The six young ladies of this Nagoya-based idol unit skipped the frilly skirts when it was time to embrace their fanbase.

With the Golden Week holiday period over, Japan headed back to work and school on Monday morning. Fans of idol singers, though, were no doubt still basking in the warm afterglow of the Budokan Idol Expo, which took place last Saturday in Tokyo.

Held at the Budokan, one of Japan’s most prestigious venues for sports and music events, the event saw more than 1,000 idol singers gather to greet their adoring public, and among those who made an appearance were Nagoya-based, six-member idol unit CY8ER. The group had something extra-special planned for Idol Expo, deciding to go beyond the handshake events that have become commonplace in the industry and instead have a hug event in which they embraced their fans.

But while idol groups usually wear frilly, feminine stage costumes, CY8ER was dressed quite differently for the hug event.

During the approximately two-hour session, the idols were dressed in what appear to be hazardous material suits, complete with gloves and air filtration masks, as though to prevent them from coming into direct contact with the excited sweat or exhilarated exhaled breath expelled from the bodies of attending idol otaku.

It’s worth keeping in mind that visual presentation is critical for success in the idol industry, and CY8ER’s outfits were probably at least as much about standing out from the other idol groups at the event as they were legitimate hygienic concerns. Nevertheless, they kept the hazmat suits on for the entire time they were hugging fans, who could receive a hug from each member for 100 yen (US$0.90), or upgrade to hugs and a signed Polaroid snapshot for 2,000 yen.

▼ A video of the hug session

Participants had to follow a number of rules. Only the idols were allowed to do any touching, as fans were instructed to stand with their backs to a singer and wait for the hug. Turning around or touching the idols were strictly prohibited, and once the hug was complete, participants were instructed to shuffle to the next idol for another hug, and continue the process until they’d been embraced by each singer in turn.

For their part, the members of CY8ER seemed to accept that the hazmat suits were merely a bit of unorthodox marketing, as their cheerful poses seem like the sort of thing they’d have skipped had they been being actually exposed to dangerous bacteria.

And as odd as the whole thing may look, the long line of fans patiently waiting their turn suggests that CY8ER’s hug session was a solid, if puffy, success.

Sources: Jin, Naver Matome, Twitter/@haseyoung_3rd