Fans of Japanese pop group AKB48 will be subjected to airport-style security should they attend the group's upcoming handshaking event. There's good reason for the increased security.
Picture: Fuji TV
In late May, two members of the group were slashed by an attacker at one of the group's handshaking events. Thankfully, the members survived the incident. The group promised it would not end the fan meet-and-greets, but as seen in images recently released on the group's official blog, there will be radical changes in how fans and the group interact at this weekend's handshaking event.
AKB48 is one of the biggest-selling groups in Japan -- and the world. They have also appeared in their own video games. Earlier this year, an AKB48-themed arcade game was released in Japan.
Tickets to such events are included in CDs, which helps explain one reason why AKB48 fans continue to buy the physical discs. (Note that there are other ways to get handshake tickets.) The lines for the events are often huge. For example:
Picture: TV Tokyo
In the past, there has been security, with dudes in dark suits ushering fans through, allotting each only several seconds with the group's members. However, the security wasn't enough to prevent the recent attack.
The new checks are rather invasive. There's a bag check, and you must take everything out of the bag's pockets.
There are metal detectors for body checks. Oh, and fans with drinks must drink the beverages before a security guard to make sure the liquids are safe! Also, fans are not allowed to wear things that cover their face. Likewise, gloves must be removed, and security staff might ask hats to be removed as well.
When fans greet their favourite AKB48 member, they are not allowed to shake both hands, nor are they allowed to cross their hands. Also, they are asked not to put one of their hands on the table or even lean forward.
Instead, fans extend their hand. And the AKB48 member will shake it. And then, the fan will exit the handshake area and pick up his or her bag.
On 2ch, Japan's largest internet forum, fans chimed in about these changes. "Well, this look like a pain in the arse," wrote one. "People want to shake hands this badly?" asked another.
"It's more amazing that they didn't get rid of these handshake events," added one commenter. It was pointed out that if the group no longer had such events, it would impact its popularity. "This is the beginning of the end," prophesied one commenter. Another commenter wrote, "You'd think having this from the beginning would have been rather obvious."
AKB48 was originally launched with the concept of "idols you can meet." A terrible attack has unfortunately made that more difficult. They're now "idols you can meet after undergoing several security checks."
2014年7月5日(土)東京ビッグサイト 劇場盤発売記念 大握手会の流れと注意事項 [AKB48 Official Blog]