Minami shaved off her hair and made a tearful speech on YouTube to ask for forgiveness.
The band, consisting of a 90-strong pool of girls in their teens and early twenties are rotated in and out of the public eye based on popularity.
In return for the chances they are given at stardom, they must adhere to strict rules of behaviour. They are allowed one-sided feelings for a boy, but must never do more than hint at it, and still appear to remain 'available' to their myriad of male fans, so as not to shatter their illusions.
The groups' management said Minegishi would be demoted to a trainee team as punishment "for causing a nuisance to the fans". (www.news.com.au)
The money printing machine that is, AKB48
They portray an image of cuteness known as "kawaii", and have become a huge sensation in Japan and progressively in other Asian countries. (www.wikipedia.org)
There is a lot of focus on the 'innocence' of the girls, however the band is heavily marketed on sex appeal. The girls appear in skimpy outfits and flirtatious smiles are the order of the day. They are bringing in a lot of money. (www.news.com.au)
History of shaving
Shaving has history into Biblical times. Shaving not only marked significant events in the life of the ordinary person, but also as a sign of mourning, humiliation or for purity or cleanliness. (Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, edited by Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, Tremper Longman III). The Nazi's also carried out shaving on the Jews as a 'sign of shame'.
Putting such 'dating bans' on teenagers and young women in their twenties may possibly be asking for disaster. In June 2012, another AKB48 member, Rino Sashihara, 20, had to make a pained apology after a magazine revealed her carefree history with a boy. She was demoted to a regional sub-group as a punishment. (www.news.com.au)
Applying these stringent type requirements for professional and money-making means potentially causes these girls to take their lives 'underground'. Living lives in secret and then being in a position where they feel they need to apologise publically, can only give a young girl mixed signals. Not to mention the mixed signals the male fans are being fed.
Do our lives give out mixed signals?
I thought about Minami's position in this debacle. Obviously she is thrilled at the opportunity to be where she is at in her life. Fame, apparent innocence, popularity, youth and beauty. And in the instant of a paparazzi photograph, all of this is threatened and she feels shame. What does this do to a young girls' heart?
We all need a bit more truth in our lives in regard to who we are. We all have areas of our life that we think need to be taken underground for fear of shame or judgement. The truth is, those small areas are in need of alignment to Christ's image, by being real and honest. I have them; we all have them. It represents where we are at right now, no mixed signals, and no masks. The sign in front of my face should read: "This is where I'm at and God is working with me."
We can count on God's deep, enduring love to work those areas out in timeâ€"I do not need to hide them or misrepresent myself because someday, those areas will come into full alignment with the standard that is represented by Jesus Christ. There are no mixed signals from Him. It's straightforward.
Proverbs chapter 3 verse 6 in The Message states: 'Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for GOD's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track. Don't assume that you know it all. Run to GOD!'
For Minami, the culture she lives in is very different to mine. The competition to be 'someone' in a country of 127 million people is tough. The pressure to succeed is great. There are many high expectations and a lot of disappointment and shame to avoid – mainly from family, employers and cultural norms.
My prayer for her is that she will acknowledge God in all she does, so that he can make her path straight.
Sometimes we think the place we are currently in is the only place we can be at. We can't see a way out. Ask God to set out a path. I promise an adventure will be ahead.
Belinda Croft lives in Melbourne with husband Russell and son BJ, 12 years. She has a passion for God, writing, creativity, missions and social justice.
Belinda Croft's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/belinda-croft.html