In the Past Distance Between Idols and Fans Didn’t Matter, but Now They Provide Support to Each Other

In the Past Distance Between Idols and Fans Didn’t Matter, but Now They Provide Support to Each Other

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Suddenly it begins to pour, and you run towards the nearest underpass to take shelter until the rain passes… And you discover that you’re not alone! She turns to you and says, “It’s pretty bad out there, isn’t it?” and then you realize that, oh my god! It’s your favorite idol. This is the kind of random encounter many idol fans have dreamt about before.

In fact it’s even happened before, like with Chiemi Hori, where one chance encounter with a fan lead to many more, and eventually they both tied the knot. As an idol fan myself, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it would be like to run into my favorite idols more than once, even if it would be nothing short of a miracle.

Actually, though, I really have run randomly run into idols before. Once, in the morning, while I was waiting at the west gate of Shinjuku Station for a friend I always walked to school with, I noticed Reiko Miura from CoCo doing the same. Or rather, I should add, this happened before she’d made her debut.


This is what JR Shinjuku Station’s west gate looks like now. Before automatic ticket gates were introduced, there was a pillar that stood outside the gates. This is where Rieko Miura and I stood as we waited, although now I think this spot is located where the automated gates now stand. 現在のJR新宿駅西口改札。自動改札が導入される前、実際の改札部分は柱ひとつぶん外側にあった。筆者と三浦理恵子が待ち合わせで使っていた場所は、今の改札機に挟まれている柱だったと思う

Her voice already had that appealing “cat-like” quality to it, and overall, she was really cute. Because we would see each other there almost every day, we began to give each other a nod, and when I finally gathered the courage to speak to her, we would sometimes make small talk.

So, you could probably imagine my surprise when she debuted as an idol. By the way, she attended Hinode Girls’ Academy High School (which was later renamed to Hinode Senior High School). At the time it was an all-girls school, and a number of girls from there went on to become idols.


I have to confess that in the end, after she’d become an idol, I wrote a fan letter (or love letter..?) to give to her to show my support. Here’s sketch of what the original letter’s envelope looked like. I remember that I kept it in an 8 cm copy of Yasuyuki Okamura’s “Daisuki”. I was already into the full-blown stages of adolescence. Of course, you can probably guess how things turned out… 執筆ついでに告白すると、筆者はアイドルになってからの三浦理恵子にエールを送る意味も込めてファンレター(ラブレターかな?)を渡した。その時に描いたオリジナルレターの封筒絵柄の下絵。8cmCDで発売されていた岡村靖幸の「だいすき」を同封した記憶がある。かなりの中二病だ。結果は……もちろん……

After she debuted as a member of CoCo, I would see people who appeared to be fans hanging around this morning meet-up place. During this time SNS didn’t exist, so I have to marvel at how amazing the idol fan information network was back then. Because of this, I hardly ever had the chance to see her anymore.

Because there were no cellphones back then, there wasn’t really a good way for us to exchange contact info. Even though I wasn’t able to really see Rieko after she became an idol, those random encounters we shared are a treasured memory. So anyways, what I’m saying is, random idol encounters do happen.

And, because I’ve given up on the thought of ever being “cool”, I’ll share one more thing with you all.

Because, as I mentioned before, there were no cellphones back then, there was at least one spot where you could see the members of CoCo every day. Probably to get together to go to Paradise GoGo!!, a program they appeared in then, they would meet up at the south exist of Shinjuku Station. There they would meet staff workers or confirm the location of a certain parked car. Public phones were lined up along Mosaic Street, which connected the west and south exits, and I often saw members using these phones to make a call. Though I often spent my free time there, because of what I knew, when I look back on things now, it was definitely a “forbidden project” of mine. (laugh)


This is Shinjuku Mylord’s Mosaic Street, which the members of CoCo often walked. Now, information like this would have immediately been spread online. Speaking of which, at the time, there was a small stage, and CoCo’s debut event was held there. As an onlooker, I had mixed feelings. CoCoのメンバーがよく歩いていた新宿ミロードの「モザイク通り」。こうした情報も、いまならネットで一気に拡散したことだろう。ちなみに当時、ここに小さなステージがあり、CoCoのデビューイベントが行われた。見るほうとしては、なんか複雑な気持ちだった

Though really, I don’t really think individual fans were given that much attention. Because the internet (or SNS) didn’t exist then, you couldn’t get information out there that quickly, and unlike today, there weren’t as many opportunities to meet idols. Of course there were the excessive cases of someone trying to chase after them, but even if someone decided to engage in forbidden behavior, one should take into consideration that not many people knew an idol’s personal details.

Previously in this series I introduced the idol private shot and stage photo magazine, Idol Toko Nama Shashin (Raw Idol Photo Submissions), and photos of idols on their way to school often appeared in it. It’s unlikely that they had given permission to be photographed while on the way to school and the like, and it was common for the press wait outside of venues for idols to enter and leave, and show idols greeting their fans before entering the building and as they exited it. Their press schedules would often be made public in advance, so that groupies and bigger fans could irimachi (wait for them to enter) and demachi (wait for them to leave).


Private shots of idols were often published in Idol Toko Nama Shashin (Raw Idol Photo Submissions). They had a section dedicated to shots of idols on their way home from school, as well as ones where idols would be looking directly into the camera, and you can see a big difference in the relationship between idols and fans in the past, compared to how it is now. 「アイドル投稿生写真」には、プライベートなアイドルの写真がよく投稿されていた。学校帰りのアイドルを撮影したコーナーも用意されており、普通にカメラ目線での写真もあったりして、当時のアイドルとファンの関係が今と大きく異なるのがわかる

Because you can often meet idols at events now, irimachi and demachi is prohibited, or strongly regarded as taboo. Basically, any contact outside of a designated meeting place is now frowned upon. You can see this attitude reflected in the psyche of the fans, where if today, a fan were to meet an idol they admired, many would go out of their way to put some distance between themselves and that particular idol.

