AKB48 song starts dance craze from grannies to taxi drivers

JAPAN - A new dance craze brought on by the popular girl group AKB48's hit tune "Koisuru Fochun Kukki" (Fortune cookies in love) is taking the Internet by storm.

People of all ages and professions-children, the elderly, local government officials, company employees and even taxi drivers-have danced to the song and posted their video clips on YouTube.

In one such video, made by the town of Inagawa in Hyogo Prefecture, a serious-looking middle-aged man awkwardly moves his arms and legs to the song on a slow beat, which is reminiscent of disco music. The video also features high school girls in their school uniforms dancing to the song in front of terraced rice fields and a peacefully smiling granny making a hand-heart gesture.

This video, created to raise the town's public profile, was shot in September in the quiet, rural farming town by local volunteers, who also posted it on YouTube. The 3 minute 10 second clip has about 50 cuts, in which about 400 residents appear either in groups or solo.

The video became an instant hit among Net users and has been watched more than 300,000 times. One viewer said it was really heartwarming.

"I didn't know anything about AKB48, but now many people come up and call me 'Inagawa no obaachan' [granny in Inagawa]. I had no idea this would become such a big deal," said Kikue Kogita, 83, who made the heart symbol with her hands in the video.

The Saga prefectural government posted their own dance video of "Koisuru Fochun Kukki" in September, with about 1,000 officials-about a third its staff-taking part. The video has been watched by about 1.58 million people.

"At first, I thought there was no way I could dance," said a 45-year-old male official of the prefectural government. "But by dancing without worrying about our rank and age, we could feel more united with each other. I haven't really communicated well with my daughter recently, but she also willingly helped me practice the movement."

The town of Inagawa and the Saga prefectural government are among 20 or so groups and entities that have sent their video clips to AKB48's official YouTube channel.

AKS Co. in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, which manages the song-and-dance idol group, posted a video clip of dances by its staff members working for AKB48 on YouTube in mid-July. The company then began receiving responses from viewers saying they also wanted to have a go at it.

The 32nd single by AKB48 was released in August. It is performed by the first 16 members who won the most votes in the nationwide "general election," a popularity contest of members of AKB48 and its sister groups in June, including the top winner, Rino Sashihara, a senior member of the Fukuoka-based HKT48. The song about a girl with low self-esteem and her wistful crush on a boy, sold more than one million copies the day it was released.