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Hometown Heroines: What is Success for Local Idols?

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Hometown Heroines: What is Success for Local Idols?

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Since Summer Rocket, one of the groups I’m supporting now, was invited to the event “Manatsu no Sound Good!!”, I traveled to Okinawa in mid-September. I was the only one coming from Tokyo and I was able to get a lifetime’s worth of “resu” from them. It was a heaven-sent opportunity but that experience definitely distorted my sense of values towards “resu”. What on earth is “resu” that makes people that crazy?

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Ryukyu Idol was the last performer of the event. Appearing in Tokyo Idol Festival (TIF) for the first time and holding solo concerts in Tokyo, the group seems to be flourishing in 2016, especially outside of Okinawa. Seeing them perform in their native Okinawa, made me wonder about the role of a local idol. What surprised and moved me most was their high degree of perfection as local idols.

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The representative of all local idols is probably Niigata prefecture’s Negicco. Formed in 2003 to promote “Yawahada Negi”, a local specialty, Negicco is now in their 13th year as an idol group. Having been the bottom of the heap for several years, they have matured to the point where they are within striking distance of performing at Nippon Budokan, the holy land of idols. The scene where they performed “Attoutekina Style” at Smile Garden on the final evening of TIF 2015 is still inscribed in my heart. The entire audience dancing in lines to the song, which could be seen as the general will of people wishing the luck of the group in the future. It is one of their achievements to spread the word “local idol” to such a degree.

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A while ago, Kouchi prefecture local idols Hachikin Girls were a hot topic of conversation. Since their formation in 2010, the group has been working energetically, eventually moving their base to Tokyo in 2014. However, Ayano Kawamura, known for her love for Hello! Project, withdrew from the group in June, 2016 and became a cadet of the agency in August of the same year. Her withdrawal is a real disappointment for Hachikin Girls but, at the same time she is one of the idols whom I have high expectations of in the future.

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Ayano Kawamura

The local idol award “U.M.U AWARD 2016” will be held again this year. It is a convention which is like a gateway to success for local idol. Negicco (Niigata) and manaminorisa (Hiroshima) are among the winners of the contest in the past. The preliminary trials have already started and Yamaguchi Kassei Gakuen (Yamaguchi) from Chugoku-Shikoku area and Menkoi Girls (Gunma) from Kanto-Koushinetsu have qualified to be in the finals. The number of these kind of events focusing on local idols is increasing, so the steady environment for local idols has expanded rapidly.

Here is a question for you. Is Dempagumi.inc a local idol group of Akihabara? Their brilliant achievement that humble workers at Akihabara Dear Stage could reach the stage of Nippon Budoukan has already affected the next-generation. Taking the place of AKB48, Dempagumi.inc no doubt plays an important role as the representatives of Akihabara. However, it must not be only me who feels a sense of strong wrongness calling them local idols and the feeling I think does not come from their huge popularity. The word “local” in local idol points at the areas outside of Tokyo where the idol culture prospers.

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Then, what does success mean to the local idol rooted in the more rural provinces? It should not be just to stand at the main stage of TIF or @JAM EXPO held in Tokyo.

The typical answer for the question might be providing contributions to their community. The figure of Negicco singing and dancing with “Yawahada Negi” left a strong impression and is firmly tied to the image of Niigata and the welsh onion together in people’s mind. “Gyu-No Fes” a series of idol events hosted by Gyu-Zo gathers many local idols from Tochigi like Tochiotome25. Tickets for “Gyu-No Fes in Utsunomiya” at the end of October seem to be almost sold out. The economic effect of this event can be immeasurable. It can be said a good example that the local idol contributes to their community.

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It is easy to view a local idol in the context of a group from the countryside coming to Tokyo, but what should be evaluated most can be the activities at home. RYUKYU IDOL reminded me of this point. They created an atmosphere like a festival with a freewheeling performance strengthened by the geographical advantage. That enthusiasm I experienced there differs greatly from that coming from the mass of their fans. I was convinced that Okinawa is the place they can shine the brightest. What the members see in their eyes should be their homeland.

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RYUKYU IDOL and Okinawa

Speaking of local idols within Japan so far, it would be more interesting to see the relationships as they are all over the world. A few days ago, I came across Ally and Sally from Canada as students studying abroad. They aim to become idol singers of the next-generation. The relationship between the world and Japan where idol culture flourishes may be established in the near future.


Related Links:
Negicco Official Website:http://negicco.net
RYUKYU IDOL Official Website:http://ryukyuidol.jimdo.com
U.M.U AWARD 2016 Official Website:http://umuaward.com
Ally & Sally Official Twitter:@moe_twinstyle

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Author
ykmk
ykmk

Growing up in Akihabara culture, ykmk became an otaku covering idol, anime, and pop music.

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