Every year, I cover indie idols with posts profiling all the acts at the Tokyo Idol Festival. It’s a really fun way to get to know the acts, big and small, that show up. This is part of how I noticed that a lot of groups, it seems, have a strong local identity. KJK is promoting Kawasaki, HR is very much from Fukuoka, etc. Instead of desiring to be a national idol, they fully embrace their hometown.
Earlier this year, I wrote a long final paper for my college degree on the idol industry and Japan as a national force. One of the things that I noted was that a big goal of many idols, especially in the past, was to become a “national idol.” This is a term I often hear thrown about larger groups like AKB48 and Morning Musume; that they’re not just idols, but they’re national idols, of the whole nation. While this is still true for a lot of groups, and I’d say it’s a valid term, it seems that more and more big groups have this smaller, local identity. Remember that AKB48 is a local idol group, for Akihabara, and SKE48, NMB48 and HKT48 are based in Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka, respectively.
One of the groups that appeared at TIF, Tochiotome25, had an especially interesting goal, I thought. Their goal was to be “Glocal idols;” Glocal being a combination of Global and Local. Their goal is to promote Tochigi (the prefecture they represent) on as large a scale as possible. This shows that, even if an idol starts out as a local idol, that they are looking to aim for being a national idol as well.
I’d also say that this corresponds with the trend of idols becoming closer to the fans. Early idols like Matsuda Seiko were really unreachable by the public. However, with big idol groups like AKB48 and Momoiro Clover Z having themes like “Idols you can meet” and “Idols you can meet right now,” meeting an idol might not seem as far off as it once did. Likewise, even if I lived in Fukuoka, fairly far away from Tokyo, I would still have an abundance of local idol groups, including HKT48, LinQ, HR, and Rev.from DVL to choose from and follow.
Obviously not every idol is going to become a local idol, and even though AKB48 is technically a local group it’s often hard to think of them in that terms. However, for indie idol fans, this means that there’s a lot more variety and more local idols cropping up, which I think is a great thing.