66 comments on “What does Tsunku♂ think about the no-dating rule?

  1. I read your guitar analogy again now and a few weeks ago on twitter and I admit that I have no idea which way you feel on the no dating rule. From the comments where you first gave your opinion, I can only guess 😫 My guess based on the context of some of the comments is that you don’t agree with it. Your analogy itself is a mystery veering toward that you like the rule? Anyway it doesn’t matter, but I’d been intending to ask what roles the actors and objects in the guitar analogy had and now seemed like a good time.

    • Hehe. Alright, sure. I’m surprised you found it confusing. My analogy was simply that Hello! Project is the “guitar” and the no-dating rule the “shit.” Replace the words in your head and it should be quite clear. But to clarify, just to be sure: no, I do not like the no-dating rule.

      (By the way, there was a reason I made it into a Beatles analogy to begin with. The line “I’ll still take the guitar — hell, it belonged to a Beatle” is a nod at how the guitar (Hello! Project) came, in many ways, from the Beatles. But you can read all about that here.)

      • Ohhh okay! Thanks! The only way it made sense to me until you explained it was the idol (any girl) was the guitar and the boyfriend was the shit. 😌

  2. In my opinion Tsunku is certainly complicit in enforcing that rule. I think the company discusses it as a behavioral problem, they’re willing to give some leeway when the idol in question is able to keep it under wraps, but as soon as love hotel pictures start appearing in Friday magazine then it doesn’t matter anymore what personal feelings Tsunku or other staff has.

    • Yes, this! Personal feeling and business should be separated! As the only perfect father figure in idol industry, Tsunku may avoiding to comment on such trivial business norm which largely applies.

  3. there is only one reason i could ever thing that the dating rule made (a very twisted sort of) sense:

    if you make it so teenagers and children cant date at all, it seems they would be less likely to be abused by the grown men around them

    this logic is of course putting a lot of the pain and responsibility on the girls, and limits their own movements instead of the men around them….. in a victim blaming way.

    of course, even if this was true, it would be an awful quick trick that harms the idols and makes everyone else’s life easier, and it doesnt explain why the rule applies even to 20+ year old idols, so its still a bad rule.

    but i am wondering, has anyone else ever thought of it this way? has it come up before?

    • I was going to write the same, before refreshing the page.
      Since the Weinstein case, as the tree that was hiding the forest, it makes a lot of sense if you see it as a way to protect the girls when they are young and vulnerable, and since Japan is far to have it’s day of reckoning, if it had really happen somewhere else, it’s still a valid point ; and become pure exploitation beyond their majority. maybe it just gives me an excuse to tolerate an overall patriarcal point of view.

    • Yeah, this is a point I too arrived at (but didn’t express in my standalone comment). I could see this edict in part to help protect the girls. If guys know the idols are not allowed to date, guys will see them as off-limits and hopefully won’t pursue them in such stalkerish or obsessive ways. But it’s a fine line between protection and oppression, I suppose.

      I wonder how it’s been for girls like Rihoriho and Meimei Tamara after they’ve graduated from being idols. I met Meimei at an event summer 2017, and she still seemed quite idol-like. Maybe it’s force of habit; maybe it’s how she’s still groomed by management? But even a part of me thought for a split-second, “I wonder if she’s now interested in dating…?”

  4. Personally, while I abhor the “No-Dating Rule” even being a commonplace thing for idols,, I imagine H!P’s handling of it more akin to a parent assuming their kids not dating = better focus on school. Which everyone knows is BS even if it avoids some needless drama. It’d also be great if it effectively helped the girls avoid creep wota and fans who would otherwise be trying to get in their sheets – tho that’s very unlikely regarding other celebs and non-fans who’d still try.

    But yeah, H!P itself focuses on the girls having good grades and working hard. It also concerns itself with keeping up its image – so even tho we know it ain’t included in their contracts, they basically have the girls keep any dating private and very low-key. They’ll even warn the girls to be more careful if the evidence wasn’t very credible or are popular enough to pretend it wasn’t credible enough (eg Miya).

