Ex-AKB48 Pop Star Helps Idols Launch New Careers

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Haruka Shimada, a former member of the pop idol group AKB48, in an interview

A former member of the pop idol group AKB48 has set up a company to help former pop idols start their second careers by capitalizing on her experience in the entertainment industry.

“The abilities cultivated in the entertainment world can be used as weapons in the corporate world,” Haruka Shimada, 30, said. “I’d like to support [former idols] to start the second stage of their life.”

Shimada passed an audition for AKB48 in 2009, when she was a high school student. Taking her cue from the seniors she admired, she practiced singing and dancing very hard, and she was chosen as one of the group’s selected members. With her big-sisterly disposition, she took on the role of leading new faces who joined the group one after another. She started to think that she might be suited to work that supports others.

Shimada became interested in sports management, and in 2017 she left show business and went to study in Britain, where she became acquainted with some athletes. She was surprised to find out that they had concrete ideas on what they would like to do beyond their playing days.

“That made me realize that I was also in the middle of developing my second career,” she said. On the other hand, the reality is that many pop idols’ careers are brief, and only a few of them find new jobs at companies after retirement. She said she didn’t want them to regret their choice to become a pop idol.

After returning to Japan, she worked at an ad agency for about two years. She had a hard time setting up her PC and learning how to hand over her business card. But she changed her mindset, and began to think that there are things only former pop idols can do.

She felt sure that the communication skills nurtured in hand-shake events with fans and the ability to read the room are also useful in business.

In 2020, she started a company Dct to teach former pop idols business etiquette and how to use PCs with the hope of giving them more options after they leave entertainment.

Now, she is busy visiting talent agencies, interviewing applicants and finding companies that could hire former entertainers. Seven people have already finished her firm’s course and started their new careers in such fields as publicity and sales.

“If pop idols are able to have a clear picture of their second career, they can concentrate on their entertainment activities and their families will feel relieved. I think I’ve been able to give back to AKB a little,” she said with a smile.

Originally from Shizuoka Prefecture, Shimada also works as a proprietress-to-be at a ryokan that belongs to her family.