Did you know that 10,000 teenaged Japanese girls between identify themselves as “idols”? Or that these idols are a $1 billion a year industry? Kyoko Miyake’s Tokyo Idols is a captivating documentary which explores Japan’s fascination with girl groups and the cultural obsession with young female sexuality and the growing disconnect between men and women in hyper modern societies.
We follow Rio,19, and her journey to become an idol. Through a montage of her performances, we learn that idols seldom play instruments; instead they sing terribly-written songs in school uniforms and colourful, fanciful clothes while dancing to J-Pop music. Miyake’s film brings the Western audience a unique insight into these bizarre cultural figures but the most interesting element of this phenomenon comes from the idol’s audience.
The majority of the idols’ fanbase are middle-aged men who develop a one-sided romantic investment in these singers. Fans like Koji Yoshida, 43, spend thousands of dollars a month on concerts, merchandise and meet and greets which allow them to live out their fantasies – often at the cost of real adult relationships. Their relationship with idols is portrayed as paedophilic as the documentary reveals that shaking hands was considered a sexual gesture in Japan before showing these men holding hands with girls as young as ten. Their perverse fetishes are condemned by journalist Minori Kitahara who also worries about the objectification of these girls – unfortunately, her interesting input is minimal as Miyake chooses to linger on the idol fanbase. Miyake may not have a clear stance on idol culture but Tokyo Idol still brings the audience an exceptional and unmissable insight into idol culture that is sure to leave you wanting to more.