Who Can Be An Eternal Idol?

To be an Eternal Idol – Berryz Kobo International

Zush writes about an interview with Tsugunaga Momoko where she talks about Matsuda Seiko and expresses a desire to be an “eternal idol”, a term that’s been bestowed on Matsuda by the Japanese public. My first reaction – and the one that still sticks – is that Momoko can never be an eternal idol, at least not in the way I understand it for Matsuda. Matsuda Seiko was dubbed the Eternal Idol because of her long and storied career and for the devotion of her followers. She was the very definition of an idol for Japan during the eighties and in the decades that followed she is remembered fondly and still treated like pop royalty. (Problems with her daughter notwithstanding.)

Momoko is nowhere near that stature. She can be an idol for another twenty, thirty years, but she does not inhabit the same place in the Japanese popular consciousness that Matsuda Seiko still has. Maybe things will change and she’ll become that big a deal, but odds are against it.

All of which got me wondering, who DOES have the potential to be an Eternal Idol – in the same sense as Matsuda – from our current crop of idols? The criteria is both simple and daunting: nationally beloved, wildly popular, staying power for decades (or at least, the sense that she’ll have staying powers since we can’t say for sure).

Goto Maki immediately comes to mind, mostly for her role in Morning Musume’s rise to superstars – but she’s about to go on hiatus and her stature post-Morning Musume has been diminished a bit too much to qualify, maybe.

Maeda Atsuko is the current face of the most popular idol group right now, AKB48, and has a devoted following. That said, I’m not sure if I see her sticking around for long once AKB folds.

And… really, that’s about it. I guess if we go into gravure, I’d make an argument for Shihono Ryo, except Eternal Idol connotes a certain classiness that Ryo doesn’t possess. I do see her having a long history as an idol ahead of her, at least until her thirties. And it’s not like she’s won the hearts of all Japan more than the cojones of its pervier elements.

What do you all think? Any contenders, or is Seiko sui generis, an idol legend all by her lonesome?