They Work Hard For You

I had originally planned to do this article a month or so back as a community article when a bunch of AKB members were getting sick, some of them repeatedly. Things didn’t quite work out though due to a combination of me getting a more official role here at NSK and my not feeling as if there was enough to say on this particular subject until now.

In this article I want to look at how hard these girls are working to bring us entertainment and why we all shouldn’t just write off being an idol as being an easy job. I’ll talk about some of the things I’ve read on the go to place to stalk your favourite idols Google+, and what my feelings are on this side of idols that I don’t think gets talked about nearly enough.

Boring but necessary introduction over with, please read on for the rest of the article.

Some people out there do actually think that being an idol is an easy job. I mean, how hard can posing for photo shoots and performing the same dance routines over and over be, right? Well it takes a lot of time and effort to learn those routines and a lot of long days go into those photo shoots. Facts that I’m sure the Google+ users reading this can back me up on.

Google+ is probably the perfect illustration of how rough your work days can be as an idol. Now I don’t follow absolutely everyone on Google+ like some people but the members I do follow, especially the girls from NMB48 have an insane work rate. As such, I’ll be drawing on a NMB48 member as an example for this article. The member in question being Team N’s Yamada Nana. You should all be following her on Google+. If you aren’t already doing so go do it now. Don’t worry I’ll wait.

I don’t really know how Nana does it in all honesty. She, like most of the girls gets up at some ungodly hour of the morning, around 5-5.30am. I know this because she usually posts something to the effect of “Good morning. I’m off to work now”. We’ll maybe then get the odd update throughout the day like “I’m doing a shoot for X” or “Finished work. I have classes next.” so these girls’ days are pretty jam packed, which is to be expected of a popular music act anywhere in the world. The thing that really bothers me is just how much sleep these girls are getting, or aren’t in the majority of cases.

On at least two occasions in the past week Yamada Nana has pulled what I worked out to be roughly 22 hour days. She got up at 5.30am and eventually made it to bed at around 3.30am the following day. The crazy thing is that she’s then up and away to work again barely three hours later. Nana even acknowledges this by stating how tired she is and lamenting the fact that she only got to sleep for a few hours. If further proof is needed she even posts pictures of herself with bloodshot eyes and a pout on her face.

There’s been a few other examples of crazy work schedules that I’ve seen over the past week or so but most are similar to what has already been described previously. One of the more surprising to me being Team N captain Yamamoto Sayaka having a shoot end at 3.30am, which I think is just incredible. It has to be said that she does frequently post updates at around that time most days anyway though. Now that I think about it, I don’t think many of the girls that I follow on Google+ make it to bed before 2am most days.

I think I’ve probably done enough at this point to provide you with a good example of how hard all of these girls work. Hopefully I’ve managed to change the minds of those of you who had originally thought being an idol was all fun and games. However this is a discussion topic so I need to start stating some opinions for you all to agree and disagree with.

First of all, I’m really not comfortable with these young girls working long days like that. Granted the really young members obviously aren’t pulling 20 hour days or anything quite as drastic. The fact remains though that even the girls in their late teens to early twenties are still developing into adults and sleep is not something that they should be going without at this stage in their lives. One of the drawbacks of being hot property in the Japanese entertainment industry I suppose.

To argue the other side of the coin, the girls should know what they’re signing up for when they take the audition. Before they’re taken on they’ll be made aware of what is expected of them and what the job of being an idol involves. Of course this doesn’t stop parents from pressuring children into taking on potentially lucrative jobs but that’s a topic for another article.

Those of you who have seen the AKB documentary will be quick to point out that a lot of these girls make up for their lack of sleep by taking naps during their downtime throughout the day. That’s a fair enough point and I’m glad that they are able to take breaks like that. I’m still not convinced it makes up for not getting a good night of sleep but it’s better than nothing.

The documentary is also a great example of how much effort these girls put into their performances on stage. Pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion because you’re not happy with the quality of the product you’re giving to your fans is not the mark of an easy job. That desire and drive to put on the best show humanly possible is really admirable and a great indication of just how dedicated these girls are to their fans.

The final point that I want to make is that despite all of the hard work involved, being an idol is still a pretty awesome job to have. You’re adored by thousands of fans, get to appear on television and in magazines and it’s a great way to launch a future career in the entertainment industry. The pay and various perks associated with the job probably aren’t horrible either although it is hard to comment on that particular aspect.

You can look at this article from a number of angles. My personal favourites being that idols work really hard for our entertainment or that Japan has really terrible labour laws. No matter what you think I hope this article gave you a better perspective and appreciation of the less glamorous side of being an idol.

I’m really interested to hear your opinions on this and to see if what I’ve talked about has changed the way you look at idols or not. If you have time please leave a comment and share your thoughts.


