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   If you've been living in Japan for the past few years and still haven't heard of AKB48, why then I commend your ability to completely shut out Japanese pop culture. May nirvana soon come to your quiet mountain retreat.

   AKB48 is an all-female Japanese theater/idol group based in Tôkyô's Akihabara district and comprised originally of 48 members (hence the name AKB48). Since their debut in 2005, the group has taken the country by storm, much in the way that Morning Museme did in the late 90s, so much so that it is now impossible to get through a day without hearing one of their songs or seeing their promotion videos, many of which border tantalizingly on lolita porn. Don't believe me? Have a look:

   With almost sixty members today, AKB48 seems to have hit a high water mark. It's no surprise, then, that Yasuhi Akimoto, the successful producer of this and other idol groups, has decided to expand the franchise to other cities, including Fukuoka where the group will be called HKT48. That's HKT as in HaKaTa. Other franchises include SKE48 (Sakae, Nagoya) and NMB48 (Namba, Osaka).


   The first stage of auditions for HKT48 finished on May 31. (Apologies for not announcing this earlier.) Those lucky girls deemed to have the right stuff will be notified by phone. Stage three which involves the first in-person interview with candidates will begin at the end of June, and the final cut will be announced later this year.

  Until then, enjoy another one of AKB48's popular songs, Ponytail and Sush:

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