In university I took a class called Japanese Pop-Culture. I think the teacher and I had very different ideas about what constitutes “pop-culture.” I signed up assuming that I would be studying anime and Harajuku girls, instead the class was about Edo period Japan. Despite this initial confusion, I was fascinated to learn that a lot of Japanese culture and customs that are still alive today began in the Edo period. Things don’t change all that quickly in Japan. I guess that explains why groups such as Arashi remain popular for such a long time. This month I will introduce a few more pop-icons that have been around for a while, but are still maintaining their fan base.
Artist/Band – 3代目J Soul Brothers
The Japanese group EXILE have been around for so long they are practically an empire. Famous for their hip-hop dance skills, they have dance studios all around Japan and their own TV show E-dance Academy, but that is just the beginning. Several solo artists and groups from the tribe are actually more popular than the original group, such as Sandaime J Soul Brothers. Formed in 2010, this sub-group consists of 7 members—who sing, dance, and make at least one chart-topping hit a year. Their latest album, Planet Seven, was released on January 28th.
TV show – 鉄腕 DASH!
Tetsuwan DASH! is a TV show comprised of several mini segments hosted by the J-Rock group TOKIO. It is a little hard to keep track of all the different stories. However, most of them have a central theme of hunter-gatherer. For example, DASH Island is set on an abandoned island, where TOKIO build a house and learn how to make a well. Another interesting segment is “0-Yen Eatery”, where they travel around in a food van collecting imperfect produce that is destined for the trash and making it into gourmet meals. It is no Man Vs Wild, but I enjoy watching it every week.
Celebrity – 片岡愛之助
Anyone who is a fan of the Hanzawa Naoki drama series is probably already familiar with actor Kataoka Ainosuke. He played the quirky investigation team leader, an over-the-top yet somehow totally appropriate character. Recently, he has featured in several commercials, including one for BOSS coffee and another for Shiseido. Originally a kabuki actor, he is also a notorious bachelor who has a son with a former hostess—a secret which was uncovered by women’s magazine Josei Seven in March 2011. He provides drama on stage and off, what more could you ask for?
Anime/manga – 排球!
Haikyuu! is a cartoon about volleyball from the sports anime genre. There is an anime for almost every club activity, and usually students watch the corresponding show. The volleyball students watch Haikyuu!, the tennis students watch Baby Steps and the basketballers watch Kuroko no Basuke. In general, Haikyuu! seems to be one of the more popular shows. The only one I have seen is the cycling anime, Yowamushi Pedaru, which I enjoyed enough to keep watching. However, if you have seen one sports anime, then you have pretty much seen them all. Drama, sports, winning, and losing. The plots are very similar.
Word – あったかいんだから
This month’s word is brought to you by my comedian-obsessed junior high school students. It was coined by tsukkomi-boke (straight man/funny man) comedy duo Kumamushi, and first aired on the comedian contest TV show Gurunai. The skit, titled “Idol Song”, has the boke singing a song that would be his idol debut, if he were reborn as a woman. The tsukkomi tries to talk him out of singing, quoting his baldness and beard as reasons why he should quit immediately. He doesn’t seem discouraged, and laughter from the audience ensues as he attempts to put on his best kawaii. You can watch the original skit here.
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?