The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011 was, above all else, a grave human tragedy. For those of us who live in specialized, hobby-focused otherworlds, it is easy to trivialize this and get worked up about things like delayed/canceled anime episodes, or what the hell happened to our favorite celebrities, or how can I make a hilarious internet meme out of the disaster footage (probably the WORST possible reaction). But more than any of that, it was a tragic loss of life, of families, of entire communities that would never be the same again.
And, from thousands of miles away, it shook me awake as well.
I woke up the next morning and the only song I could stand to listen to was “Sakura no Ki ni Narou,” which with its moderate pace and melancholy tone seemed the only appropriate music for such a horrific event. It was obviously not a time for cheerful, high-energy songs because there was nothing to be cheerful about. And in the weeks and months afterward, it made me take stock of my life, realizing that people and friends and family and making the best of your life were a far bigger deal than Oricon sales numbers or rooting for your oshimen.
Seeing the livestream of the multi-48 commemorative concerts on March 11, 2012 was kind of a refresher for that, a quick booster shot to jolt me awake and remind me of the attitude shift I had vowed to make a year before. While it was mostly panic and chaos the year before—because that was when it actually happened—this year’s event was all about looking back and reflecting on what had taken place. And to see various members of the 48′s fighting back tears, giving personal accounts about how this affected them and their families, reminded me in a stark, powerful way that even the very girls who make up AKB48 and their sister groups had bigger priorities in life than performing songs and meeting fans.
The real kicker, too, was seeing Acchan—”always bored and expressionless” Acchan—break down so badly that she had to rush off stage to compose herself. One of the group’s founding members, the face of AKB, the consummate pro who had been in the media eye since her early teens … even she could not could not restrain her emotions. So how could we expect anyone else to?
All of this is what made me stop caring so much about AKB48.
Of course, I still have an interest in the group, and the idol genre as a whole. But seeing how the Tohoku Earthquake, even a year later, still has such a deep and lasting impact on everyone—Japanese or not, celebrity or not—it is a reminder to wake up to the more human side of life. Stop stressing about how many stage shows you’ve watched. Stop trying to get every single photocard of your favorite member. Stop wrangling over the mathematics of single sales and senbatsu rankings. Live your life, for goodness sake’s. And if not for your own good, at least for the good of those who are no longer living.
But somehow I scrounged up enough funds to go see AKB48′s suddenly-announced Washington D.C. appearance. And my logic for doing so is this. It’s not good to fritter away your life on a single interest and miss out on other experiences—but it IS good, when the opportunity arises, to partake in special moments that pertain to that interest. In this case, getting to see MY WIFE Miichan on American soil for a third time is something that IS worth giving a care for. It can be tricky to pick your battles, but pick the ones that you’re pretty sure will come out as a win.
What is interesting about this visit is that only 6 of the 16 members of Team D.C. have been to the U.S. before (Takahashi, Takajo, Kuramochi, Minegishi, Fujie, Miyazawa). So it is as much a once-in-a-lifetime thing for them as it is for many fans. It’s been over a year and a half since AKB48 last visited America, and in the time since then we’ve seen a few major members leave the fold (or at least drop in visibility), while new trainees and n00blets have risen to prominence. Oh, and something about establishing a stranglehold grip on the entire Japanese entertainment industry since we last saw them in L.A.
So indeed, why not take the plunge this time and chase after this moment? After all, it may be the last blaze of glory for some of the foundation members like Takamina, while the likes of Team 4 enter their prime and the oldbies gradually step into a mentor role and move away from the frontlines. If one’s goal is to live a rich, fulfilling life, then you better pick what you find fulfilling.
As the saying goes, YOLO. (You Only Lemon Once)