Typified by the saccharine songs of AKB48, the Japanese idol world is largely the province of the young. One rarely expects to see a singer over the age of 25 among the mini-skirt-clad ranks of the ultra-kawaii groups.
A group from Osaka—called Obachaaan—are ready to change that up.
Consisting of 47 obachan (middle-aged women) from Osaka, the group’s stated goal is to “use the power of Osaka obachan to enliven the world.”
For this to make sense, there are a few things you have to know about the public perception of Osaka obachan. The stereotype is that they are loud, aggressive, funny, very friendly, love animal-print clothes, and always, always, always have candy to give out, even to complete strangers on the train. With total self-awareness, the group trades on these images in performances and songs with the goal of making people laugh. In this way, they’re almost more a giant manzai group than idols.
In their first music video (available for your viewing pleasure below), the “Seven Goddesses,” the central members of the group deliver a surprisingly competent rap, with a brief verse in the more traditional enka style. Lyrical topics range from Osaka obachan fashion and hair styling to searching for bargain prices to whether or not there’s anything cute about Osaka obachan (the conclusion is yes, but that they talk too much).
The group is actually the brainchild of four “creators” in the Osaka advertising industry. The idea came from an entry for a contest looking for commercials to increase Osaka’s appeal.
While some idol groups (like AKB48) are designed so that YOU can go meet THEM, Obachaaan will actually “come to you!” No, not like a house call (though we bet they could make some great soup when you’re sick), but that they’re so chatty and outgoing that they gladly interact with the crowd. Instead of waiting to be approached, these idols happily stop and talk to everyone they see. (Especially handsome young men.)
So, why 47 members?
One of the creators explained. “With 47 members, we feel kind of like we’re in competition with AKB. We’re just one member short of 48, but maybe that’s just the right amount? Also, it’s like the 47 Ronin, so it’s as if we’re raiding the idol world!”
Another reason might be the age of the members, as many of them seem to have trouble remembering all the lyrics and dance moves. To be fair to them, we would probably have the same problem. However, as one of the group creators pointed out, there’s something to their mistakes—it makes the audience smile. And isn’t that really the point: to entertain? More seriously though, one member (Pink Obachan) has already had to withdraw from the group due to problems with her foot…
Whether or not they’ll be able to topple any of the reigning idol queens remains to be seen, but they’ve grown quite busy since their inception in 2011. Some of the members have even had to cut back their hours at their part-time jobs to attend performances!
Here’s hoping we’ll get to see Obachaaan storming into Akihabara soon! We might need some enlivening with this humidity.
▼ “Obachaaan Theme”
▼And here’s the commercial that started it all.
Sing along now, guys!
Osaka Obahan! [“Obahan” is the Osaka-dialect word for “obachan.”]
In tiger-patterned war clothes
They vigorously haggle over prices
(Can’t you make it cheaper?)
They love free stuff
(I have a big family)
Cut down on UV rays
Even if you lose at pachinko [pinball gambling]
(Here you go! Have some candy!)
They cheer you on
Even today, they’re out enlivening Osaka!