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
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
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∞
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
Johnny's and Charity
Odds & Ends