Japan from the inside out

Archive for the ‘Popular culture’ Category

All you have to do is look (146)

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, December 23, 2012

Scenes of big fun from the 61st Ohara Festival in the Tenmonkan shopping district in Kagoshima City. A total of 25,658 people in 325 groups participated in the two day event, which attracted roughly 230,000 spectators.

Posted in Photographs and videos, Popular culture, Traditions | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is look (138)

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, December 15, 2012

The annual Osu Street Performance Festival in the Osu commercial district of Nagoya. It features 50 performing troupes and attracts about 400,000 spectators. The photo above shows a woman dressed as an oiran, Edo period courtesan/entertainers. They often became celebrities, and were supposed to be skilled in the tea ceremony, flower arranging, calligraphy, and be knowledgeable about scholarly matters.

Posted in Photographs and videos, Popular culture, Traditions | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is look (125)

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, December 2, 2012

A fashion show at the Fuki-ji Buddhist temple in Bungotakada, Oita. Established in 718, the temple is a national treasure and the oldest wooden structure in Kyushu. The show was presented by the students of vocational schools, junior colleges, and high schools in Oita. About 300 people attended. (Photo from the Nishinippon Shimbun)

Posted in Photographs and videos, Popular culture, Shrines and Temples | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

You really don’t know?

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, December 1, 2012

EARLIER this week, we saw that NHK-TV chose not to invite any K-pop performers to appear on its famous New Year’s Eve program, Kohaku Uta Gassen. Four K-pop groups appeared last year.

This seems to have upset the three major South Korean newspapers.

The Joongan-Ilbo charged that they were deliberately excluded, and asked:

Is it really not related to the Dokdo (Takeshima) problem?

They added that the groups who appeared on last year’s show were more popular in Japan this year. Shojo Jidai and KARA sold more than 100,000 albums and received gold discs from the Recording Industry Association of Japan

They also didn’t find the NHK explanation very convincing.

The Chosun Ilbo asked:

Why the declaration of a boycott of South Korean singers?

Note the typical exaggeration — one program on one network constitutes a “boycott”.

The Dong-a Ilbo also complained about the “exclusion” of K-pop singers.

The exaggerated posturing impresses no one but themselves. Of course it’s about Takeshima. And President Lee’s statements about the Emperor. And the continued decades of obnoxious behavior of many South Koreans toward Japan that they’re now exporting to unrelated countries. They put up absurd propaganda billboards in Times Square and expect Japan to turn the other cheek?

And be allowed to appear on the quasi-governmental television network as if nothing happened?

The thread has been broken, and they’re the ones who broke it.

Meanwhile, it is still against the law for a Japanese performer to appear on South Korean terrestrial television at all — yet the Korean media gets enuretic when Korean singers are not included on one Japanaese television program.

It’s time for some people in South Korea to get over themselves.

But that would be too much to ask, wouldn’t it?

Posted in I couldn't make this up if I tried, International relations, Mass media, Popular culture, South Korea | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

National persimmon seed spitting contest

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, November 25, 2012

WHAT sort of image do people overseas have in their mind’s eye about Japan? Other than the noodniks fixated on Edo-period tentacle porn, I mean. Perhaps they have the traditional picture of a clean, simple, fastidious elegance.

If so, it might be because they haven’t swung by Nanbu-cho in Tottori in late November every year. That’s when the Tottorians hold their annual National Persimmon Seed Spitting Contest using the seeds from the famed local fuyu persimmons. This year’s event was the 24th, and about 400 people came to see how far they could hawk an oblong spherical seed that’s about five to 10 times larger than a watermelon seed.

And when I say 400 people, that includes men, women, boys, and girls who compete in four separate divisions. That’s what makes Japan such a fascinating place — any other day of the week, some of those persimmon seed-spitting housewives might be in kimono practicing the tea ceremony. In this event, they get to behave in public like bored fratboys on a Wednesday night in midwinter and be cheered by an audience.

