to the analysis of Japanese fashion designers. She shows how identities of these designers shift between Japan and Europe as they acquire the skill, master the know-how of Western fashion designs, and create their own work of art in which Japaneseness mingles with Western styles (Kondo 1992). 18 Bachnik (1989,1992,1994), using Peirce's semiotic index as a guiding concept, theorizes that the interdependence of the self is situated in context. Her approach concentrates on: the process by which participants constitute social situations, and thereby participate in a dynamic that includes the mutual process of their constituting and being constituted by social order. This process is the order, and this order includes the organization of self and society, since it is mutually constitutive of both (1994:5). i Thus, her study of interpersonal communication in a Japanese household shows how each member of the household indexes her or his mode of communicating with other members as well as outsiders. Each member expresses her or his emotion, use customary behaviors such as bowing, and selects speech according to different positions she or he takes within an axis of formality versus informality, or outside versus inside. This axis is regarded as having been established as prominent categorical contrasts in Japanese culture (1994:143-166). In concurrence with this view, Kuwayama (1992) proposes a continuum between two polar extremes of the self and seken, or "public opinion," which serves as a measure for individuals to adjust their behaviors according to different interactive situations. Tobin's (1992a) study of the pedagogy of selfhood in a kindergarten demonstrates how Japanese preschools transform indulged toddlers into socially desirable students by teaching them how to make kejime or "distinctions" in their behaviors between relatively formal situations versus more casual ones, and move smoothly between them. Thus, kejime provides a way of defining shifting selves. Kelsky's (1996) investigation of Japanese women's movements toward internationalism emphasizes the incomplete aspect of selfhood. She discusses how young Japanese women who are not satisfied with their current status in what they consider to be a male-dominant society seek to work abroad, have affairs with Caucasian men, and reify modern Western culture as a means to discover new selves and new lifestyles (ikikatd). For these subjects, the West, and in particular the United States, is imagined as a kind of "promised land," the source of freedom, opportunity, and a new ikikata. The study further demonstrates cases where some of these 19 internationalist women come to realize the gap between their original ideals and empirical realities about the life in the West. In this study, Kelsky incorporates the notion of akogare or "unrealistic longing," and, in effect, explains how the practices of these internationalist Japanese women construct a continuum between "backward Japan" and "progressive modern West," along which they locate their own identities. Akogare signifies a desire to transform one's self, at least partially, in the other's image.6 Finally, Yano's (1997) case study is noteworthy in that it develops the notion of amae within the context of Japanese an examination of Japanese performers and fans. The study explores the relationship between the performer and audience, which is cultivated on stage and screen, or ritualized in fan clubs. Yano indicates as a point of interest how fans' attitudes about engaging in various activities to support their idols go with their admitting that these activities are manipulated by the big industry that tries to take advantage of their empathy. Based on a thorough investigation of these supporting activities, Yano concludes that the mutual dependency of pop stars and fans becomes a ritualized reciprocity, in which pop stars generate maternal and sexual emotions that impel their fans to support and do whatever they can to help. At the same time, the activities of pop stars support their emotional needs and form the basis of a relationship generated by a commercial organization (1997:346). A l l in all, these case studies effectively show that while the ideas of selfhood and identity clearly exist in Japan, they are considered as relational, incomplete and constituted through multiple and changing positions of agencies within an interactive space-time. These terms will be used in the same sense throughout the present study. Performance As the discussion of Yano's study has partially demonstrated, performance within the field of anthropology is theoretically oriented toward the problem of identity and representation — 20 that is, how the self is presented and identified in socially, culturally, and historically specified contexts. Goffman's (1959) classic work is notable here in the sense that it indicates self as a performer, motivated by impression management, who is dialectically poised in a world of others where the presentation of self becomes the single, most important reason to exist. His notion of self as existing alone in this social world, however, still echoes the Western individualist (or essentialist) notion of selfhood (Whittaker 1992:200). Suggestive recent theories on performing identities by Epstein (1987), Fuss (1991), and Marcuse (1995) among others point out that identities such as gender, class, and ethnicity are less a function of knowledge than performance, or less a matter of final discovery than perpetual reinvention (Fuss 1991:7). Epstein (1987) argues that identity is neither a determinative characteristic of a person which unwinds from within nor a serial enactment of socially imposed roles that can vary considerably over the course of one's life, but an intermediate position between these two extremes (cf. Ganon and Simon 1973; Weeks 1991). For Epstein, as with Berger and Luckman (1967:174), identity emerges from the dialectic between the individual and society. Identity, at its core, is constituted relationally through one's involvement with (and incorporation of) significant others and her or his integration into communities (Epstein 1987:29). Thus, to the extent that identity is socially rooted, it is inescapable, and to the extent that it is selectively acquired, it is transformable. In this way, identity functions as the locus of both cultural continuity and change. The notion of performing identities refers to performance as an act of identity-formation. Epstein notes: people make their own identities, but they do not make them just as they please. Identities are phenomena that permit people to become acting "subjects" who define who they are in the world, but at the same time identities "subject" those people to the controlling power of external categorization (1987:30). In a similar vein, Judith Butler observes in her reference to gender identity. She writes: 21 There is no volitional subject behind the mime who decides, as it were, which gender it will be today. On the contrary, the very possibility of becoming a viable subject requires that a certain gender mime be already underway. The "being" of the subject is no more self-identical than the "being" of any gender; in fact, coherent gender, achieved through an apparent repetition of the same, produces as its effect the illusion of a prior and volitional subject. In this sense, gender is not a performance that a prior subject elects to do, but gender is performative in the sense that it constitutes as an effect the very subject it appears to express (Butler 1991:24, emphasis original). These statements present the view that identity and subjectivity are created through the practice of performance. In concurrence with these theorists, Marcuse demonstrates in his study of eccentrics that the eccentric self of those who are considered to express personality disorder in terms of formal pathological protocols can be reconsidered in terms of rhetorical construction. He contends that eccentricity is "a thoroughly performative, sensorial, and unself-conscious response to the social conditions that define one's selfhood" and "conditions that involve hidden or only partially understood parallel worlds of agency" (Marcuse 1995:52). Thus, eccentricity is a form of becoming a personality through performance. Elsewhere, the manifestation of performing identity in the process of becoming is well illustrated in reference to performing arts. Examples of this include Bethe and Brazell (1990) in their discussion of Japan's six-century-old noh theater, and Zarrilli's (1990) examination of Indian kathakali acting in comparison to other genres of traditional Asian performances, among others. Both of these studies show how actors acquire performative skills through a long-term process that consists of the constant repetition of set exercises. Zarrilli calls such an extensive process of performative apprenticeship "in-body disciplines" due to the fact that: daily repetition of physical exercises and performance techniques [as commonly observed in traditional Asian performances] encodes the techniques in the body. By daily practice all physical and mental obstacles in the way of correct practice are gradually eliminated. The goal of such virtuosic systems is reaching a state of "accomplishment" which the doer and done are one. Through such actualized practice comes both control and transcendence of "self (Zarrilli 1990:131, emphasis original). 22 In a similar tone, Bethe and Brazell contend that: a knowledge of noh is only possible through somatic, oral, and psychic immersion in the art. To practice noh, to know noh, is to have it ingrained in body and psyche. ...Mind and body function as one [in such a state]; intellectual understanding is fused with visceral knowledge (Bethe and Brazell 1990:186). For the actors, the processes in which these established styles are acquired become consistent with a way of life toward the perfection of selfhood.7 Stylized promotion is a common feature of pop-idol performances. Idol candidates, like students of martial arts and other performing arts, are encouraged to transform themselves from a raw, unknowledgeable, inexperienced, and unskilled youth to seasoned, knowledgeable, experienced, integrated, and skilled actors as they master the art which is specific to the genre and thereafter establishing their own style. Here, genre is understood in light of folklore studies: as a set of cultural expressions characterized by formal features, thematic domains, and potential social uses. As the grammar of each language is unique and has its own logical consistency, so the native classification of oral (or performative) literature has its own structural unity. In this sense, genre is considered as part of the ethnic system that constitutes a grammar of literary art-forms that affirms the communication rules which govern the expression of complex messages within the cultural context (Ben-Amos 1969:285). Performers develop individual styles within a genre in order to affect the audience, and in doing so they organize relationships among the particular components of the genre (see also Bakhtin 1986:60). Style, therefore, is a personal articulation of a genre, and any style is inseparably related to typical forms of communicative genres. Thus, various genres can reveal various facets of the individual personality, and individual style can be found in various interrelations with the language of the nation, culture, or community that produces these genres (1986:63). The names of genres are indicative of the attributes people perceive in their verbal art-forms (Ben-Amos 1969:286). 23 Pop-idol performances developed as a commercial genre in the category of popular music. Their form is distinguished from other genres in the same musical category, such as new music, rock'n roll, and folk ballads known as enka, by what has been termed "fancy soft-core performances for middle-class teenagers." The softness of pop-idols is represented by the combination of fancy costumes, romantic messages, and friendly attitudes, which constitute pop-idols as non-threatening, non-controversial figures that are useful in maintaining social harmony. This form is distinguished from the "hard core" stoicism represented by rock performers, who typically wear leather jackets, put on ready-to-fight attitudes, and sing songs that depict a fondness for anarchy, violence, and a fierce temper. The soft-core image of pop-idols is also different from the working-class identity represented by the ballads of so-called enka performers, the contents of which focus on the hardships of life in a contemporary world or longing for the lost traditions of the past. The main goal of pop-idol performances is to provide the public with a series of fancy, bright, and healthy-looking role models for younger adolescents. As a genre, pop-idol performances concentrate on what it means to be appropriate Japanese boys and girls in the age of economic affluence. Of particular interest for the purpose of this research is the idea of kata, a term in Japanese that can be translated as "form," "style," or "module." Zarrili introduces kata in his article to refer to the set form whose constant repetition "leads to a level of ability beyond empty, vacuous, presence-less, and powerless mimicry" (Zarrilli 1990:133). Although Bethe and Brazell do not explicate this Japanese performative concept, they imply the significance of this idea in the apprenticeship of noh theatre. They argue: At every level of training, teaching concentrates on form, even though the art of a performer is judged by his expressive intensity. While learning the form, the young performer is expected to make it his own and fill it with meaning. This process is regarded as too personal, too individualized to teach overtly. Yet it is exactly this which constitutes the secret art and which the observant student hopes to gain from a master (Bethe and Brazell 1990:174). 24 This idea of kata is similar to the notion of "frame" discussed by Goffman (1974), as a way of organizing one's selfhood and experience in a specified context of action or interaction . It is also akin to "casting" as discussed by Crapanzano (1990) which involves the arrest of the dialectical process through desired characterizations and typifications of the self vis-a-vis the other (see also Bateson 1978). It is a way of acquiring one's social role by submerging oneself into the socially-constructed model. It is also a way of transforming the self into a personality whose name, role, or label is signified by the conventions of meaning that permits the play of desire within their limits (Clammer 1997:120; Crapanzano 1990:403,404). Thus, mastery of performance, in the case of Asian performances at least, can be understood as a framing process in which actors embody a convention of style and make their performance (or style) a part of o their selves. Indeed, it is the process of becoming a personality by unifying the dichotomy between the internal self and the external structure, or mind and body, through the integration of meaning and form (Yasuda 1984; Singleton 1989). Performing identity, in this sense, is a process of framing oneself. The framing of self, of course, is not limited to traditional Asian performances. Buruma (1984), a journalist and a cultural critic, provides a provocative discussion of such a styling practice as exercised in all areas of present-day Japanese popular culture and mass society. He observed that aristocratic art (such as noh) and popular play influence the stylization of self equally, although there is obviously a difference between the two traditions in terms of their forms and contents (1984:71). To exemplify his point, Buruma discusses the way in which an ideal image of Japanese femaleness is reified (by men or male-dominated social institutions) in popular arts and performances. In literature, for example, a renowned writer Jun'ichiro Tanizaki writes in a 1928 novel Tade O Kuu Mushi (Some Prefer Nettles): The real O-Haru [name of a courtesan and character in the puppet play] who lived in the seventeenth century, would have been just like a doll; and even if she wasn't really, that is the way people would have imagined her to be in the 25 theatre. The ideal beauty in those days was far too modest to show her individuality. This doll is more than enough, for anything distinguishing her from others would be too much. In short, this puppet version of O-Haru is the perfect image of the "eternal woman" of Japanese tradition (quoted in Buruma 1984:65,66). The identical image of doll-woman can be seen manifested elsewhere, such as the main female personalities in other famous novels, the elevator girls (who commonly appear in department stores, dressed smartly in uniforms and white gloves, and greet the customers in artificial falsetto voices followed by ritual bows), mascot girls (whose main function of appearance in television shows is to sit in a chair and blink provocatively at the camera without a word), and teenage talents (who are highly choreographed, directed, and drilled)(1984:66-68). Buruma contends that human nature, particularly the nature of women, is redecorated, ritualized, and turned into a work of art, just as natural environments are reshaped carefully by human hands — the effects of which can be seen in Japanese gardens and the art of bonsai or "tree-trimming." This is based on Japanese attitude toward nature that is tinged with a deep fear of the unpredictable forces it can unleash, and to the belief that it is to be worshipped but only after it has been reshaped carefully by human hands (1984:65). Moreover, he argues that Japanese are not interested so much in selves behind their masks so that no attempts are made to hide the fake. He states: On the contrary, artificiality is often appreciated for its own sake. Performers do not try to seem informal or real, for it is the form, the art of faking, i f you like, that is the whole point of the exercise. ...The same principle applies to social life. The more formal a society, the more obvious the roles people play. In this respect the Japanese are quite scrutable. Acting, that is, presenting oneself consciously in a certain prescribed way, is part of social life everywhere (1984:69). This emphasis on the molding of self assumes consistency between outward expressions (tatemae in Japanese), on one hand, and hidden nature or true feeling behind the mask (honne in Japanese), on the other hand. It may neglect the sense of conflict or contradiction that is experienced or expressed by individuals who undergo disciplinary practices (cf. Hochschild 26 1983).9 Thus, in order to understand the process in which the self is characterized, one must examine critically the interplay of desire, resistance, and symbolic (linguistic) constraints (see Crapanzano 1990:419). Hendry's Wrapping Culture (1993) ties in the notion of performing identity as the art of presenting onself with the common practice of wrapping in Japan. She shows how gifts, for example, are carefully wrapped and treated as they are frequently exchanged between people as part of Japanese customary practices. Elaborately decorated and layered, wrapped gifts have developed aesthetic, religious, and magical qualities over and above the functional values of their contents (see also Nukada 1977). In fact, gift-wrapping is only one of many kinds of wrapping-practices in Japan. Others include an extensive system of polite language that wraps speakers' thoughts and emotions, elaborate styles of garments and body wrappings, gardens as the wrapping of space, and behavioral rituals that wrap up personal actions and interactions. A l l of these are symbolic forms that serve people to protect their faces and places in public communication, or impress and manipulate each other. Hendry further suggests that the notion of wrapping as a measure of refinement in Japanese society is constrained by obligatory motives among the people who put it to practice, rather than motives related to personal sentiment. People express themselves through wrapping because it is the appropriate way to present oneself in a society. Without wrapping, things presented and individuals who present them fail to display the message as properly intended. Thus, wrapping is a non-verbal means of communication in which people articulate themselves formally, socially, culturally, and politically. In sum, the perspectives presented above explicate how performance can function as a behavioral strategy to establish linkage between the self and society. It is a formal means to present self in public, manage impressions, and appropriate position within the society to which one belongs (Goffman 1959). Following these views, the term "pop-idol performances" will be 27 used in subsequent chapters to imply a form of symbolic presentation that encompasses the molding, packaging, characterizing, stylizing, or modeling of self as practiced by young performers and their promotion agencies in the realm of Japanese popular culture and mass society. Pop-idols will be treated in this setting as a guarantor of meaning for Japanese consumers. While the use of the concept of style is by no means unique to pop-idol performances, what specifies pop-idol style as distinct from other styles of performance is its youth-market orientation. In a society where a significant portion of the consumer market is considered to be comprised of children and young adults, becoming a popular adolescent role model means making a considerable amount of profit. This is the single most important driving force for pop-idols and their promotion agencies to activate themselves in the field of symbolic production.10 Celebrity Pop-idols are celebrities in the sense that they signify a special quality of personal magnetism that is attributed to high-profile individuals who presume audience appeal. An ethnographic study of celebrity is the study of this quality of an individual, perceived by her or himself as well as others, as manifested in the culturally and historically specific relationship. Indeed, celebrity is approached as a historical symbol that represents the collective self of a particular period in time (Yano 1997:335). Thanks to the growing literature in sociology and in particular the area of cultural studies, there are countless studies that exemplify the symbolic function of celebrities in Europe and North America. Mills (1956), for example, looks at professional celebrities including personalities of national glamour who collectively constitute the entertainment world known as "cafe society." This developed in the United States along with the elaboration of the national means of mass communication. Mills shows how cafe society was supported by nation-wide 28 hierarchies of power and wealth. Eckert's (1991) case study analyzes the mechanism of popularity that led Shirley Temple to become "America's little darling" in an era of economic depression. He uncovers how Temple presented herself in many films as poor but optimistic, or rich but sympathetic. Whichever the case, she is presented as a lovable personality that became an ideological locus at which government officials and middle-class industrialists mitigated the reality of the poor through the charity of fantasy. Temple's burden of love, her exacerbated emotions relating to insufficiently cared for children, and her commonly stated philosophy of pulling together to whip the depression appeared at a moment when the official ideology had reached a final and unyielding form. This was also a moment when the public sense of charitable support was drying up (1991:68). Many case studies on American pop-diva Madonna approach the mechanism of popularity that characterizes this world-renowned phenomenon. A collection of essays edited by Schwichtenberg (1993) illuminate how Madonna skillfully deploys social and cultural themes such as gender, sex, class, generation, race and ethnicity to insinuate herself into various problems of people's daily lives in America and elsewhere. Madonna provides connections between people's lived experiences and the various discourses in circulation (Schwichtenberg 1993:10; see also Hooks 1992a; Frank and Smith 1993; Lloyd 1993). In a similar vein, Simpson (1993) examines the popularity of Brazil's pop-diva Xuxa and the cultural strategy of mega-market industry that promotes her public image. Xuxa's child-friendly image on television shows inform viewers, especially young audiences, about the meaning of beauty, power, success and happiness which privileges the white race and submissive femininity in a society structured on ethnic and gender inequalities. Materials related to the study of Japanese pop stars in English have been scarce until recently. Herd's (1984) introductory article on pop-singers is the only one of its kind written in English. Although pop stars appear as examples in sections of Japanology literature, 29 ethnographic study on the subject was virtually nonexistent (e.g., Skov and Moeran 1995; Allison 1996). Yano's (1997) study on Japanese fandom was the first to provide a contextualized, theoretically framed account of the symbolic qualities of Japanese pop stars. She concentrates on the emotional ties that evolve around a male enka star and his middle-aged female fans. The present study intends to provide an anthropological investigation that concentrates on the performing identities of young, media-promoted personalities in contemporary Japan called aidoru. The analysis of this study attempts to explore not only ways young actors facilitate identity formation among adolescents as they merchandise their popular images and performances, but also ways the stylized promotion of pop-idols reveals the mechanisms of the reproduction of middle-class identity in a capitalist social environment. With this in mind, the following section will propose a theoretical framework that will be used in the ensuing analysis. Analytical Framework: Idol-Performances and the Formation of Adolescent Identity in Japan's Postwar Consumer Society Postwar Japan and in particular Japanese society today is characterized by a large population (123 million), heavily concentrated in large cities, for whom consumption is a way of life. The urban, consumer lifestyle of the contemporary Japanese is reinforced by media saturation and an intensity of advertising and information that perhaps has no equivalent in the rest of the world. As Clammer (1997) writes: Japan is now the world's second biggest economy [after the United States] and one of its most populous states. Famous for its achievement of a highly efficient export-oriented capitalist industrial system and the creation of a mass consumer society at home characterized by its scale and intensity, and equally for the quality of its products and services, Japan cries out for analysis as the most conspicuous example of mass consumption in Asia (1997:2). Thus, present-day Japanese society is characterized as a consumer society. 