Being an idol otaku overseas has gotten much easier over the years. We have access to so much more information and media (even the official kind!) than we did before.
One of the best parts of liking idols is that they’re now people you can meet and interact with, thanks to the trend started by AKB. That’s what makes them different from everything else you can geek out about online, but it’s also one of the last barriers for us who are separated by distance. For those of us who live overseas, that privilege is something you usually have to work extra hard for. It’s not easy to cross the ocean just to see your girls, and for many people, it’s a far off dream.
Luckily, different idol agencies have addressed this in their own ways throughout the years.
AKB with their Super Enpou (back then)
It was a nice idea in where the agency tried to acknowledge the extra effort it took to come from faraway places by giving you higher odds at winning a ticket. I personally hated planning a trip without knowing if I could even go to the event back then. Thus is the pain of tickets attached to your name and ID. However, I do hear that super enpou is pretty much obsolete now, which makes sense when there’s too many foreigners to cater to at once, and demand is more than supply.
Indie/smaller idol groups with their online streams and video chats
These can cost money for wota once you get past the initial “trial”, but the interaction you get can be quite high return as well. I’m no longer in my idol exploratory phase so I never looked into it, but I’ve seen my friends do solo chats online or even win signed stuff mailed directly to them overseas before. Pretty cool if you’re into it.
*NEW* Hello! Project finally making a move with the #hp_here campaign on Instagram
Finally, H!P enters the ring with their own idea, and one that utilizes social media at that! Foreign fans are encouraged to post on Instagram with the tag #hp_here, to show off their hometowns and their love of H!P. As an incentive, there’s also apparently a chance of winning a Skype call with an H!P member or having a group come perform in your city!
I’m quite honestly shocked. Perhaps I’ve grown jaded throughout the years, but this is a company that at most only gives us a slight nod of the head in acknowledgement of our existence.
The fact that they’re now taking active ways to include foreign fans (especially through their own means) is pretty surprising.
Furthermore, the members actually do get to look at the pictures and feature a few every week on Hello Station. Not to mention actively encouraging overseas fans to send in messages. The me of wota years past wouldn’t even imagine it.
Here’s to hoping that these are signs of progress and not just a one time gimmick. Maybe with the help of internet, the physical barriers of idol/wota relations can be minimized after all. If there are other methods of interaction I haven’t mentioned here, I would love to hear about them in comments. Have you found ways to interact with your idols from far away? Or is there some kind of other method you just wish an agency would start?
[overseas concerts are not included in this article because those are few and far between, more like special occasions]