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LinkAsia | Mar 11
March 11th marks two years since Japan's devastating triple disaster of a massive earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown that left 20,000 people...
Japanese pop group, AKB48, holds the Guinness World Record for being the world's biggest girl pop group. It's got over 60 members, divided into three teams that rotate performances every day in Tokyo. AKB48 is super-popular, and it's something that hasn't gone unnoticed by the Japanese government. So the two are now teaming up to sell government bonds. They're hoping that the proceeds of the sale will help finance the reconstruction of areas that were wiped out by last year's tsunami. But are music fans the right target audience for selling government bonds? Here's our contributor Nicholas Ito with his take.
Last month the Japanese Finance Ministry announced that it was collaborating with AKB48 for a new series of promotions to sell reconstruction bonds. The bonds are to help pay for the reconstruction of the tsunami-stricken northeast.
AKB48, is one of, if not the most popular girls pop group in Japan today. They will be featured on television, newspapers and subway billboards for the promotion.
Last year's disaster was a big financial blow to Japan, already deeply in debt. The government owes over a staggering 10 trillion dollars, about twice the size of the country's economy.
How much effect will AKB's latest exposure have to persuade people to invest in bonds? Some bloggers are scratching their heads as to who exactly the government is targeting.
This tweet points out:
"Most of the individual investors who have enough reserves to buy bonds are the elderly."
And then asks:
"Why are they using AKB?"
Another skeptic says:
"I can't imagine bonds selling better because of AKB promotion."
The post adds:
"Maybe if they issue some random pictures of the members, Otaku will buy them though."
Otaku, the manga and animation aficionados are said to be the backbone of the success of AKB48. There are rumors that some buy more than a hundred CDs to support their idols.
What do these fans have to say about this news? Would they buy bonds to help reconstruct the north if their idols encourage them to? Well, it's pretty unclear. None of these AKB48 news fan sites have even brought up the Finance Ministry's decision, so it's hard to tell if they are enthusiastic about this development.
In fact, most online responses are either negative or indifferent with a tinge of sarcasm:
"If they add a ticket for a free handshake with the idols, maybe they'll attract a lot of investment?"
Free handshakes are an AKB48 tradition. Their motto is "Idols you can meet", so fans are allowed a handshake with each member after their daily show.
Reconstruction bonds, which started last year, are not selling well. The government is counting on the summer bonus season to boost them. We'll see if AKB48's star power is enough to power up sales.
In Tokyo, I'm Nicolas Ito, for LinkAsia.
The Japanese government isn't relying just on the cuteness of AKB48 to sell the bonds. For those who are more tight-fisted with their money, it's hoping that the imposing bulk of Japanese sumo wrestler Hakuho will change their minds. He's a little over 6 feet tall and weighs in at just over 334 pounds. That's our show for this week. For LinkAsia, I'm Yul Kwon. Thanks for watching.