30 According to Kelly (1993:192), an ethnography of this socieconomic and cultural condition of postwar Japan must take into account the relationship between ideological processes, institutional patterning, and everyday routines of individuals. Following this view, and with the discussion of performing identities in the previous section in mind, a theoretical framework of this study will now be proposed. This framework will be used in the ensuing analysis of pop-idol production in an attempt to unravel the ideological formation of youth culture by the Japanese entertainment industry. Pop-Idol Performances and Adolescent Socialization Adolescence has been recognized in present-day Japan, as elsewhere, as a life-stage in which the ground for adult social relations is prepared for a child who undergoes physiological change and corresponding development of personality. It is the time in which individuals who become awakened to the adult world, life, and sex, learn how to interact with each other in the name of future prospects. Adolescence in the contemporary social setting is also a consumption category. As White notes: [Adolescence] implies style, aspirations, a way of thinking and behaving. To some it may imply the older notion of "neither here nor there," the chuto hanpa limbo of "betweenness," but the consumer industries have targeted these young people in a more specific way. The "naming" of this "stage" has thus outlined a category permitting, and indeed demanding diversity and slippage. Because of the speed of marketing, the case of Japan reveals the market-driven aspects of coming of age as well as the active involvement of teens [mainly but also others who are the members of this category] themselves in creating new cultures and practices that then feed back into market definitions of adolescence (White 1995:256,257). While this relationship between the mass media and young consumers is found elsewhere in the modern world, the case in Japan is culturally conspicuous. This is due to the relatively high 31 affluence of young people and a highly interactive relationship between these young people and consumer industries (including the mass media), among other reasons (1995:257). Given this cultural setting, the ideology of youth culture as implicated in pop-idol performances is essentially what the consumer industries, and in particular middle-aged male producers, lay out as the "appropriate lifestyle" for female adolescents. Pop-idols function as adolescent role models, acting in concert with the market-driven aspects of coming of age by encouraging the active involvement of their young audiences in creating and recreating trendy customs and lifestyles — as they perform as pop-singers, fashion models, stage actors, as well as television and radio personalities. Their manufacturing agencies, on the other hand, use pop-idol images to develop commercial activities that would allow them to establish their own place in a society. Socialization as practiced in the form of curricular activities has long been a subject of interest to researchers who emphasize formal educational systems. Recent studies on socialization have begun to focus more on what Beauchamp (1991) calls "institutions of informal schooling," which include the realm of popular culture (e.g., Williams 1982; Giroux, Simon et al. 1989; Brannen 1992; Creighton 1991,1992,1994a; White 1995). These studies show how commercial institutions draw on various worldly sources to explore certain themes that can capture people's attention, interweave narratives that are both public and private (or social and personal), and substantiate meanings that can become part of cultural competence within their power structure. Curricula of identity-formation that both complement and contradict the program for youth established in formal education and family are seen in the media; and such media curricula provide the public with portraits of both imaged and actual young people (White 1995:261; cf. Rosenberger 1996).11 Yet, the media-constructed images of youth are often gauged, challenged, contradicted, contested, and even rejected by the very people who buy into them. Retaining 32 their individual agency, these buyers act on the basis of a common-sense view of the everyday world, and use it to appropriate and integrate what they want (Rosenberger 1995:145). Such a situation leads to the production of conflicting images of youth within the curriculum itself which, for efficacy and profit, favors a homogeneous and coherent view of its audience (White 1995:261). Thus, the ideological formation of adolescent identity is manifested in strategic, complex, and multifaceted portrayals of youthful images and lifestyles. The question, then, becomes the kind of adolescent images that are portrayed by the consumer industry and in particular agents of pop-idol production. Based on the study of adolescent images in popular magazines, White (1995:261) summarizes four stereotypes in the formation of adolescent identity: the apprentice, the dreamer, the sexual being, and the buyer. These images operate as symbolic vehicles that generate youth as a classified age-group, generation, or social category, indeed a class, by facilitating both consensus and conflict within its boundary. Based on my own research, I concur with White's observation. The Question of Class The problem of social class requires some theoretical elaboration. In analyzing contemporary consumer cultures such as Japan, Clammer (1997), a la Bourdieu (1984), stresses that standard concepts of class and class identity need fundamental redefinition.12 In Japan, the emergence of the consumer-oriented, white-collar lifestyle in the late 1950s and early 1960s normalized a view that the country had become a middle-class society. However, the application of standard, quasi-Marxist notions of economic-class simply imposes on Japanese society a sociological category derived from very different social contexts (1997:101; cf. Vogel 1963; Steven 1983). 33 A consumption class implies that differentiation through acts of consumption — a continuous activity of constructing the self, of relationship maintenance and symbolic competition through commodity purchasing ~ has become the primary means of locating and distinguishing oneself in a society (Clammer 1997:102; also Sahlins 1976). Thus, the tendency for consumption decisions to concentrate around a middle-class identity in Japan today can be understood as an indication that social reality is recognized on the basis of a large but nevertheless surprisingly structured range of consumption choices (i.e., things that are made available in the market). This is linked to similarity in income and the desire for homogeneity, a powerful cultural force in Japan. Moreover, the middle-class orientation of consumer behavior can be realized in terms of an act of differentiation within an actually homogeneous social category, which empirically takes the form of symbolic competition over details of things purchased and styles that these things signify (Clammer 1997:102). I argue that pop-idol performances act as commercialized rituals that facilitate the habituation of symbolic class-differentiation among adolescents. That is, pop-idol performances initiate adolescents into the value system of the Japanese middle-class in the name of adolescent socialization. Gender Identities Another dimension of this problem of symbolic classification is that of gender, namely the social construction of femininity and masculinity, which have become one of the main themes in anthropology. Case studies demonstrate how the distinction between male and female in ideas, expressions and practices are socially and culturally constructed, rather than given or innate in nature (e.g., Mead 1935; Rosaldo and Lamphere 1974; di Leonardo 1991; Lancaster and di Leonardo 1997). 34 Butler (1990) presents a constructivist view of gender identity in which gender is seen as acquired through compulsory performance, or regulatory enactment of socially expected sexual roles. She writes: Gender ought not to be constructed as a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts follow; rather, gender is an identity tenuously constituted in time, instituted in an exterior space through a stylized repetition of acts. The effect of gender is produced through the stylization of the body and, hence, must be understood as the mundane way in which bodily gestures, movements, and styles of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self. This formulation moves the conception of gender off the ground of a substantial model of identity to one that requires a conception of gender as a constituted social temporality (1990:140, emphasis original). By repetitively acting out one's expected gender role over time, driven by the need or social pressure to do so, her or his self becomes suitable for performing that role (see also Kolenda 1988; Bonvillain 1995; Super and Sverko 1995). On the other hand, Smith's (1990a) study focuses on how gender identities are inscribed as texts, or "local historical organizations of intersubjectivity" that passes beyond the immediate moment of their co-presence. In conceptualizing text, Smith argues: Texts enter into and order courses of action and relations among individuals. The texts themselves have a material presence and are produced in an economic and social process which is part of a political economy. Textually mediated discourse is a distinctive feature of contemporary society existing as socially organized communicative and interpretive practices intersecting with and structuring people's everyday worlds and contributing thereby to the organization of the social relations of the economy and of the political process (1990a: 162,163). In this view, femininity and masculinity are parts of a complex of actual relations vested in texts, rather than parts of a normative order, reproduced through socialization, to which somehow women and men are subordinated (1990a: 163). Pop-idol performances are manifested in various gendered audio-visual texts, such as magazines, posters, billboards, CDs, television commercials, dramas, cinemas, and stage-performances where female and male pop-idols strike feminine and masculine poses. The process in which these stylized textual forms are produced, distributed, and consumed as 35 commodified objects marks the reification of the gender-identity of adolescents in three main ways: 1) through repeated enactment of assigned gender roles, or articulation of sexualized images, as part of the preparation of texts by the performer; 2) repeated purchasing and appreciation (i.e., celebration — including both positive and negative evaluations) of gender roles and images as represented in the texts by the consumer; and 3) continuous reproduction of the gendered texts in renewed forms by the producer or the industry as a whole. The Social Construction of Ethnicity Following Barth (1969), recent studies of ethnicity employ cultural categories to create ethnic identities in social interactions. Whittaker (1986), concentrating on the aspect of subjectivity and interaction, considers ethnicity to be a social construct. Ethnicity, she argues: is not a physical fact but rather is the product of consciousness shaped to see it. It exists as a tradition of cultural ideas mapped onto a population. These ideas assert certain kinds of agreed upon social facts which serve as a warrant for other things. Their use becomes routinized, repetitive and invariant (1986:165). Thus, ethnicity can be perceived as a cultural concept rather than a physical reality. Elsewhere, Whittaker points out the often overlooked role played by images and stereotypes in the social construction (or facilitation to be more specific) of ethnic identities. She writes: Taxonomizing according to ethnic origin is obvious enough, but what is much less quickly discernible is the plethora of images distributed among the ethnic groups. These images come in the form of tacit knowledge built into each inter-ethnic encounter. More visible taxonomies are embedded in ethnic slurs and in a wide variety of ethnic jokes. The culture is particularly rich in such stereotypic knowledge and lore. It has been persuasively argued that one of the functions of stereotyping and joking is social control... While this is no doubt an apt analysis, I suggest that the activity in itself posits a morally acceptable world by dwelling on the inappropriate. Stereotypes and jokes carry a panorama of the culture's "oughts." (1986:175, italics mine). Thus, imagination plays an important role in the construction of ethnic identity. Numerous provocative ethnographies look at the formation of ethnic identities as manifested in an inter-ethnic encounter in the light of symbolic practice where the way of seeing plays a 36 significant role. Said's (1976) ethnohistoric account provides a rich view of the long-term process through which Orientalism developed as a result of European attempts to strengthen their ethnic identity against all cultures and societies that they classified as "non-European others." Taussig's (1987) analysis of terror and healing in southern Columbia shows that the residents of the Andes shape and reshape their culture in terms of multiple identities that they construct. They shift between traditional beliefs and folk rituals that have survived from the precolonial past on one hand, and modern, capitalist-oriented ideas and values of the neocolonial present on the other. Kachuk (1993) discusses how three distinct ethnic groups evolved around language activism in Northern Ireland: those who categorize themselves as both politically and culturally Irish; those who see themselves as culturally Irish but politically British; and those who consider themselves as culturally and politically British. A n edited volume by Stokes (1994) provides a collection of articles demonstrating how music, as an ethnic sound, is used by the people of different cultures as a symbolic instrument to identify themselves vis-a-vis others. Friedman (1990) discusses how ethnicity is manifested in tourist encounters and cultural commodifications in the age of ever-global capitalism. The process in which Les Sapeurs of Congo, Ainu of northern Japan, and native Hawaiians perform folk-like for tourists and invent folk commodities is perceived as a presentation of the collective self in the international socioeconomic arena. In activating this process, native performers and artists recreate their ethnic identities and reinvent their traditions (see also Graburn 1984; van der Berghe and Keyes 1984). In her studies, Ohnuki-Tierney (1987,1990) shows that the Japanese have defined themselves as a collective category through a series of contacts with the outside world. Especially, their encounter with the "superior" civilization of the West in the late 19th century provided a profound, lasting impact upon the people's social life. With regards to the economic development of the country in modern times, she comments that: 37 Japan's economic success in fact derives not from a predominant "economic mentality," [a characterization seen in the predominant attitude in the West toward the Japanese,] but rather from the "symbolic" value assigned in Japanese culture to science and technology — that is, the embodiment of the transcendental other (Ohnuki-Tierney 1990:199). This emphasizes the significance of symbolism and in particular the value assigned to the Western science and technology in the construction of modern Japanese identity. Ohnuki-Tierney's and other studies (e.g., Russell 1991; Rosenberger 1992a; Creighton 1997) are helpful in understanding how Japanese create varying racial categories and stereotypes. Manifestations include forms such as images of white fashion models on magazine covers, and a jet-black vinyl pet-doll with big eyes and huge lips, known as dakko-chan, which became a top-selling toy for children at the end of the 1950s. These studies present a dual meaning accorded to foreign others in Japanese cultural history: that is, as bearers of highly valued innovation and lifestyle and an intrusive threat. They also expose the role played by symbols, including popular art-forms, in mediating (and reinforcing) the boundary between the Japanese self and the foreign other. Thus, monkeys, entertainers, movies such as Juzo Rami's Tanpopo, Tokyo Disneyland, and loan words function as marginal things or beings, or "ambivalent symbols," to borrow from Douglas (1966), that allegorically purify any material, idea, custom, fashion, and lifestyle that passes through the permeable national boundary to become part of Japanese culture (Rosenberger 1992b: 11,12). The ways in which pop-idols domesticate foreign fashions and lifestyles is an important component of my analysis. Indeed, pop-idols and their promotion agencies constitute themselves as agents of public socialization by virtue of their mediating function. They function as mediators between class and generation in terms of conforming young people of various social statuses and backgrounds to a unified value of middle-class consumption. Pop-idols also perform as mediators of gender in terms of providing role models for young men and women in 38 reference to which they can practice partnership between the two sexes, and mediators of ethnicity in terms of bridging the symbolic gap between Japanese and outside cultures. In Search of Pop-Idols: Thesis Outlines One of the first things I tried to do in my fieldwork was to find out who pop-idols were, or how people defined them. It soon became apparent that this was a difficult task. As one idol-fan turned manager concisely summarized, "In Japan, we all know who pop-idols are, but when you ask us to define them, we find it very difficult. We take them for granted, and do not think about it so deeply. They can be defined in many ways." A general definition would be: young, media-promoted personalities. Going beyond this required further examinations of perceptions and behaviors of those who were involved in idol-related activities. In chapter two, I explicate my approach to the phenomenon in question, and conditions besetting this research. I will discuss the nature of the Japanese entertainment industry in which I was situated, the kinds of people that I approached and with whom I interacted, the ways in which I interacted with my informants and gathered relevant data, and the obstacles that I encountered. I intend to elaborate on ethnographic methods and ethical concerns through these points of discussion. The purpose of pop-idol performances is to provide the public with a series of role models for younger adolescents. While these are variably constructed, they commonly deploy gender, sex, class, and ethnicity, which are all considered as significant themes of personality-formation (jinkaku-keisei) during adolescence. The relationship between pop-idol performances and the formation of adolescent identities is discussed in two subsequent chapters of this thesis. Chapter three delves into adolescent themes that are perceived and dramatized by pop-idols and their producers; chapter four elaborates on how two of these themes, gender and sexuality, are manifested in the process of pop-idol production ~ particularly in the way idol candidates are 39 packaged into desirable personalities. Ways in which young women are subjected to the overt forms of male discipline will be investigated, and mixed feelings that these young women have about conforming themselves to gender ideals, which are designed and enforced by the system will be examined. Parameters of what counts as acceptable and unacceptable imagery for female pop-idols vary from one culture to another, or between individuals with different social backgrounds within a culture. I will investigate these parameters and their influences on ways adolescent femaleness is contested by producers and performers of the pop-idol industry. Adolescence is a culturally marked period in Japan, and Japanese people consider this to be the period in which individuals enter adulthood. However, as recent debates on gender in Japan demonstrate, adulthood is a shaky concept in and of itself. Different interpretations of the meaning of adulthood, thus, lead to different ways in which adolescent personalities are crafted. Chapters five and six will concentrate on practices and processes of promotion. Using style as a guiding concept, activities, events, and relationships that evolve around pop-idols' performing identities will be investigated by shifting the locus of analysis from a specific pop-idol (in chapter five) to the field of idol production as a whole (chapter six). Tracing the trajectory of a pop-diva, Seiko Matsuda, in chapter five, delineates the nature of conflict between the performer's intentions and society's evaluations and expectations. It also reveals how a performer deals with challenging situations as part of the mission to publicly establish oneself — that is, the process that can be characterized as social drama (Turner 1982). Chapter six illuminates how this dramatized process is taken by different pop-idols and promotion agencies to distinguish themselves from each other. The symbolic competition over individualized pop-idol styles constitutes the field of pop-idol production, which, from the standpoint of outsiders, is a differentiation within an actually very homogeneous social category of commercialized middle-class performance called idol-pop. Observations of fans and their supporting activities also suggest that idols encourage a sense of unity among its consumers. 40 As studies of cultural globalization (e.g., Friedman 1990; Appadurai 1991; and Miller 1997) show, consumption in the context of capitalist globalization is an act of widespread formation of class identity. With this in mind, chapter seven tackles the problem of performing-identities in Asia, considering the recent pop-idol boom in many parts of this area. Consumerism is encouraged in many rapidly developing Asian countries such as China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, and Vietnam, and there is a growing popularity of Japanese pop-idols in these countries as well as the production of young local personalities who are called "idols." Idol-symbolism in these places is evocative of socioeconomic progress for an emerging middle-class identity, and this sense of progress is meaningfully associated with youth ~ the future labor force of national and regional development. Analysis in this chapter demonstrates two perspectives that are inherent in the cultural hegemony of idol-production: from the standpoint of Japanese promotion agencies, the emergent popularity of Japanese and Japanese-style pop-idols in Asia reflects the expansion of the pop-idol market overseas, suggesting Japan's leading symbolic role in the world economy; from the perspectives of non-Japanese Asians, this process implies the local formation of modern identities (ethnic or national) as signified by homegrown pop-idols representing socioeconomic affluence. Finally, chapter eight summarizes the implications of the idol-pop in understanding the relationship between popular performance, identity formation, and the process of constructing selves. Some suggestions for possible future research are also given. Notes: 1. The Japanese equivalent of the original meaning of "idol" in English is guzo, which is a combination of two words: gu which means "fabrication," and zo which means "image" or "statue." 41 2. In Japan, the family name is written before the given name so that Ryoko Hirosue, for example, would be written as Hirosue Ryoko. In this thesis, however, I will apply the English name order to all Japanese names. 3. Here, I have in mind Turner's (1982:23) concept of "comparative symbology," the goal of which is to "catch symbols in their movement" by contextualizing them in the concrete, historical fields of their use by people (including those of the complex, large-scale industrial societies), acting, reacting, transacting, and interacting socially. 4. There are also articles in academic journals such as Journal of Popular Culture, Popular Music, and Popular Music and Society. 5. In her cross-cultural analysis of self and emotion, Rosaldo (1984:148,149) argues that Western scholars tend to universalize their view of a desiring inner self, as separated from social control, without realizing that such selves are themselves social creations. She discusses the case of the Phillippine's Ilongots who do not distinguish private selves from social persons, and suggests the need for researchers to focus more on the contextualized aspect of selfhood: that is, a sense of the engagement of the actor's self (1984:143). In a similar tone, Shweder and Bourne suggests that the tendency to abstract out a concept of the inviolate personality free of social role and social relationship (or a tendency to distinguish the individual from the social), is a Western conception that is not shared cross-culturally. In many non-Western societies, self is often imagined as concrete, contextualized, non-abstractive, and apparently undifferentiated (1984:167,191,194). 6. See also Edwards' (1989) study of Japanese weddings which led him to postulate that people's unions are based on the idea of the incompleteness of self. 7. Singleton (1989) also discusses how parents demand the kind of disciplined concentration from their children as pottery apprentices in Japanese folkcraft tradition. Another well-known example of apprenticeship as the construction of self involving body techniques is Zen (e.g., Suzuki 1964,1965; Suzuki 1970; Grimes 1982; Preston 1988). 8. Scott (1955) provides a similar argument in reference to Kabuki. Kata, in his view, is specified as the actor's speech and movements on the stage, although the term's meaning extends to stage properties, costumes, and make-ups, which are not simply decorative accessories but are also necessary aids to the technique of the actor. These ornaments frame the actor into an established style (1955:105). 9. Hochschild (1983) highlights the issue of jobs that require employees to project emotional sentiments as part of the work expectations, where individuals put on a stylized performance against their will , or in contrast to their real feelings as a person. For instance, airline stewardesses make themselves look nice all the time. Bi l l collectors, as another example, pretend that they are angry. Both cases do not reflect the actors' essential characteristics. 10. Yoshida's (1984) study, for example, reports that Japan's kodomo shijd or "children's market" constituted the gross product of 10 trillion yen (estimate) in the fiscal year of 1983. According to one of my informants, an advertising agent, this particular article inspired many people in the trend industry. 42 11. White (1995:261-262) further notes that the mass media reflect the social learning the young person experiences more directly in family, friendships and school. Yet, instead of demanding the wholehearted acceptance of the responsibilities and behaviors that adulthood will exact, the media keep alive the notion that a young person can have a variety of personalities, even a dream. 12. For critiques against the economic reductionism as reflected in the standard, quasi-Marxist analysis of social class, see also Hall (1981) and Laclau and Mouffe (1985). 43 C H A P T E R II - M E T H O D S O F D O I N G F I E L D W O R K A field of production, as defined by Bourdieu (1993), refers to a social space in which agents occupying diverse positions engage in competition for control of the interests and resources which are specific to it. These agents strive to win certain recognition and prestige in the field by means of various investment strategies (1993:6). In the field of arts, for instance, each artist who occupies a position in the power structure promotes certain genres or styles as a means to distinguish, defend, and improve her or his work against coexistent works of other artists. Bourdieu contends that: the structure of the field, i.e. of the space of positions, is nothing other than the structure of the distribution of the capital of specific properties which governs success in the field and the winning of the external or specific profits (such as literary prestige) which are at stake in the field (Bourdieu 1993:30). Pop-idols and their promotion agencies themselves in economic and symbolic capital in order to compete with each other for greater public recognition or fame, and as such they can be said to constituting a field of production. With the discussion of performing identities in chapter one in mind, and in concurrence with Bourdieu's definition of a field, this study will provide a detailed account of the field of pop-idol production. In this field, ordinary young people construct their identities as they act out adolescent role models and commodify themselves in modern Japanese mass media and consumer society. These people and their promotion agencies attempt to secure their positions in the market (as well as society at large) and maximize the commercial profit. Thus, the ways in which this is negotiated between performers and their promotion agencies constitute the core of idol-based transaction and resultant social organization. This chapter will discuss the methods used to study the nature of pop-idol performances and the formation of cultural identities in the Japanese entertainment industry. Its first section will 44 introduce the main actors in the field, and elucidate the kind of relationship that characterizes present-day Japanese mass culture and consumer society. My stance as an ethnographer, and my interaction with participants in an often indifferent, competitive, sometimes hostile, and always enigmatic world of Japanese show business will be considered. Ivy (1993) notes that in order to understand the development of an increasingly comprehensive mass culture in postwar Japan, one must attend to the discourse on the masses. Such a discourse is created by the culture industry and enhanced by the actual objects and forms of consumption (Ivy 1993:242). Seen in this light, the final section of this chapter will explicate the methods used to investigate how people perceive pop-idol performances and participate in their making. Idology: The Study of Performing Identities in the Japanese Entertainment Industry The Actors The entertainment industry in Japan consists of large and small promotion agencies, media institutions, and a corporate network of manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. Like other commercial organizations in Japan, some of these firms consolidate into large industrial families, known as keiretsu, while others remain relatively small and independent ventures. Keiretsu usually include one large manufacturing company and a constellation of its subsidiaries, affiliates, and subcontractors (Clark 1988[1979]:75). The human resources in each of these institutions are divided into separate departments or sections whose roles include planning, production, marketing, management, and advertising. Positions within each of these areas are hierarchically arranged. Various marketing programs and public events are proposed by producers, authorized by administrators, and put to practice by directors, performers and staff members. 