Although idols during the 80s and 90s participated in handshake events, they weren’t held as frequently. That’s why being able to meet idols elsewhere was considered something extraordinary, and now that I think about it, likely the reason fans didn’t feel guilty about approaching them in those kinds of situations. Idols didn’t pay as much attention to their fans, and in the eyes of fans, the sense that they were just “ordinary people”, too, wasn’t as prevalent.

Due to the fact that there’s less distance between idols and fans now than before, and that there are events where you can meet idols going on every day, fans have become incredibly nervous to reach out to idols during their private time. One reason is because of how easily information spreads on the internet, but another is that, in return for being able to meet idols regularly, fans respect their private time as off-limits.

To begin with, in the 80s and 90s, the handling of personal information was very lax. Using CoCo as an example again, when I found out that Azusa Senou was a student of Atsugi Kita Senior High School, I was able to use Townpage to immediately find the area her house was located in by looking up her last name in the school directory. When I was a student, I had lived in the area before, and with the information I had gathered, I set out to find Azusa’s house. This was most definitely another “forbidden project”.


This is a comic I drew about trying to find Azusa Senou’s house. (Top) Remember, I was going through middle stages of adolescence. 当時筆者が描いた、瀬能あづさの家を探すということをテーマにした自作漫画。完全に中二病。


Recently I revisited this neighborhood, and found this same, cheap sweets shop was still there. The nearby riverbank was just as I had remembered it, and felt very nostalgic. 最近、この近辺に行ってきたのだが、当時の駄菓子屋がまだ営業していたり、近くの河原の雰囲気もそのままだったりして、懐かしくなった


You can see the characters “Kita High” on the chalkboard that appears in the magazine Chou Dekadanku Joshi CoCoSei Special. Azusa Senou, who was from Atsugi, immediately springs to mind. 雑誌「超デカダンク 女子CoCo生スペシャル」にて、黒板に「北高」の文字。厚木出身の瀬能あづさが書いたとしか思えない。


Additionally, during a radio program she mentioned working at Royal Host (a family-style restaurant) in Atsugi before joining Otome Juku, and today there’s a Cowboy Family (another restaurant owned by the same company) where Royal Host used to be. また、乙女塾に入る直前まで厚木のロイヤルホストでバイトをしていたというのをラジオ番組で話していたが、そのロイヤルホストは、現在は「カウボーイ家族」になっている

Not just limited to Azusa Senou, there were other special magazines dedicated to idol bedrooms and the like where personal information, that would be treated as secret nowadays, was likely compromised. Also, you could find out what idol attended which school with relative ease. In cases like these as well, personal information about idols was handled rather loosely.


For example, Eriko Tamura’s CD Danku visits her family’s home in Katsuta City (now known as Hitachinaka City) in Ibaraki prefecture, and shows pictures of her room and the elementary school she attended. Furthermore, the magazine Jidai Eiga during these years included many personal details about idols, and I would eagerly read it from corner to corner. 例えば「田村英里子 CDダンク」では、茨城県勝田市(現:ひたちなか市)の実家を訪れ、部屋の写真や通っていた小学校などの写真を掲載していた。また、当時は雑誌「近代映画」がアイドルのプライベートな部分について取材していることが多く、隅々まで熟読していた

I realize I’ve taken up a lot of space writing about idol personal information, but now I’d like to revisit the “random encounter” story from the beginning of this piece, and note that even if idol fans today still imagine situations like these, if they were to actually occur in real life, I doubt many of them would act on them. With so much information available on the web now, even if you had happened to be in the same place and the same time by pure coincidence, chances are they’d be suspicious and ask you something like, “Why are you here?” That’s because idols are protective of their personal information. Fans wouldn’t want to run the risk of their favorite idols thinking they were up to something, so in real life they’d likely step back and give them their space.

Perhaps this way of thinking wouldn’t hold up overseas. For example, when Japanese people meet another Japanese person while traveling abroad, even if they’re complete strangers, they feel some sort of familiarity. Surely the reaction would be the similar between an idol and a fan, and with an overseas performance, be friendly about random street encounters or okay with demachi (waiting for an idol to exit the venue).


Here’s a panel from the Taiwan Manga Expo. Fans are demachi-ing for Niji no Conquistador. For events like these overseas, the sense of distance between idols and fans may change. 「台湾漫画博覧会」でのひとコマ。虹のコンキスタドールを出待ちするファンたち。海外のイベントなどでは、アイドルとファンの距離感が変わってくるのかもしれない

I think the current period is one where both idols and fans seek to control the amount of distance between one another. Using the internet, idols can reveal private information intended for their fans. Of course, I think rules probably exist about not revealing anything past whatever line that idol has drawn. At the same time, fans recognize this line, and try not to cross into private matters beyond it. As fans have closed the distance between them, they’ve also made sure to set boundaries, making for the relationship they share a somewhat strange one.

Feature song: CoCo – “Equal Romance”

Read the author’s serialization about “idols’ past and present” more

Translated by Jamie Koide

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Toshiro Arai

A producer of website "TOKYO IDOL NET", which "photography" and "idol" is its concept. He also writes for Tokyo Idol Project, and so on.

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