No one is well-served by sexism in Japan

AT FIRST glance, Sora Tob Sakana is aimed squarely at the pre-teen market. After all, the pop group’s four members are 14- to 16-year-old girls who sport ponytails and cutesy frilly dresses and pump out bubblegum tunes accompanied by wobbly dancing. Yet at a festival of similar “idol” bands in Yokohoma on July 9th, the fans were mostly single men aged between 20 and 50 who might well describe themselves as otaku—nerds. When asked, some men say they do not need to marry; their idols give them the romantic fulfilment they need.

Creepy? It is true, says Rei Kazama, one of the band members, looking slightly uncomfortable, that many of the fans are ojisan—middle-aged blokes. She would prefer a younger audience. But, she adds, the ojisan are supportive: “It’s like they’re nurturing us as we grow up.” Purity, a band manager says, is a selling-point. The girls are under contract not to have boyfriends—presumably to...

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