45 Promotion agencies specialize in nurturing the careers of potential stars. These agencies hold auditions every year through which prospective individuals are scouted, trained, and crafted into marketable commodities. Some lucky candidates are personally recruited into the manufacturing system, while hundreds of other candidates struggle through a series of contests. There are over 1,600 promotion agencies striving to promote approximately 6,800 young and old personalities of both sexes, in addition to 300 duet- and group performers (Rengo Tsushinsha 1995). These agencies also institute fan clubs, publish newsletters, and produce a wide variety of idol-related products, otherwise known as "idol-goods" (aidoru guzzu) --posters, calendars, postcards, key holders, breast-pins and stationery products (figure 2). Personal image is the single, most important commodity of performers, which is translated into a fee known as a "guarantee" (gyara), and the marketing of this image is the raison d'etre of promotion agencies. Performers' images are subject to copyright, otherwise known as shazo-ken (lit. "portrait rights"), whose misuse can lead to law suits by the protecting agencies. Unlike American Hollywood where performers in show business act individually and make deals with agents for jobs on a one-to-one basis, the majority of Japanese performers are employed by promotion agencies through contracts. Contracts between Japanese performers and promotion agencies are called tarento keyaku, or "talent contracts." These include two categories: part time contracts (teiki keiyaku) that normally cover a period of two years, subject to renewal; and full time contracts (senzoku keiyaku) that guarantee the performers' permanent employment status. The latter is usually not established unless the agency and the performer are confident with each others' abilities. While performers' abilities are measured based on how well they can perform and attract viewers, agencies' abilities are demonstrated in terms of how well they can nurture their performers and 46 Figure 2. A scene from a Tokyo kiosk where young people gather to buy idol goods, including photos, fans, and stationeries 47 acquire quality jobs. Unsatisfied performers may shift from one agency to another as long as they are marketable. In such a case, performers tend to adopt a new name. The business version of head hunting is a common practice for prospective performers, although restrictions and penalties, such as suspension and compensation, apply to headhunters. Together these aspects contribute to the competitive nature of the entertainment field. Media institutions portray themselves as mediating agents between the two domains of production and consumption. In Japan, these institutions include more than 180 advertising agencies, 860 magazine publishers, 380 broadcasting corporations (of which 70 are local branches of Japan's national broadcasting corporation, the NHK) , and 36 record companies.1 These institutions focus on selecting, signifying, amplifying, and distributing what they consider marketable commodities. Media institutions create a social space for participants to interact with a common goal or shared interest. As one advertising agent told me in an interview, these institutions provide a frame for performers and their agencies to advertise themselves, sponsors to advertise their products, and members of the audience to tune in and buy what they like. Nakane (1970) defines a frame (ba) as "a locality, an institution, or a particular relationship" that "binds a set of individuals into one group." It "sets a boundary and gives a common basis to a set of individuals who are located or involved in it" (Nakane 1970:1). The frame offered by Japanese mass media is considered to collectivize producers, performers, staff members and consumers in the name of entertainment. Another function of mass media is to provide the public with stories (neta) that cultivate conventional themes, outlooks, and perspectives (Barnouw 1956; Barnouw and Kirkland 1992). In such a setting, pop-idols and other personalities become the topic (wadai) of media-constructed narratives. Performers and their promotion agencies may engage in a love-hate 48 relationship with the agents of the mass media, especially tabloid publishers. The sole interest of tabloids is to cover any story there is about the lives and activities of celebrities that may interest the audience (whether it may praise or scandalize those who are covered). For well-known performers and promotion agencies, reporters are sometimes strong allies that reassure their prestige, and at other times unpleasant abusers of public images. For unknown performers and agencies that are struggling to become popular, these reporters are attractive promoters who hold the key to their success, but they are also difficult to convince.2 Corporate institutions, which include the manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers of material products, sponsor public events and media programs, such as advertising campaigns, television shows and commercials. In exchange, they use these events and programs as a place to advertise themselves and products they wish to sell. In these settings, idol personalities are hired as an allegorical means to impress the audience, attract a greater number of people, and thereby magnify the commercial impact. The willingness of corporate institutions to sponsor an event or a program is measured in terms of audience rating (or turnout) which motivates media institutions to produce publicly appealing programs, and promotion agencies to produce popular personalities. In producing popular personalities, corporate institutions ask advertisers to call for applications from promotion agencies. Then, an audition, or the so-called konpe (an abbreviation of the English word "competition"), is held in which the most suitable applicant is chosen and the guarantee is negotiated. The campaign period for a specific new product is usually one year. The guarantee paid to a promotion agency for hiring its performer during this period can range somewhere between 3 to 100 million Japanese yen, depending on the popularity and potentiality of the performer. The rule holds that one and the same performer cannot be hired by more than one company in the same industrial classification during the same 49 campaign period. Whether or not corporate institutions will continue to campaign for the same product, or hire the same performer, will depend upon the judgment it makes based on the product's sales. Although it is generally agreed that a currently popular performer can influence productivity through advertisement, this does not always turn out to be the case. There are cases in which unknown performers became suddenly well known through advertising campaigns. These cases characterize campaign events and programs as an evermore incalculable but attractive arena of opportunities for promotion agencies. Among hundreds of corporate institutions that offer sponsorships, manufacturers of confectionery, toiletry, and electronic products are the foremost employers of young pop-idols. In a round table conversation with agents from a large confectionery company and a vice-president of a large promotion agency, I was told that this was the case because "these products and personalities commonly appeal to young consumers." Indeed, eating candies (and other fast foods), keeping oneself clean and beautiful, and possessing all kinds of digitized machines constitute a consumer lifestyle for young people in contemporary Japan. The Environment: Japanese Mass Culture and Consumer Society Pop-idol production and marketing are part of the commercial practices that characterize Japan's present-day consumer society. One may understand consumer society, for example, as a society where the consumption of material objects, rather than their production, became the basis of the social order. One may alternatively provide a semiotic definition of consumer society: a world imbued with a system of codes in which objects' functional values are lost to their symbolic exchange values (e.g., Baudrillard 1981,1988[1968]). Neither of these characterizations allow researchers to distinguish the current capitalist society from any other 50 society (including that classified as traditional, non-industrial, or premodern) in which the practices of material consumption and symbolic exchange are (or were) also present. In this study, the term "consumer society" will be used as it is most widely understood by agents of capitalist institutions: a society in which the act of material consumption is equated with the consumption of fictions about one's socioeconomic status or well-being. Such a society is identical to what Haug (1986) calls "a commodity world of attractive and seductive illusion." In such a world, a plethora of commodified images and illusions shackle human desire for satisfaction, enjoyment, and happiness in life to a drive towards certain styles of conformity. Haug writes: A n innumerable series of images are forced upon the individual, like mirrors, seemingly empathetic and totally credible, which bring their secrets to the surface and display them there. In these images, people are continually shown the unfulfilled aspects of their existence. The illusion integrates itself, promising satisfaction: it reads desires in one's eyes, and brings them to the surface of the commodity. While the illusion with which commodities present themselves to the gaze gives people a sense of meaningfulness, it provides them with a language to interpret their existence and the world. Any other world, different from that provided by the commodities, is almost no longer accessible to them (1986:52). Thus, images become an important aspect of social order in consumer society. Fiction or illusion is used in its pragmatic sense: a socially constructed and publicly shared story that provides consumers with a meaningful repertoire of characters, relationships and outcomes that represent their present life-world (Barnouw and Kirkland 1992:52). This fiction is not a fabrication as such. As Miyadai (1994) argues: By fiction [of a consumer society] it is not meant a 'falsehood that does not match with the fact'. Regardless of its consistency with the fact, it makes possible for one to feel 'Oh, my household is as good as everyone else's'. The reality of fiction is not a matter of whether or not this fiction matches the fact, but rather the fact that everyone who shares it believes in what it stands for. In this sense, a fiction accompanying the consumption of commodities is a story lived by the contemporaries [who consume these commodities] (Miyadai 1994:143, brackets mine). 51 Through the consumption of fictions imbued in commodities, Japanese consumers link themselves to other members of the society, creating personal linkages or a network of solidarity (see also Creighton 1994b:94). From the perspective of the Japanese trend industry, a consumer society consists of the masses (taishu), or the aggregate of consumers to which their marketing strategies are targeted. Some of my informants in the industry referred to their marketing activities as mass-control or taishu-sosa, whose goal is to standardize consumer tastes and lifestyles through fictitious narratives and image-making processes. Indeed, the incorporation of population into a series of uniformed taste-groups is very much apparent in postwar Japan. According to Ivy (1993), these groups were: appropriately differentiated in terms of gender and generation but much less so in terms of class or regional affiliation: company president, company janitor, and farmer alike came to read the same magazines, watch the same television shows, and own the same basic array of electric appliances (Ivy 1993:241). Moreover, as Yano indicates, the molding of desire by the mass media is more easily accepted in Japan than elsewhere, such as the United States where the influence of the mass media is often regarded negatively. Just as shaping a tree by pruning is considered to be a traditional practice by which a greater harmony is acquired with one's surroundings, the molding of desire by the mass media is accepted by the majority of consumers in contemporary Japan to be the purported teachings through which one presumably acquires information on the needs, wants, and pleasures of the greatest number of people (or at least on what these should be). Thus, the media promotes greater harmony with one's social surroundings. The acceptance of this molding or manipulation process is "a matter of course and even part of a cultural definition of maturity" (Yano 1997:337). 52 ft In this social context, adolescents emerged as a population segment whose active involvement in the creation and recreation of customs and practices contributed to the market-driven aspects of coming of age (White 1995:256). Adolescence is a marked stage in the cultural conception of the Japanese life course. Both Japanese adults and young people find adolescence to be the transitional period between childhood and adulthood in which the ground is prepared for adult social relations with the same people who are currently one's peers. Commercial institutions skillfully manipulate the need for adolescents to socialize during this life stage as they facilitate the creation and recreation of an adolescent lifestyle or youth culture. Young Pop-Idols According to The American Heritage Dictionary (1982:640), an idol refers to 1) an image used as an object of worship, 2) a person or thing that is blindly or excessively adored, and 3) something that is visible but without substance. Throughout this study, pop-idols will be used to represent a specific group of adolescent personalities in Japanese show business to whom these aspects are attributed. The ways in which ordinary young people invest themselves with material support and symbolic power in order to become a marketable persona in Japanese mass culture and consumer society constitute the foundation of idol-based transactions and the resultant social organization. Pop-idols are young media-promoted personalities who sing, dance, and act in the theater or on stage, appear on television shows, and strike poses in fashion magazines and advertisements. They are distinguished from religious icons, cult leaders, and political authorities, although they share a similar charismatic function: a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he or she is considered extraordinary. Charismatic individuals are endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities, based on 53 which they are treated as a leader (Weber 1978b:241). Living human beings whose excessively adorable personalities are manipulated for commercial purposes, pop-idols are "living character-commodities" (ikeru kyarakutaa shohin) -- subjective objects that feel, think, speak, act, and choose to conform or resist (Ogawa 1988:121). Pop-idols bestow their willpower and effort on the creation of the adolescent lifestyle through images of becoming. They enact the role of adorable innocent novices that gradually transform into mature personalities. Given this context, the central concern of my ethnographic fieldwork, the main part of which took place in Tokyo between the fall of 1994 and the summer of 1996, was to situate myself in the Japanese entertainment industry. I wanted to explore various strategies that individuals use to participate in the field of pop-idol production, and trace this field's trajectory toward the mass culture formation in contemporary Japanese society. Other Genres of Popular Performances Perhaps it is appropriate to compare the idol-pop with other genres of popular performance in present-day Japan to better understand its place in show business. To be sure, to say that idol-pop became a nation-wide phenomenon since the 1970s is by no means to claim it as an exclusive or dominant genre in present-day Japanese popular culture. In popular music targeted for young people, for example, idol-pop coexists with other celebrated genres such as folk, pop, new music, and rock'n roll. One may try to differentiate between these genres by making statements such as: "Folk and rock tend to be anti-commercial, whereas pop and new music are pro-commercial," "Folk is soft, whereas rock is hard," "Rock powerful, whereas pop tends to be weak," "New music is more artistic than folk," or "New music is digital, rock is metallic, folk is analogue, and pop is vocal." These comments often encouraged debate without becoming points of agreeable knowledge among my informants — especially in a climate in which the emergent 54 idea of sound-fusion lead many musicians to commercialize hybrid musical products whose orientations are unclear.3 A n alternative illustration, Miyadai et al (1993) classify the genres of Japanese pop-music based on the different types of communication generated between performers and their audience. This study, based on empirical research, examines how performers relate themselves to the music represented by the genre. Pop, folk, and new music, for instance, are shown here as melodic narratives which portray certain aspects of social realities, whereas rock'n roll tends to invoke among its listeners a sense of escape from these realities. Furthermore, pop and new music are seen as a musical vehicle for "romanticizing realities" in a fancy way, whereas folk music tends to focus on ballads of sadness and solitude. Pop music is generally considered shallow vis-a-vis a more sophisticated form of new music in the sense that the listeners do not immerse themselves as much into the contents of songs. This is to say that pop listeners tend to appreciate melodies more than lyrics, while new music listeners value lyrics as much as melodies.4 Of particular interest for the purpose of this research is the suggestion that idol-pop involves a kind of meta-consumption. That is, pop-idol fans are more interested in the way they relate to their favorite personalities through the act of consumption, rather than the essential qualities of pop-idols that they are consuming. Whether pop-idols can sing well, or whether their songs are masterpieces, is not so much a concern for these idol fans as how they can become part of the system of production, or how they can participate in the socializing process of young personalities. These fans engage in pop-idol consumption knowing that they are consuming young, amateurish, and commercially fabricated personalities (1993:75). This has a significant implication for the present study in terms of the investigation's focus: that is, on the cultural 55 process as manifested in pop-idol performances. Determining whether pop-idols are artistic or not, for instance, is therefore beyond the scope of this research. Fieldwork in an Arena of Idol-Production The Research Setting It would not take long for any visitor to Japan to realize that its crowded city streets are bedecked with advertisement billboards and posters representing young personalities that either smile coquettishly or strike shapely poses. Numerous identical images appear on the covers of popular magazines and comic books at which many businessmen gaze intently on their way to work, or children on their way to school. Television shows are full of similar adolescent personalities. Some lucky chance encounters, public events, or concerts would reveal many of these performers on stage trying to attract a large number of adoring fans who scream and cheer at them ~ however artless these performers may appear to act. There are even shops where young people and their parents can buy photos, T-shirts and other consumable items featuring their favorite pop-idols. My primary goal in the field was to specify the cultural implications of this popular phenomenon. My first glimpse of these scenes as a fieldworker in Tokyo (the city that was to be my home for eighteen months) led me to feel that youthful liveliness counter-balanced my general impression of urban Japan: a highly-industrial and highly-digitized space where workaholic clones run around like ants (not much more than functioning as cogs in an economic machine). Japanese people are often characterized as economic animals, but observing these textualized personal images of adolescents in Tokyo and other Japanese towns led me to believe that there are human orientations to this socioeconomic mechanism. One of my first journal entries reads: 56 The whole city is lit up by countless number of young celebrities whose images emerge everywhere ~ smiling at times, crying at other times, and showing anger at yet other times. However artificial they seem, these media-crafted images of young pop-idols supplement the impersonal atmosphere created by busy people rushing on the street. Each of these pop-idols has a name recognized by many people whether or not they are willing to adore them. The city itself becomes a festival ground where life is being celebrated, but celebrated through commercially produced images, fantasies and products. It reminds me of a local shrine where visitors and local people mingle together to worship one of their so-called 'eight million gods' [yao yorozu no kami] who are supposed to bless their lives. In the shrine, visitors draw oracles that are supposed to tell fortunes. They purchase various charms, icons and souvenirs from the precinct gift shops. Undoubtedly, these lively images of pop-idols and the luxurious image of the city they fantasize constitute one divine phase of the present-day consumer culture in Japan. This culture emerged out of the nation's postwar socioeconomic struggle like a shrine of sacred gods (October 28, 1994). I thought, in this sense, that pop-idols create a symbolic landscape that might be called the "islands of eight million smiles" — the landscape that complements the "islands of eight-million gods," which is the religious (Shinto) characterization of the Japanese archipelago. Tokyo, like other large cities in Japan, is a vast array of concrete houses, office blocks, small shops, restaurants, and supermarkets, traversed by streets crowded with people and roads filled with traffic. The frantic rhythms of late 20th century consumer culture mingle with the tranquil scenes of the traditional past, creating a sociohistorical enigma. Business districts and commercial centers stand side by side with places that are ready to provide businessmen with an exhilarating escape from the so-called 12 hours per day working regimen, such as pachinko game parlors, night clubs, dance halls, cinemas, and other entertainment plazas. Tokyo is where most image-related commodities are made, sold, and dispersed. Most performers, producers, writers and copywriters seek their jobs in this capital city, contributing to the city's reputation as the powerhouse of the modern economy and popular culture. As I was informed by a friend, "New trends, new brands and new customs all flow out of TSkyo, and they never end. Everyone everywhere tries to follow up on what goes on in this city. Even i f 57 anything new and exciting originates elsewhere, it is only when it goes through Tokyo that it becomes magnified as a nation-wide phenomenon." Developing Relationships in the Field According to Olesen and Whittaker (1967), participant observation is "a mutual venture in which reciprocal interpersonal exchanges between the research investigator and the actor result in more or less mutually meaningful, well-understood, viable social roles" (Olesen and Whittaker 1967:274). Ways in which the investigator and the actors define themselves around the research roles and life roles (such as age, sex, social class and other non-occupational roles) influence the nature of interaction as well as the quality of data gathered. I repeatedly reminded myself of this view as I was developing my relations with informants in the field. A Japanese graduate student who has been interested in symbolic anthropology, I first became interested in pop-idol phenomena in 1988.1 selected this topic for a term paper in a class I took as part of my Master's degree coursework at the University of Arizona. A former fan of Seiko Matsuda, one of the best-selling idol-pop singers in Japanese pop-music history, and a participant of pop-idol concerts and fan-club events as a high-school student in Japan, I had some consumer background in Japanese idol-pop.5 Yet, my knowledge of what went on behind the scene was minimal, and therefore I began thinking about approaching this theme ethnographically. Nevertheless, I was interested in the strategies employed by commercially motivated individuals, groups and institutions to promote themselves in the field of idol-production and more generally in the field of Japanese popular culture. To get a sense of what goes on in the Japanese entertainment industry, I made frequent trips back to Japan between 1988 and 1992 to observe idol-related events and collect idol-related materials. A few brief and informal contacts were made with writers and members of promotion 58 agencies, to whom I proposed the possibility of conducting academic field research on pop-idol performances. I was generally met with indifference. One informant said that such research would be very difficult because everyone in show business is extremely busy. He believed that nobody in the industry would intend to give a free interview to some academic who wants to reveal the inside story. I was also warned that some performers and agencies might be acquainted with the underworld. One informant suggested that it was best to stay out of trouble, as it is said in a Japanese proverb, "If you don't lay your hands on gods, there will be no curse" (Sawaranu kami ni tatari nashi).6 Judging that I was not ready as of yet, I decided to pursue this topic at a Ph.D. level when I would be better equipped with ethnographic methods and research techniques. I thought that I also would have a better chance of being perceived by my informants as a qualified research expert. That day came in 1994 when I completed my coursework. I was passed to doctoral candidacy, and I had managed to acquire some fellowship funds to fly back to Japan for long-term fieldwork. Soon after establishing a research base in Tokyo, I wrote a project profile that explained my research rationale. I faxed copies to two dozens promotion agencies that were listed in a phone book. None of these agencies replied. I then decided to call these agencies by telephone to find out if they received my fax and i f i could somehow get in touch with them. Some admitted that they received my fax and others did not, but all rejected my request on the basis that they did not wish to reveal any information related to their businesses to outsiders. Neither were my previous contacts helpful at all. Those who I could contact agreed to help me and told me that they would get back to me, but they never did. Seeing me grow increasingly frustrated, my cousin who frequently visited my place said, "These agencies get thousands of weird calls from strangers everyday, so it's quite natural that you don't have any luck. Besides, you need a middle-person in this country who can understand you well, trust you 59 well, and is willing to help you well by introducing you to her or his acquaintances in the industry. Why don't you look for such a person?" One person I failed to contact while doing my earlier surveys was Toshio Fujiwara (a pseudonym), a university student in Tokyo who was an organizer of a pop-music research club. The club to which he belonged was one of many informal groups of friendly students, otherwise known as saakuru from the English "circle [of friends]", that developed in all Japanese universities. Fujiwara's home telephone number was given to me in 1990 by my friend who attended the same university, who asked the information center on my behalf thinking that the information might be helpful someday. After spending three months in the field without any contact, I pulled the number out of a file in my dusty notebook and made a call. His mother answered the telephone and instructed me to call back on a Sunday when he is usually at home. I also learned from her that this key informant-to-be is now a producer and a marketing agent who works at a large advertising company. His specialization was to produce a series of television commercials and hire suitable personalities for that purpose. After a brief introduction over the telephone, an appointment was set on the first day of February 1995, at Fujiwara's office. He told me that something might come up all of a sudden, in which case he would not be able to see me and would like to apologize. I remember being aware at this moment as to how dynamic and unpredictable life in the corporate world could be. After learning that I was trying to conduct serious research at the doctorate level that would introduce Japanese pop-idols to the academic community of North America, Fujiwara indicated that he would help me in any way he could. He made a copy of his notebook where he kept name cards of his close acquaintances in the industry. He circled the names of seven individuals whom he would be able to contact without much difficulty, and handed me the copy promising that he would try to contact these people and inform them about me as soon as possible. 