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When AKB48's agency released the Minegishi video along with a blog post demoting her to the "training" ranks of the 88-member-strong group, it was only the most extreme example in a long line of similar incidents. That's the age of majority in Japan; two weeks previously, she had celebrated her coming-of-age day along with every other Japanese person who reached the age of 20 in the past year.

As an adult, how is it even possible to be stopped from forming a relationship by your employer?

All of this means a demographic otherwise marginalized in Japanese society has been granted with extraordinary buying power in pop culture, catapulting AKB48 to success far beyond their limited appeal. David Marx of Neojaponisme proposed in a series of essays, Japan has undergone a cultural shift to a point where "normal" people just don't buy music, leaving the hardcore otaku to exert their dominance.

Now, as journalist and ethnographer Patrick Galbraith told The Verge last year, it's all too easy to stereotype otaku culture.

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A Japanese pop idol, hair freshly shaved to the skin, takes to You Tube and bursts into tears as she begs for mercy over her transgression.I don't expect to be forgiven by doing this, but the first thing I thought was that I didn't want to quit AKB48." The article in question came out in the Shukan Bunshun magazine last week, and showed alleged photos of Minegishi leaving the house of boy band member Alan Shirahama.Clad in baseball cap and cotton surgical mask, Minegishi was aiming to dodge paparazzi, but evidently her disguise didn't work.I'm not sure I know any Japanese people who would admit to liking AKB48, let alone owning any of their CDs.In fact, I don't know too many people in Japan who buy music at all — and who can blame them, at around a pop?

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