Most people in the Johnnys fandom have heard about Jin Akanishi’s recent marriage to Kuroki Meisa at the beginning of February and it has been a pretty hot topic since. Why is that? This would seem like just everyday gossip that you would see in the tabloids about celebrities in America, but in the world of Johnnys, and East-Asian idols, it is a big deal. Some people have asked, “Why is it such a big deal?” and the question is hard to answer, unless you are familiar with how the industry works in general. I wanted this Johnnys Talk to be about Johnnys and Marriage because of Jin’s recent marriage and to shine light on a side of the situation that many foreign fans, like me, would not understand. I will not be talking about Jin’s marriage specifically, but talking about how the marriages of Johnnys (and East-Asian idols) are different than the marriages American/ western celebrities and how I know Johnnys to get married.
Before getting into marriage and dating, I think it’s important to explain the management system of idols in the east. I mentioned this a previous Johnnys Talk post, but most idols (and celebrities) in East Asia are managed by an agency. This agency acts as a mediator between the idol and the people who want the idol for jobs, as well as manage the all around schedule and what they do for their job as an idol. As I know it, western celebrities don’t have an agency, but just a manager or a PR person who interacts with the press and mediates between others who want to do business with them. In East Asia, the idol will have a manager but they only manage the day to day activities of the idol, not actually give the idol work. There is also a whole hierarchy of management for big agencies like Johnnys, and in some cases the talents wont even have their own personal manager, but a group manager instead. It is the agency’s job to assign work to the idols that comes in from outside sources, as well as assign work for the core of what they do, which is being in a singing group.
Rules and Image
Along with management by an agency comes strict regulations, which include rules about dating and marriage. This isn’t just Johnnys, but most idol groups and talent agencies, though each one’s rules are different. AKB48 and the other groups in the “48” also have these types of regulations. If you break these regulations, you can be kicked out of the group or “asked to resign”. Johnnys isn’t too strict about dating in terms of getting kicked out of the agency, but they are asked to keep the dating very private and out of the public eye. If a Johnnys is caught dating, most of the time it will be denied and the agency (on both parties’ part) will release an official statement that they are just friends, regardless if that is true or not. Johnnys will not get kicked out of the agency because of that, but other talent agencies are stricter. The same goes with marriage, but there are more strict regulations about that in Johnnys. Everything has to go through the agency regarding the talent that they manage, from assigning work, to who they are dating, and if they are going to get married. Why are there all of these regulations and why does everything have to go through the agency? It’s all about image.
An idol’s (and celebrity’s) image is everything in Japan, and East Asia. What agency the idol joins is also an indicator on what kind of image that idol is supposed to portray. In the case of Johnnys, they are supposed to be good looking, clean cut men that seem obtainable to all women. The key here is “seem obtainable to all women”. How can a Johnnys seem obtainable to all women when he is dating someone or is married? This is my business student side coming out, but what if this image is tarnished by dating someone or getting married? That idol is no longer marketable for the agency. If an idols isn’t marketable anymore, that makes it harder for the agency to get jobs for the idol, which means they are keeping someone on that will not make them money. So, the idol must abide by these rules and regulations or risk becoming a liability to the agency. It’s harsh, yes, but managing idols is still a business.
It’s a harsh reality, but not all hope is lost
Now, at this point most people from the west would say at this point “That is so wrong! They should be able to marry and date whoever they want!” Its true, but in reality if they want to keep their job, they have to abide by these rules. Even though Johnnys join the agency at a young age, before they debut they mostly know what they are getting into. If they don’t like that, then they can leave the agency. Many Johnnys have done that in the past for various reasons. Some already debuted Johnnys have decided to leave the agency as well, not necessarily for dating and marriage reasons though. Having the image is apart of the job, unfortunately. Other people might say “Oh! Well, they can just change management or quit”. Because Johnnys have been raised to do this from a young age, many of them only have a high school education, though it is becoming normal for Johnnys to go to college, and is actually encouraged by the agency now. Because of that, they don’t have the ability to change jobs freely because being an idol is all they have known. As for management, it’s VERY difficult to change from Johnnys to other management and still have the same level of activities and popularity that they had in the past, as Johnnys has a huge hold of the market in Japan and the “former Johnnys” sticks like glue. It comes down to Johnnys, and other idol agencies, being a business, though a rather harsh reality.
With all of that being said though, not all hope is lost! Johnnys DO date. They just do it out of the public eye. Johnnys have gotten married before, but there are certain requirements that need to be fulfilled and sometimes there are special circumstances that happen that they have to get married (from what know).
What if a Johnnys wants to get Married?
There are a handful of Johnnys that have gotten married in the past, like Kimura Takuya from SMAP, Inohara Yoshihiko from V6, and Tatsuya Yamaguchi from TOKIO (UPDATE: though he got a divorce from his wife in 2016, and TOKIO member Kokubun Taichi got married in 2015). I think there are a few others, but these are the most recent ones, besides Jin. With all of these, I see a trend of the Johnnys dating the same woman for a very long time, sometimes even living with the woman. (Kokubun Taichi has been going out with his now wife for 20 years before he was allowed to get married) They tend to get married in their mid-ish 30’s (or later), and their fans are older as well. This means that the idol getting married becomes less of a liability to the agency as they grow older, as they are already established idols, and their fan base has grown up with them and are most likely married themselves. Younger groups are still very marketable because they haven’t hit their peak of popularity yet (for the most part) and their fan base is still young and single (meaning not married) so it is more of a liability for the agency for the younger idols to get married, as the fans will more than likely loose interest if their idol gets married at a younger age.
As for the timing of the marriage, they tell the agency months, sometimes years in advance if they intend to marry. This way, the agency knows how to present the marriage. The exception of this was Kimura Takuya, which came as a surprise. His situation was very similar to Jin; his current girlfriend was pregnant and they suddenly got married because of that. The difference between Jin and Kimura Takuya is that Kimura Takuya said that he had been thinking about getting married with his girlfriend for a while, even before finding out about the pregnancy. Despite these circumstances, Kimura Takuya went through Johnnys before going through with the marriage, but Jin did not. (UPDATE: Kokubun Taichi had waited years to marry his current wife before they got married and even sent out a notice card to everyone in the fanclub when the announcement happened.)
Updates since writing this article in 2012
Since Jin’s shotgun marriage, he left the agency when his contract ran out in 2014. Meisa announced herself being pregnant with their second child in November 2016. Kokubun Taichi was the next person to get married in the agency in 2015, and his first child was born in 2016. Yamaguchi announced his divorce in August of 2016. I have also updated some of the information inside the article as well and I will continue to do so as more information comes along.
I hope you all enjoyed this little bit of information about Johnnys! I think that Johnnys and marriage is an interesting topic and if you have any questions about this topic or for the next Johnnys Talk, or if you have any different information, please comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.