Japanese Musicians Bolt Their Fans For Cash( And I’m A Fan)


If you hurled Hot Topic and a Renaissance fair into a blender and fed the resulting slurry to Ziggy Stardust, you’d get “Visual Kei.” Visual Kei is a Japanese genre of music that … actually, that’s not right. It’s not so much a genre as it is a set of esthetics that … no, that’s not right, either. Visual Kei is … okay, what the fuck is is Visual Kei? Let’s start there. We asked “Sonya, ” a hardcore fan who follows a Visual Kei band around on tour, like somebody adapted Phish into an anime.


Visual Kei Fans Will Sacrifice Everything For Their Favorite Band

Pierrot de Lioncourt/ Wiki Commons

Despite the country’s reputation as the world’s largest, open-air insane asylum, Japan has pretty standard musical tastes, with pop reigning supreme and Visual Kei bands being more of a niche market. But what they lack in mainstream appeal, they more than make up for in frightening, almost-religious devotion from their fans.

“I had the opportunity to go to Japan when I was 19, ” Sonya explains. “Back then, I was still a casual fan until I procured my ‘honmei, ‘ or favorite band. Soon I was going to concerts three to five times a week and expending my life in venues. I went back to Europe to finish my degree. I was accepted for my continuing degree at an upper-class university … Then one day I told ‘fuck it’ and went back to Japan to become a professional insane person who wore too much makeup, didn’t sleep enough, and lived for her shiny sons in leather and lace. My mum cried when I told her, but I had to do what constructs me happy … I haven’t gone back to reality since.”

Georges Seguin/ Wiki Commons
Neither have the bands .

Nowadays, Sonya works as an English teacher in Chiba because it’s the only Japanese chore where “time off” isn’t considered a dirty word. “I sometimes run 112 -hour weeks just so I can take a few days off where I’ll spend 48 hours straight on a crammed night bus to headbang with my band for an hour, usually less. It’s a tough life. You skip dinners, lose sleep, is being dealt with busted faces, fucked-up knees, bruises, cuts, gashes … “

But in reality, it’s not as simple as downing a few Potions and calling it a day. In fact, if you’re not careful, you are able even need yourself a Phoenix Down …


Visual Kei Fans Are Hardcore To The Point Of Insanity

Samuli Lintula/ Wiki Commons

Every subculture has a set of unwritten rules. For Visual Kei fans, the chief regulation is: “Look at my favorite band member incorrect and I’ll eat your soul.” Sonya elaborates …

“Some of the fans can be bloody mental. The girls can get brutal if they think you’re moving in on their favorite member … I once got head butted and violated a finger in three places. Another period, I got stabbed with a broken drumstick. It actually ran in deep enough to leave a nasty scar on my back. I had an earring ripped out of my ear and I damn well know it wasn’t road traffic accidents. That nasty cunt hurled it back at me.”

wetwebwork/ Wiki Commons
“Next period I’m taking the ear portion! ”

“I’ve even considered girls get their hair pulled out of their head or purposely slammed into at displays so hard their rib violated. I also know a fan who had her nose broken more than once. Mostly, though, if you piss off the incorrect people, it starts off as cyber abuse. I escaped that by deleting a generous portion of my social media, but some fans have killed themselves over cyber-bullying … According to another story I heard from an older friend of mine, a guy in some band was paying too much attention to one daughter, so the other fans actually tried pushing her in front of a train.”

Meditations/ pixabay
It’s one thing to love metal — it’s another to hear “Crazy Train” and get inspired to make one a weapon .

Wow. Even the most die-hard punks would ask you to dial that dedication back a smidge. Well, they wouldn’t say “smidge, ” but you get the point …


Some Visual Kei Bands Are Also Prostitutes

F3al2/ iStock

Hardcore fans of Visual Kei are known as “bangya, ” which is both a Japanese portmanteau of “band girl, ” and an accurate description of their pastimes. Sonya insists that a real bangya would never sleep with her honmei, even if they ejaculated free concert tickets. But there are still plenty of horny female fans out there who would, which is why some groups cash in by turning themselves into musical prostitution rings.

“We call this ‘mitsu, ‘” Sonya explains. “Every month you send your favorite band member an amount of money. If you go low-end, it could be anywhere from [$ 200 -4 00] a month. In these kinds of relationships, you get to maybe talk with the guy on the phone. The more expensive ones can go as high as [$ 1,000] a month. What you usually get with these are dates and sex. He will meet you, take you to Disneyland, bring you home, fuck you, and whisper how he loves you.

Rob Young/ Wiki Commons
The Happiest Place Ending On Earth

I once met a girl who pays [~$ 5,000] a month, and for that, she had a sung written about her by her honmei … I’ve never done mitsu, and it gives me the creeps.”

The whole practice is very hush-hush, but also widespread in the industry. That’s why, according to Sonya, “A lot of bands are just in it for the pussy. Some literally don’t even know how to play their instruments because they don’t “re going to have to”. When I ask my friends why they like this or that band, they talk about how cute the bassist is, etc.”

Georges Seguin/ Wiki Commons
Plucking at guitar strings is optional, but tugging at heart strings is mandatory .