Of course there are rules and techniques. The seeds have to land within a four-meter lane, and there’s said to be a special body snap for ejecting the projectile the maximum distance.

This year’s winner in the men’s division was a 41-year-old company employee from Imabari, Ehime, with an expectoration of 17.46 meters. The women’s champ was a 40-year-old local who shot her seed 10.67 meters. Before you start snickering, keep in mind that both of them won free trips to Hawaii. Now isn’t that enough to make you buy a crate of persimmons and start practicing?

It might be fun to watch, or even test my seed-spitting abilities against the other competitors. But here’s where I’d draw the line: I wouldn’t want to be one of the event workers assigned to pick up the spent seeds from the mat.

Yeah there’s a Youtube. In fact, this one is a report by the Nihonkai Shimbun on last year’s event. That featured 350 people from five Chugoku region prefectures and the Kansai area. The men’s winner managed a spit of only 14.87 meters. He still won a trip to Hawaii, though.

Posted in I couldn't make this up if I tried, Popular culture | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is look (114)

Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Shiroyone Senmaida rice paddies in Ishikawa, registered both in the Guinness Book of World Records for having 20,000 pink LEDs, and as a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System (GIAHS).

Posted in Agriculture, Arts, Photographs and videos, Popular culture, Thailand | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Udon summit

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, November 20, 2012

ONE of the students in my university class this spring had a running joke with me about what kind of noodles we would eat at the school cafeteria for an après-class snack. She insisted on udon, but I went for the soba.

I like both, but prefer soba because it has more body. But that puts me in the minority in Japan; most people like both, but prefer udon. Quick classroom surveys of my students over the years reveal that 80-90% raise their hands for udon first. It’s also the preferred late-night snack of serious drinkers on their way home from the tavern.

Thus it wasn’t any surprise that despite bad weather and a shortened schedule due to an approaching typhoon, the Second National Local Udon Summit attracted 2,000 people in just 90 minutes in Higashiomi, Shiga. National local means that it was a nationwide contest to determine the best regional recipe. Whether it truly determined the national champion is open to question, as there were 11 entrants from six prefectures, but the event was only in its second year.

The noodle soup champion was determined by the visitor-diners at the site, as shown in the photo above. They sampled as many of the entries as they could and voted for their favorites. The winner was the Komatsu Niku (Beef) Udon from Komatsu, Ishikawa. There are several varieties of Komatsu udon, whose stock is made with a traditional recipe using local fish. The beef variety adds meat from local cows into the broth.

Second prize was awarded to the Toyohashi Curry Udon from Toyohashi, Aichi. You guys in the back row can cool it with the sniggering — if curry udon soup wasn’t a palate pleaser, it wouldn’t have won a prize. It also wouldn’t be enshrined in the Udon Museum. Besides, an Aichi company makes a commercial variety and sells it for JPY 400 a pack.

And here’s a short Youtube with a slide show of the cornucopia of Komatsu udon, including the summit champ. I’m not sure about the story behind the accompanying song, but I’m guessing it was an old tune about sumo with the lyrics changed to praise the delights of the local cuisine.

Posted in Food, Popular culture | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

Ichigen koji (234)

Posted by ampontan on Monday, November 19, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

Many people have a bad understanding of the (Japanese) marriage system. For example, the assets a person has before marriage are unrelated (to a divorce). Even if you have a billion yen beforehand, and that hasn’t increased when you get a divorce, you don’t have to pay a single yen when you split up.

Japan has always had disordered practices, including night crawling during the Edo period and mistresses during the Meiji period. Then the marriage system of the West, with its emphasis on the couple, was directly imported. That’s why Japanese law doesn’t have their penalties for divorce or sexual harassment. Great Britain is particularly awful in this regard.

– Fujisawa Kazuki, financial analyst and journalist

Posted in Popular culture, Quotations, Sex, Traditions | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Daytime soba opera

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, November 18, 2012

ONE analogy used when politicians abandon a party that’s dissolving as quickly as a mudboat is that of rats leaving a sinking ship. True to the vapidity of some of its members, however, the Democratic Party of Japan’s dissolution is starting to resemble daytime soba opera.