    Of course, my abhoration is far greater once the girl turns a woman of 20+. By then, she’s both a legal adult and her brain is mostly fully matured. Making her far less likely to be groomed by some creep and she’d understand better the severity of getting caught wrecking her idol career. And even then her school studies wouldn’t be taking up so much time anymore (depending on studies), plus the expectation to graduate is usually mid-twenties at the latest. It simply feels counter-productive to keep the adult women idols so restricted. Of course, if they made it to 20, they likely gained a decent idea of how to keep a lover private so idk if they really care by then loll

    btw, Tsunku in that paragraph sounds more like he’s upset simply with how much the girls have to put up with. Heavy, year-long workloads – but no “sweet bliss” releases. While I agree he’s against it (at least being something required of all idols), it’s evident he’s against them not being ALLOWED to go on a cheesey Christmas date. Like, most fans by now understand that H!P lets the girls date if they keep it under-wraps and away from any tabloid’s notice. But even so, and regardless of his full stance of the “No-Dating Rule” … Tsunku’s against them only being able to experience a largely watered-down version of love. And it’s unlikely anyone would be okay with that being their only option themselves.

  5. My only problem with the love ban is that it is not equally metted out for males in boy bands. It should be absolute and carried out with the same exact punishment and repercussions. If it can’t/won’t be, then get rid of it.

    • But, as far as I know, talent agencies are either all boy idol or all girl idol. It seems strange to say that one company has to change its policies because a different non-competing company has different policies.

  6. That was a really cool comment by Tsunku you have quoted.

    Just like him, I have nothing but the utmost respect for Berryz Koubou & Kyuuto (°C-ute) women. I still watch videos of Kyuuto everyday.

    I have nothing to add to the Opening Comment or Tsunku’s comment, either. It’s really complete.

    I am mostly bewildered, however, by the duality of the human ethos. Humans want it both ways at once.

  7. I bet my dear life it’s mostly women who are against the rule here in the comments. If idols could openly date they’d be like every other girl, there would be nothing special about them and as an extension of all this they wouldn’t have the core of such dedicated fans any more.
    I wonder how much of that liberation of yours is to aid the idols themselves and how much is it so you can feel better about yourselves – feeling that you too could be idols, feeling that you’re in fact no different to an idol.
    Nonetheless I feel that eventually they’ll by less restrictive about it over there partially also due to the changing demographic of the fans of H!P idols.

    • Where does that fascination about virgins come from anyway?
      They absolutely have no experience in bed.
      Does it make you feel superior or like the same because
      you are a virgin in his 30’s who didn’t reach anything other than
      following idols instead of searching for someone in your own life???

      • That fascination comes from people being fascinated with virginity, duh. It’s been around longer than you. Virginity is special and cherished, get over it.
        And thanks for calling me out on my virginity, you are so right – I don’t see how that applies to the discussion though; it’s only a stab at my person, not my opinions.

        Also I do believe you are one of those bitter woman even though they aren’t virgins any more (and by your logic should be happy NOT bitter about the world), how appropriate to get some output from you…

        • I am with (the other) Anonymous on this, I don’t give a damn about virgins. I prefer a girl who knows her way inside the bedroom (and outside), that’s way more fun.
          And calling someone else bitter… Did you read your own post?

          • I’m not bitter at all and nope I’m a virgin too. I can’t communicate too and unlike you I probably never will because it’s neurological. The thing is, it’s like you want them to be like yourself because you can’t deal with your own problems and that’s not right. You should work as hard on yourself as they do. I know life isn’t easy, I totally do. It’s been rough, right? I’m actually even proud because I’m not doing it with every 2nd dude I meet, like certain other people I seriously know, which are even younger than me. (I’m in my 20’s and I just want to make up with somebody special)

            • Oh and please don’t call me bitter. I’m really not, maybe that was just an eye-opener to you because you are bitter about idols who are dating. I hate it too to be betrayed, I find it utterly disgusting, but the thing is – we don’t even know how much exactly this rule was ever taken serious since the girls often aren’t fired after that but leave on their own, some of them because they can’t handle the saddened wota who will tell them they think that was bad. They don’t belong to anyone, they have a free will. So it maybe wasn’t even betrayal.

