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Every once in a while something comes up which is a little out of the ordinary.  Having previously lived in Japan for a span of about five and a half years, I was not unaware of Japanese pop idol groups.  Their saccharine pop tunes are constantly bombarding your ears wherever you go in Japan. I didn’t know very much about their fan culture or how the the groups operate.  Thanks to an introduction made by local Osu resident Stephen Carter, I got a staff pass and had the chance to attend a show and take photos. ありがとうカーターさん!

Founded in 2010, this particular group is very local and connected to Osu(大須), a district of Nagoya.  The main features of the area are a large shopping arcade with many small shops  and several large temples, including Osu Kannon(大須観音).

The group’s image is tightly controlled by their manager Mr. Aoyama to make sure that nothing unsavoury gets connected with the group.  The group is organized into squads (“teams”) that work together, many hard hours are put into developing the tight synchronization, dance, and singing necessary for success in a music market which is overpopulated with similar groups.  Although not having the stature and success of a group like AKB48, it could be argued that OS☆U punches well above it’s weight.  The group has had several songs on the Oricon chart and also competed in nation-wide idol competitions, notably finishing 1st place in the Amachan Map Nationwide Local Idol Ranking Battle (NHKオンデマンド全国『あまちゃん』マップ全国ご当地アイドルランキングバトル).  The music isn’t particularly to my taste, but you can’t argue with the entertainment value of seeing this particular group live.

Upon graduation from the group, some members retire from the entertainment industry whilst others carry on to become actresses, gravure idols, and even soft-porn models.

I went to a small show at X-Hall in which was short and extremely high energy.  Fans arrived, bought a ticket for 1000 yen (about $12 CDN) and were immediately hit by a barrage of music from one of the 5-girl squads.  They maintained a high intensity throughout the show of choreographed dance movements and singing.  I admit to being surprised that they were actually singing as my previous impression had been that these kind of groups lip-synched, which was not the case.

The show lasted about 25 minutes, and then tables and chairs were introduced into the area for the meet and greet.  The premium members had a chance to have a photo taken with their chosen member.  All of the fans were issued with cards with the member names on it, and stood in line to meet their favourite member and take photos.  Some of the lines were quite long, and others much shorter depending upon the popularity of the given member.  The amount of time a fan had to speak with a group member was rigidly monitored with a stopwatch and ended with a loud “Time!”「時間です!」

Stephenさん kindly offered the next day to get me access to a longer show, as the band manager had liked some of the photos.  This show was longer and contained 17 of the group members.  There were several surprises in store for fans that evening, particularly important since the larger concert series occurred only a few times a year.  Several of the group members were “graduating” (retiring – translated from Idol talk) which led to some very sad faces after the concert.  Stephenさん was also (in his words) “majorly bummed out.”  Anyway, here are the photos.  All of them were taken with a Fujifilm X-T2, XF56mm F1.2, and XF 50-140mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR lenses.  A brief word on the X-T2: technically well suited for concerts.  The X-Trans sensor really knows what to with concert lighting, and that particular lens is fantastic.  Combine that with the ridiculous fps rate of a mirrorless, and the only weakness is auto-focus which is a bit slower off the mark than my Nikon D810.  SOOC JPGs needed very little tweaking, although I prefer using .RAFs for the flexibility.