Why Are Sasshi Groups So Popular With Women? Writer Watanabe Akihiro Reports for Realsound

Lately, the idea that J-pop idol groups can be popular with women has become more and more normalized, especially with the rise of the female fandom within groups like Nogizaka46 or collectives like Hello! Project. But nowhere is this more noticeable than the three Sashihara Rino produced idol groups, =Love, ≠Me and ≒Joy. Writer Watanabe Akihiro reported on this interesting phenomenon in an article for the website Real Sound.

While it is not unusual to see K-pop idol girl groups get upwards of 60% fan club (from anan edition 2361) and 70% of their live audiences as women (from CDTV Live! Live!), this is incredibly unusual among J-pop idol groups, particularly in the mainstream. The most comparable apples to apples data is in karaoke provider Joysound‘s Utasuki service, which reports the following as of 9/26:

  • AKB48: 49% men, 51% women
  • Nogizaka46: 66% men, 34% women
  • Keyakizaka46: 52% men, 48% women
  • Hinatazaka46: 75% men, 25% women
  • Morning Musume: 32% men, 68% women
  • Morning Musume ’23: 27% men, 73% women
  • Juice=Juice: 32% men, 68% women
  • ANGERME: 28% men, 72% women
  • Femme Fatale: 26% men, 74% women
  • METAMUSE (ZOC): 14% men, 86% women
  • =LOVE: 27% men, 73% women
  • ≠ME: 29% men, 71% women
  • ≒Joy: 36% men, 64% women

In this data, we can see that the only groups comparable to Sasshi‘s produced group ratios are the Hello! Project groups and several of the larger chika idol groups such as Femme Fatale or ZOC. Of these, =LOVE is by far the largest, regularly getting certified as gold or platinum by the RIAJ.

Per Sasshi‘s own recollection in magazine anan, what made the group both unique and popular among women is their insistence on creating songs like Want you! Want you! that provide a sense of femininity that girls want, yet still remaining deeply rooted within the J-pop tradition as opposed to gravitating more towards a K-pop vibe.

Journalist Watanabe also notes other factors which might have contributed to their popularity with women, such as the lyrics coming from a woman’s POV in love songs, as well as the overwhelming popularity of member Ohtani Emiri, who is quickly following in Sashihara Rino‘s footsteps by also being the producer of a fashion brand (Rosé Muse) and the color contact line melady. This strategy of sending girls out to become models that later attract a large number of female fans is well established – Itano Tomomi and the Sakamichi series come to mind – but rarely does that translate to the group’s overall fanbase shifting towards becoming entirely female for J-pop idol groups.


Ohtani‘s enduring popularity with women can be seen in the fact that she just recently wrapped up a women’s-only talk show event at the recent Econoijoi Daikanshasai which just wrapped up this September 12th through the 18th.

As the popularity of Sasshi‘s groups continue to soar particularly with the opening of the concert movie, =LOVE Today is your Trigger THE MOVIE, it will be interesting to see if these dynamics continue. While the factors that led to this point in time are not entirely clear — all the factors as named by Watanabe are things that are also present in other groups, after all — it is clear that the dynamic of idol groups within Japan seem to be shifting towards an entirely female dominated landscape.

Read the full piece here.


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