An AKB48 Scandal

Hirajima Natsumi, Yonezawa Rumi

It had to happen. With its dozens of teen and young adult members, it was only a matter of time before someone in AKB48 got themselves in trouble. It was announced on the group’s official blog at the end of last week that Hirajima Natsumi (19, photo left) and Yonezawa Rumi (20, photo right) are to be kicked out. The reason? Being photographed semi-naked? No, that was approved. Singing rubbish songs badly? No, that was the whole point of the group. Photos circulating on the web of members hanging out with boys? Yer outta here!

AKB48 Scandal
The photos, posted to Twitter, were not exactly hardcore. The one above – Yonezawa is far left, Hirajima far right -showed the two stars having a typical night out with friends some of whom were male. But it is standard practice in the world of disposable Japanese pop aidorus – where devoted adoration by legions of male fans is the key to commercial success – to be prohibited from having boyfriends, even if they have come of age. And truth be told, neither Hirajima not Yonezawa were among the more popular members of the huge AKB48 troupe. Hirajima performed on only 3 of the group’s A-side singles, the last in February 2008, while Yonezawa never even got one call up.

Group leader, or captain, Takahashi Minami (20) posted a comment on the incident on her blog yesterday. “It may be just a regular thing for regular girls, but we are AKB48, aren’t we? We can’t change the reality of the situation.” She wished her two friends well in their new journey through life. Like Takahashi, Hirajima has been one of the group’s original members since 2005, while Yonezawa joined in the third round of auditions in 2006. Their final appearance as AKB48 members will be a fan meet-and-greet on February 5.