Why is the Idol group that ‘does not put on Handshake events’, Sakura Gakuin able to continually create star after star
Miyoshi Ayaka who is being praised for her performance as the heroine, Shanin in the TV drama ‘Angel Heart’ (Nihon TV) appeared on the November 23rd ‘Shabekuri 007’. She talked about preparing for her role as a former assassin and revealed her special training methods.
When they were introducing her career history on the show she mentioned on her about having previously being a member of the Idol group, Sakura Gakuin. She also touched upon fellow members, Matsui Airi who has appeared in J:COM’s commercials, ‘Dokonjou’ and ‘DoShinpuru’ and in such movies as ‘Tsuugaku Densha’, as well as Babymetal, the 3 member band that fuses together Idol with Heavy Metal and is now extremely popular all around the world.
Recently, Sakura Gakuin which sends graduates out into the world filled with great potential and promise became the subject of attention when it was discovered that its member Okazaki Momoko is the daughter of the comedian Hakata Hanamaru. On December 8th, Sakura Gakuin will be celebrating its 5th anniversary since its debut. Sakura Gakuin carries out its activities from a very unique standpoint when compared with the countless number of other Idol groups.
5 years ago riding on the boom of AKB48 all of the major production companies were pumping out Idol group after Idol group into the entertainment world. Stardust Promotions which is a production agency that is home to such major stars as Shibasaki Kou and Kitagawa Keiko scored a major hit with the major debut of MomoIro Clover. And through its first huge Idol audition process, Avex came up with Super Girls.
Sakura Gakuin also belongs to a major production agency, Amuse, who hosts a large number of very popular artists such as Southern All Stars, Fukuyama Masaharu, Ueno Juri and Yoshitaka Yuriko. However, they differ from other Idol groups in their policy of being a ‘limited to the period of growth unit’. The members are compose a group of girls from elementary school to Jr. High school who as a rule graduate as they graduate from Jr. High school. In line with this, the group centers around ‘school life and school club activities’.
At its outset it was set up to differ from other Idol groups. Speaking honestly, some people came along and said it was set up for Lolita lovers. But, Sakura Gakuin went on to hold ‘Open lessons and other live events that went beyond the live performances that aligned with their ‘School life styles’. The members performing as students of the school learned about everything from dance to music, art, science, Haiku and other subjects covering a wide range of subjects with teachers invited to teach on their area of expertise with these subjects turning into songs.
From this were born such groups as the ‘Baton club, the cooking club’ and the newspaper club that featured the tall girls of Miyoshi and Matsui. Babymetal was also a school club unit that sprang from Sakura Gakuin as the ‘Juuonbu’ club <Heavy sound club> which went on to perform in a wide range of influence.
And the thing that is decisively different from Idol groups is that they do not carry out Handshake events with their fans. These Handshake events that have changed from being a ‘special feature’ of Idols groups to becoming a ‘common, of course you will do that’ feature changed with Sakura Gakuin where the fans are called ‘Fukei’ <literally Father/son, or guardian> where the Fukei function to look over and protect the activities of Sakura Gakuin. Of course there are a lot of fans who call for Handshake events but in the concept of Sakura Gakuin it would be strange for the Fukei to ask for a direct handshake type of contact. Sakura Gakuin is set up to healthily and soundly create an environment where the fans who are often of an age that would be equivalent to being the parents of these elementary and Jr. High school girls can work as fans.
They do not use the sales of their CD and other products as being a ticket for Handshake events. Perhaps partly because of this, Sakura Gakuin has yet to break into the big time. However, while there are many Idols who disappear from the public once they graduate from their Idol group, Sakura Gakuin has delivered Miyoshi and Matusi and of course, Babymetal, who are extremely active and popular even after they have graduated from Sakura Gakuin.
The girls may be thought of as being too early to leave when they graduate from Jr. High school and must also graduate from Sakura Gakuin. After all the peak of Idolness is when a girl is in High School. But because the girls are able to cut off with dramatic fashion the image of being an Idol that they are able to go on to be actresses and models. It is not the aim of Sakura Gakuin to become the top Idol group, but rather to produce girls who can become prepared to truly fulfill their aims after they graduate. This is actually just like a real school that prepares students to do their best once they enter the adult world after they have sufficiently studied.
From the viewpoint of the production agency it would be more merit-filled to produce girls who can continue to perform for a very long time once they have graduated instead of simply dropping off the screen once they have ceased to be teenagers. This could be said to be something that only an agency of the massive size of Amuse could attempt to do.
This year in May, Miyoshi uploaded a picture of herself with the Kouhai members when she went to see the Gakuin Transfer student ceremony (an event that introduces new students) to her Instagram account. She already looks like a guardian of the other elementary school and Jr. High school members in the picture. We can see from this that she has a strong love for her ‘home school’. This school will continue to create stars following in the footsteps of Miyoshi and when we can stand back and say ‘wow, once again a star has been born’ we can say that Sakura Gakuin has been a successful endeavor.