              Because I’m not good at communicating I sometimes come off kinda aggressive and harsh, but I wanted to let you know that I’m not. Sry if you thought that.

    • Nope, they would still be richer, have a better work ethic and experience than most people their age, can actually (more or less) sing, be at average skinnier, fitter and sometimes prettiert than the average girl, has rights to every song she participated in until the end of her days and still earns money from that according to Lehua.

      There are dozens of other good things about an idol. Oh and the difference between her and the average girl is, that she actually knows what she wants her path to be and is brave enough to show and reveal a bit more of her real self regardless of the “nerd culture weird misfit cheap b…” and “don’t show your true colors” stigma that people still have about idols. I rather have a idol girl who is dating than someone like Ishikawa who was badmouthing wota behind their back for being big idiots that jump around and have fun at concerts.

    • Certainly the most strident ones are the topic are females. From what I’ve seen the ones most worked up about it are Americans. Canadians and Europeans. I’ve mentioned the “no dating” rule to my Korean wife and some of her friends. The general response from them has been along the lines of, “well, of course they’re not allowed to date. What’s the big deal about that?”.

      • Actually, the big deal is that the non-dating rule can be against the law (at least in Japan). I don’t know about labour laws in Korea, but I would assume that they are fairly similar to those in the rest of the civilized world. Which is, an employer has no right to intrude into his/her employee’s private life. And signing a contract mentioning the non-dating rule doesn’t magically turn an illegal disposition legal.

        BTW, this is not my personal output. Many journalists in Japan debated the legality of the non-dating rule after Minami Minegishi (AKB48) infamously shaved her head. The only thing is, it has never been challenged in court, simply because even if the girl wins her case, it would ruin her career anyway.

        • Actually, aspects of the no dating rule have been tested in Japanese courts with mixed results. Specially, what was tested was whether an idol can be forced to pay damages to her talent agency for violating the no dating rule. In one case, the judge ruled in favor of the idol, and in another case in favor of the talent agency.

          Although these cases were only about whether an idol can be forced to pay damages for violating the no dating rule, the comments from the judges seem to indicate that the ruling could be applied more widely to having a no dating rule at all. One judge seemed to be saying that the rule was a violation of the idols rights, while the other judge seemed to be saying that violating the rule causes harm to the idols image, thus there ability to profit from the idols activities.

          Unfortunately, I think both might be true. The wota expectation of idols not dating is causing a financial incentive for talent agencies to violate the rights of idols. The root of the problem is unfair expectations of wotas and the talent agencies are carrying out the right violations on behalf of the wotas. Wotas really need to be kinder to there idols.

  8. I bet you can find a cute pretty girl with virginity too somewhere and maybe she could be another HP idol one day but you would think she’s less worthy than that just because she was not yet chosen. Who knows even Yokoyama and Iikubo supposedly were dating before HP. People accepted Johnny’s dating guys and that it’s more of a “don’t make it super obvious and still care about your job please” rule and AKB kinda too (I bet if Minegishi didn’t overdo it that much with dramatizing it, nobody would’ve cared as much as they did and hey they forgot it anyway after a while like most people do). There is also the possibility of a secret closet Lesbian relationship there just saying.

    • I think about half of the fans don’t see them just as a sexualized virgin they could possibly have but never will, but more as an inspiration of a girl they could search for in their private lives too be it as a lover or friend or as I read here before “I would like to do that too, it would be so fun” (even the guys) or maybe someone likes the style, the way a girl behaves and uses the girl as rolemodel hell there are plenty of good reasons to like a girl just as many as there are wota and even tho there are sexual intentions too that’s not all it is about.

