Dating AKB48: the J-pop cult banned from falling in love

A Japanese pop idol, hair freshly shaved to the skin, takes to YouTube and bursts into tears as she begs for mercy over her transgression. “My name is Minami Minegishi of AKB48 Team B,” she says, referring to the hugely successful group she became a founding member of seven years ago. “Regarding the article that will be released today, I am so sorry for worrying my band members, fans, staff, family, and everyone else.” She bows in contrition for a full eight seconds — slightly longer than, say, Sony’s Kaz Hirai did when apologizing for the massive PlayStation Network security breach in 2011.

Minami Minegishi had just been accused of having a boyfriend.