At last count, nine DPJ MPs have left the party in the last three days. Here are some screenshots of a video broadcast on the national news when first-term member Hatsushika Akihiro of Tokyo went to the DPJ headquarters in the Diet building to turn in his resignation. In a scene that must have been staged, Tanaka Mieko, another first-term DPJ member, briefly (and slightly tearfully) tried to stop him. It was over in a few seconds.

The entertainment it provided isn’t over for the Japanese Net, however. They’re still passing the photos and video around. Here’s the sequence:

The caption at the top left says that it happened before 11:00 a.m. The one at the bottom identifies Mr. Hatsushika. The one at the top right quotes LDP chief Abe Shinzo as promising an election victory and notes that the DPJ has already lost its lower house majority

No change

The third quotes Ms. Tanaka as saying, “I came to stop you. Don’t go.”

This quotes what seems to be a smiling Mr. Hatsushika replying, “I understand your feelings, but I’ve decided. Let me through.”

No caption necessary.

Still no caption necessary.

And now for the backstory (or at least the publicly known part of it.)

Mr. Hatsushika told the reporters why he was leaving:

The DPJ has clearly changed its policies from the time it assumed control of government. It’s become a different party.

Either the reporters were just doing their jobs, or they don’t do their jobs thoroughly to begin with, because they asked him a really dumb question: Will you be joining the Japan Restoration Party or Ishihara Shintaro’s Sunrise Party? He said no, and added:

I want to devote my energies to consolidating the strength of “liberal” political forces.

He used the English loan word for liberal. That means left-of-center nowadays in Japan too, but the extent of the leftward lean depends on the user. In Mr. Hatsushika’s case, that means being Pyeongyang’s pal in the Diet.

Yes, the Democratic Party of Japan certified this man in 2009. Yes, the Anglosphere media described the DPJ government as “center-left”. They really should have reversed the words and used some imaginative typography instead. It was “LEFT of center”.

One wonders what Hatsushika Akihiro expected of the Democratic Party when he ran in 2009.

The story gets better. Boy, does it get better.

Tanaka Mieko is another one of the DPJ MPs whose first term is likely to be their last for the forseeable future. The holder of a master’s degree in political science from Meiji University, she was recruited by Ozawa Ichiro to run against former LDP Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro in 2009, setting up a battle between the young Beauty and the old Beast. She lost by just 4,000 votes, but managed to slide into the Diet anyway as a PR representative for the Hokuriku bloc.

Ms. Tanaka held several jobs before turning to electoral politics. She was an aide to Kawamura Takashi when he was a DPJ Diet member. (He later quit the party, resigned his seat, won election as Nagoya mayor, and formed the Tax Cut Japan party that might still join Hashimoto Toru’s Japan Restoration Party.) Before that, she was a company employee and tour conductor.

And before that, she wrote a column in the magazine Bubka with the title, “Beautiful cosplay writer Arisu interviews sex workers: A real battle of beauties”. Explained an employee of the publishing company:

“She would interview women in the sex industry while she herself was outfitted in some kind of costume. It became something of a topic of conversation because no one knew why she had to dress up like that.”

One of the magazine’s editors said that Ms. Tanaka approached them about doing the articles. While the articles were well-written, he said, the series ended after 10 pieces when she couldn’t think of any more costumes to use. In the photos above, you can see she chose the elegant basic black costume with a string of pearls to barricade the door on her last day in the Diet.

And sometimes, she wore very little at all. She got a bare naked chest massage in the cult film Moju Tai Issunboshi (The Blind Beast vs. the Dwarf). You can tell it’s a cult film from the low budget, amateurish direction, and the even more amateurish acting.

Of course there’s a YouTube. Isn’t there always?

