Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
In her February 10th letter “Crying won’t clean the slate” Sari Moroishi suggests that singer Minami Minegishi ought to be expelled from AKB48 after being caught violating the group’s contract’s no-boyfriends clause. Although she admits the futility of the rule - “I think the rule is pointless” - she thinks that a rule is a rule even if it is ridiculous - or even illegal in this case - and that if the girls want love they should not join a group that doesn’t disguise its rules in the first place. Rule breakers must be punished, no matter what the rule is. Moroishi calls that “fair.” I think her regard for rules seems unhealthy.
I myself favor rules and boundaries as mechanisms for discriminating virtuous order from vicious chaos. But at the same time I know about flexibility, specifically efficacy in hand with intelligence and compassion. So there are grounds for at least ignoring or even openly violating rules that are ridiculous and immoral, that don’t serve the common weal, and others that are or may be illegal. As a foreigner who has done his share of English teaching in Tokyo (not my sole occupation) I am familiar with illegal contracts.
The legality of chastity contract clauses should be the focus of the story of Minegishi’s fall. This is what constitutional and labor law professor Hifumi Okunuki suggested in her January 22nd article “AKB48: Unionize and take back your lost love lives.” As a professor in the topic, I trust she understands these things better than most of us. Professor Okunuki wrote that in the case of idols it is the last of four necessary contract conditions, shakaiteki datosei, that violates rather than upholds kojo ryozoku (public order and
morality), and citing a 1989 precedent states that “the AKB48 chastity clause fails to meet the ... criteria for legitimate grounds for dismissal”. But the only way to test the legality of chastity clauses is in court, which seems very unlikely, hence the professor’s suggestion that the idols unionize themselves.
I fear the story will die a wasted learning opportunity.