Fans Happy to Meet Idols in the Past and in the Present! Special Idol Event Stories From Then and Now

今も昔もアイドルに会えるのは嬉しい! 接触イベント今昔物語
Fans Happy to Meet Idols in the Past and in the Present! Special Idol Event Stories From Then and Now

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As someone who was an idol fan in the 80s and 90s, but has now time traveled to the present, I’ve been thinking about what surprises me most. I would have to say it’s actually meeting the idols. In the very least on the weekends, or at the most practically every day, you can now meet and talk with your favorite idols.

When you think about idol contact events from the 80s and 90s, basically they were handshake meet and greet perks for those attending new release events. At the most, during release periods often there was one a week. You had to look hard to find information about them from, naturally from fan club member newsletters, as well as television, radio, and magazines, and then eagerly and patiently wait until the event.


During the 80s and 90s, event information was written into the magazine profile section and so on. This one happens to be an announcement for Noriko Sakai’s fan club opening ceremony at Korakuen Hall. It was often necessary to contact the fan club to get detailed information.80、90年代は、雑誌のプロフィール紹介部分などにイベント告知が書かれていた。ちなみにこちらは、酒井法子の後楽園ホールでのファンクラブ結成式の告知。イベントの詳細を得るために、ファンクラブに問い合わせることも多かった

Then, once it was time for the handshake event, it was nerve-wracking trying to come up with something good to say.

But surprisingly these so-called “idol contact events” are being carried out daily with an amazing amount of ease. Those who attended events during the 80s and 90s might have a hard time believing they’re actually idols. There are girls who talk to their fans as if they were friends, and those that call their fans by name. Then there are those who will let you take a memorial picture together while making a heart sign… Of course, it must feel like heaven to experience, but it seems like it must have been hell at first.


The majority of current idol contact events include taking a polaroid (cheki). They’ll even sign their name or write a message on the blank, white part. These instant polaroid (cheki) cameras, which first appeared during the late 90s, have now become an integral part of the idol scene. 今の接触イベントの主流はチェキ撮影だろう。撮影した写真の余白にサインやメッセージを入れてくれる。90年代後半に登場したインスタントカメラ・チェキは、今やアイドル現場には欠かせない存在となっている

But during the 80s and 90s it wasn’t so easy to meet your favorite idol.

When I think about it, I just have to remark again how amazing AKB48’s “idols that you can meet” concept is. Nowadays it seems normal, but people with their image of idols in the 80s and 90s probably would have thought, “That kind of idol exists?!” Of course, since the time when idols began touring live houses there were an increasing number of events where you could get closer to idols and meet them, but having that as an actual concept is really astounding. Especially now that this concept has been established as one of an idol’s many charms.

But how did idol fans in the 80s and 90s meet their favorite idols? I’d like to focus on this topic by sharing with you some of my own personal experiences.

To begin with, as I wrote earlier, your best chance at meeting an idol used to be release events. You were given one handshake ticket with the purchase of one record, to a live event where the idol would sing the new song and you could shake their hand. These events were mostly held on the rooftops of department stores or in a designated event space on one of the sales floors, and the handshake event usually took place on stage. Rules weren’t very strict and you could and you could hand presents and letters to the idols then and there. If current idol fans picture Ikebukuro Sunshine City’s Fountain Square area, it’s probably easy to imagine this kind of style. That’s because this square’s event format hasn’t changed. During the 80s it was already being used as an idol event space, and it was where I first shook hands with Noriko Sakai.


Ikebukuro Sunshine City’s Fountain Square. Since way back when, it’s been used as an idol event space. With its open layout, one of its features is that you can look down on the stage from above. By the way, this is where PASSPO☆ held the release event for, and first performed, “Perfect Sky”.池袋サンシャインシティ噴水広場。昔からアイドルのイベントが行われていた場所でもある。吹き抜けになっており、ステージを俯瞰で見ることができるという特徴もある。ちなみにこちらはシングル『Perfect Sky』のリリースイベントにて初披露されたバンドPASSPO☆の様子

When people hear the phrase “handshake event”, they may think recent idols, or more specifically AKB48, started them, but actually they were frequently held as a bonus in the 80s. Even Seiko Matsuda and Akina Nakamori did them. I believe handshake events were first established in the late 80s.

