After work today, I wandered into the Don Quijote building on Chuo-dori. On the gingko tree-lined pavement outside there was a queue for Hot Dogs. There are 8 floors inside. Escalators go up through the building`s centre, passing floors filled with erotic French maid outfits and girls school uniforms, video arcade machines and UFO catchers, cartoon creature-themed pillows and headwear as well as an impressive collection of frying pans.
On the 8th floor was the theatre for the all girl band AKB48. The AKB stands for Akihabara; in theory, the 48 represents how many members are in the band. In reality there are many more, almost double. AKB48 are enormously popular; they`re massive. In fact they`re hugely massive. Or should that be massively huge?
The theatre was dark and cramped. Standing inside, staring up at a big projected screen, were about 40 blokes. Most of them, like me, were arasa – around 30.
In part, I was just curious. In part, I was just passing. And in part, I`m attracted to AKB48 all myself. Their bubblegum pop songs haunt the city – you hear them while browsing in shops, waiting at traffic lights, or flicking through TV channels . There is no escape from their frothy, creamy, syrupy-sweet voices. A recent hit is called Heavy Rotation; it endlessly repeats the line “I Want You”. I have heard it so many times now they have almost convinced me – I just need one more verse.
It`s a guilty pleasure though. Just the mention of AKB48 makes me feel uncomfortable, even nauseous,; as if I have just eaten a curry-covered cream cake. The band members look like they are having fun, but their rehearsed smiles must conceal so much. Are they really happy or are they dying on the inside? And why do they have to wear SUCH short skirts?
In the theatre, the blokes stand quietly and respectfully; they are worshipping the big screen. Tokyo`s gods are now teenagers in tartan.
I`m not converted though, not until they put some trousers on. Unwilling to join the congregation, I loiter in the corridor. Headshot photos of the band members line one wall. On the opposite wall, hangs an MVP board for fans who have visited the theatre over 100 times. Hundred of fans have been immortalised as a Most Valuable Player. I scan the list. The first engraving that I read is dated 2009.10.07. The fan`s name, one of the few marked using the alphabet, is TOM. It appears I do belong.