Singer Reina Tanaka was never a lighting rod for controversy. The 20-year-old is a member of the popular girl group Morning Musume. She has her own anime and a spin-off mobile phone game. That is, until she and two fellow group members offended Koreans.
On the singer's blog, Tanaka posted pictures of herself and fellow Morning Musume members Sayumi Michishige and Eri Kamei in which the girls were "slanting" their eyes.
Tanaka recounted a gag, referring to the images and writing, "Who's this?" The singer continued, adding, "A Korean person."
Note that in Japan, many Japanese believe that "tsurime" are a physical feature commonly found in South Korea and China.
The idol went on to say that South Korea is in vogue at the moment and Morning Musume members are getting into the South Korean "boom". The images, however, were quickly removed from Tanaka's blog, and the group's agency moved in for damage control. The agency that manages Morning Musume caught heat a few years back when another one of its idol groups nominated Adolf Hitler as a "great person" on network television. The young idols drew pictures of the Nazi dictator and referred to him as "Uncle Hitler".
According to MTV South Korea, Korean netizens realise the girls were being harmless, but are upset that girls weren't more culturally sensitive.
The three girls apologised for the photos.
Tanaka's mini idol empire was building steam with an anime and a puzzle video game, but in an increasing pan-Asia music industry, ignorance like this doesn't exactly build bridges.