60 Accepting his offer, I spoke to three of these individuals during the following week, and through them further contacts with many people in the industry were subsequently developed. They were freelance writers on pop-idols, and a sociologist who is also a pioneer in Japanese pop-idol research. These individuals provided me with a weighty introduction to what it is like to work with or around pop-idols in the world of Japanese show business. When I was not seeking contacts and interviews, I attended concerts and public events, whose schedules could be acquired from monthly magazines such as Gakken's Bomb! and Ticket Saison's Ticket Jack (more popularly known as tj). I also visited stores where idol goods were being sold, and frequently kept track of television and radio programs in which pop-idols performed. Given a chance, I developed spontaneous conversations with people in the audience, staff members, and clerks. A l l of this helped me reconfirm and visualize many of the things that I was told from my informants during the interview. From April 1995, my relationship with people in the industry evolved dramatically, thanks to the connection of helpful individuals offered by Fujiwara, and with a few lucky breakthroughs in my own attempts to contact agencies directly. My interview list totaled over 150 individuals including producers, performers, staff members, fan-club organizers, and advertising and publishing agents from large and small companies. Many of these people provided me with materials they thought would be helpful for my research. They also invited me to concerts, and gave me access to back stage areas. Some producers and managers took me to their meetings and get-togethers to show me what went on in these settings, while others took me to restaurants, bars, and coffee shops for informal conversations (figure 3). I attended and tape-recorded much of what went on in concerts and public events without any difficulty. As for meetings and get-togethers that were more private, my chance of tape-recording was limited because they revealed confidential business information and bad rumors 61 ( M S M M ) 1 9 9 5 ^ 6 3 - 1 9 9 6 ¥ 5 f l l^ofe r » < E b < l § b < j b - C f i M b b T ^ S "fflflR|Sa±*M£" © f i S f t C C M , fi:b<*jKv^Sb*fo Figure 3. A sample memorandum produced by an idol promotion agency, PTA Committee, inviting the media to attend a press conference where their collaboration with my fieldwork was announced (June, 1995). that my informants did not want me to put on record. Taking photos proved to be a much more sensitive issue. Most of my informants did not want me to bring my camera anywhere except events where taking pictures was allowed for the public. When I was permitted to take it elsewhere, I was requested to show the photos before I published them. Some informants requested me to credit their agencies i f i were to use a photo or any material related to them. On one privileged occasion in August 1995,1 participated in an audition as one of seven sectional judges. There, I met Akio Nakamori, a distinguished columnist and a writer on the subject of Japanese popular culture as well as a well-known promoter of pop-idols. After two months of occasional long conversations and rapport building, Nakamori offered me his media backup for my research. He indicated his wish to "produce me as an idol-like personality" in his magazine columns, which according to him would make access to people in the industry much easier because everyone would know about me. His plan turned out to be a four-part series in SPA!, Japan's major business, culture and entertainment weekly. I first struck a pose with pop-idols next to his column (44/43 [11/15/1995]: front page). I then wrote a column on the nature of my research (44/46 [12/6/1995]: 150,152). I wrote another column demonstrating my case analysis (44/19 [12/20/1995]: 140). Finally, I wrote a column toward the end of my fieldwork that looked back to my experiences in the field (45/26 [7/3/1996]: 164,165). As Nakamori predicted, my subsequent contacts became much easier as I referred to my appearance in SPA! when I introduced myself. I was nicknamed in the industry as an "idol professor." I even began to receive telephone calls from the media that either wanted to seek my advice on some promotional projects or write comments on the subject of Japanese pop-idols in their periodicals (figure 4). While all of this was pivotal to my fieldwork, it changed the nature of my interaction with informants substantially. I was no longer received as a curious researcher from abroad, who 63 t r o g e i t t t i t t t o ft <-> t» jt a I < ~ b I *> C « " » If > % i a 7 J «- * t IJ i I ^  * 4 t ft 1" -i- * K i i C - J ' I f f l j v T L i ft 4" 1 J: ft ? t B b l t i l t i f t ' ^ i 1 °a • & < a tt I- o T -f K ° *. U * tt 9 I-f "3 n u 1 0 1ft •y IJ K 7 * -f L: * = % # K ' j£ c7) < 7 ;u t t l s A f t U J i ! ° I ft. fc (J i l OT fi; fc fc *> 'AIC S i f i t i: B T ± H I- * © 1 3* * tt # J r t f * f c jg IJ 5 T ' t l i l s 3fc tt * i « 5 f --tb & L if fc C i i ft ifi "3 S # » A. T T ftfc*£iSfc it i. f O t ft " u -j It iS 0 -lb ;s b b # L ro *£ ft. f> A> iS ST ^ T *P L i * fi?Jt<Tt 'ft. -5 t l : '< ft 0 T t T $ 5 T 0 ifi ro C T ° $ Jll -? I* 8Jt i 3 ' f i i > i s i * o f t l f f l f t f f i t t * r o T a 5 fc 1 fe H ro 4 u * ia -c * m m ro f -fc ft W ro tt tt iS X 4 ffl & 4- tr <f it- *>- ^ 4 w f 3 : i « T- IP > * I =s * I x m * tt *> * ' -5 * * a tt f IJ IJ' b 4 -f * E 5 £ a s a* & * y ft <t ro i H 19 1 m i S tt S n 6 * R5 + > 3 a m tlf-V 5C W 7 ± U fl * 1 U , « ft % a » * • L t SC K *• X tt It 1 ? 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A sample column by the author: Aidoru o toshite miru Nihon no shin-jidai (A look at the new era of Japan through pop-idols), in Scholar's 1996 issue of Chumoku Aidoru Kanzen Data Book (The Dictionary of IDOL '96)(p.57). 64 wanted to learn about Japanese pop-idols as such, but a commentator and an expert on the subject as well. Frequent invitations to auditions and stage performances led me to question my own authority. Did I know enough to proclaim my expertise? People in the industry did not seem to mind as long as they could use me as part of their story making (neta zukuri). Yet, some idol-fans began to indicate problems they had with what they considered to be my authority. Even Fujiwara, who assisted me throughout the fieldwork, asked me what qualification I had to comment on pop-idols without a long-term commitment and real-time experience in the Japanese entertainment industry. In response, I published an article titled What anthropology can understand about pop-idols (Jinruigaku wa aidoru ni tsuite nani o shiri-eru ka) in the 1997 edition of Takarajimasha's annual book called Aidoru Tanteidan (Pop-Idol Detectives, p. 156). I explained the difference between the emotional involvement of pop-idol fans with a particular idol who they admired and my research interest in the cultural aspects of the idol phenomena. My primary concern in the field was the possibility that my informants would consider me a spy-like journalist who wanted to reveal their secrets to a curious crowd. I traveled freely across the boundaries of mutually competing institutions as I collected a variety of data that no journalist or consumer had ever collected before. Indeed, I was boldly travelling across the media and business universe to reach the stars in the name of social scientific discovery! That I could be a corporate spy was a difficult accusation to rebut, but to avoid such an accusation I presented a copy of my research proposal to all corporate representatives who I contacted. In this I explained that my interest was academic, not commercially oriented, and that my research would not jeopardize any agency or its members. I also indicated that the anthropological study 65 of pop-idol performances would benefit the industry by providing a critical understanding of the symbolic significance of pop-idols as well as the cultural significance of pop-idol production. From time to time, some of my informants asked me what my conclusions were or how I was going to present the data I had acquired. I took these inquiries as a significant part of my interaction with informants, and gave them my thoughts about how I might summarize them. Conversations that developed on these occasions provided me with a chance to get important feedback from my informants. In the end, the majority of people with whom I interacted accepted me as an academic who had a genuine interest in the study of Japanese popular culture. Many of them gave their precious time, energy, and sometimes even money, on behalf of my research. As for my part, trying to win understanding, trust, and support from my informants was a non-stop effort. The tension of maintaining a good image contributed to my daily exhaustion, along with the need to catch up with various events in a highly competitive and unpredictable environment where things could come and go very quickly and often without notice. Ethical Concerns To fulfil ethical requirements in the field, I followed the human-subject guidelines issued by the Behavioral Science Screening Committee of the University of British Columbia. I prepared consent forms for all of my informants guaranteeing protection of their privacy, autonomy and confidentiality. While this placed the burden on the researcher in the field, many difficulties emerged in relation to the principle of informant protection. For example, I could not precisely define what privacy (confidentiality) and publicity meant. I was often confused as to where autonomy began and ended. There was no exact way of knowing whether my research was representing or harming the people being studied. I was not sure whether the research ends 66 justified the means. I could not foresee whether there is a subject or an area that should not be touched in the first place. For instance, my fieldwork on the Japanese entertainment industry included the investigation of public perceptions of events that were considered scandalous: questionable sexual conduct, illegal drug use, underworld connections, mysterious accidents, death and so on. I neither sought nor was I informed about the authenticity of these scandals, as they were not part of my research interest. On the other hand, investigating the practices of pop-idol marketing in the field's economic and symbolic power structures (i.e., the dimension of completion, domination, conflict, conformity, and resistance) was a necessary step toward the understanding of cultural production, not only in present-day Japan but also in the similar venues of consumer society throughout the world. The experts in managing images, impressions, and publications I approached in the entertainment industry were aware that they were risking a permanent recording of their accounts, and those who participated in my research project were willing to take that risk. I used special codes in my fieldnotes and journal entries to exclude all names and identifying features. A l l audiotaped materials were destroyed after transcriptions were made, and all identifying features in these transcriptions were codified. Protecting the privacy and confidentiality of my informants in the data presentation required some caution during the organization of this thesis. While much of the information given to me during my interaction with informants in the field was considered publishable, there was background information that was not to be released, and much fell in between. Regarding certain information, my informants wanted me to reveal and acknowledge their identities. Any information that clearly needed to go off record was indicated by informants during my interaction with them in the field. I took ethical ethnography to be contingent upon the ongoing 67 dialectic of negotiation where what can and cannot be presented is discussed between the researcher and the people being studied at every step including the writing. I contacted my informants whenever I could not determine the propriety of publishing the given data.7 Research Methods Participant observation, as canonized by Malinowski's pioneering works in the Trobriand Islands, is the predominant means by which anthropologists acquire their knowledge about people and their cultures.8 Observation grounded in participation allows researchers to rise out of their armchairs, experience the social world, and investigate why and how members of a society construct certain social realities. There is more to the practice of fieldwork, however, than taking part in what people do. A simple premise that sharing ideas, emotions and experiences with informants in certain sociocultural contexts is synonymous with achieving a greater understanding of their culture or society is always contestable. Yet, given the critical eye of a researcher, contextual analyses can reveal things that people might not either realize or enunciate as a part of their culture themselves. Ethnographic field research, in this sense, is a way of understanding certain aspects of culture that might not be recognizable to the participants. To analyze cultural organizations and social relationships that evolve around the symbolic practices of pop-idol production critically, my fieldwork subsumed three major methodological approaches: observation, conversation, and participation. The distinction between these three research aspects is technical (or analytical) rather than actual. It helped me differentiate the kinds of information I could generate in the field. In reality, I did not sequentially organize my fieldwork into the three stages of observation, conversation, and participation, but rather amalgamated these into a dynamic, unified, and mutually interactive approach. 68 Observation Observation is a primary means by which the researcher can acquire knowledge about the people being studied. It is a subjective endeavor that depends upon the researcher's impressions and perspectives about observed phenomena, as well as her or his way of approaching the phenomena. A wide range of information can be generated through observation, from activities that take place in a confined setting to general features of culture or society, or qualitative details and quantitative delineation. Every observation contains research issues that require some form of answer. One observation might lead to another and yet another, exposing the researcher to an infinite process of investigation. I spent most of my time in the field attending concerts, public events, media programs, press conferences, official meetings and informal get-togethers. I used these places as primary sites to observe how my informants acted, or to confirm (or contest) what my informants told me during our conversations. My observations were not limited to these sites of interaction. A simple walk along the street was a serious observational activity on my part. For example, I could direct my attention to the ways idol posters and billboards were set up, and the ways people reacted to these signs. I also made frequent visits to retail outlets where idol-related products were sold in order to check out trends in consumer items. This, too, was part of my routine observation. Conversation By conversation, I mean a dialogue between the researcher and her or his informants that generates information beyond the limits of subjectivity. Through a series of conversations, the researcher can clarify problems that emerge in the field and develop further observational 69 possibilities in the light of the informants' own words. Conversation evokes ideas, opinions and emotions that the researcher and informants have about themselves, their lives, their experiences, and each other. As such, it is a technique to facilitate a mutual search for self-understanding. It includes ethnographic interviews, but is not limited to any direct sequence of questions and answers. My informants often provided me with invaluable information informally rather than through a formal interview. During my eighteen-month fieldwork, I tape-recorded 172 hours of interviews with 84 individuals, and hundreds of more hours were spent talking with these and another 80 individuals. Of these informants, 68 were producers and promoters, 49 were pop-idol performers, and 47 were fans and general members of the audience. Conversations with these people ranged anywhere from a 30 minute, one-time interview to repeated get-togethers of many hours. With my native competence in Japanese and my experience growing up in Japan, I encountered no language-related problem communicating with my informants. Yet, there were several apparent problems with communication at a sociolinguistic level. A typical Japanese attitude, taken by the majority of my informants, was for one to act either with ambiguity, reservation, indifference, or what Japanese would more precisely call "professed intention" (tatemae), that cloaked one's "true intention" or "real feeling" (honne). Japan is considered to be a society whose members tend to surrender (or at least tone down) their individual opinions and interests in deference to those of the group or the social norm. This tendency is represented by the classic proverb, "The capable hawk would hide its claws" or no aru taka wa tsume o kakusu. In such a social environment, it was difficult for me to develop a conversation at all with many of my informants.9 Even i f a conversation was manageable, I could not confirm whether my informants meant what they said unless I became close enough 70 for them to eventually reveal their feelings. There were cases in which my informants told me, "I said [such and such 1] before, but what I meant by that was [such and such 2]." To compensate for this problem, I tried to contact the same informant more than once, and I repeatedly checked the points that were previously made. I also raised the same research problem or topic in different conversational contexts so that I could compare the information between these cases. For each informant I met, I tried to build as much rapport as possible so that she or he could feel at ease when they spoke to me. It was also important to use observation and participation to examine the points made by my informants during the conversation. Typical questions asked of all informants during an ethnographic interview were: 1) how deeply they are involved in idol-pop production or consumption; 2) their reasons for the involvement; and 3) the effects of the involvement upon their lives and their world. These questions generated official and personal information that contributed to my research goal, which was to understand the process of symbolic construction in a commercial field. In many cases, simply asking my informants to describe their backgrounds or explain their relationship with pop-idols elicited greater levels of comfort on their part. This allowed them greater freedom to express opinions than when I asked questions about specific issues directly. Participation Participation has many dimensions other than simply taking part in the native world. Participation is a method used to enrich ethnographic knowledge. It enables the researcher to seek and experience the local way of life, determine her or his distance with the people being studied, and evaluate the significance of activities and relationships on the basis of information that could and could not be acquired. Yet, several problems regarding the manner of participation arose during my fieldwork. For instance, I had to think whether I as a researcher 71 could adopt an existing native role, or exploit different roles. I also had to decide whether I should falsify my identity or go honest, and question myself "to whom and why?" The more I managed to participate, the more I was able to adopt the insiders' points of view. Still, there was a danger of developing a bias and sacrificing critical analysis. After having had a chance to experience media attention, and as my identity as an outsider became evermore blurred, it was difficult for me to determine how much participation was enough. Hammersley and Atkinson (1983) warn that participation is not to be confused with going native. Ethnography by definition requires the researcher to maintain a social and intellectual distance with her or his informants, however he or she may engage in their way of life. They write: There is a sense... that the disengaged/engaged ethnographer may suffer. But this feeling, or equivalent feelings, should be managed for what they are. They are not necessarily something to be avoided, or to be replaced by more congenial sensations of comfort. The comfort sense of being 'at home' is a danger signal. From the perspective of the 'marginal' reflexive ethnographer, there can thus be no question of total commitment, 'surrender', or 'becoming'. There must always remain some part held back, some social and intellectual 'distance'. For it is in the 'space' created by this distance that the analytic work of the ethnographer gets done (Hammerseley and Atkinson 1983:102). This shows the importance of maintaining a certain distance between the researcher and the people being studied. Guided by this stance, I kept myself away from the informants for several hours everyday (usually at the end of the day) to reflect on my experiences, organize the data, and write up my fieldnotes and diaries. I also informed my informants of my objectives for participation whenever I adopted the insider's role. My right to participate was sometimes questioned by those who could not accept any participation by an outsider. When this happened, I did not hesitate to investigate their motives. 72 Existing native roles that I adopted include a judge, an adviser, a commentator, a writer, and an idol-like personality. I published my thoughts in popular magazines and examined audience reactions with the help of five publishers, participated in two talk shows, and experienced what it was like to be a popular personality for two sponsoring agencies. Both my informants and myself knew all along that these roles were not intended to be permanent. Other Research Methods The study of pop-idol performances in Japan also involved archival research. Many hours were spent at Oya Soichi Bunko Library that held one of the largest collections of popular magazines and periodicals in Japan. Other sources included the archives of Gakushii Kenkyusha (Gakken), Shogakkan, Fusosha, Kodansha, Kadokawa Shoten, and Sun Music Productions. Since one of my research goals was to understand the relationship between idol-pop and a wider context of Japanese society and economy, I had to obtain relative source materials that included demographic information and socioeconomic analyses. The National Diet Library of Japan, or Kokkai Toshokan (the Japanese equivalent of the United States Library of Congress) offered a large inventory of these necessary materials. Various bookstores in Tokyo carried materials that I found useful in this task as well. I made audio and video recordings of various television and radio programs, and live events on topics that were relevant to my research. Also collected were promotion videos that included a series of 15 to 30 minute clips introducing pop-idol profiles, songs, and advertisements. These recordings amounted to approximately 400 hours. Other data sources included national and local daily newspapers, such as Asahi Shinbun, Mainichi Shinbun, Yomiuri Shinbun, Hochi Shinbun, Sankei Shinbun, Nikkan Sports, and Tokyo Chunichi Sports, from which I cut out 73 useful articles. I obtained fan club newsletters from three promotion agencies periodically, which helped me keep track of pop-idol activities and fan reactions in significant details. From time to time, I invited my informants to my place, in which case I asked them to bring their own collection of pop-idol related materials, provided they had these materials. A l l of these approaches and techniques contributed to the overall aim of my fieldwork: to immerse myself in the field of pop-idol production, and gather as much spoken and written data as possible on the subject of symbolic commodification. Much of the analyses of these data under an organizational framework owed to months following my return to the Department of Anthropology and Sociology at the University of British Columbia. I have subsequently kept in touch with key informants who continued to enrich me with information and source materials that they thought would advance my research. Thus, the analysis presented in this study testifies to a collaborative effort made between my informants and myself to explain idol performances and the culture in which they are enmeshed. Notes: 1. These numbers were taken from Masukomi Denwacho {Mass Communication Telephone 5ooA:)(Senden Kaigi Shinsha 1995). 2. During my fieldwork in Tokyo, I came across two settings in which the media treatment of public persona could be compared. The first was a press conference held by a relatively small promotion agency, whose pop-idols were treated by a group of dozen media reporters with a constant silence. To my surprise, no reporter brought a camera, and whatever statement the clients made during the conference did not seem to interest any of the reporters. Only a few questions were raised during the entire hour in which the conference took place. The second was a press conference of a well-known pop-idol, who was met with many camera flashes, favorable greetings, and a number of questions from the reporting audience. 3. McClure (1998), for example, tries to look at an ever-evolving aspect of Japanese pop-music. In this book, he identifies indies, metal rock, idol race, dance music, club mix, pure pop, rap and hip-hop, jam and reggae, ethnic pop, Osakan pop, as well as rhythm and blues as the representative genres of the contemporary Japanese pop music. 74 4. See Miyadai et al (1993), chapter two. 5. Matsuda produced 16 number-one albums, 25 top singles, and more than $500 million (U.S.D.) in sales by 1993 (Kodansha 1993:1286). 6. The English equivalent of this would be "Far from Jove, far from thunder" or "It is i l l jesting with edged tools." 