Back in January, Edo Usagi, a wagashiya (traditional sweet shop) in Nippori, Tokyo, struck gold with a simple yet wildly popular confection: the Ichigo Yōkai Daifuku (strawberry monster sweet). Word of the cute, chewy monsters spread quickly on the web and the shop hit a record of 300 sold in one day. As strawberries eventually went out of season, they unveiled an apricot-stuffed creaton called the Perfume daifuku over Golden Week. Made from pounded rice and coming in sets of three, the treat was surely a hit among fans of the popular J-pop girl group, from whence it took its name. This month Edo Usagi dropped the monster mash and come from behind with the “beautiful geisha butt daifuku.” And yes, it contains collagen.
Posts Tagged ‘J-pop’
AKB48’s Yuko Oshima has just had a baby with Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko — a virtual baby that is. Brandishing a toy baby with a mask depicting the composite infant features of the two parents stuck over its face, Model Press reported that Oshima made the happy announcement to a pack of stunned journalists at a recent press conference. “He’s adorable,” she said beaming at the bemused crowd. “He’s destined to become a high flyer.”
There to promote the launch of AKB’s official site on Nov. 1, Oshima was singing the praises of one of the services available to subscribers. Hardcore fans who cough up ¥1,480 a month will be able to use the AKBaby app that allows them to see what kind of baby they might have in the extremely unlikely event that they got to impregnate their favorite pop idol. The app merges the features of mouth-breathing otaku with those of their most beloved AKB48 member and voila — a downloadable photo of the resulting baby is born.
From Nov. 1 a commercial will be aired nationwide that appears to show Oshima suckling a real live baby (see above) accompanied by the hurl-worthy tagline, “Won’t you make a baby with me?” Oshima was keen to point out that she didn’t really get her boobs out for the campaign shoot. “The photograph was taken in a way that made it look like that,” she told reporters.
Other perks available to members are a little less creepy. Subscribers get an AKB48 email address, tickets to concerts at the AKB48 theater and access to “special content” made exclusively for AKB fans.
The reaction thus far from netizens has been less than enthusiastic: “It seems too expensive, one year costs more than ¥20,000,” commented one fan. “Who the hell dreamt up this messed-up scheme?” asked another anonymous commentator.
Hot on the heels of the b-kyu gurume (local cuisine) and yuru kyara (local mascot) crazes, gotouchi idols looks like the next big thing to come out of provinces. By copying the massively successful formula used to create AKB48, these all-singing, all-dancing, locally based pop groups are aimed at revitalizing tourism in their respective hometowns.
AKB48, the many-limbed J-pop monster, officially resides in Akihabara at their very own theater on the 7th floor of Don Quijote, where the group gives performances daily. Then there are the regional clones, such as NMB48, from Namba, Osaka, SKE48 in Nagoya, and HKT48 in Fukuoka.
Along those lines, Fukuoka’s Himekyun Fruits Can established its own theater at Matsuyama Kitty Hall where the goup also performs daily. Like most gotouchi idols, Himekyun Fruits Can strongly resembles AKB in numbers, age range and gender: all eight members are young women in their teens and early 20s.
Following in the footsteps of their male counterparts, long-legged South Korean beauties are taking the Japanese pop scene by storm this year. When all-girl K-pop act Kara released their debut single “Mister (ミスター)” in August, it went straight to No. 5 in the Oricon weekly singles chart, and Shojo Jidai (known as SNSD in South Korea), who also debuted recently (on Sept. 8), sold a whopping 75,000 copies of their first single “Genie.”
The bands are about to go head to head in what the Japanese media are dubbing a “hot pants war”: all five members of Kara appear in teeny tiny black hot pants on the cover of their new album while Shojo Jidai’s new single, out later this month, has the nine-member unit sporting short shorts, while showing off their amazingly long legs.
Other female K-pop acts to debut in Japan this year were Brown Eyed Girls, who released their first album on Aug. 26, 4Minute, who released their first single in Japan on May 5 and most recently K-pop indie solo artist Tensi Love, who made her debut performance on Sept. 24 at a private show for industry types at Star Lounge in Shibuya.