About NSK

New School Kaidan is a community-focused website for the Japanese idol industry international fan base. Between podcasts, broadcasts, events, and analytic articles, New School Kaidan aims to bring an understanding of idol culture to the masses.

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  1. Idols (in general, not just AKB) seems to have irregular and rough schedules.

    No matter how you look at it, popularity seems to be a double-edged sword for them (idols). When you are not popular, you would try to take up as many jobs as possible just to get a shot at fame. When you have achieved popularity, you might be taking less but larger projects. Moreover, work aside, you would also have to find time to keep up with your studies.

    Thinking of taking a long break? Not likely when you know that there are fresh faces popping up from everywhere. If the audience do not see you frequently, they might just move on… Out of sight, out of mind…

    Some times I would think that as a fan, I am contributing to their hectic hours. The more cheers and attention from the fans that they get, the harder they would work just to meet (or surpass) their fans’ expectations. The less cheers and attention from the fans that you get, the harder you would push yourself.

    Whenever they (idols) perform, all that I could do is to cheer for them as best I could and remind myself that idols are humans, too.

    P.S. Let’s not forget about the staffs and crew that follows and takes care of the idols as well. They, too, have the same hectic schedules as the idols that they attend to. Work will always be hard, regardless of profession. It is up to the individual to find the balance.

  2. Well I feel we are aware of what these girls put themselves throughfor us the fans and yes I too worry about what these girls go through for what is for thier sake but mainlyfor ours.

    Sadly though this is the price of fame, especially the xxx48 girls who are wanted on every show, magazine and advert at the moment.

    I suppose though these girls do have a pretty good idea of what lies in wait for them if the become an idol, I suppose most of them know of the effort they have to put in, but then perhpas they think that in the end, it’s all worth it

  3. The Japan labour laws that effect young girls like idols…..can be improved. Though salary is thru agency. And I don’t see an entertainer fighting with their agency about money issues if they fear the blacklist.

    I did see an old article of MM’s leaked salary during the golden era, some members made more than another, and even for the girls who made the most, I personally didn’t think it was worth what MM had to do during their golden years. The gap in salary between New member Tsuji back then compared to Yasuda was crazy, even though Yasuda was her senpai.

    Whenever I see an idol on a program looking tired, whether the MC comments on it or not and ppl laugh, I don’t find it funny at all. Although u shouldn’t be falling asleep during work time, but I couldn’t really blame them for it. AND we as dedicated fans who care for the girls acknowledge this, but stubborn/jealous ppl couldn’t care less. I know someone who seen the documentary and been told several times about an idols hard work, but their closed minded selves still think it craps to sucker ppl to fall for them. It’s a shame, these ppl….

  4. Interesting article.
    I’m not really sure how I feel about this subject, one side of me says “they work loads, they need more rest” while at the same time I’m thinking “this is what they auditioned for and wanted to be, now they are enjoying it.”
    I think idols should get more rest but then I start to wonder that if idols in a group such as AKB didn’t work as much as they do, would they be where they are today?
    Also on a side note, before I read this I watched Shindoumotokyoudai(? I think that’s what it is called) and it had Watarirouka guest on it. They spoke about and showed a few clips of how Hirajima Natsumi falls asleep during shoots. When I was watching it I laughed and thought nothing of it but that could possibly be another example of idols being overworked.

  5. I completely agree that people who say that being an idol or a celebrity in general is an easy job are usually either ignorant or jealous.

    I know nothing of Japanese labor laws specifically, but I feel like prominent celebrities in the entertainment business always have ridiculous workloads, and if they’re passionate about it, that’s exactly what they want. More work = more publicity and more opportunities; and they have to decide if the sacrifice is worth it.

    Maybe it’s a personal bias, but I don’t think their hectic and crazy work lives could come at a better time. Late-teens and early 20’s to me meant art school, and it meant staying up too long, sleeping too little(if at all), working hard, doing part time jobs, internships, taking any opportunity that comes your way and still asking for more, even if you’re swamped and never been so stressed in your life. If you couldn’t take the criticism, workload, or lost interest because the hours were wearing you down, you just quit.

    Of course I’m not saying that I worked as hard as idols do, but I’m saying that those 4-5 years of absurdity were the times I enjoyed most because it was doing what I liked: competing with others in your class, sacrificing what was necessary, sleeping for precious minutes before your class started and doing it with a group of people you were familiar with; and I think idols, as well as those in any other competitive and creative occupation, go through this gauntlet loving the challenge and knowing how much they accomplish. And if you lose that passion (a la Oku Manami), the door is right there.

    I admire the hell out of idols, and they do need to know their limits; but I’d say this is the time they should push them and find out what their limits are (talking about 18+ idols). If not in your 20’s, when else would you push your mental and physical capabilities?

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