February 22, 2020

Japanese-style idols LaoNavy put Laos on the pop culture map

By:  Marimi Kishimoto, Asia Nikkei, February 1, 2020

Japanese-style idols LaoNavy put Laos on the pop culture map

BANGKOK -- The idol group craze that swept Asia and made pop cultural icons of its stars has long been the domain of Japanese and South Korean groups, but now the small landlocked nation of Laos is getting in on the act.

Billed as the first Laotian idol group, all-girl LaoNavy have been making waves since their debut in September, building up a fan base in their homeland as well as performing in Thailand and Japan.

The group, taking its cues from the phenomenally successful Japanese girl band AKB48 and its various sister groups, is the brainchild of Japanese national Junichiro Ichikawa, who came up with the idea in his role as sales and marketing manager of Masa Food Supply, a Vientiane-based Japanese foodstuffs wholesaler.

Seeing the huge popularity of BNK48, Thailand's AKB-equivalent, Ichikawa saw an opportunity to create a homegrown idol act to use in advertising after he was tasked with promoting high-end strawberries by a Japanese farm owner, whose produce is sweet, tasty, but priced three times higher than typical strawberries in Laos.

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