“Shio Taiou”: When Japanese Idols Pour On The Salty Treatment
Idols are typically friendly, cheerful, and easy to approach but recently, there has been media attention given to a type of idol who could be considered a complete failure by those standards. The phrase for this is “shio taiou” (塩対応), which literally means “salty interaction”. It is where someone will be cold, blunt, and detached when you meet them. It differs slightly from the more common use of the word salty used to describe people who are mad and while this is generally seen as a detractor, it seems there are quite a few who like this treatment as well.
Most famous example of someone known for “shio taiou” in the world of Japanese idols is Haruka Shimazaki (aka Paruru) from AKB48. She has been called “ponkotsu”(piece of junk) by Yasushi Akimoto and other members of the group in the past for her miscues and even though it was proven that those claims were largely exaggerated, the tag has stuck with her. When “DOCUMENTARY OF AKB48 NO FLOWER WITHOUT RAIN” opened in theaters across Japan in 2013, there was a limited run of special popcorn boxes with Shimazaki’s image on them with the contents being marketed as “shio taiou-flavored”. Previously cast as “Paruru” in the 3rd season of the drama Majisuka Gakuen, Shimazaki was given the name “Salt” in seasons 4 and 5. Despite it all, she has climbed up the ranks of popular members in the group.
A lot of fan interaction with idols comes through handshake events (akushukai 握手会) so, being able to interact well with the fans is one of the important talents to have, maybe even more so than singing or dancing. Those who are good at making fans feel welcomed and want to come back again and again are said to have “kami taiou” (神対応), likening their ability to that of a religious experience. Idols who have “kami taiou” are often called “tsurishi” (釣り師), which is Japanese for “angler or fisherman”, referring to their ability to reel in the hearts of fans.
One of top “tsurishi” of the 48 groups is Akari Suda (SKE48), who is claimed to have the ability to make anyone like her after meeting her just once. Suda makes sure to make proper eye contact while maintaining a firm grip on the hands of the fans she is meeting. On top of that, she makes an effort to notice small details about them and often remembers those who go to the events often. If you search “Akari Suda handshake” in English or Japanese, you can definitely find more information on her technique.
In contrast, someone notorious for “shio taiou” like Shimazaki, will generally offer up a limp handshake, avoid eye contact and will make as little effort as possible when it comes to the conversation. Even if you make the effort to think up something interesting to talk about to show how much of a fan you are, the response might be a simple “oh, really?” and a blank stare.
It is easy to understand why fans like someone like Suda, who makes them feel special when meeting her but, what is it about “shio taiou” that keeps fans coming back? Is it the challenge of trying to get through and be acknowledged and remembered? Are they masochists who love torturing themselves? More importantly, what will happen now that Shimazaki admitted during her speech at the 2015 AKB48 Senbatsu Sousenkyo that she couldn’t go on being salty?
Haruka Shimazaki Official Twitter: https://twitter.com/paruruchan0330
Akari Suda Google+ page: https://plus.google.com/115975634910643785199/posts
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