      I personally accepted that I can’t have that girl Fuku-Chan for myself and so I was searching for somebody who looked just as much like my type and seems to have the same atmosphere around her, a kind caring little crybaby who is sexy too and loves her job, is into idol stuff and after some years I really found somebody like that and she is a Fuku wota too. I’m really glad I found her and you my friend can find somebody special like that too. Btw I’m her first.

  9. Wow it is amazing how much emotional energy is expended on this subject every time it comes up.

    I like the perception that these are “nice girls”. Whatever they do off-stage is not of much concern to me. It is the on-stage & on-camera image of “nice girl purity” I buy into. I absolutely detest the level of depravity Western music entertainment has sunk to: Joan Jet & The Black Hearts first national tour resulted in every member of the band being raped at least once. Amy Winesteen was an out of control drug addict alcoholic before she died. Janis Joplin was a free-love drug user who died of an overdose. Jimi Hendrix was the same. Madonna and Lady Gaga, while being very good concert singers, had to resort to committing sacrilegious blasphemy to attract media attention. Mily Cyris celebrated being a whore on stage. Maybe Cyris is not a whore in real life, but on stage she wore a whore’s uniform for profit. The list goes on and on.

    Japan ( and now other Asian markets) have developed markets that reject that and for good reason. Tsunku developed the “sexy good girl” imagery and it has spread like fire. Most idol girls are able to live within that image. Many, however, cannot. Kago Ai is a prime example of one who had to rebel and lost her job over it. Up Front worked with Kago for over a year before they fired her.

    Here is an example of what I spend my hard earned money for: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxi2D0Z8gqY

    • So, underage girls in heels and mini-skirts singing “Do it to me” are nice girls, simply because of the non-dating rule? In Japan, as in anywhere else, female artists are sexualized. Sure, compared with the US, Haropro seems rather mellow. AKB, on the other hand, plays very liberally with the line between idol and softporn.

      BTW, Kago was fired because she was caught smoking. Not a good example, but hardly the crime of the century. Rina Nakanishi, on the other hand, went directly from idol to pornstar without much fuss, while another pornstar – forgot her name – joined SDN48, again with nobody complaining about it. So much for the “nice girl” image you are defending.

      • Yes smoking was the last straw with Kago Ai. And smoking for a H!P teen idol is/was forbidden in her contract. Yes UF spent more than a year trying to get her to abide by their rules, and when they finally had enough, they removed one of their best attractions from H!P.

        I don’t watch any of the AKB groups, so I would not know.

        You mentioned “underage girls”, and there is the biggest rub. That is the reason for the no dating rule. Underage girls should not date anyone without their parents consent, period. Disagree with that all you want and you will still be wrong. Don’t take my word for it. Go tell a cop you plan a “do it to me” date with an underage girl and I am sure they will set you straight with free legal advise.

      • Ah but Sheikh yer BuTay mentioned a key word you missed; that being “perception”. The fact that particular idols have not lived up to expectations or have left the industry to work in un-idol endeavors is largely irrelevant.

  10. So I wonder if Tsunku was a True Believer back in 1998 when he founded Hello! Project and changed his mind later or if he disliked the standard back then but implemented it anyhow.

  11. This is a fun piece, sir! Not just a translation of a message board or interview, but some honest-to-goodness journalism! As a person who was a journalist for 8 years, I can really appreciate that! I’ll go back and read the referenced stuff I hadn’t seen yet!

    I spend more time at underground idol lives than on H!P groups lately, in part due to the intimate nature and the welcoming fan base and the abundance of shows. But even those girls are expected adhere to unrealistic demands for idoldom. And each of them is holding down a バイト (day job) to boot! They’re definitely not getting paid enough to sacrifice so much of common human happiness and relationships.

  12. My own two cents:

    I think that idols who are in non-generational groups where everyone is over 20 should be allowed to do what they want.

