On 9 June 2011, news of nuclear contamination in earthquake-stricken Japan took a backseat to the AKB48 General Election in the mass media. The third election of its kind for the all-girl idol group formed in 2005, it was a massive promotion and marketing blitz. In addition to fan-club members, anyone who had purchased their 21st single, “Everyday, Kachu ̄sha,” could vote. In a week, it sold 1,334,000 copies, a new record for a single sold in Japan.1 The results of the General Election were announced during a live ceremony at the Budo ̄kan, where some of the most famous musical acts in the world have performed. The ceremony was also streamed live to 86 theaters (97 screens) in Japan, everywhere from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south, and in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea (Barks Global Media 2011a). Fans were desperate for a seat—be it at the actual venue or the theaters—but tickets sold out almost instantly. This was more than just fanaticism. It was a media event and a public spectacle. The girls of AKB48 were pronounced “national idols” (kokumin-teki aidoru)—the performers “we” “Japanese” “all” know and love. The election was given prominent coverage by both print and television media, with as many as 150 outlets reporting on the event (Morita 2011). People were constantly updated on which of the members, nearly 200 by this point, would come out on top. They were kept up to speed on developments by online sites, cell phone news feeds, commercial and news spots on trains, and, of course, friends, family, coworkers, schoolmates, and everyone else who was talking about it. On the day of the General Election, the streets of Tokyo were buzzing with the names of AKB48 members. It was hard not to be involved in some way, if not intimately so.
Galbraith and Karlin, Idols and Celebrity in Japanese Media Culture, p1 ift.tt/1U4STAQ