7. This aspect of the ongoing dialectic of negotiation in ethnographic fieldwork is discussed by Whittaker (1981:445). 8. See, for instance, Malinowski (1922). 9. In relation to this cultural trend, there is a strong emphasis on protecting everyone's face in public interactions. See, for instance, Lebra (1976: 110-136). 75 CHAPTER III - THE MAKING OF ADOLESCENT ROLE MODELS Symbols serve both existential and political ends. Though manifested in overtly nonpolitical institutions, and regardless of their ambiguous configurations, symbols legitimate the distribution of power within a social unit. At the same time, symbols integrate individuals into this power structure by cultivating selfhood (Cohen 1990[1979]:29). In this sense, symbolic beliefs are collective, and loaded with meanings and functions. They develop and maintain the interests of the group (1990[1979]:34,35). In the light of Cohen's definition of symbols, this chapter explores the relationship between pop-idol performances, culture, and power. The power structure in question here is exercised by the idol manufacturing industry as well as its associates. The group represented by young pop-idols, the prominent symbols of contemporary Japanese popular culture, consists of adolescents. Two problems are relevant to this discussion: 1) the problem of adolescence and how this life stage is perceived in Japan as a notable state of personal transformation toward appropriate adulthood; and 2) how members of the idol-manufacturing industry manipulate this social condition and institute themselves as agents of adolescent socialization signifying the needs and outlooks of young consumers. This study of the role the entertainment industry plays as a symbolic institution for adolescent socialization ties in with the anthropological understanding of rites de passage, or rites associated with various stages of the life cycle. In Van Gennep (1960), rites that organize the passage of individuals in accordance with the underlying system of social classification are shown to exist in many cultures and share common sequential features. These rites of passage mark individuals' separation from a previous stage, appropriate the behaviors of those who undergo transition, and incorporate individuals into the new stage. These ritual processes bridges the self and the society by ascribing individuals who undergo transition from one stage 76 of life to another to socially-appropriate behaviors and personal qualities. The socializing function of the Japanese pop-idol industry is consistent with the role they play in constructing rituals that would coordinate the passage of Japanese adolescents toward appropriate adult consumers (cf. Otsuka 1989). During an interview I was told, "Make no fire, raise no smoke, and our job [as producers] in the [entertainment] industry is to create 'the fire of trend' (so to speak) that can inflame public consciousness." This statement highlights a significant issue: the textual strategies employed by the industry to construct adolescent role models, and their concomitant impact upon adolescent lifestyles. The discussion in this chapter will attempt to detail the ways in which pop-idol texts are created and marketed in the name of public socialization. Adolescence and Socialization Theorizing Adolescence: Betwixt and Between Childhood and Adulthood Adolescence, or the period of transition from childhood to adulthood, has been widely studied in social sciences. In anthropology, a growing number of studies on conditions and experiences of youth in different cultural contexts have been followed on the heels of Mead's (1928) pioneering work, Coming of Age in Samoa. These studies focus on social and cultural reactions to physiological changes that occur in individuals at the onset of puberty. They illustrate how these individuals acquire social, economic, and sexual behaviors through parent-child interactions, peer group relations, schools and other institutional means as they are initiated into adult society (e.g., Van Gennep 1960; Leemon 1972; Schlegel 1973; Condon 1987; Burbank 1988; Davis and Davis 1989; Hollos and Leis 1989).1 Researchers such as Wulff (1995b) recently began to focus more on youth culture in its own right by asserting the need to reconsider adolescents as creative agents. In this view, adolescents 77 are "producing something on their own which might not last in the long run but could still be significant for them at the time" (Wulff 1995b: 1,3). While this may free adolescents from being seen merely as the institutional objects of adult society, other studies warn against overemphasizing adolescent subjectivity. Any youth culture that may appear to emerge in and of itself often tends to be largely manipulated by adults who provide what they believe would appeal to adolescents (Schlegel and Barry 1991:202). Following Jourdan (1995), this study will proceed with the analysis of idol symbolism based on the view that the adolescent life-world is most adequately perceived as situated within the dialogue between adolescent subjects and the social structure. Influencing and influenced by the instrumental forces of adult society, adolescents establish their positions, enact their roles, and fulfil their lives by "putting new meanings into the old shells" (Jourdan 1995:205). The prominent characteristics of adolescents, as demonstrated by researches in the developmental psychology of Europe and North America, include hormonal changes and the corresponding adjustments of self-images and emotions. The ability to objectify oneself intensifies during youth, facilitating self-reflection, criticism, cognitive discrepancies, emotional discomforts, and behavioral disorders (e.g., Dusek and Flaherty 1981; Leahy 1985; Higgins 1987; Damon and Hart 1988). This characterization of adolescence as a "dis-eased" state of being, due to its ambivalent positioning between autonomous childhood and responsible adulthood, is carried on in anthropology by Schlegel and Barry (1991). Comparing data from 186 societies of non-industrial origin, Schlegel and Barry show that stressful experiences are common to adolescents everywhere. They argue: Although adolescence worldwide might not have the Strum und Drang quality attributed to it in some of the more florid 19th and 20th century literature, adolescence... displays points of stress that may be widely characteristic of this stage... In small closed societies, adolescence is not just a period of training for adult life; it is the time during which the ground is prepared for adult social 78 relations with the same people who are currently one's peers... It is likely that adolescents are aware of this as they struggle to cope with the social pressures to conform and often to excel (1991 A3). This proclaims that some sense of social pressures and difficulties are felt by adolescents across cultures who undergo the process of transition from childhood to adulthood. However, gross generalizations about youth utilizing psychological concepts developed in modern, industrial societies of 19th and 20th century Europe and North America, such as Hall's (1904) "emotional turbulence" (Strum und Drang) and Erikson's (1968) "identity crisis," are made untenable by ethnographic studies. For example, Mead (1928) shows that, adolescent sexuality is characterized by sexual freedom and experimentation in Samoa, whereas it is characterized by sexual repression in the United States. Some anthropologists would not see adolescence as a duration period between childhood and adulthood as existing everywhere or throughout history (e.g., Whiting et al 1986). The conceptualization of adolescent experience in terms of life crisis is challenged within the field of Euro-American psychology itself. For instance, Maslow (1962) considers the process of adolescent maturation as self-exploration rather than crisis (see also Marcia 1966,1967; Bocknek 1980). Above all, life itself might be stressful regardless of its stage, and identifying one particular stage with stress as defining is questionable, at least anthropologically. Certainly, the literature indicates more. A n essential task for the ethnographer of youth, then, is to examine how adolescents perceive and organize their world as they interact with each other as well as adults in a local context. It follows that the analysis of adolescent phenomena must operate largely in terms of the culturally defined concept of adolescence. As Whiting and Whiting (1988) contend, the study of youth must "remain as sensitive as possible to indigenous 'folk theories' of human maturation" (Whiting and Whiting 1988: xii). Thus, to investigate the particular manner in which conceptualizations of adolescents as a group affects the expectations and behavior of young 79 people in that group become an important point of analysis for the ethnographer (Burbank 1988:3,4). To this end, the remainder of this chapter examines how adolescence is conceptualized in Japanese society, and what role idol performances play in affecting the world organized around young people. Adolescence in Japan A variety of traditional rituals associated with the life cycle are practiced in Japan, and some of these rituals are characterized by the most ancient and pervasive religious influence, shinto. A set of rituals related to a child's birth, for example, includes a naming ceremony in which the child's name will be written out and hung up in the prominent place of the house. The child's separation from the pre-birth state is marked by the careful preservation of the child's umbilical cord when it drops off (which will be kept in a box by the mother). Some families take the child to a local shrine to signify the child's incorporation into social life, while others hold a family gathering to celebrate the safe arrival of their new member (Hendry 1995:134,135). There are rites that formally mark the progress of a child through various stages of maturation. On the so-called Girl's Day (March 3) and Boy's Day (May 5), many families set up tiers of shelves with various symbolic ornaments. These ornaments include splendid figures from the ancient imperial court for girls, accompanied by small but elaborate accessories including palanquins and tableware, and miniature warrior armor and helmets, arrows and dolls depicting fierce heroes for boys. By setting up these ornaments, the families pray for the child's protection and good fortune. For approximately one month before Boy's Day arrives, huge carp made of cloth are set up over households with young sons. On the 15th of November each year, children of three, five, and seven dress up in traditional garments and visit local shrines to pray for further protection and good fortune (1995:135,136). Those who have reached the age of 20 80 participate in a public event, known as seijinshiki or "coming of age ceremony" on January 15. They listen to speeches made by the officials about the upright citizens they are expected to become. They are then officially entitled to legal rights and responsibilities as adults (1995:138). Other occasions in which rituals take place include marriage, years of calamity (the major ages of which are 33 for women and 41 and 42 for men), retirement and old age, as well as death and memorial celebrations. In discussing these passage rites, Hendry (1995:145,146) points out that they are part of the Japanese cultural system which classifies the life cycle into a set of intervals. Each of these rites marks the transition of the participants from one stage of life to another within this socially recognized and culturally shared system (see also Sofue 1965). "Adolescence," although a recognized life stage, is considered a relatively new concept in Japanese history ~ perhaps adopted from the West in the process of modernization during the late 19th century.2 Adolescence is considered in Japan today as marking the period in which individuals become awakened (mezameru) to the adult social reality. It is the stage of relational and affective reorganization — what Coleman (1980) would describe as severance of early emotional ties to parents and experimentation with adult social (and sexual) roles. The Japanese word for adolescence, seishun, is literally translated as "green spring" — a plant metaphor that signifies the outset of maturation toward a full-grown adult in terms of the sprouting of adult consciousness. Studies of Japanese youth show how this stage is understood by both Japanese adults and adolescents a life-stage in which prospective individuals are expected to progress into responsible adult social life (e.g., White 1993; Kawai 1994). Seishun and its derivative term seishun-jidai (lit. "Youthful period") also represents a romanticized community of high-spirited young people who undergo physiological changes and corresponding development of self-awareness. In such a community, personal anxieties and stresses resulting from the need to manage one's relationship with other people are overcome by 81 mutual support among friends. A statement made by my informant, a university student in his mid-twenties, reflects this view. He argues: Youth symbolizes a 'contemporary rite of passage' in which one forms solidarity with peers, and shares various wonders, dreams, and tragicomedies of life with them. One can also overcome emotional difficulties that we all experience as 'under-developed adults', and appreciate what it means to coexist with other people in this unavoidable and otherwise ruthless environment we call society, which is full of hardship and loneliness. This indicates the value of peer solidarity, or having a sense of mutual-support or fraternity of belonging, as part of adolescents' initiation into appropriate adulthood.3 Seishun-jidai is also known as shishunki, or the period in which interactive young individuals become aware of their gender roles and expectations. Exploring sexual relationships through love affairs, or having mating-practices with one's peers, becomes one of the main themes of this life-stage. Part of becoming an adult is to acquire the distinction between prominent cultural categories, such as professed intention (tatemae) and true intention (honne), front (pmote) and back (urd), or outside (sotd) and inside (uchi). This enables the actor to adjust her or his behavior differently between the outward-public and inward-private realms of life. Both Japanese adolescents and adults share an understanding that the gap between these two realms of life is an acceptable area of freedom for adolescents to explore themselves. Maturation in Japan means becoming publicly more responsible, but as long as one performs social duties well, private activities and dreams (such as engaging in hobbies and sexual pleasures) can deviate to some extent (White 1993:20). White refers to this ambivalence as complementary conflict, distinguishing it from the American perception of personal development which stresses consistent behavior and a single, integrated as the outward evidence of good quality. Thus, behaving differently in different situations may be considered hypocrisy for Americans, and many adolescents who tend to demonstrate this trait in the U.S. are treated 82 as deviant, monstrous, or teen-problematic. Yet, such a behavior is more easily accepted in Japan (1993:20,21). For most adolescents, family and classroom contexts are considered sites where socializing skills are taught. Japanese parents and teachers place strong emphasis on perseverance, diligence, patience, cooperation, and group conformity to reinforce the sense of self-discipline. Adolescents are required to undergo intense competition in which their academic and career paths are determined on the basis of how well they perform overall in exams, whose scores are measured in terms of a grade-point-average. These conditions constitute family and school as part of the formal education system that beset adolescents with constant pressures (e.g., Lanham 1979; Rohlen 1988; Dore and Sako 1989). In contrast, friendship provides a context where adolescents can seek refuge from the shared pressures of the education system, engage in private, non-institutionalized togetherness, and freely acquire skills to negotiate the hierarchical necessities of society (White 1993:17). Friendship, in this sense, becomes a significant training ground for adolescents to socialize informally. In friendship grounded in mass culture, adolescents are referred to as "infomaniacs" (infomaniakku), which implies that an intense focus is placed on adolescents to negotiate an appropriate lifestyle through their interaction and the exchange of information. As White writes, Young teens in Japan are infomaniakku, 'informaniacs.' When they get together, it is to share the latest on their favorite pop-music stars, news on where to buy that great shirt, or what CD rental shop has a special offer this week. The young teen is intensely focused on being appropriate, and she negotiates the path by testing on friends what's learned in the media — discovering who she is by what her friends like — to wear, to hear, to buy (1993:14). Elsewhere, White (1995) indicates that the trend industry is well aware of this adolescent tendency to share information between peers, and is prepared to manipulate it. She states: 83 [Adolescence in Japan] implies style, aspirations, a way of thinking and behaving. To some it may imply the older notion of'neither here nor there', the chuto hanpa limbo of'betweenness', but the consumer industries have targeted these young people in a more specific way. The 'naming' of this 'stage' has thus outlined a category permitting, and indeed demanding, diversity and slippage. Because of the speed of marketing, the case of Japan reveals the market-driven aspects of coming of age as well as the active involvement of teens themselves in creating new cultures and practices that then feed back into the market definition of adolescence (1995:255,256). Thus, teens become an important consumer category in contemporary Japanese society. The outcomes of this were clearly observed during my fieldwork in Tokyd. Taking public transportation with groups of high-school students, for example, I noticed that information acquired in the media about "what's pop these days" was one of the three most frequently discussed issues of their conversations.4 Simply walking down the street revealed the majority of young people dressed in a similar fashion. Most of the garment designs and hair styles resembled those appearing in some of the latest issues of widely distributed fashion magazines, such as Non-No, An-An, Junon, Popolo, Can Cam, McSister, and Cutie for young women, or Men's Non-No and Popeye for young men (figure 5). A survey amongst a group of 10 informants between the ages of 18 and 25 confirmed that they use magazines and television programs as the primary sources of information. It was also revealed that these informants often discussed the details of what they learned in these media sources with close friends. A l l 10 of them also indicated that they frequently handed on to each other the latest fashion magazines and pop-music CDs that they could get as part of their information exchange. When asked whether they were aware of the fact that they were being created by the media, answers were commonly "Yes." Answers to my subsequent question "Why are you so concerned about conforming yourself to media-created trends?" included the following: "Good fashion develops one's individuality out of a conventional style!" (25 year old female) 84 Figure 5. In a typical cover page of one of the most widely distributed fashion magazines, An-An, idol pop-stars strike fashionable poses (January 13,1995). "Good lifestyle is socially appropriate." (22 year old male) "I wanted to do things right." (24 year old female) "I want to make sure that I'm not sticking out, even though I want to look cool." (22 year old male) "It's embarrassing to stay behind other people." (18 year old female) These answers indicated that propriety and conventionality were important reasons for adolescent consumers to socialize, even in the informal domain such as fashion and personal lifestyle. Thus, the introduction of adolescence as a life-stage in Japan's modern era provided a ground for new institutions (such as the family, school, and mass media) to develop and capitalize on the codification of norms that can become part of the system of cultural classification.5 It is in this spectrum that pop-idols and their manufacturing agencies can be examined ~ as a cultural apparatus that constructs adolescent symbols and rituals. The pop-idol industry employs cultural strategies that can create marketable images and styles of performance that appeal to adolescent tastes and represent their lifestyles. The next section will attempt to detail these textual characteristics and strategies. Pop-Idol Performances as the Embodiment of Youth Culture Pop-Idols: Marketing Life-Sized Adolescent Companions In Western societies, the possession and enhancement of high self-esteem is strongly emphasized via such notions as individualism and self-reliance (e.g., Hsu 1953). "The squeaky wheel," as the English saying goes, "gets the grease." In contrast, Japanese expect their members to surrender, or at least tone down, their individual opinions and interests in deference to those of the group or social norm, and discourage the practice of thinking too highly of 86 oneself. "The nail that sticks out," the Japanese say, "gets hammered down" (deru kugi wa utareru). Essentializing these cultural highlights, of course, dangerously misrepresents existing individual and group diversities within each culture.6 Yet, studies in cross-cultural communications show that different sociocultural groups develop different communicative protocols that reinforce these behavioral highlights (e.g., Kondo 1990; Yamada 1990).7 Popular celebrities embody this cross-cultural difference. In her study of Japanese pop music, Herd (1984) points out that most stars in Western countries are popular because of their outstanding physical or personal attributes. Japanese pop-idols, on the other hand, typically depict images that are fairly standard: appearance, ability and charm that are above average, but not so much as to alienate or offend the audience. Pop idol images are "just enough to provide their fans with the sense that they too can be stars if they try hard enough" (Herd 1984:77,78). Japanese allude to this characteristic as toshindai, or "life-sized." A n idol producer explained that the life-sized image of pop-idols helps produce feelings of solidarity and reciprocity. He said: By being 'life-sized,' pop-idols can harmonize with the audience, especially young fans. Also, to be 'life-sized' is to publicly confirm that pop-idols are not living in this world on their own, but together with people who are there to support them and whom they are expected to support. I mean... everyone who is interested. Human relationships are what hold pop-idols in their place and enable idol businesses to function. Although idols are expected to become role models of some kind, and to represent the public in certain ways, this role cannot be accomplished unless they keep pace with the people all around them... To be 'life-sized', that is. They cannot run ahead too fast, or lag too far behind. Thus, pop-idols become trendsetters for adolescents. Through entertainment offerings, they continuously invoke in the minds of young audiences the sense of doing things and growing up together. Playing on the needs of young people to socialize, life-sized pop-idols are marketed as the "personifiers" (so to speak) of an ideal girl or boy next door (tonari no onna no ko or tonari no 87 otoko no ko). They are chosen for their potential to become lucky stars representing their generation. Ogawa (1988) calls them "quasi-companions" (gijiteki nakama) who provide their teenage followers with a virtual sense of intimacy ~ the feeling that affirms cultural emphasis on interconnectedness in Japan. This form of companionship, which signifies the position of each individual as part of a unified group, is also emphasized by popular personalities for earlier age groups. These include Power Rangers and Sailor Moon, who tend to come in groups (of five), which contrasts with the North American television stars, such as He-Man or Batman and Robin, who are solo or in pairs, emphasizing individuality and coupling. In this sense, the companionship in pop-idol performances can be seen as style one transfers from the earlier age groups on up. Ogawa contends that although the companionship which Japanese pop-idols emphasize is understood as artificial, impervious, and thereby realized only in fantasy, the intimacy it evokes can be as strong as, or even stronger than, that shared among school friends (1988:122,123). This is due to the fact that unlike real-life companions, with whom there is always the potential for conflict and loss of friendship, pop-idols smile and appear to be friendly all the time. Unlike real people, idols never reject those who wish to approach them — provided, of course, that the relationship is professional in nature. In short, idols never say "No" to their customers (1988:123). The performer's own inclination toward sustaining the image of the life-sized adolescent companion is revealed in an essay by Rie Tomosaka (who debuted in 1992). A pop-idol who has been characterized in the media as "genius" (tensai), Tomosaka downplays her celebrity status and proclaims that she is, before anything else, an ordinary teenage girl. 8 For example, in the essay published as part of a book on pop-idols, Tomosaka states: 88 I am ordinary. I may be much plainer than ordinary people. I am a high-school student who goes to classes when I don't have any work to do... I also shop and play with my friends. I think that each person is different [in terms of his or her personal identity], but in my case, I don't seem to be much aware of the fact that I am an entertainer or a pop-idol... Yet, I have many friends who work in show business, and they are all girls, unfortunately... Perhaps, the sad thing is that ordinary people do not treat us in an ordinary way. We, too, want an ordinary life and an ordinary romance, but we are not considered ordinary [by other people]... That's about all, I think, that is not ordinary... (Tomosaka 1997:118,119). Like Ryoko Hirosue (whose commentary was introduced in chapter one), Tomosaka modifies the fame that puts her in an uncomfortably higher position by attaching herself to peer solidarity. According to Masahisa Aizawa, the vice-president of Sun Music Productions, the image of the life-sized adolescent companion enables pop-idols and their manufacturers to "create and maintain an interactive space." Within this social space, adolescent consumers can "continuously empathize in their sense of maturation with idols who undergo growth from inexperienced novices to experienced actors." Makoto Yasui, a former editor in chief of Gakken's monthly pop-idol magazines, Bomb! (1979-present) and Momoco (1983-1994), elaborated on this point and said that one of the primary functions of pop-idols is to sympathize with the experiences and emotions of those who are passing through seishun no mon, or "gateway to youth," by means of encouraging messages and performances. According to Yasui, pop-idols enact the role of compassionate partners who are capable of comforting that particular age group [of adolescents]. Wonders, tensions, emotional ambiguities, curiosities toward the opposite sex, a sense of conflict with society, search for the meaning of existence, problems associated with romance... Pop-idols can share these issues with their teen audiences by expressing their own ideas and opinions about youthful experiences, thus providing their fans with a sense of communal ties, or... skinships [if you will]. In the process of growing up with these fans, idol talents themselves can attain skills and confidence. 