Idol group’s home-turf ads replaced with ones for hit Chinese video game.

To non-fans, AKB48 might seem like any other Japanese idol unit. But a number of key factors set the industry’s top group apart, and one is their focus on live performances. When they’re not touring, AKB48 gives regular concerts at the AKB48 Theater in Tokyo’s Akihabara neighborhood. In contrast to the stadiums and arenas where it holds its other performances, the AKB48 Theater is a much more intimately-scaled venue, and this helps form a bond between the idols and their fans.

Since no one predicted AKB48 becoming quite as hugely successful as it has, the theater doesn’t have a structure all to itself, and instead occupies the eighth floor of a building it shares with the Akihabara branch of discount retailer Don Quijote and a video game arcade. But in keeping with the superstar status AKB48 has achieved, for years the largest signs on the exterior have been ones promoting the idol group and its theater.

▼ The Akihabara Don Quixote Building, with two giant AKB48 signs on the wall and another on the pillar in front of the entrance.

However, on April 1 there was a changing of the guard, so to speak, as the AKB48 signs were replaced with ads for hit Chinese video game Genshin Impact.

This wasn’t an April Fools’ Day gag, either, as follow-up photos show.

And no, the AKB48 theater isn’t currently shut down because of the pandemic. There’s been at least one performance every day in April so far, and sometimes two, a similarly busy schedule for next week.

However, a look back at the theater’s schedules for January and February show almost entirely blank calendars, with only a single performance on January 1 for the two months. It’s possible that the buildings advertising contracts have to be set well in advance, and the theater, not knowing when it was going to be able to start concerts again, bowed out for April, leaving space for Genshin Impact, who’s business has been booming as people look for at-home entertainment, to come in and stake their claim to the prime ad space. Or maybe Genshin Impact’s marketing budget is now so big that they can outbid AKB48 even on their home turf, or perhaps the idol unit’s management simply deciding they’re now famous enough that they don’t need to advertise as much as they used to.

But whatever the reason, right now, unless you already knew it was there, you could walk right past the holiest of idol holy grounds and not even realize it.

Sources: Hachima Kiko, AKB48 official website
Top image: Wikipedia/Kuha455405
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