In 2008, Asami Sakurada (above, red beret) was unknown. She spent that September dressed as an Xbox Event companion at the Tokyo Game Show.
Even in early 2010, she was doing booth companion work, appearing at AOU arcade show in the Konami booth. But by late 2010, she had a huge fan base, TV appearances, a record deal, and a hit song about, well, fucking.
Japanese booth companions don't quite get the numerous fans that voice actresses do or bikini models, but many of them do have hardcore fans who follow them from event to event, read their blogs or tweets. Sakurada was no exception - but the blog she wrote while working as a game and tech convention booth companion has since been deleted. Ditto for her old Twitter account. She's been reborn as "Fantasista Sakurada", Ayaman Japan's Boob Boss.
Ayaman Japan's popularity exploded in late 2010. The group describes themselves as idols. But they're not idols in the traditional sense. Idols are supposed to be pure, beyond reproach. These girls are anything but.
The leader of Ayaman Japan is a twentysomething-year-old named Ayaman, who is the group's Crotch Boss (the group also has an arse Boss). There are apparently over a hundred Ayaman Japan members, and what they do is show up at parties and bars and play games, sing songs, flirt and generally act silly. Their performances are called "enkai gei" and are designed to get people in the mood to unwind, toss down booze, and have fun.
In the last several years, some Japanese fashion models have moved away from being overtly cute to being either gross or simply silly. Take Jun Komori, who started out as your typical Popteen fashion model, but was able to separate herself by her funny faces and land a role in Yakuza: Of the End. It's similar to what Jenny McCarthy did so she wouldn't be viewed as just another Playboy bunny.
Ayaman Japan isn't kids' stuff: their games include a rhythm one about shaving pubic hair; another "roller coaster" game in which one of them straddles a man's shoulders, while other members rubbed their clothed breasts in his face.
The infamous "roller coaster" gag. (NTV)
"If AKB48 are idols you can meet," leader Ayaman recently said on variety show Shabekuri 007, "we're idols you can..." That last bit was bleeped out on television.
Ayaman Japan says it's an amateur group, and thus doesn't accept money when its members appear at parties or events. Apparently, they'll show up anywhere, anytime. The catch is that you have to know one of its hundred members to get them to appear.
The notion that there are a hundred Ayaman Japan party girls, just waiting to make lewd jokes and sing silly songs seems far fetched - even for Japan. There are accounts online of people who claimed to have partied with Ayaman members, compromising pics of supposed members, either drunk, topless, or both. All this fuels the Ayaman Japan mythos.
In Japan, there are "Gal Circles", which are basically clubs with rules. In the 1970s and 1980s, there were girl gangs in Japan, getting in fights, riding motorbikes and stealing things. Gal circles are different. They not only dress similarly (in flashy "gal" fashion) and engage in line-style "para para" dancing, but gal circles, like Angeleek, have rules.
Sakurada at the Microsoft's TGS booth (パメラネの部屋)
Members of Angeleek, perhaps the biggest and most famous gal circle, have to agree to stipulations like, "You must be polite", "You must create a fun atmosphere", and even, "You can't have a smelly pussy". The Eurobeat-infused para para dancing, with its origins in the traditional dances of Japanese summer festivals, is synonymous with gal circles. Gal circles also hold dance events at clubs, which means they can be a money-making enterprise.
Ayaman Japan takes gal circles, para para dancing, and hyper sexuality and repackages that in a silly, catchy song "Poi Poi Poi Po Poi Poi Po Pi" that's all about boobs, muscles, dicks and getting off. Besides being the Boob Boss, Sakurada is in charge of coming up with new Ayaman Japan drinking games. Sure beats passing out fliers at the Tokyo Game Show, I guess!
Culture Smash is a daily dose of things topical, interesting and sometimes even awesome - game related and beyond.
Top photo: Yoshimoto R and C