A beginning (long) note: This is based off a discussion in a Facebook group I’m part of. There are other bloggers out there that are part of this group and in no way is this post attempting to shame/bash otherwise be negative towards the group or them. I’m merely musing some thoughts I’ve had but have been unable to simplify and articulate within the group discussion. (Not to mention I have slightly intimidated by some group members just due to their vast knowledge). No names, dates or indicative items will be added. In my own awkward way, I’m just trying to let some thoughts out in a productive manner. And maybe get Hanako-san some new fans.
Actual start: I’ve let a few tidbits here and there slide that I’m an idol fan. A lot of my Jpop artists fall into the category, and I’m unashamed of the culture that comes with that. Idols are fun! There’s such a huge variety between massive groups with extensive histories like AKB48 and E-Girls, to small idols like Color Pointe and ZOC, and there’s such a wide variety of sub-genre’s now as well. Of course, for every idol that makes it there are many that don’t. On the borderline are ‘chika idols’.
Chika meaning ‘underground’, and idol, well means idol thus underground idols. These are artists are usually label-less, thus self-producing most of their materials from CD’s to merchandise, and often can’t afford to hold tons of lives on their own. One of the better known, or perhaps notorious is Hanako-san, aka 14th Generation Toilet Ghost Hanako-san.
She’s very well known within the alt-idol community, due to her appearance as a child-like ghost with a red outfit and backpack from Japanese urban ghost stories. Her shows are also one of a kind, since they tend to be incredibly energetic, and intimate. Some things to be expected during her lives are; moshing, a bit of head-banging, Hanako spitting beverages on her fans, throwing food that may or may not be slightly expired, and pouring various foods/beverages and sometimes even condiments on them. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the slide show video below for her song ‘akatsuki’.
Adding to her deceptive appearance, is that during her ‘cheki’ or polaroid photo sessions, she has a special option where she’ll put you in a headlock until you tap out! There’s also the ‘destroy’ cheki option which I’ve also been told is quite interesting.
She’s a unique idol that had a specific appeal and demographic, so she’s not for everyone. That seems quite obvious. I’ve read over the years that she’s very kind to her non-Japanese fans at her shows, and she’s now been to America and soon to be the UK even. But did you notice something interesting about the video?
How about the fact, that it’s not really a video, but really a glorified slide show. You see, Hanako-san doesn’t allow videos at her shows. You would think given how dramatic her shows are (according to legend), and the fact so many photos are available that videos would be allowed as well. Well, not exactly, Hanako-san is known for her brutality towards attendees, she catches filming. A few accounts from other fans:
a) she’s searched people’s phone in the middle of her sets, including potentially even in the middle of a song (?), to make sure they weren’t filming her.
b) She’s throw phones to the ground and otherwise destroyed them, when confirmed that the owner of said photo was filming.
c) There’s one guy in particular she outright banned from her performances and the community just doesn’t acknowledge him and when we do it’s usually to drag him. One of those ‘don’t be that guy’ teachable moments within the group.
With all this out there, as more or less public knowledge amongst her fans and duly noted about her amongst us casuals, it was very intersting so see the discussion generated around this particular tweet.
It’s very interesting the discussion that sprang forth from this particular post, given the timing of her appearance in the UK set for April. Given that this message is in English, pretty much confirms what most fans already knew; this is a non-Japanese fan problem. It’s worth noting that Hanako-san has tweeted a similar in December of last year. She confirmed that it wasn’t about foreign fans recording at that time, but about making sure as many fans as possible knew about the policy.
Personally, if this was an all fan problem there would be a Japanese post or at least a sub-tweet with the same message. I scrolled through her twitter, and double checked her sub-tweets to make sure and didn’t see any posts regarding this topic. Partly, I believe she makes this clear in Japanese, before her actual set is played. This has been confirmed through those that work with her and fan accounts of her lives. Hanako-san isn’t so big that she’s unaware of who her audience is, and who is most likely breaking the rules amongst her audience. It’s unfortunate that it seems that most of those who cause these issues happen to be English speakers.
Additionally, I found it interesting that it’s articulated on her twitter. She purposefully chose the best spot, not on her website via an official announcement, but on her own personal twitter to express this. It’s most effective since she’s not in a group that has a group twitter, nor does she, to my knowledge have a manager that would make a statement such as this on her behalf. In order to make sure her audience saw it best, she posted it where it would be circulated amongst her fans.
And it did.
There were quite a few opinions. Most of them were on Hanako-san’s ‘side’ to speak. Simply put, she’s made it clear she does not allow videos; her fans obey this request. There seems to be no problem on that end.
Others articulated some different views. Some said it was insane that in this day in age, to get people to not take videos. The opposition argued that having people filming was distracting and often blocked other fans fews. Therefore, having the idol themselves say no filming eliminates that particularly detrimental moment.
Some, and I mean one actually, argued that it was a career shafting move, as it limits international exposure. As much as I hate elitists, I will give them credit where it’s due when they chimed back; chika idols don’t need international fans. The grand majority of chika idols have no intention to go abroad. It’s just not reasonable given their current audiences. Therefore, if the idols don’t want to share footage of their live events, it seems simple that they won’t.
There were a lot of other points that are much more logistical. The first being that Japan and the US have much different privacy laws, regarding filming and photography. These laws extend to live events, and therefore to idol shows. Most venues and groups, make it clear on their website or before the show starts if photographs/video is allowed. A bit of double checking goes a long way, and most of the time if you see other fans doing it it’s okay.
These laws then feed into image control in Japan. This is a cultural thing, where I’ve had fellow fans politely ask me not to post an image to SNS of them at an event with me. Not because the photo was ugly, or that they didn’t want to be seen with me, but that it wasn’t something they wanted circulate online. Image control also plays into why many idol fans cover their faces at events when a photo is taken but that’s a different post.
Similarly, idols want to do the same thing. Depending on their direction and decisions, want to curate their public image as best they can. Some idols play by ‘all coverage is good coverage’ and some would prefer their image be much more set, or at least that they have control over it. Hanako-san has taken this latter approach and I 100% understand why.
There’s no one else like her. In chika/alt-idol, or abroad, you are not going to hear about a red clad ghost vocalist pouring food items on their fans. It creates intrigue, it generates curiosity that could, potentially be solved with just one video. These videos though, don’t happen to exist.
Photos can only answer so many questions, and therefore to better understand one has to experience it. Not through a lens, but directly with the camera put down and away. Something that honestly, I think a lot of Western fans forget about. A video can be nice to re-live a moment again and again but it will never be able to replicate what you felt in that exact moment of happening.
For me, I’m not the biggest fan of Hanako-san. (I enjoy her music in doses between other alt-idols.) I admire her work and think she’s absolutely adorable but… The whole food/condiments/drinks thing is a bit of a detriment personally. Her expressing the simple requests of ‘don’t take video’ and ‘don’t post them to SNS’ are easy enough to follow. She’s not asking you to commit murder on behalf or even surrender your freedom. Just for the duration of her set, pay attention to her with the eyes in your head and enjoy.
I acknowledge that some of the arguments do contain slivers of validity in them but… it’s two requests from one idol. That’s not so hard to follow in my opinion.
When it comes down to it, I’m not quite sure where I was going with this. I’m use to both sides of the coin where Western audiences almost flood the floor with their cellphones attempting to get a half-decent photo or video. I’ve been in audiences in Japan where cellphones don’t come out even in-between acts. When it comes down to it, in my own way I just wanted to muse about a toilet ghost for a post since she’s quite the character, deceased or not. Just know if you ever attend her lives; you can’t say you weren’t warned.