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Beef Of The Week #377: CDs v Mountains

By | Published on Friday 20 October 2017


A man in Japan has been charged by police for illegally dumping nearly 600 CDs in a forest up a mountain.

“Sure”, you might say. “It can be hard to get rid of your unwanted CD collection”. But no, these were 600 copies of the same CD single.

“Oh right”, you think. “He works for a PR company and he’d forgotten to PR a record he’d been paid to PR, like you do sometimes”.

No, he was just a guy. Stop trying to jump ahead and just let me tell the story. And I think you should probably keep your views on PR people to yourself. No one in music PR has ever dumped any CDs in a forest. Well, not lately anyway.

The CDs in question were copies of a single by girl group AKB48 and amounted to around half of the stash of these discs that this man – a fan of the group – had found himself needing to dispose of. Yeah, I know, that revelation is just making this whole thing more bizarre isn’t it? I think some background information might be useful at this point.

If you’re slightly – but only slightly – aware of Japanese pop music, it’s likely that it’s AKB48 you’re aware of. Founded in 2005 and named after the Akihabara area of Tokyo where they’re based, the group currently has around 130 members (not including various spin-off groups). These members are ranked – more on which in a moment – and then split into different teams, allowing AKB48 to appear live and at meet-and-greet events in multiple places simultaneously.

Like many (if not most) girl groups in Japan, AKB48 are largely marketed towards men with lots of disposable income. At this point it would be remiss not to note the pretty awful gender politics of this group – from the ‘no boyfriends’ rule in their contracts to allusions by some former members that they have been asked to provide sexual favours to older men in the entertainment industry. These issues aren’t limited to AKB48 (a member of another outfit called BiS was recently suspended from the group for not losing enough weight), but there is something particularly uncomfortable about this franchise.

The central focus of the marketing that occurs around AKB48 is an annual general election – or Senbatsu Sōsenkyo – at which all the current members of the group are ranked. A live televised event is attended by thousands of fans (although this year the outdoor event was cancelled and moved to a smaller indoor venue due to heavy rain). What you’re currently visualising probably doesn’t match the actual weirdness of this election event, so here’s a video:

This ranking of the group’s members is based on fan votes. The only way to cast your vote is to buy a copy of the group’s annual ‘election single’, in which is contained a voting slip. As well as being men with a lot of disposable income, a lot of AKB48’s fans also take this election very seriously. And this is how one fan might come to own more than a 1000 copies of that one single. To put this in perspective, to date the group have sold over 50 million physical records, almost 90% of which are singles.

Clearly, once the voting slip has been removed from a CD, it ceases to have much, if any value. Sure, you might want to keep one copy if you’re still maintaining an actual CD collection, but hundreds of copies not so much. This is why you can pick up each year’s election single for next to nothing in Japan’s second hand record shops, because lots of fans offload their extra copies as soon as they’ve extracted the voting slips. But there are only so many copies those second hand shops can or will take, which leaves the AKB48 superfan with a problem.

And now we’re back where we started. According to the Tokyo Reporter, a man from Fukuoka City in southern Japan has been charged with breaking waste disposal laws after dumping 585 copies of this year’s election single, ‘Negaigoto No Mochigusare’ (or ‘Wishful Tumbling’), in a forest on a mountain in nearby Dazaifu.

According to police, the accused man received around 1000 copies of the CD in May and June this year from another fan who had found themselves without the time necessary in order to do the actual voting. He, along with two friends, then went about removing all of the voting slips and casting those votes for their favourite AKB48 member.

Left with a stack of now worthless CDs, the trio seemingly split them up between themselves in order to get rid of them. The man now facing prosecution took around 600 away with him. Having shoved a few into his own bins, he realised this method was going to take too long to complete. So he took a trip to the local forest and offloaded them there instead.

“I dumped the CDs in the mountains to dispose of them after extracting the voting ballots necessary for the General Election”, he later admitted to police.

How was he caught, though? Fingerprints? DNA? No. Apparently the eleven boxes of dumped CDs were found by a member of the public, who was out for a walk, just three days after they’d been left in the forest. And the boxes still had the address of the original owner of the CDs written on them. Once that person had been tracked down, it wasn’t long before the actual culprit was arrested.

This isn’t even the first time this sort of thing has happened. As the Tokyo Reporter also notes, in 2014, six people were prosecuted for dumping nearly 700 AKB48 singles in a Kyoto car park, from which they had removed tickets for meet-and-greet events. It’s also, amazingly, not the first time we’ve covered J-pop fans damaging wooded areas in this column.

So basically, next time someone tells you that Japan is still a country totally in love with CDs – “just look at the units still being shifted there!” – remember this tale.