One idol group dominates the poll by taking all five top slots.


In Japanese, idol singers are simply called aidoru, the corrupted pronunciation of the English “idol.” There’s no need to verbally specify that they’re vocalists, which cynics would argue is because musical talent is never the only, and sometimes not even the primary, way by which idols attract their fanbases.

The most popular idols owe their success to their ability to radiate a persona and atmosphere that makes fans want to cheer them on, and a big part of that is being eminently photogenic. So once a year, Japanese radio program Recomen polls its audience for its Female Idol Face-Only General Election, asking them to vote for their favorite idol based strictly on her facial features. This year’s results were announced on Wednesday, and below are the top 10.

10. Sayaka Yamamoto (626 votes)

Osaka-born Yamamoto, leader of Osaka-based idol unit NMB48, tumbled quite a few slots from her fourth-place finish in last year’s poll, but still managed to cling to a spot in the top 10.

9. Yuka Sugai (656 votes)

Sugai hails from Keyakizaka46, itself a sister group of Nogizaka46, which was specifically formed to be the official rival of AKB48, Japan’s most famous idol group (though all three units share the same producer).

8. Yui Yokoyama (710 votes)

Speaking of AKB48, despite being practically synonymous with the Japanese idol industry, the group only managed one representative in the top 10, Yokoyama, who at 25 is tied with one other idol as the oldest highlighted here.

7. Jurina Matsui (1,150 votes)

Like Yokoyama, Matsui is the sole top-10 representative of her idol unit, Nagoya’s SKE48. A passionate sports fan (she’s sporting a T-shirt for the Dragons, Nagoya’s local pro baseball team, in the photo above), she almost won last year’s contest, when she finished second.

6. Yuri Ota (2,412 votes)

At 18 years old, Ota is the youngest singer in the top 10, and also a member of Osaka’s NMB48. She’s also the last idol in the top 10 not from the group that dominated this year’s rankings.

5. Ayane Suzuki (2, 480 votes)

Starting off Nogizaka46’s occupation of the top five slots is Suzuki. A native of Akita Prefecture, often said to be the home of Japan’s most beautiful women, Suzuki’s finish at number five is especially impressive considering she didn’t even crack the top 20 in the previous poll, despite having been active as an idol since 2013.

4. Asuka Saito (2,501 votes)

Fellow Nogizaka46 member Saito also had a significant, though less dramatic rise in the rankings, rising six spots from her 10th-place ranking a year ago.

3. Miona Hori (2,972 votes)

Nogizaka46’s Hori released her first photo album back in the fall, but her third-place finish in the poll suggests that there’s probably plenty of demand for a second.

2. Kotoko Sasaki (4,104 votes)

Sasaki (once again from Nogizaka46) moved up one spot compared to last year, and with a sizable margin over Hori. However, she couldn’t muster quite as many votes as…

1. Mai Shiraishi (4,224 votes)

For the second year in a row, voters awarded Nogizaka46’s Shiraishi with the top honor. Shiraishi is popular enough to have acquired two nicknames (“Maiyan” and “Shi-chan”), and also to have this brief video of her pretending to give the viewer some Valentine’s Day chocolate rack up well over 400,000 views.

▼ Shiraishi was born in Gunma Prefecture, just like another charming popularity poll winner.

▼ Nogizaka46’s top-five finishers

Given how crowded the idol industry is, as well as the premium fans place on fresh-faced youthfulness, the 25-year-old Shiraishi’s back-to-back victories are all the more impressive, and odds are we’ll see her again at or near the top of next year’s poll.

Source: Model Press (1, 2) via Otakomu
Top image: Pakutaso

Follow Casey on Twitter, where he still wants to know why aliens come down and kill everybody in that one AKB48 music video.