GIF: AbemaTV

In Japan, there are idols and then there are “underground idols” (地下アイドル or “chika aidoru”). Besides having concerts, some of them are picking up extra cash by charging fans by the minute for hugs and “finger kisses.”

Japanese boy bands are largely controlled by one talent agency known as Johnny’s. While several scans has eroded its power, that agency still dominates the male idol field. The images of its stars are carefully controlled, and typically, its boy band members don’t use social networking sites like Twitter. The only way fans can interact with them is from afar.

Underground boy bands, called “menzu chika aidoru” (メンズ地下アイドル) or “men’s underground idols,” are not slick productions of Japanese entertainment monoliths. For fans, these groups also offer an option for those who, perhaps, want to get a little closer to their idols.

Underground girl idol groups, as well as mainstream ones like AKB48 and all its spin-offs, have long had fan handshake and photo sessions. According to AbemaTV, the underground boy band, however, is a new business model. As report shows, there appears to be less interest in underground boy band music and more in the lucrative meet and greet sessions after the concerts.

This meet and greet event drew 300 fans.
GIF: AbemaTV

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One photo is 1,000 yen ($9.17), while one minute of interaction with the underground boy band members is also 1,000 yen. Fans, apparently, cannot buy huge blocks of time with their favorite members, so they must get back in line for each minute. Note that some bands charge as much 1,500 yen ($13.80) per minute and per photo!

GIF: AbemaTV

During those sixty seconds, the members might give out hugs or “finger kisses” (指チュウ or “yubi chuu”) as seen in the above GIF.

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One underground boy band manager interviewed in the report said that groups can make several hundred thousand dollars a month. Not bad for boy bands who haven’t yet hit the mainstream.

Why support these groups? “Because they’re close,” said several fans AbemaTV interviewed. The appeal here is that they’re not super famous and they’re not mainstream.

You can watch the full report right here.


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