The girls are following the lead of Korean boy bands such as Big Bang and TVXQ, who have already become big hits over here. Big Bang were awarded the “Best New Artist” award at the 51st Japan Records Awards in December 2009 and TVXQ, who debuted here in 2005, broke the Oricon record for foreign artists who have the largest amount of sales of a single in its first week of release.
Unlike Japanese bands, Korean bands are groomed for overseas success, so that along with taking singing and dance classes, members often study a foreign language in order to communicate with overseas fans. Shojo Jidai not only have a Japanese speaking member but even went so far as to release a Japanese version of their single “Genie” (see video above). Whether this will be enough to outsell Japan’s homegrown J-pop acts remains to be seen.
In Japan, the mainstream music industry, and Johnny’s Jimusho in particular, is infamous for unyielding, top-down control of its artists, most notably how and where their images are displayed. Naturally, the explosion of fan Web sites, blogs and social networking sites has threatened to erode that control. In many cases, the industry’s response is to flex its muscles even more. Johnny’s has long forbidden digital photos of their pop idols to be uploaded to even major media sites. We’re talking about official photos that promote a movie or TV show in which the agency’s artist stars.
This set-up works in Japan because, as a rule, the media is beholden to the big talent agencies and labels. But what if, one day, Johnnys’ decides to sell its boy bands to a global market – could it keep the overseas media on a similarly tight leash? When that day comes, the agency would do well to study the track record of Big Bang, a South Korean hip-hop boy-band sensation that has obviously figured out a way to make the series of tubes work to its advantage.
Formed in 2006, Big Bang is determined to milk the Web for all it is worth in its aggressive attempts to market the band’s brand beyond South Korea. While the band has the requisite official sites in both Korean and Japanese, several of the band members have me2day pages where they post tweet-like messages in Korean with attached pictures and video. The band also has an extremely open attitude when it comes to fan sites. Fans around the world run a cavalcade of sites devoted to the band and gather on “VIP” (the self-applied name for Big Bang fans) forums whose theme is to promote friendly fandom and prevent “claim wars.” A Tokyo-based fan group named Team.Bigbang has made the band particularly visible via a Twitter account, Flickr account, Facebook page and Blogspot blog. These sites and forums traffic in high-quality photos, snapshots of the band from what appear to be personal mobile phones and even bootleg concert video filmed by fans.
This marks the debut of Internet Go BOOM, a series that will look at how topics du jour evolve online in Japan.
3.1.2010: Tokyo Damage Report posts a nearly 10,000 word anonymous interview with a former executive of a Visual Kei record label. The executive dishes on the state of the industry, exposes harsh working conditions of band members, gives examples of marketing strategies of the executives, and draws a detailed picture of the mob-like connections between different Visual Kei labels.
Between March 1 and March 7 a 74-comment (and counting) discussion ensues between TDR, Visual Kei fans and curious bystanders. DaRC promises to blog further on the topic and interview to “rip holes” in fan girl “dream bubbles.” Mary worries that her money spent on Visual Kei music and merchandise isn’t going to the artists. “Relatively Mature Adult Fangirl” calls some of the interview exaggeration and says that the interview would be more believable if it was about Johnny’s Jimusho. “Don’t want to get kneecapped,” a journalist who covered Visual Kei bands, claims that the rigid control is far worse than U.S. artists experience.
3.1.2010: Adamu of Mutantfrog Travelogue, a multi-author blog about East Asian culture and politics, posts a link to the interview. 19-comment (and counting) discussion ensues. Dave worries that sites may be considering the interview actual investigative journalism when it is actually of questionable authenticity. He also notes that the tone of the translation has TDR’s trademark style – casual, lots of pop-culture references, very entertaining. Adamu notes that he called it “a probably true-to-life mokumentary.” In the comments, Roy of Mutantfrog requests David Marx’s opinion.
3.3.2010: Mash Potato Poet, Visual Kei fan and rural poet, expresses mixed feelings of betrayal (on the part of the producers and shadowy label owners) and sympathy (for the band members who are just like sarariimen even if they don’t wear suits).