10 September 2011

Johnny’s Juniors, full of rising stars and heartbreak

One of the things about Johnny’s that interested me the most was the relationships between members of different groups. It did not take me long to learn that a good deal of those relationships came from the time when they were all trainees, or as Johnny’s calls them, Johnny’s Juniors.

The original Johnny’s Juniors were created back in 1965, but it was not until the debut of the group Four Leaves (1968-1978) that they began taking on the roles that they are currently known for, mainly back dancing for debuted groups. It was also then that the agency begin to look to these back dancing Juniors for future debut groups from selecting the most popular ones to put together to create new groups from.

In the early days the Juniors lived in dorms together, in fact the sempai groups all seem to have referenced being in these during their Junior days. But from what I can gather at some point after the accusations of Johnny molesting his talents broke out the dorms were done away with. Juniors these days live at home with their families for the most part and have to commute to work and home. The current qualification for age to join Johnny’s these days is said to be for the boy to be old enough to commute on his own, which for Japan the 8-9 years old range seems to be fine for children to start that kind of thing as the crime rate in Japan is rather low.

While the youngest Juniors are around 8-9 the oldest known Junior, Sano Mizuki, is in his thirties. There are also plenty of Juniors in their twenties, and even late twenties these days. The older Juniors though tend to no longer be featured in the Junior programs anymore and tend to move on to do work as actors, whether it be in dramas, musicals or even voice acting.

 To be considered a Junior a boy just needs to be accepted into the agency, which is done typically by sending in an application form then going in for a group dance lesson where the boys get selected to join. From time to time a Junior will be scouted outside of this process and will be asked to join by the agency but the cases of this are far and few in between. There is a rank below Junior, which is simply called Trainee, that has only been given to two Johnny’s that is known and they received the rank because of the scandals they were involved in so it was a part of their punishment.

While Juniors still fill the traditional role of back dancing for debuted groups as their popularity grew so did the variety of work they do. Juniors nowadays get into acting with dramas, movies and musicals, have their own concerts that they can headline and participate in TV programs as part of the regular casts. Because of this kind of exposure recent Johnny’s groups have been able to have number 1 debut singles as they can gather a large fan base pre-debut through such activities.

Juniors can be placed into groups with their own group names and promoted together or they can be without groups. The benefit of being in a group is that those Juniors tend to get more attention though there are some exceptions to this. While in the past Johnny's tended to make Junior groups to later debut with typically some changes in the member roster. The more recent Johhny's groups though have either been newly created groups that broke up Junior groups to be formed or Junior groups that were able to become popular enough that they were able to be debuted without any changes in their members.

The Juniors are based out of two areas in Japan. The larger and more popular location is of course Tokyo, as it is the hub of all things in the country. These are the Juniors one will see much more of as they are the ones on the Junior TV program, The Shounen Club, eleven of the twelve months it airs. They are also the ones that are directly connected to the word Junior so if you see anyone talking about the Juniors there is a good chance they are only talking about the ones in Tokyo.

The Kansai Juniors are the Juniors based out of the Western Japanese city of Osaka. They are like the orphans of the red-headed step-child of the Johnny’s family. Unlike the Juniors in Tokyo they only get one month to be the focus on The Shounen Club and while they do get a fair share of work with dramas, musicals and TV programs they are usually almost always Kansai only, so their nationwide exposure tends to be limited. They are thought to be less popular but if you talk to Kansai Junior fans they will assure you that what they lack in popularity they make up by being entertaining. 

There has also been a growing trend for Juniors to make CD debuts but still remain Juniors. Most of the time these CD singles are a one-time thing connected with some kind of special promotion at the time of release. If you want to know if a CD release is meant for an ongoing group the best way is to see if the Juniors are removed from the Junior section of the official websites and given their own section.

As Juniors are all in training to be the next debut they tend to gather fans who want to support them to achieve this goal. But since in the end it is the agency that picks who gets to debut and who does not being a Junior fan can be heartbreaking when a favorite quits. But speaking from personal experience when favorites actually do debut after you’ve been supporting them for years it makes it all feel worth it.

TRIVIA: Kazama Shunsuke, one of the older Juniors, is the voice actor for Yuugi Muto from the Yu-Gi-Oh! TV series (not the original 1998 one though).

