Buddhist schoolgirl idol group gets shut down for becoming too popular

Rocket News 24
Oona McGee

In Japan, there truly is an all-singing, all-dancing “idol” group for everything. From plus-sized beauties to macho men and octogenarians, if you’ve got a unique message and a catchy tune, there’ll be a niche audience out there waiting to share your next video and dance along with glow sticks at your next performance.

Just when we thought the happy-go-lucky, free-for-all nature of the amateur idol world had no boundaries, it seems there is one line that can’t be crossed: schoolgirls and religion. Meet the “Num-Num Girls”, a Buddhism-based schoolgirl pop group that has been shut down for becoming too popular.

The “Num-Num Girls” take their name from the recitation Namu-Amida-Butsu, the Japanese version of the original Sanskrit term, Namo Amitabha Buddhaya, which means “I entrust in the Buddha of Immeasurable Life and Light.” The girls use their light-hearted performances to spread the Buddhist teaching of living a happy, joyous life.

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The 13-member all-girl group is made up of students from East Kyushu Ryukoku High School in Nakatsu City, Kyushu, and since being formed in August this year, they’ve been performing both at school and at off-campus events in and outside of their local town. They’ve also released a CD and DVD of their first single “End of Summer Num Num Time”, available via mail-order from the school for 1,300 yen (US$10.73).

Check out the girls’ Buddhist-themed music video for their original single below.

What started out as a small school activity has turned out to be more popular than anyone could have expected, with appearances on television talk shows garnering the group even more attention, sparking concerns for the girls’ safety. Parents and teachers became anxious over the girls becoming known as a bona-fide “idol” group, prompting school authorities to take action, announcing an end to the girls’ public performances off-campus.

Upon re-examining school policies, the girls will be allowed to continue to perform, only in a more private capacity inside school and at temples in their local area. They’ve dropped the “idol group” tag from their name and will no longer be using it for any related publicity, after it was concluded that they don’t need to be known as an idol group in order to promote the teachings of Buddhism.

The group’s producer, Chief Priest and head of the school’s Religious Education Department, 41-year-old Sho Koubai, still has high hopes for the group deepening people’s understanding of Shin Buddhism, or “True Pure Land School” Buddhism, despite the fact that their road to national fame has been thwarted.

▼ The world of Buddhism does have its own plethora of revered idols anyway.
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While there’s been no announcement from the girls themselves, the move has received support from the local community and netizens nationwide, who are happy that the girls’ safety is being taken seriously and pleased to see the two very different worlds of idol worship remain separate for as long as possible.

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