89 "Skinship" is a clever combination of "closeness" (symbolized by skin) and "kinship." This implies that the concept of the family tie is used as a metaphor signifying intimacy. By using this term directly from English, Yasui tried to indicate how intimate and empathetic the relationship between pop-idols and their fans can ideally be. The following excerpt from an essay written by Seiko Matsuda (figure 6) provides an example of the empathetic message offered by a pop-idol to her fans: Seiko is so happy to meet you! As a singer and an 18-year old girl, I feel for the first time that I can become independent. Please watch over me warmly forever! (Matsuda 1980: cover page). Similarly, Atsuhiro Sato, a former member of a popular male idol group, Hikaru Genji (1987-1994), writes in his published essay: I want to establish a personal position as a singer, actor and all else put together! Yet, this may still be too vague to be called a dream... Although I am still at a stage where I am working hard, please keep your watch over me. Let's continue with our spending of time together (Sato 1991b:215). Both Matsuda and Sato build on their companion statuses and call upon the readers to empathize with their will to maturate. These short statements explicate the intention of performers to share their youthful visions and efforts, and thereby grow up together with the audience. Statements such as these that collectivize the maturation process are observed throughout many commentaries made by idols. These statements contribute to the production of peer-solidarity that can facilitate communal progress. Activities designed to build and maintain intimacy between pop-idols and their audience are carried out to a degree and uniformity that has no apparent equivalent on the American pop-star scene. Japanese idol duties include handshaking ceremonies (akushu kai) that accompany stage performances, get-togethers with fans (fan no tsudoi) where fans can talk and play games with their favorite idol, public photo shoots (satsuei kai) where idols strike poses for amateur 90 Figure 6. The front cover of Seiko Matsuda's essay-book, Mo Ichido Anata (You Once Again) (Wani Books, 1981), subtitled "I want to walk along with you," where Matsuda appears to be meek and even coy. 91 photographers, known as "camera kids" (kamera kozo), and periodic correspondences with fans by letter (figure 7). When idols release CDs and promotional videos or publish photo-albums or essays, autograph ceremonies (sign kai) are held for buyers at retail outlets. There are also idol hot-lines for fans wishing to hear recorded idol messages or learn about upcoming idol events. There are web pages where one can find out about an idol's place and date of birth, blood type, hobbies, and thoughts. Popular idol magazines, such as Gakken's Bomb! and Momoco, contain idol photos, featured interviews and commentaries, followed by the reader's columns that consist of letters and home-made idol-cartoons. These sections together constitute a two-way communication between idols and their fans, in which the editors (or interviewers) act as a stand-in for the readers. These magazines contextualize an interactive space wherein idols can speak to the readers with solidly predictable advice about being loyal in friendships, hardworking at school, and holding on to the dream about a special someone (see also White 1993: 123, 1995: 266). Enthusiastic fans, known as "idol chasers" (aidoru okkake), follow their idols almost everywhere, awaiting the chance to have a close encounter. Those who prefer to be more organized team up as "cheering squads" (ouen-dan) in order to encourage their idol on the stage with choreographed cheers. Others create voluntary support groups, known as "supporting squads" (shin 'eitai), in the spirit of what one former member described as "protecting idols from possible dangers."9 Many of these fans are also critics, who, to borrow Kelly's (1997:77) expression, are ever vigilant for any slip or mistake by the objects of their adulation. They often send critiques to promotion agencies and publishers, or make cynical remarks in the letters addressed to their idols. Indeed, fandom is a peculiar combination of attachment and fickleness, of long-suffering patience and a demand for instant gratification: a schizoid condition that makes one wonder whose side fans are on (1997:77). Yet, all of these practices are part of 92 Figure 7. Fans and amateur photographers gather around their idol and feel the togetherness in an event held on the rooftop of a Tokyo department store. 93 producing an interactive space, materializing the imagined companionship, and thereby facilitating collectivity between idols and their audience within a controlled environment. The image of adolescent companion is manipulated by government institutions and private corporations in order to attract public attention. As already mentioned, pop-idols appear in cover pages of numerous fashion and lifestyle magazines, facilitating the desire of young consumers to imitate, and thus consume, the style adopted by their favorite pop stars (figure 8). Idols invite the public to buy certain products in television commercials and advertisement posters, as in the case of the NTT advertisement featuring Ryoko Hirosue mentioned in chapter one. From season to season, some selected pop-idols perform as "one-day police officers" in public safety campaigns organized by the National Police Agency, calling the public and in particular young people to follow traffic rules. Others partake in campaigns designed to promote public transportation. Still others participate in baseball games, and take part in throwing the first ball. The list of such campaign rituals is endless. On November 10, 1995,1 joined over 2,000 members of the audience in Saitama's Omiya Sonic City Hall, where the Drug Abuse Prevention Center of the Ministry of Public Welfare held an anti-drug campaign. The "loss leaders" (so to speak) of this 3 hour convention were pop-idol Tomomi Nishimura (who debuted in 1986), idol duo Wink (1988-1995), and two other idol groups. These personalities sang and performed on stage after speeches addressing the audience to "say no to drugs" were made by national and local administrators. A companion to this particular campaign under exclusive contract, Nishimura appeared in campaign posters and visited many conventions, including the United Nations, as "the young citizen's representative" (wakamono shimin daihyo). Nishimura's activities were documented and shown on screen as part of the event, between speeches and stage performances. A l l this points to the fact that life-94 Figure 8. In this particular cover page from the October 1,1997 issue of An-An, the catch phrase to the left of two pop-idols, Kyoko Koizumi and Go Kusanagi, reads "Want to see, Want to know, Want to imitate: Everything About Pop-Star Fashions." 95 sized public images of pop-idols are used as a symbolic means to direct the public consciousness to certain socioeconomic and political goals (figure 9). The Fantastic World of Cute Idols Often associated with the life-sized image of pop-idols is another fundamental idol characteristic: cuteness. The "cute style," as it is called, encompasses pretty looks, heartwarming verbal expressions, and singing, dancing, acting, and speaking in a sweet, meek, and adorable way. The cute style is also expressed by a form of handwriting that consists of chubby rounded characters. These characters are written laterally and in contrast to normal Japanese script, which are written vertically using strokes. They are generally considered by adults as a deformation or lack of discipline. Nonetheless, these characters appear in many texts with cartoon figures such as hearts, flowers, stars, animals, and faces that resemble childish drawings (e.g., Yamane 1986; Otsuka 1989; Kinsella 1995:222). Kawaiko-chan, or cute girls and boys, has become a synonym for pop-idols in Japanese, representing carefully crafted public personae that try to appeal to the viewers' compassion. According to Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, the former host of the prestigious Japanese music countdown program, The Best Ten, people adore cute idols for their sweetness and purity, which evoke the sense that "they should be protected carefully" (quoted in Herd 1984:77,78). Cuteness can be overdone, however, even in Japan. Young women who carry the cute style too far are called burikko (lit. "childish girl"), a mildly derogatory term that was first used to describe pop-idol Seiko Matsuda. Burikko can also refer to the perception that young women often adopted cute behavior strategically to attract personal attention. The cute style is by no means a recent Japanese invention, but has clear historical roots. The Japanese word for cute, kawaii, can be traced back to its classical form, kawayushi or 96 , vf e, NO rn i . v l i . : 1991 V - » -Vawon i J t t ' l* | t l J l !**f l .H I « « (K«a i l lMi l - . ) »io'i,r+.*flja.iiiiiiis!uwH.ftf uiantiini ii*' il:.Li'*na4-*H:oicr*1*O)'0Ssi-ttafflJfti'-2 < U U i . 21l«:feI~«)«s»At Ltli iAcOifMt't. 55 =FIO5 *am»EDi!>'re-7-9(anHSt^eF) TEI_03(3581)7436--7 FAX.03(35B1)7«8 Drug Abuse Prevention Center 1ST 0KANA BLDG. 2-7-9 TORANOMON MINAT0-KU, TOKYO JAPAN f 105 Yes to l i fe, No to drugs . •rug Abuse Prevention Center Figure 9. A cover of an anti-drug campaign brochure featuring Tomomi Nishimura (1995). 97 kawayurashi, which appears in poetry and stories from the premodern era. This term is also a derivation of kawaiso or pitiable, a term that implies the vulnerability of the subject. The cuteness observed today in pop-idols closely resembles "sweet little girls" (otome), or "cute Japanese women" (yamato nadeshiko) images found in books, magazines, advertising, and motion pictures from the late 19th century and early 20th century (figure 10).10 In fact, cuteness was considered the main feature of shqjo, the term coined at the turn of the century to signify the not-quite-adult femaleness of unmarried girls. This contributed to the socializing policy of the modernizing state by affecting an increase in the number of years between puberty and marriage as a period of preparation for marriage (Robertson 1998:63,65; also Murakami 1983; Otsuka 1989). The young Shirley Temple may provide an American example of the cute style as expressed in her nickname, "America's little darling." Yet, she was also recognized from the outset as an incredibly talented actor who could project a persona in her work. By the time she reached her teens, her cute feature no longer worked for her, it being considered inappropriate above the age of ten or twelve, according to my American informants. The difference in Japan is that cutesy is considered acceptable and even attractive in older teens as well as in children. To express cuteness, pop-idols generally smile with bared (though often crooked) teeth and clear, sparkly eyes. Female idols tend to strike coy poses, while male idols adopt a more stylish or cool appearance (figure 11). Female fans generally agreed that to appear stylish is what makes male idols cute; one female university student remarked that "the earnest attempts of young and innocent-looking boys to act stylish make them somewhat pitiful, and therefore very sweet." The autographs and hand-written letters of female idols often accompany cute animated figures including kittens and rabbits (figure 12). In order to emphasize cuteness, many pop-idols have dressed up in so-called "fake-child costumes" (buri-buri isho), resembling European dolls. 98 Figure 10. A n example of cute representation from the prewar period: Takarazuka opera-star photo. Figure 11. Maruberudo's star-photos, featuring a typically cute female pop-idol, Saori Minami (left, debuted in 1971), and a stylish male pop-idol, Hideki Saijo (right, debuted in 1972). 100 Figure 12. Pop-idol Noriko Sakai, nicknamed "Nori-P," and the animated character she created, Nori-P chan ("cutie Nori-P kid"), together make up part of the cute, fantasy world (from fan-club newsletter). 101 Although this fashion is considered to be outdated, female pop-idols still dress in a style that Japanese call the "fancy looks" (fanshii), one which imitates Western fashions. Male idols also appear in "hip," cosmopolitan styles that, in the words of one idol costume designer, "heighten their attraction." Another way in which idols communicate with their audience is through the lyrics of their songs. Idol songs are typically romantic fantasies, which dwell on the well-worn themes of being in love, hoping to win the heart of another, or physical desire, as demonstrated by the excerpts (translations) below: I will give you the most important thing of a girl, I will give you the important thing that she treasures in her little heart, She has been protecting it so that she can devote it to someone she loves. It's okay to be fdthy; it's okay to cry, for love is so precious. Everyone will experience it once: this sweet and bewitching trap (from Momoe Yamaguchi, Hito-Natsu No Keiken [One Summer Experience], CBS/Sony, 1974) I want you to believe in my love more tamely, I want to live with you, i f i can... The time we are apart will raise our mutual attraction. When I close my eyes, you are always there for me. (from Hiromi Go, Yoroshiku Aishu [Sorrow, With Regards], CBS/Sony, 1974) Oh, milky smile, I am taking a journey in your arms, Oh, milky smile, please hold me tight with your tender love. (from Seiko Matsuda, Kaze WaAki-Iro [The Wind is Autumn Color], CBS/Sony, 1980) I wanna do! I wanna do! I want your shy heart. I wanna do! I wanna do! Isn't it okay to love you more? Let's dance in a party ~ party for the two of us. Why are you crying, facing the window? We can't understand each other i f we fear the anguish of love. (from Toshihiko Tahara, Koi=Do! [Love=Do!], Canyon Records Inc., 1981) GO, GO, GO! When the sun nears by, that girl and this girl will rush around. They are trying to win the hearts of their favorite boys. Wrapped in bold swimsuits... we are all eager to do something before this summer is over. That girl and this girl, they are all our rivals (from Onyanko Kurabu [The Kitten Club], Osaki Ni Shitsurei [Excuse Me], Canyon Records Inc. 1986) 102 My love, let's get together with our usual friends, M y love, we are all concerned about you. I am also lost in a labyrinth, running around with my anxious heart, (from Hikaru Genji, Dream, Pony Canyon Inc., 1988) Dropping one's eyes, cafe in the dream, it's a seduction of dry martini. Even my lips are hot now, because of you... Sexy music, in my heart, Sexy music, please ring, Sexy music, the sweet, Sexy music, melody. This mysterious feeling that is like an ardent love, Please change it to love in your arms. (from Wink, Sexy Music, Polystar Records Inc., 1990) On the other side of my telephone receiver is your voice, and my heart is hot. Don't grieve over your romance with her that you had lost. The bravery to open the door into the new world, I want to send it to you faster than anyone does else does. That's right, try me, and there is a love waiting to wrap you up. Now, try me, although you can't wipe away the sadness. That's right! Try me, and believe me, who is looking at you. Try me more! I will give you a different dream for tomorrow (from Namie Amuro with Super Monkeys, Try Me, Toshiba EMI, 1995) These lyrical excerpts from smash hits, arranged chronologically, are a small portion of a great many narratives epitomized by cute idols that provide adolescent consumers with romantic fantasies. Lindholm (1995:57) contends in his discourse on romantic passion that romance can be understood as a creative act of human imagination, and more specifically a cultural expression of deep existential longings for an escape from the prison of the self. If this is the case, the narratives of cute pop-idols presented in songs cultivate the exotic and fairy world of imagination to which Japanese consumers who fantasize romance can continuously escape through their practices of idol consumption. It should be mentioned that these singers do not appeal only to love-struck adolescents. Many pop-idols include among their fans people from various backgrounds and generations. Interviews I conducted have shown that many adult men like cute female idols because they see 103 in them their idea of the ideal woman: a sweet, young girl who would make a good future wife and mother. For many young women, on the other hand, pop-idols serve to lead the way in terms of contemporary fashion and lifestyle, and to help foster feelings of peer solidarity. Many older Japanese favor cute idols — female and male alike ~ due to their fascination with youth and because pop-idols bring back nostalgic memories of their own younger days, when life was yet full of wonders and possibilities. Pop-Idols, Youth Culture, and Postwar Socioeconomy In her extensive study of women, media and consumption in Japan, Kinsella (1995) shows that the cute style pop-idols embody is part of a broader popular-cultural movement that emerged in Japan in the mid-1960s. This movement expanded over the subsequent three decades, and reached a peak of saccharine intensity in the early 1980s. This was a period of economic growth in which the Japanese government made an effort to transform the nation into an international economic superpower as well as an information society (joho shakai). This is done by liberalizing financial markets, developing a variety of ambitious technological projects, and creating a consumer boom which has been dubbed the "bubble period" (bubble jidai). Many Japanese female consumers, with their taste for Western brand-name products and international travel, were among the first to take advantage of this era (Moeran 1995:11). In this historical context, young women developed their own culture, marked by the cute style that, according to Kinsella, refused to cooperate with the established norms or values of adult society. To be cute was to celebrate physical appearance and a social attitude that is "infantile and delicate at the same time as being pretty" (Yamane 1990:35, quoted in Kinsella 1995:220). It was a way of participating in the creation of an adolescent utopia in an affluent socioeconomic environment where people can be forever young, playful, child-like, and thus liberated from the 104 filthy world of adult politics. The cute style also generated a sense of nostalgia in urban dwellers, which harked back to an imagined rural past associated with childish simplicity and spiritual unity, in opposition to the alienating forces of city life. Kinsella argues: As [Walt] Disney romanticized nature in relation to industrial society, so Japanese cuteness romanticized childhood in relation to adulthood. By idolizing their childhood and remnant childishness, young Japanese people implicitly damned their individual futures as adults in society. Condemning adulthood was an individualized and limited way of condemning society generally (Kinsella 1995:241). Thus, young people in Japan use the cute style to signal their resistance against adult culture. This aspect of resistance may not be stressed too far, however, when one takes into account that the female-led youth culture is directed by adults toward young women, or that material and social bases for the development of such a culture (e.g., Disney Land) are prepared by the industry people. What emerges as an anti-establishment in youth culture is co-opted or reintegrated into adult society. In any case, it may not be coincidental that youth-oriented movements like the idol boom appeared when it did in Japan ~ at the height of Japan's postwar economic miracle. This was a time when years of hard work and sacrifice produced rapid economic growth, marked by the rise of the Gross National Product up to the second highest in the world after the United States. This economic growth gave birth to a new consumer culture fed by rising incomes and enjoyed by a new generation intent on differentiating themselves from their elders by not simply working hard but also enjoying the fruits of their labor.11 This was also a period of rapid social change, with people moving from the countryside to the cities in search of jobs and excitement, and a tradition of three generations under one roof being replaced by the nuclear family. Add to this the stress and fast pace that accompany modern, industrial life and one has an adjustment period that resembles the growth years of 105 adolescent, or what may be called "youth of a nation." Many Japanese people, and not just teenagers, were required to make the transition from older, established social boundaries and ways of life to an increasingly complex cosmopolitan world of contemporary urban life. Pop idols, themselves struggling to find their feet on the escalator of show business that packages their images of becoming, served as guiding angels for a population making a similar journey. By the mid-1990s, or the era of the so-called "post-bubble recession," the star of the cute idols was burning less brightly than it had at any time over the three previous decades. In October of 1994, the leading daily newspaper, Asahi Shinbun, announced that "pop-idols have been in a so-called 'winter period' for some time now." Many producers and magazine editors, including those I interviewed, were saying that pop-idols were becoming passe. In an interview I conducted, Akio Nakamori attributed this to changed socioeconomic conditions. He argued: The times seek idols, and pop-idols lead the times. Since pop-idols symbolize the healthy growth of young people, and because they are personal manifestations of the shared public desire toward growth, they symbolize national growth itself. The fact that pop-idols are socially demanded implies that there is a shared national vision toward growth. Where there is such a vision, pop-idols will continue to appear. This mutual relationship is the key. The current disintegration of idol performances in Japan tells me that the Japanese have lost the vision of collective growth or the energy to move forward together, which reflects the current recession of Japan. As symbolic products of consumer culture, cute pop-idols signify the national economy. Their popularity is a measure of economic prosperity. Another explanation is found in the increasingly blurred boundaries between different genres of performance. While the first generation of pop-idols generally stuck to singing, in the 1980s and 1990s it has become common for idol singers to act, for actors to sing, and for both to do comedy and talk-show hosting. Adding to this was the appearance of a large number of pop-idols and idol-like personalities. Pop-idols became a rhetorical resource that can be applied to almost any genre or style of performances ~ professional and amateur alike ~ as long as 106 performers seemed cute. In the eyes of many, all this has diminished both the commercial value and the level of expertise among pop singers. This led to an increased demand for, and supply of, more powerful and artistic performers, including new music artists and rock stars, many of whom fall into a new and emerging category: the post-idol. Cute seems to be on the wane a bit as well, at least in pop music, as performers project a more mature and sensual image ~ not unlike those of famous North American and European pop singers. Many young performers themselves began to lose interest in the pop-idol label, as one of my informants, a 16 year old female actor, told me in an interview: People can call me a 'pop-idol' i f they want, but I don't want to project myself in such a 'childish' fashion. My goal is to become a 'professional' singer like Mariah Carey or Janet Jackson. A president from a pop-idol promotion agency, on the other hand, evaluated the pop-idol condition over the past three decades and said: Pop-idols were supposed to be professional novices, but now they seem to be a synonym for 'immature' or 'stupid' talents. I feel sad to see such a transition. From another standpoint, however, one can say that the level of Japanese idol-pop has improved, and no longer can pop-idols sell themselves by being simply cute. This might be good. Whatever the case, the fate of 'pop-idols' will depend partly upon how we the suppliers will present them [to the public], and partly upon whether the people will continue to buy these cute, fantastic personalities. It all comes down to the simple business law of supply and demand as applied to the young people of contemporary Japan. His comment demonstrates the need for pop-idol suppliers to shape and reshape pop-idol forms and contents in accordance with shifting consumer tastes. Pop-idol performances, in this account, constitute an ongoing, dynamic process of symbolic production. S u m m a r y Scholars such as Barnouw and Kirkland (1992) argue that popular personalities and performances serve not merely to provide entertainment and earn money, but also to develop 107 and offer a repertoire of themes, perspectives, relationships, and outcomes. The public can use such a repertoire to make sense of the world. Japanese pop-idols certainly do this, and this relevance to the lives and new worlds of their audiences and in particular young fans is surely a key to their success. Pop-idols may not be the most talented singers and actors on earth, but their images continue to reflect the concerns and dreams of their audience. They offer models of attractive lifestyles and friendship, make some sense out of how to bring together separate life forces such as age, class, gender, and sexuality, and substantiate adolescent identity as a socialization project. As long as pop-idols and their promotion agencies do that, they will continue to be a strong and profitable symbolic presence in Japanese popular culture and mass society. With this observation in mind, the subsequent chapters will turn to the cases in which these social, cultural, and economic functions of idol performances are actualized. Notes: 1. The study of adolescence and youth culture is abundant elsewhere. For detailed sociological studies, see Hall et al. (1976), Willis (1977), Hebdige (1979), Brake (1980) and Linden (1991) among others. In history, Ben-Amos (1994) offers an exquisite case study of the adolescent life-world in early Modern England. 2. Otsuka (1989) shows, for example, that this stage was constructed as a social category under the impact of modernization (or Westernization) and in particular the universalized education system, led by Japan's Ministry of Education, during the late 19th century. According to Otsuka, coming of age was once a simple and quick process of transition from childhood to adulthood in Japan's traditional folk society. However, this was reformed into a spacious period of pre-adulthood in which children were prepared for adult social relations through formal schooling. 3. The idea that entrance into a mutual-support group or fraternity is a significant part of initiation rites exists in other cultures, as in Africa, Melanesia, and Australia. There are variations between these cultures in the duration and elaboration of fraternity practices (Young 1965; Paige and Paige 1981). 108 4. The other two topics included 1) descriptions of what happened to and around them recently; and 2) gossips about someone that they knew in real life. 5. Otsuka (1989:105), for example, writes about the development of high schools for young women, known as jogakko or "girls' schools," in early modern Japan. He argues that modern Japanese society created "girls' schools" in order to isolate female adolescents from the rest of the society. Girl's schools prevent their sexually maturating bodies from too free a contact with the opposite sex, improve their functions in accordance with guidelines set by the nation's administrative body, and prepare them for matrimony with appropriate husbands. Middle schools are shown here as a kind of institution established in the name of administering teenagers via curricular programs and activities. 6. See, for example, Mourer and Sugimoto's (1986) critique of Japanese group models. 7. Yamada's comparative study of conversational styles between American and Japanese businessmen shows different cultural expectations that Japanese and American businessmen develop toward talk influence the way they actually talk: On one hand, the Japanese ~ for whom talk is considered to lead to unreliable or mistrustful interactions that jeopardize collectivity ~ employ non-confrontational strategies in conversation that use the mistrusted medium of talk in a way that still allows for speakers and listeners to reach collective goals. On the other hand, Americans ~ who try to express themselves and relate to one another through talk — use conversational strategies that can enhance both individuality and collectivity (Yamada 1990:253). 