Next Entry > The Early and Rocky Path to Fame

Directory >
Johnny’s Juniors, full of rising stars and heartbreak
The Early and Rocky Path to Fame
Kondo Masahiko: Singer, Dancer, Actor, Professional Race Car Driver
Giving a New Meaning to Playzone, Shounentai
Hikaru Genji, Shining the Brightest and Crashing the Hardest
Otokogumi, Rocking It Old School
The Living Legend of SMAP
TOKIO, From Spaceships to the Over 30s World
Victory, Volleyball, Vegetable, Vicylce? V6
KinKi Kids, It's Not What You Think
Arashi, Storming to the Top
The Inseparable Duo, Tackey & Tsubasa
North, East, West, South ... It's big NEWS
Kansai Underdogs,  Kanjani∞
Cartoon? KAT-TUN!
Jumping to Their Dreams, Hey! Say! JUMP
Johnny's Black Sheep, Akanishi Jin
How to Debut Without Even Trying, Ikuta Toma
Kis-My-Ft2, Everybody Go (Roller Skating)!
Yamashita Tomohisa, Johnny’s Golden Boy
Entering the Sexy Zone
The 5Stars A.B.C-Z
International Ventures
Johnny's and Charity 
Odds & Ends


Karina said...

"being a Junior fan can be heartbreaking when a favorite quits"

yeah, I´ve experienced it myself some years ago T_T At that time, I thought the world is coming to an end, that much desperate I have been.
Being a Junior fan can be the best thing but the hardest thing too at the same time.

Jackie said...

Great post, thank you!

The thing I love about Juniors is that you can follow them growing up, improving and in best case how they debut.
But, there are lots of Juniors which I like but who never debuted or will probably never debut. At those times, it´s frustrating because you cheer for that Junior for many years, love him more and more but in the end, they quit or get ignored etc.
But all people who are fans of Johnnys Jr will understand how I feel.
Still, being a Jr fan is a wonderful thing!

Misa said...

I didn´t know there was a boarding house before??? O_O
Do you know who those Juniors were who lived there?
But I´m glad that there isn´t something like this anymore because I want them to have a life outside Johnnys too. It´s just my opinion but living with their family (many of them are still so young) and being able to meet local friends, I think this is better.

Chris said...

These days I think there are some Juniors who are like "debuted" artists.
Like Toma Ikuta, who is really famous through whole Japan (and of course outside too). He may not be doing idol acitivities but his acting activities made him to a top star of Japan, despite being only a Junior.
Then the other case may be Nakayama Yuuma. I´m not going to discuss again how confusing his status, but he´s officially a Junior.
But Yuma is already doing as much as debuted idols. Releasing CD´s, one of the main in stageplays, drama appearances, concerts and didn´t he appear with NYC twice at Kouhaku? It doesn´t matter what status he has, he already is treated like debuted, even he´s not officially.

Do Johnny´s JR also have singing and acting classes??
It makes me wondering how they can handle school and all of those dance classes and rehearsals.
Of course, I´m talking about the busy Juniors, who have lots of activites.

Thennary Nak said...

@ Karina

I think anyone who has been a Junior fan for some time has had their heart broken by a favorite leaving. I've been lucky that at least of of my big favorites has returned to the entertainment industry but there are also plenty of Juniors that have completely disappeared that I at least had been getting interested in before they left.

@ Jackie

Thank you and you're welcome.

That's what I love most about Juniors myself.

While that's heartbreaking I find just remembering the best thing is to hope for their happiness before all else. I'd rather them live a happy normal life than be miserable doing the idol thing.

And of course nothing beats having your favorite finally achieve their dream and debut.

@ Misa

I now the older groups like TOKIO, V6 and Kinki Kids have mentioned about it in the past so I think their the youngest group of Johnny's that were in the boarding house.

I agree, it's probably much better for them to live with their families and have a normal life outside of being a Junior.

@ Chris

Well Toma is recognized as being a debuted Junior, he just has the distinction of being the only Junior to debut without a music release. But you're pretty spot on about Yuma. And let's not forget that Shintaro was more active than his debuted brother, Ryutaro, for a time.

I know there are dance lessons as in the early episodes of Shounen Club you could see glimpses of them from time to time. And I have heard they do receive vocal training though how extensive this is I don't know.

I'm not sure how they handle the work and school loads myself, but with so many Juniors over the years at least getting through high school just fine there must be a method that works.