Nagoya music idols make side hustle as taxi drivers their selling point
It’s one of the industry’s open secret that most Japanese music and gravure idols are poorly paid. While it’s natural to assume that a struggling musician or an underground (chika) idol has a day job, the agencies and management for other kinds of idols are very controlling, and prefer their idols to be available 24/7 despite not paying them a living wage.
It leads to scandals sometimes, when the compensated dating that many idols do gets exposed. Such a scandal led to the end of Shoko Takasaki’s gravure career in 2015 — and the birth instead of her porn career, where she enjoyed immese success as Shoko Takahashi until last year.
But what about taking up a side job as a way of building a fan base?
In Nagoya, the members of a new female idol group are now driving taxis in a bid to attract fans.
As reported by Kyodo News, model Tomoyo Kuno (30), actress Marina Ichiki (38), and Haruka Umeoka (24) from the group Taxi’shez all have permits for driving passengers in the Aichi Prefecture city. This is like two birds with one stone: the ladies get a stable income (which being an idol certainly does not provide!) and also get to advertise their group as “chauffeurs who can sing and dance.”
Based on the press photo, the idols dress up like cabin attendants and drive pink taxis.
If you smell promo, you’re onto something. The project was actually launched as a joint operation in February between a local taxi operator, Fuji Taxi Group, and a talent agency, so this “side job” is part of the marketing behind the group.
As you can tell from the name, it’s also part of the whole concept behind Taxi’shez. It’s perhaps also why the members have such varied ages (most idol groups would have consistent ages).
We’re trying to ascertain some more details but we think the group was formed last year. Here is its first single. At this time, the group was offering regular drives around the city for the cost of a drink.
The group used to have at least one more member, it seems, and made its debut drive in September (though a crowdfunding campaign only attracted 34% of its target).
Despite the gimmick, though, driving a taxi is a good choice for the precarious life of the idol or entertainer: it’s flexible yet not badly paid, and also discreet (unless you publicize it like Taxi’shez), since side hustles can lead to scandals sometimes (because they are sometimes things like working as a hostess, sex worker, “amateur” porn performer, etc., or compensated dating)
“It stabilizes our income, and we’re able to focus on our main occupation,” Kuno was reported as saying. “It’s rewarding to make new fans by driving a taxi.”
Customers are given a pink certificate shaped like a business card as souvenirs, which the group promotes as a gift that will bestow the holder good luck with money.
Working as a cab driver also gives the three women an opportunity to publicize their individual activities to customers, although their current goal is to hold a solo concert as a unit.
“We want to make a name for ourselves enough to receive independent job offers,” Ichiki said.