8. The characterization of Rie Tomosaka as an ingenious idol-talent, is found, for instance, in the June 10th, 1997 issue of Weekly Playboy (p.61). 9. According to this informant, the number of shineitai reached its peak in the mid 1980's, paralleling the popularity of idol-pop singers at the height of Japan's bubble era. Though no longer active today, many of these groups were hierarchically organized with their own ranking of senior and junior officers. Some of these members were partially employed by promotion agencies as body guards and for other supportive activities. 10. Detailed historical studies on the image of cuteness in Japan have been conducted, for instance, by Otsuka (1989), Akiyama (1992), and Karasawa (1995). 11. For statistics regarding Japan's socioeconomic growth, I found, for example, PHP Kenkyu Jo (1995) helpful. 109 C H A P T E R IV - IN T H E N A M E OF S H O W BUSINESS: I D O L P E R F R O M A N C E S A N D G E N D E R IDENTITIES This chapter will move from text to context in order to investigate how gender construction is exercised in pop-idol performances as part of the industry's adolescent identity formation. It will examine the compulsory practices through which young female performers are subjected to very overt forms of male discipline as they are crafted into marketable personalities who represent ideal-types of adolescent femaleness.1 The idea underlying the discussion presented in this chapter is that gender is crafted. Gender is an achievement, or a mode of enacting the received norms, which surface as the "styles of the flesh." Disciplinary practices produce a body, which in gesture and appearance is recognizably feminine or masculine (Bartky 1990:65).2 Becoming a pop-idol involves becoming an adored public persona who can win public admiration and thus be able to market the self in a commercial world where "the winner takes all" (ureta mono no kachi). The analysis of gender construction in this chapter will focus on ways in which gender norms and sexual values are reproduced and used to attain prestige. It will also examine how the system of pop-idol production exploits the labor of "wanna-be" girls in the process of appropriating contemporary gender ideals. For someone who is educated in a Judeo-Christian tradition of North-America, the pop-idol industry's subjugation of adolescent personalities to Japanese gender ideals may appear unhealthy, alienating, and even annoying. This impression is due at least in part to the different cultural assumptions that North Americans and Japanese have about gender and sexuality. With this in mind, part of this chapter will examine what counts as acceptable and non-acceptable imagery for adolescent femaleness for the participants of pop-idol production in Japan. Concentrating on how female pop-idols are constructed as a cultural institution provides a means to uncover how young Japanese women transform their selves as they are enmeshed in the ideological discourse on sexuality. 110 This ethnographic analysis includes delving into the meaningful construction of the "cute style" that became the hallmark of pop-idol performances and which made pop-idols the representatives of female-led youth culture (see the previous chapter). However, since cute pop-idol representations are overwhelmingly framed by men and imposed upon the young female performers to please the male audience, I question how female-led the culture represented by cute pop-idols truly is. Moreover, the current shift in the public preference from cute pop-idols to sensual post-idols reflects the era in which the male-dominated socioeconomic system is considered to be on the verge of a breakdown and restructuring. This is a phenomenon known in Japanese as risutora from the English "restoration." This is also the era in which women are becoming considerably more powerful and outspoken in the public sphere than ever before (onna no jidai or "the age of women"). My interest here is to investigate how these social changes and their perceptions are influenced and manifested in the way female pop-idols are packaged and sexualized as commodities to serve patriarchal interests. This investigation of the stylized presentation of adolescent femaleness in pop-idol performances also attempts to reveal the parameters of acceptable and unacceptable imagery for adolescents in Japanese society. These manifestations of gender are different from other cultures such as North America. Content analyses of media-texts show not only that femaleness is portrayed differently across cultures but also that each culture has its own set of standards in portraying sexual images. For example, Japanese are shown to focus on "cuteness," represented by premature images of femaleness, as opposed to a North American emphasis on a more matured image of female sexuality, represented as "sexy" (e.g., Takayanagi 1995). Yet, cuteness and sexiness are arbitrary concepts that cannot be classified as essential categories (for instance, some individuals may find a cute person to be sexy), and a cultural distinction based on these concepts is perhaps too broad. There is a need to focus more on the ways in which sexualized 111 performances are perceived and enacted by their actors. Thus, the focus on female pop-idols offers insight into understanding the current relationship between identity formation and gender reproduction in Japanese society ~ especially with regard to the struggle encountered by young Japanese women as they grow up in a society where male and female gender roles are traditionally differentiated. The subsequent analysis will emphasize: 1) the perceptions and expectations that male producers have about Japanese femaleness; 2) how their perceptions and expectations influence the ways female pop-idols are crafted; 3) how female performers feel about playing the role of female models; and 4) how their emotions influence the way they act. Another relevant issue to be explicated in the current investigation of female pop-idol representation is the dialectical relationship between the pop-idol industry and contrasting grass-root movements of identity-construction led by young women in Japan. The realm of capitalist production in Japan has been dominated by a male, heterosexual episteme. However, there are sets of cultural configurations outside of this masculinist system that serve the needs and interests of women and in particular young girls. Examples of this include movements and genres that are characterized as "girls' literature" (shqfo bungaku), "grils' comic" (shqjo manga), "girls' handwriting" (shqfo moji), and more recently "gal culture" (gyaru bunka)(Yamane 1986,1990; Otsuka 1989; Miyadai 1994; Kinsella 1995; Rosenberger 1995; Robertson 1998; Tanaka 1998). While the formal organs of capitalism are built around a masculinist mode of production, Japanese girls develop informal arenas of production by and for themselves. Informal arenas are not confined to young girls. For example, there are male subcultures built around expressive behaviors such as Lolita porn, cross-dressing, and homosexual affairs which have been largely suppressed or marginalized (e.g., Buruma 1984; Bornoff 1991). These arenas, however, do not stand by themselves, but are constantly exposed to institutional forces which try to erode, manipulate, and appropriate them into the heterosexual, masculinist system of production. The 112 current chapter will investigate some of the ways in which the pop-idol industry operates as a hegemonic force as participants situate themselves in the ongoing dialogue with female-led youth subcultures and use these subcultures as sources for trend creation. I will demonstrate how young girls are transformed into personalities whose images are considered politically correct and stylish at the same time. The emphasis on how female pop-idols are produced will not provide sufficient understanding of gender reproduction in pop-idol performances because there is also a construction of masculinity as manifested in the performances of male pop-idols. I planned to investigate how male performers understood the relationship between themselves as pop-idols and Japanese concept of masculinity, but lack of time and contact prevented me from systematically investigating these research areas. However, I include the discussion of masculinity to the extent that the construction of female pop-idols involves the production of both female and male gender ideals. A projection of female image encompasses visions of the relationship between women and men, or statements about maleness in terms of what kind of women men like and why. Thus, I will concentrate on ways female adolescents are projected by female pop-idol performances, rather than scattering my perspectives by trying to expand on both male and female pop-idols. In doing so, I will analyze the implications of these images in reference to the available data. The first section of this chapter will compare two cases in which I followed idol candidates to training sessions and observed how they embodied two mutually distinct images of adolescent femaleness. Interview commentaries and conversational data that illuminate performers, producers, and audiences' thoughts on these distinct role models and their embodiments will be included. The second section situates these cases in a larger context: the social, economic, and ideological positions as well as the attempted positioning of women in Japanese society. 113 Pop-Idol Performances and the Images of Adolescent Femaleness Case 1: Contestations in the Production of Cute-Idols The group of female idol candidates I studied intensively for a period of four weeks in September 1995 included four individuals who had just been recruited. Their first names will be introduced here using pseudonyms: Eri (13 years old), Miharu (15), Yumie (15), and Mayuko (17). Eri and Miharu were recruited on the street — the method of recruitment known as "street-corner scouts" (machikado sukauto). Yumie and Mayuko, on the other hand, entered the agency by winning audition contests. A l l four of these individuals had dreamed about becoming celebrities since they were little, and like all other performers I interviewed, they perceived idol performances to be the first stage in their career-building process. Yumie's ambition was to become a "well-known idol-pop singer like Seiko Matsuda," while all others vaguely wanted to become professional actors. Eri and Miharu were less dedicated to work in show business because such work was something they were asked to do rather than what they wanted to do. In contrast, Yumie and Mayuko were fully dedicated to show business. This contrast had a crucial impact upon their attitudes toward idol performances. Playing the role of pop-idols provided Eri and Miharu with negative pressures that they were hesitant to take, while it provided Yumie and Mayuko with positive challenges that they were willing to face. The promotion agency to which these four individuals belonged was a venture that had specialized in pop-idol manufacturing since the early 1990s. Their trademark was to promote typically cute pop-idols who are "pure, righteous, and pretty" (kiyoku, tadashiku, utsukushii). Eager to obtain greater public recognition, this relatively small-sized agency became one of the active collaborators of this research. Akihiko Nagabayashi (pseudonym) was a male producer and the main decision-maker in this agency. In his mid-40s, Nagabayashi has been in show 114 business for nearly half of his life. He previously worked as an idol manager and fan-club organizer. One of his assistants, Takeshi Komobuchi (pseudonym), specialized in voice training, while another assistant, Yoko Wakasugi (pseudonym), directed choreography. Both of these assistants were in their late-20s. The agency held concerts from time to time, where approximately 500 fans, mostly men who aged between 20 and 35, gathered. I followed the four candidates to two to three hour training sessions that took place three times per week in the evenings. A l l four of these individuals underwent intensive voice training, followed by choreography lessons. These sessions took place in a studio that was located next to the agency's office space. While Komobuchi and Wakasugi instructed the trainees most of the time, Nagabayashi interrupted whenever he felt it was necessary. Nagabayashi called this interruption "quality control" to "make sure that performers can perform properly in the end" — in the way he wanted them to perform. Buruma (1984:68) notes in his observation of pop-idol choreography that pop-idols are choreographed, directed and drilled to such a degree that any spontaneity that might have been there to begin with stood little chance of surviving. This was exactly what happened with the four individuals I followed.3 Embodying Adolescent Femininity In projecting his ideal image of adolescent femaleness onto pop-idol performances, Nagabayashi was specific about how performers should speak and act on stage. He described his ideal image of female pop-idols as "pure-hearted and lovable young girls who can attract young men." When I pursued him as to whether he had any interest in targeting female audiences, he did not deny it, but said that such a concern was secondary. He said, I specialize in producing female pop-idols who play a classically feminine character. However, I am a man and not a woman. I will not be able to understand how women themselves really think or feel about their ideal role models. Even i f ! 115 could imagine that for a moment, my imagination would eventually deviate from what women actually think, like, want, and need. On the other hand, it is easy for me to imagine the kind of girls that young men prefer to go after, simply because I myself grew up as a man. Thus, my primary work is to concentrate on the production of female pop-idols who can be adored by male idol-fans. Of course, I do not intend to reject female idol-fans who are willing to come see our performances at all. Thus, Nagabayashi focused on the production of adolescent femininity that can be marketed primarily to the male audience. In a two-hour voice training session, Nagabayashi required the performers to repeatedly practice how to articulate their voice with child-like innocence and enthusiasm. This appeared to be difficult for all four trainees, because they were not used to singing and speaking in such a manner. With a guitar in his arms, Komobuchi played a tune and made each trainee sing a lyrical line over and over again until he thought it was enough, then asked the next trainee to do the same. Nagabayashi occasionally stepped in to push the trainees harder toward refining certain parts. The following excerpt is a typical example of how this interaction took place ~ in this case between Yumie (Y), Komobuchi (K) and Nagabayashi (N) — and how I observed each action in its immediate context (indicated in brackets): The Setting: Y practices how to sing with a microphone in her hands, K coaches the practice, and N observes the two from his seat at the back of the studio. Y : [sings a line] 'It's so wonderful to fall in love, but it's difficult to be loved...' K : Stretch out this 'loved' part... Yes, that's good! Alright... Onto the next part... Y : ' . . . When one wants to capture the happiness, it's so difficult not to rush...' K : Good! Okay, that's it. Good enough. N : [looks frustrated] What do you mean good enough, Komobuchi! Can't you tell that the 'happiness' part is not articulated right!? Do it once more! Y : hail [a humble confirmation in Japanese] 'Happiness'... N : [looking frustrated] The whole line, idiot! 116 Y : hail 'When one wants to capture the happiness, it's so difficult not to rush...' N : Put more heart into 'happiness', would you!? Like 'happiness'... [demonstrates a child-like articulation] Y : hail 'Happiness'... [tries her best to sound child-like] N : It's 'happiness'... [demonstrates again] Y : happiness... [repeats with a child-like smile on her face] N : Try the whole line again. Y : hail 'When one wants to capture the happiness, it's so difficult not to rush...' N : 'Difficult not to rush'... [demonstrates] Y : hail 'It's so difficult not to rush...' N : Too strong! Why can't you get the cuteness!? It's 'difficult not to rush'... [demonstrates] Try to be even overactive about it! Y : hail [looking a bit tense, she pauses for two seconds to take a breath] 'When one wants to capture the happiness, it's so difficult not to rush...' [tries her best to sound child-like] N : Next. Y : hail 'Let's have the courage to say I love you...' N : T love you'... [he demonstrates] Y : T love you'... N : [3 second pause] Okay, go on to the next part... [looks unsatisfied but leaves it as it is for now; signals Komobuchi to take over] Tensions filled the air during such an extensive drill, and although the trainees tried to keep themselves up all along, they could not prevent themselves from putting a weary expression on their face toward the end. Choreography lessons centered on making predominantly feminine gestures. Rocking the body back and forth, turning the body left and right, moving the body in a bouncy way, and 117 waving hands were some of the most noticeable features. Pensive poses and melancholic expressions were made when ballads were sung. In these cases, the trainees held microphones in their hands and waved their bodies softly from left to right. In Nagabayashi's words, the bounciness signified youthfulness that bursts open (hajikeru wakasa) while the pensiveness stood for emotional instability (jocho fuantei). These, according to Nagabayashi, were the two main characteristics of youthful femininity invoking empathy in the minds of the viewers (figure 13). One of my informants, an editor of a pop-idol magazine, commented that the term "idol" could be interpreted as a combination of two English words, "I" and "doll." This, according to him, implies that the subject "I" becomes a doll-like object to be gazed at and adored by the viewer. Another informant created a pun associating the word "I" with ai that in Japanese means "love," thus equating pop-idols with "love-dolls." Yet, another informant thought that "-dol" part could be interpreted commercially as "dollars" in English, thus "I-dollars" or "love-dollars." To become a female pop-idol is, in this sense, to wrap oneself up in a bundle of toyed femininity designed by idol-manufacturing agencies to attract male consumers. Over the course of the four-week training, Eri and Miharu became increasingly frustrated. One day, Miharu came out of the studio with tears in her eyes as she was scolded by Nagabayashi for not getting the style right in spite of the long hours of practice. She subsequently recalled this event as one of the most unpleasant experiences she had had in her life. Miharu said that the gestures required by Nagabayashi made her look excessively shy, coy and submissive, creating a fake personality that was no longer herself, and she felt extremely uncomfortable about it. Eri, on the other hand, got some sense of how to enact the cute character designed by Nagabayashi, but she also felt uneasy. She said, When I first came [to this agency], I thought that I could perform like those recent popular dancers who are more active and cool. I certainly don't want to do what I am doing now for the rest of my life! 118 |0- >\ IJ. t'-1 . ^ I - i f A 7 li->A"^ f f - ^ I J i ^ i ^ 7 ' Li- A' l a^Jf Sft) IT-H" * ^ 1 T \ - . 1 1 ; S T -INTS i t - z l -3, 3,'I 3^ \* '&T-Figure 13. A sketch by an informant representing typically cute pop-idol. The way in which Eri was trained to become an idol-personality did not meet her original expectation, and this reduced her sense of dedication to the construction of self. Both Miharu and Eri felt that their sexualized bodies and images were out of their control, but they could not do much about it because it was their job (shigoto dakara shikata ga nai). Wakasugi, who had worked as a choreographer in the promotion agency for some time, was sympathetic to the sense of discomfort felt by many of her trainees. She argued: Sometimes I feel bad because they [i.e., the trainees] have to play the [feminine] character that they don't really want to play. A l l of them face a struggle at the outset [of their training period] as they try to become someone who they have never experienced before. For those who are willing to overcome that struggle, however, there is a point in which they embrace the cute character as part of themselves. That's when they really grow. They become apparently more enthusiastic and confident, and their skills improve dramatically. This statement indicates that the candidates' willingness to compromise with the image of adolescent femaleness provided by their manufacturing industry influences the rate in which they acquire and develop skills. During the period of my observation, I failed to see Eri and Miharu grow in the way Wakasugi described that some willing performers would grow. These two students continued to look uncomfortable most of the time, and even pained at times. Their motivation to embody constructed gender roles and sexual stereotypes was apparently much lower than that of Yumie and Mayuko, for whom performance on stage was conceived of as a great pleasure in and of itself. For Yumie, adopting an excessively cute and child-like character was simply one of many tasks she expected to fulfil in show business ~ something she attended to seriously and energetically as a part of her expertise. When I asked her whether she ever felt uncomfortable about her performances, she replied: Not really. It's my job and its something I enjoy doing very much. I eventually want to become someone who is adored by anyone and everyone. Please provide me with your support, too, as I will do my best to keep it up! 120 This showed the association Yumie made between embodying the cute style and attaining prestige, which together constituted her identity as a performer. It also showed how motivated she was in partaking of this adolescent gender role — she even tried to pull the researcher into buying her cute character! The situation was quite similar with Mayuko, who was somewhat frustrated about her current status in the agency ~ not because she had to enact an undesirable character, but because she felt that she was not enacting the character well enough to deserve public attention. She said, No matter how hard I try, I just can't get the details [of cute gestures] right, but I have to master them in order to become an adorable public figure and be successful in this world. The question I had for Mayuko, too, was whether she had any sense of resistance against what appeared to me as the enforced enactment of adolescent femininity. As in the case of Yumie, Mayuko perceived it to be the necessary part of her expertise. She added that although she considered the constructed image of adolescent femaleness as somewhat exaggerated, it was not far off the track of her real-life qualities. She argued: I think there are many qualities in myself, and being cute or child-like is one of them. It's just a matter of how well I can pull it out of myself. I would certainly act in a very cute way i f i really wanted to win the heart of a man that I love. That's how I try to feel when I play the cute character. In sum, I found that performers had mixed feelings about embracing the crafted image of adolescent femininity. To the extent that these performers could accept the cute style as part of multiple identities that characterized their selfhood, and to the extent that they were willing to adopt it as part of their expertise, there was no reason to contest the image constructed by a male producer to serve the interests of male audiences. To the extent that the performers could not identify themselves with the sexist stereotypes of adolescent selfhood, the embodiment of the cute style was met with some degree of resistance. In the end, however, what held these 121 performers in their place were the sense of prestige and the accompanying sense of duty that characterized them as professional entertainers. They were aware that acting in whatever ways their producer told them to would lead to success. Indeed, for some of these performers who saw themselves as having a meaningful life (ikigai) in the entertainment industry, compulsory practices were the first and foremost significant step in the process of developing the self. Is this what the motto "pure, righteous, and pretty" means? - that is, to mold oneself not only into a personality that does not truly stand for herself, but also into an artifice that covers up a capitalist intention to compete and succeed in the market? When I asked, Nagabayashi smiled ironically and said: You know, there is no such thing as purity, righteousness, and prettiness as such. Alternatively, you should ask yourself to whom you would appear to be pure, righteous, and pretty. These are like colors... you color them [i.e., the performers] that way to make them look provocative in the eyes of their viewers.. Nothing can really be purely white, clean, or crystal clear. For Nagabayashi, purity, cutesy, and the like are all instrumental concepts or images that are useful in achieving his single, most important reason to direct a promotion agency: that is, to nurture marketable personalities. In his commercially oriented world-view, beauty and ugliness (or pure and impure) are two parts of a ying/yang that do not conflict with each other. This inseparability is a theme that reiterates through Japanese culture, and is commonly observed in religious beliefs such as Shinto, Buddhism, and Taoism, as well as all sorts of craftsmanship (e.g., Suzuki 1970, Yanagi 1972). Case 2: Becoming Vibrantly Sexual The Okinawa Actor's School (O.A.S.), founded in 1983 by Masayuki Makino (born in 1941 as a son of the leading Japanese movie director, Masahiro Makino), became the power-house of the new and emergent pop-idol category, "idol dancers" (dansu-kei aidoru). Performers who 122 belong to this category are also referred to as "post-idols" (posuto aidoru) who mark the era in which pop-idols can no longer attract the public by being simply cute. The O.A.S. gained nationwide recognition in 1995 with the successful debut of one of its former students, Namie Amuro, who became a leading figure in current adolescent fashion and lifestyle. Amuro was praised by the media as one of the most outstanding pop-divas of the 1990s, as the following example from the entertainment press shows: Looking around the [Japanese] entertainment world, one notices that it has been a while since pop-idols who could sing and dance [well enough] have disappeared. The rise of Amuro, the competent performer, would... certainly provide a new direction (SPA! 3/10/1995:14). Many enthusiastic Amuro fans were referred to as "Amurors." The so-called "Amuro style," signified by wavy long hair, sharply colored and thinly trimmed eyebrows, tight short pants, an exposed belly-button, and long high-heeled boots, created a sensation in the fashion and cosmetic industries (figure 14). As the result of Amuro's break in popularity, the O.A.S. started to attract hundreds of applicants.4 Subsequent pop-idols from the O.A.S. included groups such as MAX, SPEED, and B.B. Waves, as well as individuals like Rina Chinen, who together constituted the so-called "Okinawa force" (Okinawa-zei)(figme 15). In June 1996,1 flew from Tokyo to the city of Naha in Okinawa to visit the O.A.S. and observe how the students would perform. Japan is an insular country made up of many islands with the population predominantly on the four largest islands, Hokkaido, Honshu, Shikoku, and Kyushu. Okinawa, in the Ryukyu-Island chain, is peripheral to these four main islands. Okinawans have also developed their own distinct dialect and cultural traditions. In this isolated but media-attended locale, I conducted two intensive days of fieldwork in which I observed 30 students, including Rina Chinen, the four members of SPEED, and six members from 123 u 4m Nami rCha*.' ihc QiancL'jfnvcx Irax) ft[ '961-3JJ20IU »>. liMXvi' h t & e H U B X M I » . 5)1611 11 *ftfi»ni*>&W0»#C*£9f Figure 14. Namie Amuro, considered stylish and powerful rather than simply cute (from the January 3/10,1996 issue of SPA!, p.14). 