    However, if an idol is in a generational group, then she should refrain from dating until she graduates. This is because if a 10-12 year old girl joins her group then then idol-tan is going to look up to idol-senpai as a role model. If the older idol secretly has a boy friend then this will influence idol-tan and make her more susceptible to dating before she understands the possible consequences. Also, let’s face it, the entertainment industry is full of predators. The idol-tans need all the protection they can get!

    • There’s more to being a role model than abstaining from something those younger shouldn’t be doing. You model what they can be aspiring to. Modeling healthy relationships, rather than abstinence.

      Continuing with these groups with members of varying ages, Juice=Juice has young members and the older ones are still allowed to drink, even if it’s not exactly in a proper role model way. Takagi Sayuki: “Tomoko got drunk and wore my panties on her head.”

      • I think drinking is a general main problem everywhere because people think it’s harmless, it’s a way to stay in a group and be social and even go as far as saying it is a laughing matter.
        In reality it’s just a legal drug. Niigaki and Ikuta laughed when she was drunken for the first time, how is that even an aspiring goal? That’s pretty bad, just as smoking. It’s just better accepted and kinda normal, because you can even see businessman doing it and sleeping on the streets of Japan. It’s just making Tatemae go away and the health worse.

      • There is a difference between drinking and dating (that I think I have pointed out before on a different blog post): It would be legal for idol-tan to go on a date (with someone of appropriate age). It would not be legal for idol-tan to drink until she turned 20.

        Also, there is the peer pressure/senpai pressure thing that is very ingrained in Japanese culture. The best line of defense against idol-tan dating would be idol-senpai’s saying: “We didn’t do it, and neither will you!”.

        • I just reject the notion that something being fully legal means it’s to be more pushed against.

          Also, “We didn’t do it, and neither will you!” still applies with some age difference. “We didn’t date (at age 12), and neither will you!”

  13. Tsunku’s lyrics show he has a deep understanding of these girls’ feelings. In particular, Summer Wind really resonates with me as a song about a girl getting older but not being allowed to grow up or make her own choices. I hope the members feel some kind of comfort when they get such sympathetic songs from him.

  14. Just wanted to post a quick comment thanking you, Henkka, for your thoughtful response and giving me a somewhat answer to my question — that 2014 comment may be all we get for now unless someone directly asks him in the future. I really appreciate you having took the time to answer me like that! We feel similarly about the dating rule so I won’t comment further on the subject and just commented to say this. :) Happy New Year!!

  15. I have just a few questions about all this. I hope Henkka, or someone else who really can read Japanese and are immersed in Japan’s culture will answer these for me:

    1. I have heard the national age of consent is just 12, but reformers are changing that at the Perfecture level. Is it true that the legal age of consent for all of Japan’s Perfectures is now 18?

    2. If parents sign a contract with the “No dating ban” included, legally they can not give consent for their under-age daughters to date, right?

    3. Is it true in the Japanese public school system romance, dating, and boyfriends are discouraged because educators want students to focus on learning and scoring as high as possible on exams?

    • Wow! A couple thoughts:

      1. A 22 year old career manager? That’s fundamentally wrong.

      2. Isn’t it rare for Japanese girls of this age bracket to get pregnant?

      3. Note the fan reaction. Like it or not (and I don’t really like it) this is the reason the no dating rule has value.

    • This is spooky. I’m listening to Space Oddity when I read this

      Take your protein pills and put your helmet on

    • The next idol who will graduate due to pregnancy will be Fukumura Mizuki, who I predict will later make her debut appearance under label Muteki

      • I disagree. I think Fuku-chan has done the deed but only a few times and didn’t like it. However, I think Eripon could be at risk of this scenario.

        • She doesn’t have to enjoy doing the deed to get into AV industry, but as a man, I have to be honest, I do enjoy her body. Eripon could get into the physical trainer role as a matter of career, Fukuchan, sadly, doesnt have much else to offer than her body

          • I still don’t see how her body is special at all. It’s a bit more volumptuous and western but nothing more. She doesn’t have an amazing waist, porcellain or anything. Ok yes her face looks like some artificial Japanese arts, but still.

