By Kristen Olson
Where there's a will, now there's an easier way.
Previously on "Fantasies That Will Never Happen", male and female J-pop fans could pine for their idols as much as they pleased, but always knew in their hearts that an idol's true love must be legally unrequited. There's contracts, there's clauses, there's rules. Now, playing along with the charade has become all the more easier as one Tokyo District Court Judge ruled the J-pop "no dating" clause to be a violation of a person's unalienable rights to happiness and therefore unconstitutional.
The judge to address your thank you letters to is Katsuya Hara. Said Katsuya at the Tokyo District Court: “We must acknowledge that forbidding pop idols to date by claiming compensation for damages goes too far. Relationships are a right exercised by an individual to enrich life. They are part of the freedom to pursue happiness”.
Happiness indeed, but will it stick? The unnamed singers inspiring the case are thought to be former members of Aoyama Saint Hachamecha High School, Miho Yuuki and Sena Miura. Targeted with legal action by management company MovingFactory last year, the artists were being sued for ¥9.9 million (approximately £60,000) in damages for allegedly having a relationship with a fan.
When it announced that it was taking legal action against Miho Yuuki and Sena Miura in 2014, MovingFactory said: “The parental guardians signed contracts that said the members would not have relationships with fans and would not neglect their work. They have betrayed the [other] members of the group and all their fans. We cannot forgive this”.
While the fines are steep, ‘no dating’ and ‘no sex’ clauses are commonplace in contracts for Japanese pop groups, and it is not unheard of for management companies to sue if they believe those agreements have been broken.
Remember AKB48 singer Minami Minegishi's dethroning from 2013?
After a similar breach in her management firm's contract, Minami was demoted in the hierarchal group. She then shaved her head and issued a tearful apology on YouTube asking for forgiveness. For those unaccustomed to this exercise, in Japan, hair cutting is often seen as a symbol of a ‘new start’, though not always in such an extreme manner. Minami remains a member of the group.
But the battle is far from over... Just last year, the same court that issued this latest ruling ordered a seventeen year old former member of the group DokiDoki to pay Spiral Music damages of ¥650,000 (approx. £4000) for a similar breach of contract. The judge in that case, Akitomo Kojima, said: “The clause prohibiting dating was necessary to get the support of male fans. The revelation of an idol’s relationship damages their image.”
Are you rejoicing? Or is this ruling long overdue? Let us know below!