124 B.B. Waves, undergo singing and dancing practice. Approximately 200 students attended the school at the time of my visit, paying the annual fee of 210,000 yen. Students were mostly young girls, whose age ranged between eight and 22. These students were recruited through a series of auditions, to which they applied voluntarily, wishing to pursue their acting career. Makino's daughter and a former pop-idol, Anna (who debuted in 1987), coached the students with three other female instructors. Anna was also a former member of Super Monkeys (who debuted in 1992), the original group of performers that included Amuro. For students who attended the school, however, Anna was a big sister, with whom they could feel familiar, rather than an official instructor and a former pop star. Dancing and singing practices took place in a relatively informal and friendly atmosphere, but all students were very serious about their practices. Once lessons began, their eyes turned sharp, their bodies were filled with energy, and their personalities transformed from shy teenage girls giggling during off-time conversations to confident dancers who concentrated on brushing up their skills (figure 16). A l l students performed in a local public hall once every three months to demonstrate the fruits of their practices, but I did not stay long enough to observe these events. A n O.A.S. secretary kindly gave me a videotape of one of these events, which I observed after returning to my research base in Tokyo. Actors in the recorded stage performance were as sharp looking as they appeared before my eyes during training sessions. Their performances were met with loud cheers from hundreds of people in the audience, who were mostly young men and women. According to Anna, these regularly held public performances were voluntarily organized by the O.A.S. students themselves. Makino stayed in his office next to the studio most of the time, where he met with guests from big industries and local bureaus to discuss business. He came into the studio occasionally to observe how things were proceeding, but he did not interrupt at all. Small children who took 126 Figure 16. A dancing practice scene from the Okinawa Actor's School (June, 1995). 127 dancing lessons were accompanied by their parents, who sat at the back of the studio to observe how their little ones performed. Empowering the Body through Dance The essential concept used by Makino to characterize his students was purity instead of cuteness. Yet, this was not often used in association with pop-idols. Standing in sharp contrast to the same word used by Nagabayashi, the Makino version of purity did not represent a form of adolescent femininity that was designed to primarily serve the interests of male audiences. For Makino, or Maikmo-sensei (Master Makino) as students called him, purity is the single, most important driving-force in performance.5 He argues: To be pure is to enable one's energy to flow from within, without any external constraint. It enables the actor to act from the bottom of her heart and her soul. By being pure, she can open herself to anything and everything, and give the performance all that she can. It's the primary step in becoming a professional actor. Thus, Makino's idea of purity is an active concept used to signify actors' subjectivity, or the sentiment of acting with all one's being, rather than the term used to represent an objectified self. When I asked Makino as to how this idea of purity compared to the image of the so-called cute idols, he said: In my opinion, the purity associated with the so-called 'cute-idols' is a made-up image. It's made for the actors to put on a childish act and fake themselves in order to attract boys' attention and be marketable to them. In my view, this is far from being 'pure'. To be 'pure' is to listen to your own heartbeat and your own rhythm of life. It has nothing to do with becoming someone else that you don't originally intend to become... Dancing and singing do not consist of techniques that you are, or ought to be, forced to memorize by someone else. Surely, you can acquire some of these acting skills through [compulsory] training, but your own beat is not something you can acquire from someone else. You have to be yourself, and you have to rely on your own senses and be able to develop the beat that is yours. That's why you need to be 'pure', that is to be honest to your senses. 128 This indicates Makino's distinction between the pure self which enables the actors to empty their mind in order to absorb the essentials of performance and that used more generally in the pop-idol industry to signify the pretense of innocence. I then wondered about the role of dancing lessons at O.A.S.: whether these lessons were compulsory practices that molded students' personality into the Makino version of adolescent innocence, which, after all, was another constructed image. When I asked Makino about this point, he smiled grimly and replied: Dancing lessons are simply designed to facilitate the students' energies that flow from within. Acting school provides a space where these students can get together, encourage each other, and direct their own senses toward developing specific styles of performance within the context of mutual support and encouragement. Apparently, Makino did not see dancing lessons as compulsory practice, but more as an instrument for the students to develop themselves in their own creative way. They provided a common ground for these students to stand together and dedicate their hearts, souls, and bodies to personal transformation ~ toward becoming a talented performer. Lessons were organized into five levels, of which the first level was designed for beginners. Members in each level met twice a week: Saturday for voice training, and Sunday to practice singing and dancing. In voice training, students lined up in the mirrored studio, put their strengths into their bellies, and sang sol-fa as loud as they could for about one hour. In dancing and singing practices, students spent the first thirty minutes repeating basic voice training, followed by one hour of moving and shaking their bodies rhythmically. Dancing could be practiced in a free style, so every student invented her own way of moving the body. • Anna and other instructors taught basic dancing skills, such as how to make steps or turn the body around, but there was no choreography in any strict sense as in the case of Nagabayashi's promotion agency. A l l students overwhelmed me with their enthusiasm, and the heat generating 129 from their bodies heightened the temperature of the studio that was already hot and steamy from Okinawa's more tropical climate. Because there was no air conditioner in the studio, students were dripping with sweat, but everyone thought that they were "having a good sweat" (ii ase o kaite iru). Every student had a good reason to be there. A member of B.B. Waves, for instance, told me that she was a high-school drop out who had no idea what she wanted to do with her life until she came to the O.A.S. and gained her self-esteem via dancing. She continued: I could be wandering out on the street without anything to do i f I wouldn't be here. I could have even died on the street. What I learned here gave me a lot of confidence. I learned how to believe in myself and my abilities. I can work hard now, and really enjoy what I am doing. I feel like I am ready to challenge whatever trial of life that comes ahead! For this informant, the O.A.S. and its style provided a pathway toward maturity. Another student felt that the spirit of dancing helped empower her academic life and improve her grades in high school: she could concentrate on homework and prepare for examinations with a greater sense of confidence. The mother of a 12 year-old student, wanting her daughter to acquire something meaningful in life, decided to take the daughter to the O.A.S. when she heard of its good reputation. She said that both she and her husband were very happy that their daughter could acquire dancing skills and confidence in an encouraging environment. As part of the lesson, each student selected her favorite song from the list of choices (which consisted mostly of Amuro, MAX, and B.B. Waves's songs), and sang it in front of the group. Others chorused the selected song at the back. Every song in the list was up beat, and all students chorused each song as they raised their voices vigorously. The following lyrical excerpts are taken from two of the most favored, most frequently selected songs in the list. The following excerpts show the contents of these songs: 130 Hey Yo! Just chase the chance, the pathway that you believe in, chase chase the chance, let's proceed it straightforwardly. Dream is not something that you [simply] envision; it's not something you [simply] talk about. It's something to accomplish. Just chase the chance, nobody can stop, wild and tough, the desire that breaks out of you. (from Namie Amuro, Chase the Chance, Avex Trax) Body feels exit, I will definitely move out of this place someday. Body feels excite, this hot and deep feeling that runs inside my entire body. I will run, as I direct the wind that blows between city buildings toward tomorrow. (from Namie Amuro, Body Feels Exit, Avex Trax) Students liked these songs because their rhythms and messages were stimulating. Each student sang for nearly two minutes and gave way to the next student in line. Anna stood at the back of the studio and played the role of disc jockey, changing the music every two minutes. She also danced when the music was playing. At the day's end, students formed a circle to reflect upon their performances and discuss some of the problems they found during their practices as a way of mutual encouragement. I was informed that Makino would occasionally step in at this stage to provide a comment that would heighten the spirit of the class, although this did not happen when I was there. The kind of crafted femininity that I observed in Nagabayashi's promotion agency was absent from the O.A.S. What I encountered instead was an expression of vibrant sexuality that incorporated quick, sharp, powerful, and even aggressive body movements that mimicked the style represented by various black hip-hop artists, or pop-singers such as Janet Jackson and Madonna. A l l body parts waved dynamically with fast foot shuffles. Frequent fist making made little dancers appear evermore powerful. Students occasionally made crotch-grabbing gestures and touched under breasts when they danced, evoking to the observer's mind that they were preening for the audience in an overtly sexual way. Seeing young girls strike some of these poses was quite astonishing, and I even wondered i f some of them really understood what they were doing. A l l of these gestures were nearly identical to those made by Amuro during her stage 131 performances which, combined with her fashion, constituted a style that many people in the media referred to as an expression of young girl's power. A l l O.A.S. students that I interviewed considered that this style was cool and sexy, and it symbolized tsuyoijosei no jidai or the "age of powerful femaleness" (figure 17). In one of the discussion sessions, I asked the O.A.S. students to describe how they felt about enacting a vibrantly sexual performance. Some replied that they felt a bit ashamed but they generally considered it fun, liberating, and empowering. I asked Anna to tell me how she compared this overtly sexual style with the style she represented back in 1988 when she was enlisted as one of the 58 cute pop-idols who made their debut in the same year.6 Anna's reply indicated a significant emotional and attitudinal contrast. She said, The cute character I played back then [in 1988] was a made-up image that oppressed my individuality, and I did not enjoy trying to live up to that image at all. The only thing that kept me going was my hunger for fame... I mean, my dream to be popular among many people. The kind of sexiness that I am expressing now through my dance comes from within myself. It's what I really am or what I can really be, and I don't have to fake myself or lose my control over it. It's really a great feeling... I don't have to feel bad any more about trying to satisfy people with an invented personality that is not really myself. This confirmed the willingness of Anna and her colleagues to break away from the old image of adolescent femaleness through a new, self-affirmative style of sexualized performance. When I inquired of Makino as to how he felt about under-aged girls acting in such a vibrantly sexual manner, he said, looking a bit annoyed: Why can't girls be sexy, i f sexuality is something essential to them!? Why can't they be pure about it, rather than trying to conceal it!? Why can't they express it to the best of their ability!? I think nobody has the right to tell them what they should do about their sexual energies, and much less how they should constrict them. They have to take sexuality in their own hands and express it in their own healthy, creative ways! It's all part of being yourself, and what's wrong with that? These comments clearly mark the vibrantly sexual style as a means for young female performers to dignify themselves as persons with individual abilities. However erotic they may appear to be, 132 the Lady produce campaign ft a i^l t thell ' 91 CO * It 9-f7X94>(:fttia'A<ja r t he i ' 7 n f J . — x - — j Bt9*f-»;M ;7 trfa-x-fSTHCl. 'l-'i«ri.'.lia -iVM*«»W, ei;lJ-96#in3ia»Tl:«[l«;.»Ml..|:LlT • A » : « T B C ih, i^i9iy*V; I « **/lMJIfl(n;Sm;»H*C') n / M m m i *TBC i i» fr<«*'9>7i | :>« » TIKVn^fi 2**MH|tn*at± |ia<n';^?,i(nn !^f~,^KA)*ait3n/:«Tfl(lSin»L*-niT'7>T^7*</.J?l.> •iSHi'fl): 1996?-! fl20BI ya.hfcN d y))»jE»St; T 1 6 0 *K«Sttif;^P9rt4^6 6 !R?.&H^ JHF 1 TBC ttwl'^  i *b *«*6««Ml>**>1r*c:03-33S4-8070(fl . r im«WHISl* ^BttSSBdMSO « SH:-:>l >T<H» 'Jn>^m K*kVtrf)tK3-at«f <r'?i' Figure 17. A n image of powerful femaleness represented by an idol-artist, Hitomi (from a poster advertising the 1996 Lady Aesthetic Contest [a talent audition contest], sponsored by T B C Tokyo Beauty Center). 133 performers who enact this new style of adolescent femaleness feel empowered - unlike the falsely constructed and standardized image of sexual passivity that tends to constrict its actors' identities in the name of cuteness. Audience Tastes and Reactions Audiences are the constituents of "taste" groups. Examining how a female pop-idol is received by her audiences would reveal gender biases and sexual stereotypes that exist in the public domain. As Finn (1990:170) contends, research into the mode of popular culture production must not forget to take into account how these cultural products are received by the consuming audiences who constitute cultural meaning in action and in relationships. To detail out how different audiences reacted to the two mutually-distinct images of adolescent femaleness, or the cute versus the vibrantly-sexual, I called upon those who attended pop-idol concerts to participate in a series of interviews. Eleven individuals who responded consisted of six regular attendants of concerts held by Nagabayashi's promotion agency, and five attendants of Namie Amuro's concert held near Tokyo in the summer of 1995.1 will hereafter refer to the former group of informants as "cute-idol fans," and the latter group as "Amuro fans." A l l six cute-idol fans were men aged between 24 and 26, which was the average age for the audience who attended the concert.7 The five Amuro fans consisted of three women and two men, and their age ranged between 16 and 21. Since 30,000 people who came to Amuro's concert, from which these five individuals were sampled, included adults and children of both sexes, I did not consider my informants to be the proper representatives of the Amuro-audience in terms of age. Since Amuro (born 1977) is considered by many of my informants in the entertainment industry as one of the most worshipped pop-idols among female high-school students, I suspected that Amuro's audience consisted largely of adolescents of both sexes. 134 A l l interviews were conducted in the form of free discussion. Questions I asked to my informants included: 1) What particular appeal does your idol have for you and why?; and 2) What do you think about the other pop-idol and why? Replies were dominated by themes related to ideal gender roles and sexual stereotypes. For cute-idol fans, their idol was lovable because she idealized a submissive female personality that appeared to be non-threatening. For example, one informant said: She allows men to love her and cheer her with a great sense of comfort. As a man, I wouldn't have to worry about being criticized, rejected, or betrayed, as can be the case with a real-life girlfriend or sister. This statement presumed that such an ideal-type of a woman is actually difficult to find. The very reason that many pop-idol fans become fans is due to their romantic desire to establish a partnership with a submissive and nonthreatening female personality that may not exist in reality. This 26 year-old informant never experienced having a real-life female partner. When I asked him the reason, he explained that he was never interested in a real-life partner who can be potentially threatening. For him, going to concerts and cheering his favorite idol, or buying her CDs, videos, and photo albums, was a real-life experience that provided him with a sense of comfort. It was a way of expressing his affection to his current and most dedicated idol-partner.8 Another cute-idol fan indicated that the pure, righteous, and pretty appearance of his idol was a way of providing her fans with a guarantee that her empathetic relationship with them is based on fairness and equality. According to this fan: Pop-idol fans like us are always in a state of paradox. It is great to be able to love someone we all know, because it makes us feel privileged. It makes us feel proud. It's a great pleasure for each one of us to share this love and pride with other people in the audience. At the same time, we put ourselves in competition because each of us wants to see our idol as nobody else's [possession]. In effect, our idol is there for everybody and nobody. Every fan can love her, but no fan can possess her... By being pure, righteous, and pretty, she assures us that she is non-flirtatious, at least overtly, and that she is treating everyone fairly. By looking 135 innocent, she makes us all feel secure... that she has no intention to betray us by, say, dating one of us and the sacrifice of everyone else. This shows another important symbolic aspect of the non-threatening personality attributed to social solidarity. The idol has the power to relieve its followers from feeling that they are competing against each other. A l l cute-idol fans agreed that they were indifferent about a girl like Amuro because she appeared to be too sexy. One informant indicated the suspicion he had about such a vibrantly sexual personality. He argued: That [i.e., Amuro] type of a girl can be a slut.9 She can easily flirt with other guys, and you can never trust her. She won't stay with you, and it would take so much effort to even try to get close to a girl like that. She can easily slip out of your sight and put you in a competition with other guys. Apparently, a celebrity such as Amuro who allowed sexual assertiveness for women was sexually threatening for cute-idol fans. Different words used by cute-idol fans described personal and physical qualities that constituted the sexually innocuous image of pop-idols. For example, I pursued cute-idol fans as to what aspect of their idol made them feel that she was trustworthy and adorable vis-a-vis a more overtly sexual personality such as Amuro. Replies included: virginal, uncontaminated, shy, modest, no make-up, no pierced ears, no pigmented hair, no tight pants. Some fans even said that pop-idols are not supposed to evacuate their bowels, assuming that it was a filthy thing to do. These descriptions which signify the idea of purity were also used as criteria for cute-idol fans to evaluate likable and non-likable young performers in each case, reinforcing the ideal image of adolescent femaleness which these fans share. A more elaborate question I had for cute-idol fans concerned their sexual motives: whether their affection toward a young, cute, and innocent personality had any erotic motive. There has been a trend in Japanese popular culture and mass media to set a value on youth in lower age 136 brackets, and to depict them as dependent, sexy, and an encouragement to adult men (Suzuki 1995:79). Anchored in this trend is an emergent genre of sexually oriented literature since the mid 1980s, known as "Lolita eros." This included comic books and adult videos featuring sex with young girls and boys. Sadistic scenes were portrayed in which these subjects were bound, stripped, raped, and beaten. Scenes in which these subjects appear in swim wear, semi-nude, or full-nude, striking various poses that are intended for visual rape, were also present (Funabashi 1995:257). I found many similar poses assumed by cute pop-idols in magazines and promotion videos, although in principle cute-idols as distinguished from young porn-stars and animated Lolita figures never appeared naked (figure 18). Some popular magazines for men combined pop-idol photos and articles with erotic themes and stories. In the end, I could not see a noteworthy difference between cute-idol performances and child pornography.10 The association between cute-idol fans and eroticism was also made by the Amuro fans, all of whom derided cute-idol fans as lunatics (otaku), or psychopaths who behave awkwardly due to their inability to control sexual desires. The following excerpt from a conversation between two 21 year-old female Amuro fans (K and S) makes this point clear: K : Those people [i.e., cute-idol fans] have weird ideas about love affairs, and they are out of touch with reality. Don't you think? S: I agree. Aren't they old enough to know better? K : Yeah. Just imagine yourself being an innocent little girl, would you ever want to be loved by a man who is ten years or more older than you? S: No way, I wouldn't stand being in such a position. Simply thinking about it makes me feel like throwing up. K : Yeah. I think those lunatics who can be senseless enough to adore [cute-looking] idols who are much younger than they are having a serious Lolita complex. They live in their own indecent fantasies. S: That's right. I bet they can't communicate properly with any woman of their age in real life, so they keep going after an imagined [female] personality. 137 Figure 18. The resemblance in images of an animated Lolita figure (top), from the July 1996 issue of TokoShashin, and a pop-idol (bottom) in a Lolita-like posture, from the February 1996 issue of Bomb! 138 K : That's sad. S: It's really too bad. This implies that cute-idol fans appeared considerably immoral and sexist in the eyes of those who favor more self-controlled image of adolescent sexuality. Cute-idol fans I interviewed rejected any connection between their attraction toward a virginal figure and Lolita fetishism. However, they indicated a sexual drive toward the young female who was willing to sacrifice herself for the sake of her loving partner - which led them to adore their current pop-idol. Making a distinction between Lolita eros and cute-idol performances which I thought was somewhat ambiguous, one fan (M) explained in a conversation how he felt about seeing his idol strike erotic poses in popular magazines. As the following excerpt shows: Researcher (R): Don't you ever find your idol strikes sexy, I mean visually very erotic, poses in the cover pages of some magazines? M : Oh, yes. Quite often, in fact. R: How do you feel about it? M : Neither good nor bad. R: What do you mean? Aren't you annoyed by the fact that someone you admire for her sweetness, purity and righteousness could strike such an erotic pose? M : Well, yes. I am shocked in a way. For a dedicated fan, it's a matter of course to be annoyed. Nevertheless, I can forgive her, considering the fact that it's part of her job... I mean, to make a living or learn how to perform, you know. Maybe it's something she herself didn't want to do, but had to because her agency told her to do so. I wouldn't want to accuse her for that. R: You mean you can dismiss the fact that she and her agency are taking part in reproducing a Lolita eros? You mean she is allowing herself to be a masochist who invites you and other men to imagine a scene where you all are raping her? How can this ever really be pure or righteous? M : Well, I don't read into it so much. If someone wants to rape her [visually], let him go ahead and do so, and I do know that some idol-fans go after their idols for that particular reason... I mean, as part of their sexual satisfaction. As far as I am concerned, I try to trust in her good quality. As long as I can believe that she is by nature pure and righteous, I have no problem with other details. I only want to look at the bright side of her image, you know, and continue to cheer her sweetness that I adore. Besides, our idol will grow up to be sexually awakened eventually, 139 anyway. That's when she graduates from being a pop-idol, really, and all of her fans will have to accept that fact. R: Wil l you and other fans continue to support her, when this happens? M : Well, I would continue to support her as long as she wouldn't embarrass me by causing some serious sex scandals. Other fans may lose interest the moment they sense that she is no longer pure. I've seen this happen quite often actually. R: What would they do after that? M : Some of them may retire from being idol-fans altogether and others may find another pop-idol to go after. R: Let me change the question. Do you ever become sexually motivated by your so-called pure and righteous idol? M : Well, I wouldn't deny it as a man. If she were not sexually attractive at all, I wouldn't be going after her. R: So, it is sexually motivating in a way. M : Oh, yes. I feel like embracing her tightly in my arms because she is so cute. R: See, what I don't understand is that i f you are trying to fulfil your sexual fantasies after all, why not find your satisfaction in some young, cute-looking porn-stars? Why waste your time, your mind, and your money trying to go after such a child-like personality who conceals her sexuality with images of purity and righteousness... She may appear in swim wear and strike sexy poses, but we all know that she wouldn't strip herself before you? M : I don't really consider admiring my idol to be a waste of time, mind, or money. Moreover, you can't compare porn-stars with pop-idols. In fact, i f my idol will ever become a porn-star, as was the case with some unsuccessful pop-idols in the past, I will lose my interest in her. It's a very different kind of fantasy. R: Well, how different is it? M : Loving a porn-star is simply physical, and there isn't much human sentiment involved. It's an animal-like sex drive, you know. Adoring your pop-idol is much more romantic than that. You care about her a lot. Certainly, you wish you can make love to her, but having sex with your idol is one and the last reason of your engagement. I enjoy a greater sense of empathy, and I feel happy simply by imagining herself next to me. R: Okay, so it's not necessarily about visually raping a Lolita, or something like that. M : No way, it's nothing that violent, although some maniacs out there might fantasize that. You enjoy your approach toward an adorable personality who will always be there for you, but you 140 know will not be able to reach completely. You enjoy this sense of distance, and the fact that you can interact with your be-loved idol while maintaining this comfortable distance. If it's all about having sex, you don't need such a personality. R: Interesting. Although these discussions indicate male fantasies that are differentiated from visual rape, they shed light on concepts of masculinity being generated in female pop-idol construction. The cute-idol fans, who do not have any real-life female partner with whom they could sufficiently interact and engage in a love affair, sought their salvation in an innocent, sexually inactive personality. They preferred to remain in the unattainable relationship between themselves and their female objects, utilizing the relationship as a site to construct gender ideals. It was this unrealistic sense of escape from actual relationships between men and women, or performers and their audiences, that was questioned by Amuro fans in comparison to