AKB48 Sings Its Way Into China’s Heart

One of the hottest things in Japan right now is the idol group AKB48. This army of teenage singers, besides experimenting with creepy, Frankenstein vocaloids, has taken the world by storm, topping Japanese pop charts for close to three years.

But are they more than just your run-of-the-mill idol group? Majirox reports that recently the group has pledged “idol diplomacy” to help with relations between Japan and China. Talk about going above and beyond the call of duty.

AKB48′s idol diplomacy raises a question: do Japan and China really need this extra attention to their foreign relations? Can’t they just get along?

Japan and China

Japan and China, while sharing very similar cultural roots and lots of language, haven’t always been on the best terms.

Discounting the hundreds and hundreds of years of battles between the two countries (because let’s face it: who wasn’t invaded by the Mongols?), the last hundred years of history between Japan and China have been especially tumultuous.

“This guy has a horse, let’s follow him!”

In the early 20th century, Japan pushed its influence across Asia occupying many countries, including China. Japan’s occupation brought with it destruction, death, and chaos. It was only with the combined power of Allied forces and Chinese rebels that Japan’s occupational government was forced out of mainland Asia.

But even in the Post-War era of peace, Japan and China haven’t eased up on their quarreling. China consistently takes issue with Japan’s Yaskuni Shrine, a Shinto shrine which houses the spirits of all of Japan’s war dead. In China’s eyes, any reverence to the war dead includes war criminals who ravaged China. Japan, on the other hands, sees praying at the shrine as a way to pay respects to all Japanese who died in the war.

Japan and China also have fought bitterly over a series of contested islands that sit between the two nations. This is despite the fact that these islands are mostly very small and sometimes even completely uninhabited.


The 3/11 earthquake and tsunami was an event so massive and devastating that even rivals like Japan and China set aside their differences to help rebuild. China, like many other countries helped Japan in its time of need by donating time, money, and effort into helping clean up the destruction.

Which leads me to the whole point of this post: AKB48. In order to thank the Chinese for their help during Japan’s trying times, the two countries organized Japan Shanghai Week 2011, a week in Shanghai when representatives from Japan could extend feelings of thanks and friendship with their neighbors to the west.

There were several different groups from Japan including businesses, cosplayers, and other organizations, but AKB48 was by far the most popular guest from Japan. Only AKB48′s appearance was so popular that it caused a security concern. People all over the world go nuts for AKB48.

Will a group of teenage idols succeed where generations of seasoned diplomats have failed? Doubtful, but they certainly will present a better face to the world than some politicians I know.

Left: a group of pretty young girls. Right: a prehistoric fish-man.

Realistically though, AKB48′s trip to China did about ten times more to promote the idol group than it did to ease relations between two neighboring countries. But I know one thing for sure: watching AKB48 videos make me feel like a dirty old man.

[yframe url='http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkHlnWFnA0c']


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  • Missingno15


  • Mark Weber

    Isn’t that the whole point of the band? Be as attractive as possible to make sure that you sell as much as possilbe?

  • Vika

    Being in Uni’ and watching the music video… I felt like a dirty individual for those five seconds.

    Thanks for the article; it is humourous and interesting overall. :D

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    It wouldn’t be an AKB48 post unless I made you facepalm, missing <3

  • ドラマティック

    So Prime Minister Noda isn’t getting in?

  • …………….

    That video is more of a video for dirty old men than a popular music video

  • Mark


  • http://twitter.com/Bbvoncrumb Stefan Bullivant


  • Anonymous

    I’d much rather watch that then a Katy Perry video… Also, the “prehistoric fish-man” caption made my day so much better.  Thanks for the laugh.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RC3XMUCEZRUAQ36PVX6UJSZT6Q Fernando Ursine

    wotas, I can see your moves :P

  • 繰り返し


  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    He’s just apprenticing atm

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    I’m glad you liked it! Writing captions is my favorite

  • http://twitter.com/21tigermike Michael A. Robson

    “has pledged “idol diplomacy” to help with relations between Japan and China”

    So someone’s decided to take a crack at the Chinese market since it’s 5 times the size of Japan. Good luck with that.

  • http://twitter.com/21tigermike Michael A. Robson

    “has pledged “idol diplomacy” to help with relations between Japan and China”

    So someone’s decided to take a crack at the Chinese market since it’s 5 times the size of Japan. Good luck with that.

  • Dustin

    They shouldve took perfume instead of them >:(

  • 繰り返し

    Look, there was only room on the plane for the army of idol singers, or the perfume sample that was cut out of a magazine. And that perfume sample’s been pretty worse for the wear ever since somebody tried to swallow it.

  • John

    But I like Perfume :(

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    If it SMELLS good shouldn’t it TASTE good?

  • Perry

    He’d be hoping that the members for the next single are chosen by janken again then…

  • vivi

    omg -.- i thought i’ve had enough of them and now they appeared in tofugu too?! T.T

  • http://profiles.google.com/jonadab.theunsightlyone Jonadab the Unsightly One

    The Chinese market isn’t as big as you think.

    Well, for physical products it is, at least potentially, but music falls into the same category as software and movies: it can just be copied.  Copyright law is almost totally ineffectual in China.  The government pays lip service to it, but de facto nobody is actually prevented from mass-producing and selling bazillions of unlicensed copies of anything.  In terms of profit that can be made, the market for Chinese-language materials is probably larger in California than in China.

  • http://profiles.google.com/jonadab.theunsightlyone Jonadab the Unsightly One

    > let’s face it: who wasn’t invaded by the Mongols?

    Oooh, oooh, I know this!  England wasn’t invaded by the Mongols.  (So far as we know, England has only been invaded three times:  once by Rome, once by the Angles and Saxons, and once by William of Normandy.)

    > watching AKB48 videos make me feel like a dirty old man.

    Also, the colors will give you a migraine.

  • Hailey

    Geeze, when I watch their videos I feel like a dirty old woman =/

  • Hailey

    Geeze, when I watch their videos I feel like a dirty old woman =/

  • Lisa

    I think you got it the ‘wrong’ perfume. He’s referring to a pop group called ‘Perfume’.

  • アキバモン

    *dun dun dun daaaahh~*

    A wild AKB48 has appeared!

    > Run

  • ガイ・パターソン

    JSYK, the girls next to that fish-man are SKE48…

  • Murtaza Syed

    i just now realized you overlayed a Chinese flag on that first picture. how sneaky of you.

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    I’m glad it was subtle

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    Oh, I thought that they still counted as AKB48. My mistake!

  • John

    I was wondering why the color looked so funny..

  • John

    Not to be confused with SDN48, NMB48, JKT48, HKT48, or OJS48. And for anyone who doesn’t know about Ojisan 48, please, please look into it, hahaha.

  • http://www.tofugu.com/ Hashi

    Wow, I thought you were kidding. Remind me to found a competing old man group, Oyaji 48 (OYJ48).