It’s pretty standard for idol singers in Japan to have contracts prohibiting them from dating or otherwise engaging in romantic relationships. Ostensibly this is to keep them focused on improving their musical and dancing performances, out of respect to their devoted fans, but you could also make a pretty convincing argument that the real reason is so said fans can more easily fantasize that maybe, just maybe, the idol is saving herself for a guy like them.
Either way, though, if you’re an idol, you’re not dating, and that even goes for the highest idol power in the land, Akihabara-based AKB48. However, when Mariko Shinoda, one of the group’s original Kami 7 (the seven highest-ranking idols in its periodic popularity polls) “graduated” from AKB48 in 2013, her seven-year stint in the no-dating zone also came to an end.
▼ Mariko Shinoda
Since Shinoda was 19 years old when she joined the group, leaving AKB48 provided her with her first opportunity to date as an adult, and perhaps she spent the next few years leisurely enjoying the single life of a highly eligible bachelorette. However, this week the now 32-year-old Shinoda announced that she’s tied the knot, and she did so with blazing speed.
▼ Shinoda and her dog-obscured husband, who’s the owner of a beauty salon and other business ventures
In a handwritten note posted as an image on her fan club members-only website on February 20, Shinoda revealed that she’d gotten married the previous Saturday. She describes her husband as an “ordinary man,” a term commonly used in Japanese show business to describe someone who’s not in the entertainment industry or otherwise in the public eye, and also as three years younger than she is. The biggest surprise, though, is how short the courtship was, as her now-husband proposed to her on their first date.
Shinoda and her husband met for the first time at a dinner with mutual friends last October, and had a second opportunity to see each other when common acquaintances held another gathering. Then in mid-November the pair went out to eat just with each other for the very first time, and before the date was over, he popped the question, and Shinoda said yes.
“Even though we weren’t dating, we’d started thinking about marriage naturally,” Shinoda wrote in the message to her fans, explaining that by the time of their first actual date, the two had already talked about things such as their hopes for the future and ideal visions of family life, finding that they had many things in common. “From the bottom of my heart, I thought to myself, ‘I want to be with this person forever.’”
It’s not uncommon for female entertainers in Japan to step away from their careers after getting married, but Shinoda, who’s become a mainstream actress and media personality since leaving AKB48, says she intends to continue working in the field as a married woman.