Fans offered new ways to ‘push’ their favorite idols

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Women clink glasses in a room at Tokyo Dome Hotel in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, which offers an “oshikatsu” overnight stay plan to fans of entertainers or anime characters who enjoy “pushing” in support of their idols.

Avid fans of certain entertainers or anime characters enjoy showing support for their idols through a variety of activities called “oshikatsu,” in which they give their favorite a “push.” Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic putting a crimp on live events, oshikatsu practices are evolving into new forms. Some Japanese businesses are offering new goods and services to help out and cash in.

Musical hospitality

Fans who book a hotel room overlooking Tokyo Dome can watch live video of concerts on an in-room projector. They are provided with penlights to hold up and wave as if they were actually part of the concert crowd, with a mirror ball further enlivening the atmosphere. They can even order a fancy cake decorated with a color image of the idol they are pushing.

The “oshikatsu overnight stay plan” offered by Tokyo Dome Hotel in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo, has proved so popular since its launch in late July that the hotel extended the service through October and beyond, even after the end of the pandemic state of emergency.

Concerts and other large-scale events at Tokyo Dome would normally cause the next-door hotel to become packed with fans. Amid the pandemic, however, the number of overnight guests declined, prompting the hotel operator to come up with new service plans. A manager at the hotel said, “We hope our guests will enjoy the mood of a live performance, with a view of Tokyo Dome.”

Although the oshikatsu market suffered a setback due to cancellations of concerts and movie screenings, it is expected to expand down the road.

According to Yano Research Institute Ltd., the size of the domestic anime market was valued at ¥300 billion and the idol-related market was worth ¥261 billion in fiscal 2019, before the full effects of the pandemic were felt.

Market research firm Neo Marketing Inc. conducted a nationwide survey of people aged 13 to 49 in June. When respondents of both genders were asked how much they spend each month on oshikatsu activities, the most common response, chosen by 38.4%, was “less than ¥5,000.” Those who selected “from ¥10,000 to less than ¥50,000” made up 14.8%, and 6.8% said “¥50,000 or more.”

A shift in hot items

Changes have also been seen in sales of oshikatsu products. At Tower Records stores, the hot items used to be things brought to live performances, such as round fans, keyrings and bags. Amid the pandemic, though, items for the storage and display of CD covers and T-shirts have become hot sellers.

Sharp Corp. has launched an oshikatsu service that enables cooking appliances connected to the Internet of Things to speak in the voices of anime or game characters, courtesy of recordings by voice actors. The company launched the service in response to customer requests, such as, “I would be delighted if the voice I heard from my cooking appliance every day were that of my fave [giving recipe advice, for instance].”

As an example, a steam oven or automatic cooking pot will call out its user, saying, “Let’s make a delicious meal together.”

Teruya Saruwatari, an oshikatsu analyst at Dentsu Inc., said: “Enthusiastic fans don’t mind spending money to push their idols. As the trend of companies providing new services and products [related to oshikatsu] is seen to continue, the market is expected to expand further.”

Oshikatsu activities have spread widely since about 10 years ago, thanks to the explosive popularity of idol group AKB48. Sharing information about the entertainers or anime characters they support enthusiastically, thus enhancing their name recognition, is also considered an oshikatsu activity.