by Jaclyn Thompson (Miyazaki)
In February, I travelled to Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh City. I had been to Thailand once before as a college student, but after having lived in Japan for almost four years now, I found that I was much more comfortable travelling there this time around. There are many similarities between Asian cultures that made it more relatable for me. It was also interesting to see the results of the current “Japan-boom”; Japanese restaurants, cars, electronics, and various other goods on every corner. One cab driver that we met even serenaded us with a beautiful rendition of the classic song, “Sukiyaki.” I guess it pays to know a little about Japan these days. Let’s take a look at what is new and exciting in the world of Japanese pop culture this month.
Artist/Band – One Ok Rock
One Ok Rock (pronounced one-oh-kurokku, a take on “one o’clock”) is currently one of the most popular J-Rock bands. Their latest album, 35xxxv,was released February 11, and includes the theme songs for the Rurouni Kenshin movies that came out last year. Many of their songs are a mix of English and Japanese, appealing to a global market. They are currently on tour in the U.S. after playing at Australia’s Soundwave music festival in February. A Japan tour for their new album begins in May in Shizuoka. If you haven’t checked them out yet, give their album Niche Syndrome a listen.
TV show – Sekai no Hate Made ItteQ!
(世界の果てまでイッテQ! “To the edge of the world, ItteQ!”)
This TV show is the perfect mix of informative and entertaining, appealing to a variety of age groups. Regular cast members have their own segment for which they travel to various countries throughout the year. Last year, there was a particularly popular segment where Ayako Imoto attempted to climb Mt. Everest. After years of training and preparation, the mountain was closed to climbers just days before she was scheduled to climb due to an avalanche and consequent strike by the Sherpa. It became quite the topic of conversation at school. There’s also a subreddit dedicated to the popular show.
Celebrity – Sakana-kun
(さかなクン “Fish Guy”)
One of my JTEs introduced me to Sakana-kun、also known as Masayuki Miyazawa, during an English lesson. She said he is a visiting associate professor of Marine Science and Technology at Tokyo University and he rediscovered the fish kunimasu which was thought to be extinct. Later that day I looked him up online, and was surprised to find a young Japanese man wearing a fish hat. I was even more surprised to find that he is almost forty years old. He looks mid-twenties to me. Appearances aside, he is also a talented illustrator who has published several books and appears regularly on variety programming. The Japan Times wrote about him in 2011.
Anime/manga – Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso
(四月は君の嘘 “Your Lie in April”)
Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso won the Kodansha Shounen Manga Award for best manga in 2013. The 22 episode anime series aired from October 2014 to March 2015. The storyline is a little darker than your average high school anime, introducing issues such as depression, illness and abuse. The main character, Kousei Arima, is a talented pianist who cannot bear to hear his own playing after the death of his mother who was also his instructor. One day he meets a free-spirited violinist, Kaori Miyazono, who convinces him to start playing again and slowly brings him back to life. I’m only up to episode 19 at the moment, so unfortunately I can’t give you any hints on how it ends, but I can’t wait to finish it!
Word – joshi-ryoku danshi
(女子力男子 “Guys with Girl Power”)
Next to joshi-kai, joshi-ryoku is one of my favorite Japanese words. The literal translation is “girl power” but it actually encompasses much more than that. This new term joshi-ryoku danshi comes from a recent book titled 女子力男子－女子力を身につけた男子が新しい市場を創り出す (joshi-ryoku danshi – joshi-ryoku wo mi ni tsuketa-danshi ga atarashii ichiba wo tsukuridasu, “Guys with Girl Power – Guys Trying Out Girl Power and Creating a New Marketplace”) which was written by marketing analyst Youhei Harada and published last December. It describes the new generation of men who enjoy making character bento, using skin care products, and other traditionally female past-times.
Jaclyn Thompson is a fourth-year ALT in Miyazaki Prefecture. Driven to Japan by her passion for Japanese study, she is slowly saying goodbye to her university level English, and hello to Japanese fluency… Is what she would like to say, but in reality she is saying hello to junior high school textbook English and talking at the pace of a snail. I’m fine thanks, and you?