Brain-Parent of AKB48 Akimoto Yasushi Talks About What He Thinks About Now and Then of Japanese Culture part.2

  April 23, 2012
In this stagnated economy, once prospered Japanese economy is, both in domestic and international media, commonly said to be doomed that they would never get back their once praised economical position, 2nd most richest country in the world in terms of both per ca-pita and aggregated GDP, and Japanese society has gradually lost confidence in itself. But these days as internet has been rapidly diminishing the border between cultures, we are discovering how our prejudice on how people from other parts of the world look at our own culture has distorted our way of cultural introduction to the world. We are rapidly realizing in this internet age, Japanese culture can go beyond from what only a few fans, learners or appreciators of Japanese culture know the real figure to a state of being connected and sharing it’s real to global citizens real-time. (previous story: Brain-Parent of AKB48 Akimoto Yasushi Talks About What He Thinks About Now and Then of Japanese Culture part.1)
AKB48プロジェクトの創造者、秋元 康が、いまの日本の、おもしろさを語る【2】

I’ve never had a thought of world domination. But if there are people who want to do the same, and if I feel passion from them, I am always willing to collaborate with them

We know Japanese mass pop culture has a very high level of sophistication, but I think we are surprised when we realized this can be so attractive to people from overseas.

Our service-oriented mind, or craftsmanship, or the quality of being fastidious to small details have been actually highly evaluated globally. But normally we’d thought like “maybe, we should do it more stylish way.” For instance, this situation is like…. sons or daughters of Tatami-craftman or Kyoji-artisan (picture frame designer) decided not to heir their father’s job and went to Italy to study furniture design… then their friend at the school talked to them “I want to learn how to design Tatami or Kyoji, can you teach me?”. That’s my image of this global age. It’s great, this is a great age.

In addition, Japan is still the world 2nd largest entertainment market, so when it comes to Movie or Music or whatever, it’s impossible to ignore Japan. That’s why people are closely watching Japan now, I think.

How did you get a concept of AKB?

About twenty years ago, when I was living in New York, BlueMan Group’s show has started. At that moment one thought struck me that unlike TV, which I has been engaged in from the beginning of my career, this kind of show exclusively held in a small thetre and it’s difficulty to get a premium ticket makes me really intrigued to the event and really wanted to take a look.

So, first of all, I wanted to set up a theatre. And I wanted to keep our show continue for a long time. For example I was picturing Lido or Crazy Horse in Paris. Both are the place to have alcohol, but it can be interesting to present a show everyday without drinks. That’s a basic frame of our first concept.

Before I reached this concept, I also considered musical. But I figured it would get boring if we continue doing musical again and again everyday. So I thought Revue is the best for our show, but it’s not enough just do Revue normally, how about doing Revue performed by idols? I thought. Starting from this thought, I grabbed the concept “idol who you can meet.”

Normally we are following our favorite idols or waiting them at the exit of TV studio etc. to meet them. But there were no such idols who we can meet if you go to a certain place, so I thought this is gonna be interesting.

That concept lead to the birth of AKB theatre in Akihabara, and six years later from then, Jakarta-based group JKT48 was formed in Indonesia. This marked the first export of AKB concept.

(As he repeatedly stated) I’ve never had a thought of world domination. But if there are people who watched AKB online and thought they want to do the same in their home, if I feel passion from them, I am always willing to collaborate with them.

Then I happened to get an offer from Jakarta, so there’s no particular reason why Jakarta is the first overseas project for AKB. Now JKT48 girls are starring TV commercial for PocaliSweat, and we got several other offers already. While in Taiwan, members of AKB are starring in Seven Eleven’s commercial.

There is an idea that they (overseas group) do the same from their home as AKB is doing, that visit many foreign cities to hold concerts. So we basically do audition in their local city and form local version of 48 just like we do in Japan for SKE, NMB and HKT. Our project will soon spread to other parts of Asia, the day we will see Taipei48 and Bangkok48 is not far away.

I hope these projects and “Cool Japan” movement, which Japanese government is leading, are synergised together, help a lot of people know the country, appeal the well-made Japanese products to the world, and ultimately welcome many people visiting Japan. Generating this cycle is my present hope.

How AKB is doing in Europe and America? (coming soon)

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Akimoto Yasushi
Songwriter of the greatest hits, including “Kawanonagarenoyouni” by Hibari Misora. All 5 songs ranked in top-5 in Oricon sales chart in 2011 were the songs he wrote for AKB48, and all recorded the million sales, including “Flying Get”, which won “Record Taisyo Award”. Vice president of Kyto Zokei University, Chairman of TV and Radio Writer’s Association of Japan, Director of Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers