As you may know, it is Sousenkyo season, which means it’s time to see the fans vote for their favorite member or members. For most fans, this is the time to show appreciation for their oshi and all the hard work they have accomplished throughout this past year. While some members may have more fans than others, there is always a warm feeling when a certain member ranks in Sousenkyo who hasn’t ranked for years. Remember when Tanabe Miku ranked for the first time, even though she has been on AKB48 since 2007? She felt amazed, shocked, but more importantly humble about ranking that she was brought to tears. If you’re a Tanamin-oshi, this gave you a sense of accomplishment and joy, seeing the member you support finally rank after all these years.
Today, I wanted to share you a little story about my current AKB48 oshi, Minegishi Minami. This is an article explaining why she became my oshi in the first place, and a very important confession I have to make about her.
Like Tanamin, Miichan has been a veteran for years now. She has been a part of AKB48 for almost 10 years, and she is the last remaining 1st generation member alongside Kojima Haruna and Takahashi Minami. Miichan is known for her skill on variety shows, her presence on the sub-units no3b (“No Sleeves” alongside Kojima Haruna and Takahashi Minami) and the now disbanded SONE (alongside Miyazaki Miho, Kitahara Rie and Sashihara Rino), and in recent years, she has been a captain for Team 4 and now Team K. She is also known for her spectacular dancing and singing skills. Basically, her resume on AKB48 is nothing short of amazing. However, let me tell you why she became my oshi in the first place.
Besides the fact that she collects hats just like I do (I have 110+ New Era caps stuffed in my closet), there was something she did in the first quarter of 2013 that caught my attention. In January of 2013, Shukan Bunshun reported that Minegishi Minami was caught sleeping over at GENERATIONS from EXILE TRIBE’s Shirahama Alan’s apartment, thus breaking the “no dating” rule established by the management. She took the scandal to heart and, rather than shrugging it off, she shaved her head in penance. This in turn made news in media outlets not only in Japan, but around the entire world.
The first time I spotted Minami Minegishi was after opening an article on Yahoo News titled: “Pop Star Shaves Head”. This was the first time I had seen a J-Pop star broken by one mistake. That said, to be 100% honest, the scandal is how she became my AKB48 oshi.
Let me put it into perspective first. In early 2013, I was a die-hard Ebisu Muscats fan, and by no means an AKB48 fan. My oshi in that Muscats lineup was their youngest member, who was still one year older than I was. In early 2013, the only two AKB48 songs I knew were “Heavy Rotation” and “Aitakatta”. The Muscats just announced that they were disbanding at the end of March, so I needed a new group to pay attention to, or a new idol to pay attention to. While Kyary Pamyu Pamyu was helping me get through my J-Pop drought, this news story comes out and my first thought seeing Minegishi Minami was: “Even with the shaved head, this girl is still pretty cute”. Then I did a little research on who she was and what she has done on AKB48. That is when I started to like her even more.
To be fair, the scandal came at a time where she had mental instability. With prior knowledge on the topic, I knew how Miichan felt at the time of the scandal. It didn’t help that when you searched her name on Google Images, the type of stuff some of the fans made wasn’t exactly kind.
By late April, I was blasting almost all of the no3b set list. Miichan’s very own solo song, “Watashi wa Watashi” was something I played very often. I found myself enjoying her appearances while watching past AKBingo episodes and found that she was slowly becoming my 48G kami oshi.
A year later, after being demoted to kenkyuusei because of the scandal, Minegishi Minami made it to the Team 4 lineup as captain, and became the only member in AKB48 history to be a part of every team (at the time), including Kenkyuusei. This was also a time where two groups were fulfilling my need for J-Pop: Nogizaka46 and NMB48. Then I meet a group of people who live in the Los Angeles area who like AKB48 and their related groups. When I started to collect photocards, whose did I collect? Miichan’s of course.
2014 was the year I paid attention to everything 48G. I found about and paid attention to members such as Watanabe Mayu, Watanabe Miyuki, Shiroma Miru, Miyawaki Sakura, Ichikawa Miori, Sashihara Rino, and the list goes on and on. Even up to now, I am paying attention to almost everybody in 48G, but the big question was: What about Miichan?
Honestly, part of me forgot about what Miichan was up to. I was too busy paying attention to a whole lot of other members that I was close to smacking the oshihen button. This is what I meant by “important confession”. I was about to switch my all-time 48G kami oshi to someone who had several amazing gravure shots and had a knack for fishing her fans during handshakes. I was about to switch my 48G kami oshi from Minegishi Minami to Shiroma Miru.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Miru an awful lot. In time, she became my NMB48 oshi, as I oshihenned from Yamagishi Natsumi to Miru. Really though, the entire reason she became my NMB48 oshi was because she was really, really damn attractive. Like, so damn attractive that she overtook Miichan for a while. Then Miru gets sent to AKB48 as a concurrent member, and then it was decision time: who is my kami oshi?
After a week’s worth of thinking and with reasoning from my AKB48 SoCal friends, I eventually came back to my senses and stuck with Minegishi Minami. I mean, I was there during her darkest times back in 2013 and stuck with her then, so I probably shouldn’t give up on her now!
So there’s my story about Minegishi Minami. Anything she does on 48G, from concerts, to variety show appearances, to the occasional Vine appearance, will sit well with me. But her election video for this year’s Sousenkyo struck a chord:
Here, she claims that she wants to make the senbatsu lineup one last time. She also claims that some fans have been ashamed of having her as an oshi, and she wants the male fans to treat her like she is your girlfriend.
For starters, this is not January 2013. Yes, she probably lost a lot of fans, but her true fans stuck by her through thick and thin and probably forgot all about the scandal at this point. Yes, there are a few people who bring it up, but it is nothing to be ashamed of if you and the fans moved on from it. Yes, I was guilty of paying attention to Miru and a hell of a lot of other members. But I was never ashamed to be a Miichan oshi. Not one bit. Not back then, and certainly not now. That’s like Stephen Curry saying it’s challenging to be a Golden State Warriors fan. Or like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu claiming it is difficult to like her songs.
I, as well as the other Minegishi Minami fans, will support her. Hell I know a few Miichan fans that live in North America and will stand by her no matter what the nay-sayers may say. I am sorry that I fell into the trap of oshihening because of Shiroma Miru, but that’s on me and not on her.
Because of this, I will give Minegishi Minami my only vote in senbatsu.
Yes, I only have one vote because I only bought one vote. Although I would like to support my kami oshi, I am not a type of person who wants to keep 30+ copies of the same CD (If I did that, I hope Goodwill likes AKB48). Also, I can’t go to Japan for handshake events. Not yet at least.
One vote may make a difference between Next Girls center and the last spot for Undergirls. Given that she wanted to make senbatsu one last time, this convinced me that she will either not participate in the 2016 Sousenkyo, or she will graduate sometime this year or next year since Takamina is graduating this December.
I have supported her for this long and yes, I did view her like a girlfriend. That’s what she wanted right?
But I will give her my vote this year so I know that I contributed something to help her out in her time of Sousenkyo need. I do believe that senbatsu is an uphill climb, but maybe her last wish on what seems to be her last senbatsu can be fulfilled this one last time.
If she announces graduation that June night, or if she remains the last 1st generation member, I will still support her on her journey through AKB48 and onward.
Minegishi Minami, can you please visit Los Angeles again? I can give you some of my snapbacks!
◆ Rin Rigoni