Some people criticize the new regional parties because they’re not impressed with the caliber of people they’ve recruited to run for the Diet.

Ha, ha, ha!

Posted in I couldn't make this up if I tried, North Korea, Politics, Popular culture, Sex | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Can’t get enough of that chin-don

Posted by ampontan on Sunday, November 11, 2012

IT’S been entirely too long since the last chin-don report, and the objective of this post is to rectify that shortcoming immediately.

For those unfortunates who have yet to be exposed to the glorious goofiness that is chin-don, it is — among other things — Japan’s unintentional contribution to urban street/world music. The form arose more than a century ago with the creation of bands that mixed Western and Japanese instruments (mostly percussion in the latter case) to play anything and everything from the Western and Japanese musical repertoire as they marched through town in outlandish costumes and makeup to advertise local commercial establishments in any way they could figure out to attract attention. That involves clever repartee, unicycle riding, and kitchen sink juggling in addition to the music.

There’s been a grassroots popular revival of the style in the past few years, though it never went entirely away. A national contest for chin-don bands has been held in Toyama for more than half a century, but many of those bands are professional. (The truly far gone do it for a living.) Every year in early November, there’s a national contest for amateurs only in Maebashi, Gunma. This year’s jamboree was the 10th, and it began on Saturday.

Ten teams from Gunma, Tokyo, Saitama, Tochigi, Iwate, Aichi, Nagano, and Toyama participated, and the team from Iwate was crowned the champion.

The entertainment on the second day — today — was a grand parade through the commercial district of Maebashi.

Here’s a taste of what it looked and sounded like yesterday. One of the groups consists of high school students. Anyone who still thinks the Japanese are a nation of straight arrow conformists should hit the chin-don tag below for previous posts and see how quickly those preconceptions shatter!

Posted in Music, Popular culture, Traditions | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

The top of the Japanese pops

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, November 6, 2012

IT’S the Top of the Pops Japan! The Japanese Society for the Rights of Artists, Composers, and Publishers (JASRAC) released their list of the top 100 songs over the past thirty years ranked by copyright usage fees received from broadcast, net distribution, and karaoke use.

The society presents its JASRAC Award every year to the song that received the most money in usage fees, but this list was specially presented to commemorate the 30th anniversary of their founding. They did not release the amount of money generated by each song, but they did give a special award to the top three songs.

And here they are. The leader of the pack was SMAP with Just One Flower for the World. This performance features some nice, healthy, elastic girls.

Popularity at karaoke establishments supported the rankings of #2 and #3. Number two was Izakaya, a duet with Itsuki Hiroshi and Kinomi Nana. An izakaya is a small, traditional Japanese eating and drinking establishment, with the emphasis on drinking. In the first verse, the woman allows as how she’ll accept a bourbon, and make it a double. This is probably a clip from the old Sunday evening television program Enka no Hanamichi.

Mr. Itsuki was awarded the Medal with Purple Ribbon in 2007, one of the Medals of Honor that are decorations of the Japanese government. The purple one is for academic and artistic accomplishment.

In third place was another duet: Futari no Osaka, by Miyako Harumi and Miyazaki Tadashi, who were once married. The title has a compactness difficult to convey in English, but might be translated as The Two of Us and Osaka.

Posted in Music, Popular culture | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

PSYched out

Posted by ampontan on Saturday, October 27, 2012

SOME people have caught on that the Japanese seem impervious to the delights of the Gangnam Style Youtube video by PSY, which has now become one of the top ten most-watched Youtubes ever. That’s a matter of degree, because the song did make it into the lower level of the iTunes top 30 in Japan. It didn’t mirror the success that it’s had in the United States and Britain, however, or the lesser success in China.

Those folks are puzzled because Japan is perhaps the country most open to South Korean pop culture in the form of K-Pop, television shows, and certain types of movies (i.e., the ones middle-aged women like). Different theories are being offered for the limpness of the interest, but they’re ultimately unsatisfying because they miss another reason for the relative popularity that might be the most important of all.