To fans of actual music, like Sonya, it’s a strange and foreign practice, like wanting to bang the Mona Lisa. Which hey, if she dressed like that …


Being A Fan Costs A Small Fortune

photoncatcher/ iStock

A bangya is basically a music fan that was bitten by another bigger, more radioactive music fan. Their dedication is insane 馃槢 TAGEND

“I have probably expended somewhere above [$ 50,000] while being a bangya, ” Sonya says. “We have cheki, little Polaroids of band members that we trade like Pokemon cards. They expense about [$ 4] a pop. I once bought 100 of them … Another period I traveled hundreds of kilometers to Nagoya just to pick up a[ special edition] CD to induce my collecting complete. Bye bye [$ 250 ]. “

You could go on eBay but where’s the adventure in that ?

Let’s break down one of Sonya’s recent expenditures, chiefly because it will induce us feel better about falling $50 on Kim Kardashian: Hollywood last week. “Last year, I did a tour for my band. It was 18 lives, with the tickets being about [$ 40] each. I traveled 12 hours, with each averaging [$ 70 ], though there were two times where it was [$ 180] each. I expended [$ 30] per day on food and other basic expenditures, I required a hotel five times, while my cheki counting for the tour in total was 82. At one live, I bought about [$ 120] in merchandise and [$ 250] in CDs.”

All in all, Sonya’s stint came out to about $3,000 … just like the time when she popped over from Europe to Japan to attend just ONE concert. What’s even scarier is that she’s actually considered one of the thriftier fans. “I insured a girl buy a band guy a new guitar because he mentioned it on Twitter. Sometimes girls will buy them automobiles, and houses , and expensive equipment. Largely it is jewelry. My close friend bought my favorite vocalist a [$ 650] necklace.”

Georges Seguin/ Wiki Commons
And, as mentioned earlier, for $650 some bands will give you pearl one in return .

We’re happy with our own careers and all, but Japanese Fantasy Rock Gigolo does look pretty good on a business card …


The Bands Want To Be The Only Men In Your Life

Ceasol/ Wiki Commons

Once you’ve considered a bunch of androgynous guys dressed in one square foot of leather and 50 square feet of lace, madly gyrating while shredding a guitar behind their heads, your threshold for lust changes 馃槢 TAGEND

“I find myself on dates with nice, successful men, just staring at them and thinking ‘You know, my favorite vocalist would fucking hate this little prissy-ass boy.’ They violated my standards for men. Like , nothing feels the same as being at a concert and your favorite member smiles at you, and you know it is just for you.”

Georges Seguin/ Wiki Commons
Visual Kei’s provide answers to Teddy Roosevelt, apparently .

Visual Kei bands survive by maintaining their fanbase nice and fanatic, and they do that by promoting a select few of them to Super Fan status. They’ll invite you backstage or to parties, hang around with you, and pat you on the head when your dog dies, all of which happened to Sonya. Most importantly, though, they will keep you on the hook until “youre starting” thinking of them as your fake boyfriends.

“I have NEVER brought a boyfriend to a concert. It’d be like bringing home your boyfriend to meet your mothers for the first time, only it’s more like your fake boyfriends meeting your real boyfriend … I mentioned to a member of my band that I had a boyfriend once and he got wide-eyed and told me ‘What? No. You can’t. Don’t say that to( my favorite member ). ‘ He honestly worried he’d be jealous.”

Dimitri Hakke/ GettyImages
“I wore my most glittery tube top just for you, and this is how you repay me ?! ”

It’s all about image. Visual Kei bands want to be surrounded by young, single fans, and are willing to give them enough false hope to keep them unattached. That’s not to say there’s no love, though …


The Band And The Fans Eventually Become Your Family

Dimitri Hakke/ GettyImages

According to Sonya, it’s impossible to remember every single nice thing her favorite band has done for her … because it would expose her real identity and get her murdered by an insane fan at the next show. But, for example: “When I popped over to Japan to attend a show, I didn’t actually have a ticket, but my honmei put me on the guest list after I sent them a message. In the west, bands are rarely this close with their fans. Some of the bands I follow( ed) would often ask me( and only me) to hang back after the show with them.”

When the heroes of every Final Fantasy wishes to cold, you dare not say no .

It’s like getting to live in the friend zone with your favorite musicians. And for all the harping we do about the crazy fans, Sonya actually loves the fanbase at large. “We always have one another’s backs. We devote each other cheki, concert tickets, and we get drunk together. One period I was so drunks that they stayed with me until 2 a.m. until I got on my bus, even though they had a hotel and could have left me hours before … Sometimes bands have shitty fans that all openly detest one another but most of us are merely looking for a safe place to be ourselves.”

And what do you call a group that cares for and loves you, despite all your faultings? That’s right: A household. And what do you call a family that also asks for your total devotion and all of your fund? A cult. Or Visual Kei. One has better manner sense than the other.

Melissa Fossum/ PHX/ Voice Media Group via Getty Images
It could have been worse. They could have become Juggalos . Cezary Jan Strusiewicz is a Cracked columnist, interviewer, and editor. Contact him at c.j.strusiewicz @gmail. com . Have a tale to share with Cracked? Email us here . For more insider perspectives, check out 6 Insane Realities Of Life As A Japanese Pop Star and 5 Things You Learn Being A Children’s Rock Star . Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out Why Hipster Bands Shouldn’t Be Allowed To Use YouTube, and other videos you won’t ensure on the site ! Also, follow us on Facebook. Or, don’t. But, please do !

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