Much like sleeping on the train or eating fermented beans, idols are extremely popular in Japan.
Despite the name, they’ve actually got very little to do with golden calves. They’re actually young women who sing catchy J-pop and appear on TV a lot.
Not strictly relevant.
AKB48 is a good example. It’s a group which, as of April 2011, has 56 members, making it the largest in the world. Here’s about one-third of them:
AKB48 have sold millions of singles and have a rabid fanbase. They perform every day of the week at their dedicated theatre in Akihabara, an area in Tokyo from which the group gets its name. Other attractions of Akihabara include discount electronic goods and lots of….alternative comics.
Another famous idol group are Morning Musume, who are the biggest-selling female group in Japan. They differentiate themselves from their J-pop contemporaries by singing upbeat tunes and performing choreographed dance routines.
Morning Musume are also well-known for making changes to their line-up every year. Given that the group has been going since 1997 it can be difficult to keep track of who’s actually in it. Luckily this graph can help: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/55/Mmchronicle.jpg
Obsessing over idols is nothing new. In fact, Japanese people have been filling their homes with images of their favourite pop stars for years.
See if you can spot this one.