One theory floating around is that Facebook postings gave a boost to the PSY video in the West, and that with only 30% of Net users, Facebook has a lower penetration in Japan than elsewhere. That might have something to do with it, but the Japanese are just as aware of Youtube and use it just as frequently.

Another theory is that the K-Pop performers regularly release Japanese-language versions of their performances, and PSY’s song is only in Korean (as far as I know). Foreign language pop songs for the teen and early 20s demographic in Japan are unlikely to be much more popular than a foreign language pop song in the United States, for example. There are some exceptions, but all of them are in English, the language everyone studies for six years in secondary school.

As this report points out, however, PSY was slated to release a Japanese-language version of the tune (called Roppongi Style) earlier this year, but his plans came a cropper. That post quotes a translated opinion from someone in the Japanese television industry:

PSY had already begun to be featured on Japanese morning variety news programs back in July, but the reaction from viewers was horrible. This was right around the time when Japanese media were under fire for over-promoting K-pop while attitudes toward Korea were souring, and the reason K-Pop became so popular in Japan in the first place is because Korean artists are known for being beautiful, so PSY looked completely out of place on screen. Even if he debuted in Japan, I don’t think he would have sold very much.

The industry insider raises some important points, and it’s not just the one about beauty. PSY first appeared in July, and the problems with South Korea didn’t erupt until August, but it was natural for those problems to dampen the enthusiasm for Korean pop culture. Lately I’ve been quoting and featuring excerpts here from a book by Tsukuba University Prof. Furuta Hiroshi, who is fluent in Korean. He studied for a time at a South Korean university and had a Korean roommate while there. He later returned to teach Japanese at another South Korean university from 1980 to 1986. He says his hobby is watching South Korean and North Korean movies and collecting them on DVD.

In a current edition of one of the Japanese monthlies, however, Prof. Furuta dashed off an article in which he declares that after the events of this summer, he will not visit the Korean Peninsula again until attitudes there change. The behavior of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, combined with the frothing-at-the-mind articles in South Korean newspapers (which they conveniently translate for their Japanese-language websites) has poisoned the well of Japanese goodwill. A connection has been snapped.

There might be an attempt to start restoring those connections by the end of the year. Every New Year’s Eve since 1954, NHK TV has broadcast live a program called Kohaku Utagassen, which presents the most popular singers in the country. The show’s concept is a singing contest between the men’s team and the women’s team. The results are judged by celebrities, the audience at NHK Hall, and now on the Internet.

While greater affluence and the resultant increase in disposable income and decentralization of culture have lessened the program’s impact, it is still the touchstone for identifying the performers the mass audience most want to see, with demographic differences taken into account. Three K-Pop acts performed on last year’s program. As of last month, it was starting to look as if none would be invited this year. Said one person affiliated with the program’s production team:

“President Lee’s problematic statement about seeking an apology from the Emperor had a serious impact. Many Korean performers do not refrain from shouting “Dokdo is our land” at the top of their lungs. Their appearance would elicit a negative reaction from viewers.”

That now seems to have changed. The question was raised at a meeting of department heads at NHK on Wednesday, and reports say a network official answered: “We are considering this from the overall perspective and will separate politics and culture.” That could mean that some K-Poppers will appear after all.

Given the South Korean predilection with taking everything that happens in Japan the wrong way, an overreaction to the Japanese ambivalence toward the global cultural success of the Korean Nation was to be expected. Some Japanese music bloggers suggested the South Koreans used bots, or automated viewing programs, to pump the Youtube viewing totals. Others started calling the song “F5 Style”, referring to the keyboard key for refreshing a browser window.

Those witticisms detonated a small explosion at the premises of the Korean Wave Research Institute. That organization is a non-profit established in 2010 to conduct research into and promote Korean culture, particularly the pop variety. (They also display the seals of the Presidential Council on Nation Branding, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Korea Tourism Association on their website, which suggests government funding.)