There were also idols that turned handshake meets into large-scale events before they became common. Ones like Momoko Kikuchi’s “Nation-wide 250,000 Person Handshake Event” were particularly famous. This event commemorated the release of “Natsuiro Kataomoi”, and was held at 12 places across Japan. On the final day at the World Memorial Hall in Kobe, it was said that she shook hands with around 10,000 fans. This is about the same number of fans that AKB48 currently nets, but she did it all by herself. As far as groups go, ribbon held a free hand shake event at Hibiya Yaon to commemorate the release of “Ano Ko ni Yoroshiku”. Although it was rough lining up under the scorching sun during the middle of summer, I remember feeling energized by watching the three of them giving their all. It’s worth mentioning that the handshake event took place on stage. Going up on the Yaon stage was quite moving.


Inside the gorgeous booklet that came with Momoko Kikuchi Premium Collection LEGEND, there was an announcement about the “Nation-wide 250,000 Person Handshake Event”. Apparently by the end she shook hands with 270,000 people. Gathering 6,000 people on the rooftop of a department store was really something else. 『菊池桃子 プレミアム・コレクション LEGEND』に封入されている豪華ブックレットには、『全国25万人握手会』の様子が紹介されている。最終的には27万人と握手をしたそうだ。デパートの屋上に6000人というのがすごい

There were also fan-limited events in addition to these large-scale ones. They were referred to as “fan meets”, but you could say they were closer in atmosphere to limited idol dining events. There was a Q&A corner and you could see them up close. Besides that, there were events that coincided with birthdays and anniversaries, and I remember getting Chocolates from Risa Tachibana once on Valentine’s Day. For example, Eriko Tamura held a cruising event for the launch of her fan club. On board the boat, which sailed around Tokyo Bay, there was a quiz tournament and a mini concert, and fans had a great time.


Eriko Tamura’s “Fan Club Commemoration Ceremony” was celebrated with a cruise. It departed from and returned to Takeshiba Pier. Occasionally there are boat concert events now, and they existed back in the 80s, too.田村英里子の『ファンクラブ結成式』はグルージングで行われた。竹芝桟橋から出発して戻って来る、というもの。今でも時々船上ライブイベントなどが行われるが、80年代にもあったのだ


Although this may be slightly deviating from the subject of idol contact events, another big difference from events today and those held back then was that most of them allowed taking pictures. During concerts there were many fans recording the event, called “camera boys”. Looking out from the stage there were the camera boys, regular fans behind them, and then bigger fans behind them, in that order. The biggest fans were those furthest away, which is another significant difference.

At first I thought I would end this piece by saying how current idol fans were blessed with a multitude of idol contact events. However as I was writing it, I was able to more vividly recall those events from the 80s and 90s, and their impression has been deeper, which I’m greatly thankful for. Now with the internet, you can get all the information you need via SNS. There are many times where there will be a message saying, “There will be an event tomorrow. Please come!” and you can go there the next day.

In the 80s and 90s, first you had to start by finding the information yourself. Then there was a long waiting period between the announcement and the actual event, so there was a lot to think about and prepare. I’m sure it was the same for the event organizers, who had a lot of time to put into making it the best they could for fans.


You can list idol event information and the like with Tokyo Girls’ Scheduler. Even though there are a great number of events listed, including those on weekdays, there are also many that aren’t. Now there’s always an idol event going on somewhere every day. アイドルのイベント情報などを一覧できる『Tokyo Girls’ Scheduler』。平日でもイベント情報がズラリと並んでいるが、ここに掲載されていないイベントも多く存在する。今は毎日必ず、どこかでアイドルイベントが行われているのだ

Tokyo Girls’ Scheduler :

Of course, even current events are organized with a lot of effort, but to some extent the fans seem mechanical, and even the idols themselves. It might come as a shock coming back from the past to the present, where “meeting idols” seems to have lost some of its splendor. But on the other hand, there’s also a sense of enjoyment that comes from being so close them, and as you’re lining up in the polaroid (cheki) line, you can readily imagine the happy expression on their face as they begin taking pictures.

Feature Song: Momoko Kikuchi – “Natsuiro Kataomoi” (“Summer-Colored Crush”)

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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