            • it may not be special to you if you’re a westerner who’s accustomed to western body types. but as far as japanese standards are concerned mizuki is unusually voluptuous although it is unique that such a busty girl have japanese facial structure . if that is not special i dont know what is. even her demeanour is typically japanese so that only adds to her already feminine appeal.

      • Fukumura Mizuki is famously from a wealthy family, so there would be no monetary reason for her to join Muteki.

        • though i agree money is the primary motivating factor why more and more gravure and idols are joining the Muteki label, i don’t think its the only factor. i wont be surprised if one day this dating rule will contribute to h!p members making a career switch to AV. I would not discount that possibility cos this rule did not allow them to explore their sexuality the way normal girls would in being allowed to date boys their age. all that pent up sexual frustration is surely going to drive some of them into an early graduation and making a career switch to AV idols not only because of the money but also an opportunity to explore sexual experience.

          • The only reason why Mizuki might do a JAV would be if she got to be in a movie with the JAV girl who does Tsugunaga Momoko cosplay.

            I have not seen any evidence of the no dating rule driving H!P girls to JAV so far. Almost all of them graduate and marry a baseball player, a rock star, or a restaurant owner.

            As for an opportunity to explore sexual experience, any H!P girl who has been on variety shows has probably be propositioned hundreds of times. It’s not that they wouldn’t be able to find sex outside of JAV when they graduate.

            Finally, what pent up sexual frustration? Are you saying that H!P girls don’t do it with each other from time to time? (Is that far enough into the gutter? lol)

            • If anything, I’d say the no dating rule tends to keep the girls out of JAV. Currently, they either abide by the rule or don’t and are discrete. Most successfully graduate and go off to something else in the entertainment world or resume a normal life.

              Without the rule, they’ll be less discrete and more relationships will become public. I see no reason to think the fanbase will be any more tolerant in such a situation. So the exposed idol isn’t punished by management but the fans withdraw support by not buying stuff. Eventually these tainted idols will graduate but with the loss of “good will” become much less marketable as entertainers in just about everything except pornography. I suppose going back to obscurity would still be an option though.

  16. no-dating rule is part of the business. The moment that rule is removed the business will crash. As simple as that. It’s an integral part of the business. Make your own japanese idol groups who can date left and right and see if they can ever be successful. If you have problem with it, then find different fandom. Japanese idol culture isn’t for you.

    • Yup, I feel like I’m one of the few foreigners who agrees with it.
      I saw a Japanese street interview video the other day and almost everyone was turned off by the idea of idols openly dating, some even thought it wasn’t good even if made secret. It’s for the idols’ own good, I mean, imagine how much easier it would be for tabloids to start shit about them when their personal matters were out in the open like that. These young idols have enough to worry about with school, work, etc.
      Plus, a lot of the appeal of idols, both female and male, is their pure and innocent image. Lots of fans want to see them as an escape from mundane reality, an image of perfection, and it’s hard to not feel jealous or angry seeing someone you love and/or respect being lovey-dovey with someone else. I know they’re only human too, but Japan values a strict separation between work and personal life, and this is how that manifests here. The idols know what they’re signing up for, unless maybe they’re very young and their parents haven’t explained it to them. Western culture values freedom and individuality a lot more than Japan. Japan values order and discipline.
      At any rate, there are bigger problems in the idol world, like oversexualization and labor exploitation (looking at you, 48 groups!)
      Here’s that video for reference:
      https://youtu.be/YecyZvCM2VA

      • I agree that it’s part of the business, but I can’t see “dating” as a problem if they keep it a secret. If you can’t keep it a secret, then you shouldn’t be an idol. Ayaya was extremely popular during her young years, still she had a relationship for such a looong time, and nobody knew about it. She was never Friday’d, was she? That’s being a pro.

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