Ara is a Journalism graduate from California State University Northridge who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.
Yui Yokoyama and Rina Kawaei
A Tribute to Japan's Most Popular Girl Group AKB48
This next story has nothing to do with the music of AKB48 but it is about the changes that have happened with AKB48 in 2014. It is also a photo gallery of this pop music group. This is one of the best ways to pay tribute to this talented group of girls. Yes 2014 was six years ago but this story has significance.
The incident at Iwate Cultural Center and the aftermath
Back in May 2014, AKB48 was involved in an event that almost led to the loss of two of their most beautiful members and then they rebounded to maintain their status as Japan’s most popular pop music group. AKB48 would resume their handshake event at a place called Tokyo Big Sight. But there were also 6 members who were not in attendance at the event. The most notable members that were absent from this event on July 5, 2014 were Anna Iriyama and Rina Kawaei. Iriyama, 19, and Kawaei, 20 were at a handshake event on May 25, 2014 when a crazed fan attacked and slashed them with a saw. I still cannot believe why anyone would ever want to hurt these two girls. That person who did this senseless act of violence obviously has a serious mental problem and he needs to be evaluated as well as suffer the consequences for his actions. My thoughts and prayers go out to both Iriyama and Kawaei as they have recovered completely from the incident. Minami Minegishi was devoting her time and energy to recovering from a kidney cyst that she had. NMB48's Arisa Miura was absent from the event because she was focusing on her studies. This is one of the news about AKB48 and its other groups that has nothing to do with music.
Members Keira Yogi and Sakiko Matsui
Which Members Were Not At This Fan Event?
NMB48 member Keira Yogi and SKE48 training member Miyuka Sora were not at the event because they have graduated from their groups. As an interesting side note, the idol group SKE48 had the member Rena Matsui who has a really high cuteness factor. Matsui released her first solo photo book called Goldfish just over three years ago. I say three because we are now in 2016. Since Mayu Watanabe finished in the top spot for the 37th single Senbatsu Elections, she was also considered to be the new “Queen” of AKB48 at that time. To finish the top 6 NMB48's Sayaka Yamamoto came in at that spot.
A photo of three members of the group NMB48 another one of the similar idol groups
What security measures have taken place since the incident?
At the time when I first covered this story, it was June 5, 2014 in Japan and because of the incident on May 25, 2014 security measures have been added for this and all other future handshake events. Upon entering the venue, each person will have their belongings subject to inspection. Each person entering the facility may only take one piece of baggage beyond the security point and it cannot exceed 90 centimeters in length, width, and height. These regulations have been put in place by the group's record company King Records.
In addition, King Records said that all fans will be subject to being scanned with metal detectors and their bags must be put on the floor in front of the AKB48 members. And anyone that has a beverage will now be required to take a sip in front of the guards just so that its contents can be verified.
The Incident at Iwate Prefecture
What happened to Rina Kawaei?
Kawaei graduated from AKB48 on August 4, 2015 to pursue an acting career. The circumstances surrounding her departure are unusual however. Kawaei in a speech to her fans said that although there were people around her that told her not to worry, she said that she ended up being worried, anxious and she felt like she was out of place. She cannot bring herself to attend those handshake events any longer. I believe that Kawaei has been psychologically traumatized since the attack and attempt on her life and she felt that she had to move on to do other things. It is a really unfortunate way for her career with AKB48 to end in this manner but at the same time, I wish Kawaei all the best in this next part of her entertainment career.
Favorite AKB48 member of all time
Photos of Sayaka Yamamoto, Miyuki Watanabe, and Anna Iriyama
More thoughts on this subject and AKB48
What are others saying about this event that changed AKB48 forever? I just found out that after this incident at the Iwate Cultural Center, fans can no longer take photos next to their favorite members, this information via A-to-J Connections, a community based media website that is dedicated to aspects of Japanese pop culture. In fact, the author of this piece Nathan writes: “The amount of negative media attention this story received rivaled that of Minegishi Minami's incident back in 2013.”1
1Nathan, “The AKB48 Iwate Incident: An Editorial”, A-to-J Connections, February 18, 2015, http://a-to-jconnections.com/idol/february-18th-2015
He is correct when he says that this Iwate incident could have been potentially fatal but also asks the question of why it would take so long for something like this to happen. The answer is a cultural and social reason. Real fans of AKB48 would never attack their favorite pop idol singers. There were never bag checks or metal detectors installed prior to the incident because these fans would never attack these girls on purpose. This assertion is very true because a person that truly enjoys the music of AKB48 and what these girls do on a daily basis to set forth positive principles for their fans and others would never stoop to such a low level. In spite of this incident, AKB48 has been active for almost 15 years and they are constantly expanding.
Nathan. “The AKB48 Iwate Incident: An Editorial”, A-to-J Connections, February 18, 2015, http://a-to-jconnections.com/idol/february-18th-2015.
A Video That Describes What AKB48 Really Is
© 2016 Ara Vahanian