Anyone in Japan could have scripted the response of KWRI President Han Koo-hyun in advance:

Denouncing the “conspiracy theories” of YouTube chart manipulation, KWRI president Han Koo-Hyun said the “outrageous” Japanese argument was “tantamount to doubting a world record in an Olympics marathon.”

Skepticism about the song’s worldwide popularity on YouTube “should be viewed as a primary school kid’s jealousy and envy”, Han said in a press release.

Not content with defending the success of “Gangnam Style,” Han launched a vitriolic attack on the only Japanese entry in YouTube’s chart of the 30 all-time, most-viewed videos.

Currently ranked 29th with more than 237 million views, the video shows a young Japanese woman engaging in the popular Internet meme activity of dropping some mentos candy in a bottle of diet coke so that it sprays soda everywhere.

Mocking what he described as the “most grotesque and preposterous content” on the entire chart, Han said it was “another lowly example showing the video-related preference of the Japanese.”

And some people would have you believe the attitudes of the Japanese are the biggest obstacle to improved bilateral relations.

“A primary school kid’s jealousy and envy”? I put it down to collegiate spitballing — it’s the Internet, dude. “Grotesque and preposterous” are terms that should be reserved for the continuing Korean ban on Japanese performers on Korean terrestrial TV and radio. If South Korea has a television program resembling the Kohaku Utagassen, Japanese singers are prohibited from appearing on it by law.

The extent of Japanese popularity aside, however, there is another aspect to the intense interest in the video that people tend to reference obliquely. Brian Ashcraft, the author of the piece at the first link cited, wrote:

Online in Japan, however, some seem to think that the idea of a fat Asian guy wearing sunglasses and dancing about is probably humorous to Westerners—hence the song’s popularity.

Last month in the Guardian of Britain, Arwa Mahdawi took that one step further in an article titled, What’s so funny about Gangnam Style? The subhead:

The South Korean pop video taking the internet by storm does little to overturn tired stereotypes of east Asian men

She concluded:

The last time the west laughed so uproariously at a Korean singer was when an animated Kim Jong-il bewailed how “ronery” he was in the film Team America, and how nobody took him “serirousry”. The puppet had a point: popular western media doesn’t tend to take east Asian men seriously – even when they’re brutal dictators. The stereotype of a portly, non-threatening Charlie Chan-type who speaks “comical” English is still very much alive, apparent in everything from hungry Kim Jong-un memes to Abercrombie and Fitch T-shirts. And it’s hard to escape the uncomfortable feeling that this stereotype is contributing something to the laughter around Gangnam Style.

I’ll take that another step further. Consider:

* The only people who understand the social commentary of PSY’s lyrics are the Koreans. Everyone else is working off the music and the video.

* The music, while catchy, is not that compelling. I sent a link of the Youtube video to a friend in England before it caught on there. One of his three income sources is his work as a DJ at pubs on weekend nights and at wedding receptions. (He’s also a big technopop fan and has played piano since childhood.) He thought the video was fun, but commented that the music reminded him of 20-year-old European disco.

* The video features several attractive Korean women. The Japanese are already familiar with northeast Asian pulchritude. But in the United States and Britain, where the video is especially popular, such a free concentrated shot of exotic beauty is seldom seen all at once in the same place.

* PSY is variously described in English-language accounts as “portly”, chubby”, or “dumpy”. He performs a goofy horse-trot dance; a moonwalking Michael Jackson he isn’t. I can see junior high school kids clumsy with the initial rush of puberty trying it out as a joke at a dance party, but that’s less likely for high school students and not at all for college men and women. (If someone did that at a party where I attended university, guys would have either hooted him out of the building or asked where he got the mushrooms.)

* One of the first places I saw the video referenced on the Internet was at an American site for the fans of the baseball team I follow. A frequent poster used the video to create a short gif file to accentuate a humorous reference in a point he was making. He didn’t use the scene with the women covered in feathers or that Korean yogini with the pert and shapely butt. He instead snipped several seconds from the scene near the beginning with a shirtless PSY sitting outside in a lounge chair and a boy doing the dance in the foreground.

There you have it: This video has become an example of Weird Koreana in the same way that Westerners incapable of taking successful East Asians seriously have for years found Weird Japan stories and photos as entertaining as the dickens. I’ve seen English-language websites focused on politics and world affairs whose only links or mentions of affairs in Japan are limited to goofball stories. Now it’s Korea’s turn.

They’re not laughing with PSY. They’re laughing at him. PSY himself may be laughing all the way to the bank, but that doesn’t alter the reason he’s got the cash in hand to begin with.

This is an observation that Westerners do not like to hear. To see how they usually respond, try some of the commenters on Arwa Mahdawi’s article at the Guardian. “What’s the problem with you Guardianistas,” they ask. “This is all in fun.”

My worldview is about 180° away from that attributed to the Guardianistas, but I agree with Ms. Mahdawi. I’ve made the same point about Weird Japan by commenting on one or two Western websites (with less politico-cultural stridency than she uses) and the outraged backlash is the same. Telling people in the Anglosphere to their cyberface that they really aren’t as clever, classless, and free as they like to think they are does not earn hits on the Like button.

I suspect PSY is hip enough to know that he’s seen as a clown in the West, but he’s now so rich that he probably doesn’t care. The question he’ll have to come to terms with is whether he’ll want to work against the typecasting in the future, and, whether he does or doesn’t, if the creators of his video can keep coming up with ideas as striking as the one for his Big Payday.

It’s understandable that the Gangnam Style phenomenon has generated excitement in South Korea about the potential for spreading Korean pop culture worldwide and creating cultural ties where few now exist. I hope they can and do.

It would be most unfortunate, however, if their excitement causes them to overlook the ugly side of the Gangnam Style phenomenon.

The photo above is of the K-Pop song-and-dance team Shojo Jidai. The group has the same name in Korean. They were one of three Korean groups to appear on the NHK New Year’s Eve program last year. This electronic disco number is similar musically to Gangnam Style, and is sung in Japanese (with a bit of English). The Japanese-language version of their song has more than 66 million views on Youtube. So much for anti-Korean childishness.

Other than the language, the differences with Gangnam Style are obvious.

Posted in Foreigners in Japan, International relations, Japanese-Korean amity, Music, Popular culture, South Korea | Tagged: , , | 11 Comments »

Ichigen koji (206)

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, October 23, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

If not to the civilized and democratic country Japan, do you want to go to thug-filled Xian city and eat gutter oil?

– A commentor on Weibo (China’s Twitter), when some people complained that a cruise last weekend on the Costa Victoria with 1,500 Chinese tourists from Shanghai to Yatsushiro, Kumamoto, was a “traitor tour”. Sea cruises from China to Japan, particularly Kyushu, have become popular in recent years among Chinese.

Posted in China, International relations, Popular culture, Quotations | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Ichigen koji (205)

Posted by ampontan on Monday, October 22, 2012

– A person who has something to say about everything

The origin of my (Twitter) account name “totodaisuke” is not because I am a fan of washlets and support the Toto company, but because Toto was the name of a dog I once had. People always ask me this, so maybe someone can write that up for me in Wikipedia.

– Iwase Daisuke

Posted in Popular culture, Quotations | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

All you have to do is look (78)

Posted by ampontan on Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The 25th Taishita Mon Ja Matsuri in Sekigawa-mura, a village of about 6,500, in Niigata last August.

The name of the event is a play on words, with taishita mon ja being a funky way of saying, “It was a serious matter”, and ja being one of the readings for snake.

The festival was first organized 25 years ago as a way to remember the destruction of the Uetsu flood on 28 August 1967. The bamboo and straw snake is intentionally made to be 82.8 meters in length, and it is the longest taishita mon ja in the Guinness Book of Records.

Posted in Photographs and videos, Popular culture | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »