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Forty Years From Now

My new album Forty Years from Now is finally out! The first quote-unquote single "Cat vs. Mouse" is available for free download and features vocals from UT of the band Kiiiiiii and production from Pandatone. The twelve-song album was...

Content Starts on Néojaponisme

Néojaponisme kicks off this week with a five-part interview with Dr. Patricia Steinhoff, Professor of Sociology at University of Hawaii (Manoa) and expert on the Japanese New Left/Japanese Red Army. (Post comments over there this time.)...

Gossip is Hard to Read

Rumor has it that Japan's most beloved female singer Koda Kumi is dating Japan's most talented dance group vocalist Nakai from Japan's most lovable replacement for Hikaru Genji — SMAP. Now this confuses me a bit, since I was operating...

Mein Totally Cool Kampf 2

Image supplied by Matt Alt of AltJapan...

clast on livedoor NEWS

My diabolically-corporate marketing and media insights blog clast is now syndicated on livedoor NEWS. (Japanese only)...

No Shotguns, No Weddings

Oh, young love! Famed baseball pitcher Darvish Yu — age 20 — and entertainment production company employee Saeko — age 20 — have decided to get married! In an era where youth take their pretty time to stagger aimlessly towards...

Mein Totally Cool Kampf

Browsing through the Kichijoji branch of the national hipster junk-shop chain Village Vanguard, I stumbled upon a Japanese translation of Adolf Hitler's very own Mein Kampf (Parts One and Two). Heil! Heil! reads the hand-written product pitch. Cute. Over the...

Regain and Orthopraxical Labor Goals

Like many Japanese commercials, this TV spot for the Regain energy drink reinforces product message with a playful sense of hyperbole. But note the presuppositions about labor goals inherent in the narrative. A train is delayed, so the salaryman...

iPhone on the iNogashira Line

Coming home the other night, I stood in front of a Cool Biz white-collar Japanese guy in his 30s totally and utterly rocking an iPhone to listen to some tunes. Talk about conspicuous consumption! The guy was willing to pay...

Japanese Interviews with Americans in 1967

Apparently, Terayama Shuji helped produce this. The "Are Japanese people tragic or comic?" seems to stump everyone....

The Beauty of Effort

This week's Shukan Bunshun (8.2.07 edition) has a story by writer Ochi Yoshiko (越智良子) called 「どこがいいの?」今どきの美女論 examining the mysterious popularity of models Ebihara Yuri ("Ebi-chan") and Oshikiri Moe, singers Koda Kumi and Hamasaki Ayumi, and Miss Universe Mori Riyo. The...

On the Fringe

• A wacky political party lacking even a smidgen of electablility keeps doing the Akasaka rounds with "The Hustle" as their sound-truck sound-track. They cut out the "Do the hustle!" part though. If they don't have the guts to deliver...

Go West

Osaka is much nicer than I remember. I regret that I may have fallen prey to the stereotypes of gaudy excess and tacky foods. But within the gravity of the exquisite graf gallery, everything is pleasant and romantic. Although the...

Leah Dizon and Horses

How in the world can you ignore the headline "Leah Dizon: 'I Had Sex with a Horse"? Nice work, Shukan Asahi Geinou. I think the weeklies have gotten very bored of the quaint rumor that she is secretly Japanese and...

Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll TV?

I did the least Japanese thing ever: I got cable TV. Through some weird promotions and unclear machinations, I would actually save money by adding cable to my broadband package. Back at my former residence, I enjoyed watching cable once...

5318008 Upside-Down on Calculator

I have been thinking about breasts a lot these days. No, not in a sexual way. This all started with Hoshino Aki - a horribly annoying ex-young woman who has become a variety TV regular solely because of her enormous...

Hot Dog Eating as Metaphor

Forget metaphor, let's just say out loud what I know you are thinking: the defeat of Takeru Kobayashi at the 2007 Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest signals the end of Japanese global dominance. But how unfair: American Joey Chestnut...

Korean Pakuri of Japanese Products

From a Fuji TV news program on the Korean pakuri ("rip off") of Japanese products. Lotte was apparently not happy about the coverage....

The Curse of the Leapfrog

Remember MiniDisc? The little square-shaped, muddy-sounding, smooth-playing media that made your standard Target-bought Discman feel as if you were walking around town with an ancient turntable. The MiniDisc never caught on in the U.S., but the Japanese still won: companies...

Jazzy Rebellion

Finally - Japanese student rebellion in the 1960s set to jazzy music....

Ota-ku?

From Roland Kelts' Japanamerica (157): In the late 1970s and early 1980s, when anime and manga fans in Japan were meeting one another at domestic conventions, they began to recognize one another's faces, though they did not know each other...

Japanese Cool from Economic Meltdown? Not really.

A certain explanation about the rise of Japanese Cool has wiggled its way into the conventional wisdom: the creative explosion in the 1990s that enabled the mass-exporting of Japanese popular culture to the rest of the world happened precisely because...

LDP Discovers That "Pearl Harbor Never Happened"

TOKYO: About 100 Japanese governing party lawmakers denounced the Attack on Pearl Harbor as a fabrication on Tuesday, contesting American claims that Japanese soldiers launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet in 1941. The members of Prime Minister...

HF Forever Forever HF

This guy.I've got no specific, personal beef with Hiroshi Fujiwara - the man ultimately responsible for bringing A Bathing Ape, Undercover, Head Porter, Goodenough, AFFA, Visvim, Soph., Base Station, Neighborhood, Sarcastic, Real Mad Hectic, Original Fake, and Bounty Hunter into...

MilK Helps Your Kids Grow

"Wait right there, young man! What do you think you are wearing?" "Mom, Grandma got me this." "You think I am going to let you out of the house like that?" "It's clean. You just washed it. The other shirt...

Not So Motivated

In 2005, American HR firm Towers Perrin conducted a global survey on employee motivation (意欲) towards work, and to everyone's surprise, including the Japanese, Japan ranked the second worst of all the countries included. Only 2% of Japanese surveyed...

Street Snaps: Top-Down or Bottom-Up?

It often feels like a majority of people on Omotesando road in the middle of the day are not shoppers but photographers, ready to pounce on the next stylish girl with pink hair coming out of Wendy's with an S-sized...

Miihaa

A few years ago, I kept bugging my Japanese friends about the origin of the phrase "miihaa" (ミーハー) - which is used to identify young people who are overly starstruck towards celebrities, weak-kneed to anything popular, and oversensitive to trends....

Massing, Demographics, and the Beginnings of Japanese Pop Culture

Massing A 1977 issue of Japan Echo contains an article called "Hordes of Teenagers Massing" written by an NHK researcher named Fujitake Akira. He looks for answers to a question that had been plaguing society at the time: Why do...

House Cleaning

The "new (non-work related) blog project" that will replace this rusty old Neomarxisme is making some progress - a server! a design! a programmer! To be honest, I am very excited about the new [WORD]isme.com, and the fancy layout makes...

Tortilla Chip Nationalism

This Jay Leno commercial boldly uses the massive insecurity of Americans in the late 80s/early 90s about losing the technology war to the Japanese to sell a new flavor of tortilla chips. These days, of course, America exports all...

Good Times at the Kamiya Bar

Naporitan spaghetti may have began its existence as a distant relation to thick and hearty Neapolitan ragus from the Old Country, but in its contemporary Japanese form, the recipe calls for a vulgarity on par with the high crimes...

Post-Modern Anxiety Appearing in Odd Places

The Japanese economy only grew 0.6% in the January-March quarter. Other than the restructuring and suicide, the long 90s recession included a pleasurable indulgence in "recessionary chic." The decade acted as a time to reflect and to expurgate the excesses...

Snarky Reactions to the Internet, Part One Million

Item One: Finally, Business Week has gotten to the bottom of this "Cool Japan" thing. A bit of their expert analysis: For the last couple of decades, Japan has been far better known as a super-efficient manufacturer of autos, machine...

Japan, So Narrowly Defined

The new issue of Weekly Pureiboi offers us an epic dichotomy to titillate our senses - "Japanese Idols vs. World Sexy" On the cover, the issue's featured women are organized into two distinct groups: Japan IdolsWorld Sexy Ishii MeguruTerada YukiOhtomo...

Zino: Because We Needed Another Leon

For all those dirty old Japanese men who are sick of seeing that human chunk of Italian ham Girolamo Panzetta on the cover of their beloved Leon, the brand new magazine Zino gives you 73-year old journalist Tahara Soichiro slouching...

The Kent Girls Have Hit the Town

For the last two week, an army of perky girls in white uniforms and white vinyl boots have taken over the streets of Minato-ku. They stand next to your local tobacco merchant or cigarette machine and pass out free samples...

Pakuri Goes West-East

For a long time, I have been writing about pakuri - the unprincipled use of creative elements from someone else in a similar context as the original without self-acknowledgment of the borrowing. There remains a loud minority contingent who...

Former Foreign Hostess Tells All to Neomarxisme

I have a Canadian female friend who used to work at a foreign hostess club in Roppongi, and I invited her to write something about her experience. (I edited for grammar and length.) I was backpacking through either Thailand or...

I Can Wrote Magazine Articles?

I have an article on the Japanese 8-bit pop band YMCK in the new "Nerds" issue of Theme Magazine. The third installment of my regular column "Fight, This Generation" is in the new OK Fred, but unfortunately only in Japanese....

Luxury Rot

Am I underestimating or overestimating the difficulty required in procuring this particular stream of songs from early 80s? And not the "I Love the 80s" 80s, but the past mass hits with zero appeal to later media curators - not...

Golden Week: Ultra-Rational Order Causes Massive Demand for Low Supply

Since life is life for work and work is work for the State, vacation basically amounts to an affront against citizenship. "We give you these 10 paid vacation days with the promise that you never use them." Okay, no one...

An Hour Outside of New Orleans, near the Mississippi border

Want to get my attention, Japanese band? Name your group after my Dad's small Louisiana hometown Bogalusa. These guys do "30s and 40s African-American music." But don't fret, bands-not-named Bogalusa. There is still room on my maternal side: I promise...

The Commercial Mystery of Bitch Skateboards

On the plane bound for Nagoya in Summer 1996, my friend Dennis - who had been to Japan many times before - mentioned that there was a Japanese brand called Bitch Skateboards and the logo mark involved the international bathroom...

Attraction to Adult Women: a Hot Trend for Upper-Middle Class Men

With nine-year old girls in thong bikinis currently leading the march of eroticism in Japan (or at least grabbing the most real estate in der Zeitgeist), refined culture magazine for urban professionals Brutus has decided to come out and remind...

Oricon vs. Ugaya Update: "I just made up the numbers at will."

(1) April 3 saw the second hearing in the civil case between music business ranking chart provider Oricon and freelance journalist Ugaya Hiro. At the time of the first hearing, Ugaya announced that he was counter-suing Oricon for infringing on...

Uyoku - "p0wned!" by p0lice

I'm not sure, but I think all these uyoku soundtrucks outside my office window are screaming, Welcome back to Japan, Marxy! Either that or anti-China slogans. The audio moves too much into the red to really decipher the content of...

Sunk Costs and Karaoke Videos

—Okay, I like this idea of taking karaoke out of the nighttime snack bar and putting it into "boxes" all around the country. Like a franchise. —Right. I think it's going to be big. —One little question though: what are...

Athletic Underdogs and Nation States

In the same way that I flocked to the Beatles because my brown hair naturally formed a rounded Beatles cut as an elementary school student, I found myself avidly watching the 1970s Japanese TV anime Ace wo Nerae! a few...

Cigarettes: Way Before You Die of Cancer, Your Idol Contract Gets Revoked

Some of you may still be outraged by the drug- and nudity-based exploits of 20 year-old American actress and singer Lindsay Lohan, and for those of you who say, "Yes, that's me," I urge you to sit down immediately. For...

Saaya Irie Gets NHK Sponsorship

Contemporary Japanese idol expert Santos26 over at Idolizing St. Anna is reporting that 13 year-old Irie Saaya - who rose to fame in the nether regions of the internet as a bikini-clad elementary schoolgirl student with a prodigious bust-line (whom...

Tokyo Midtown and Throwaway Mega-Development

World, you ready to envy? Your social superior Tyler Brule (add circumflex and accent aigu to the last word with your imagination) loves the new Roppongi super development project Tokyo Midtown. If you are thinking that Roppongi Hills was enough...

SXSW and the Paradox of Choice

If you haven't read Barry Schwartz's The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, you should - because he perfectly explains why SXSW doesn't really work as an event for discovering new music: A recent series of studies, titled "When...

Blogging to Commence.... Soon!

Back in Japan. Fell asleep last night at 8 after reading John Lewis Gaddis's The Cold War - which is good, but not good enough to keep me awake in such dramatic shifts of longitude. (Why didn't Jimmy Buffet ever...

clast

Hello, everyone. As written here, I have started to ply my blogging services for my employer at a bilingual blog entitled clast. At this new location on the internet, I will be writing very specifically about Japanese media, marketing, and...

Work/Life Balance - Coming Never to Japan

The Japanese government is setting up another task force to tackle the difficult issue of work-life balance. Experts will come together to figure out how working hours can be effectively curbed. Any Western spectator of Japanese business life will immediately...

The Second Digital Divide in Japanese Society

There is a very interesting article in Facta Online about the "Second Digital Divide." Among 20 year-olds in Japan, there is a serious split between those who access the net via personal computers and those who access (a proprietary and...

Cuteness vs. Fluency

Shukan Gendai has an article this week called "(Super-popular 21st Century Agnes Lum Has a Surprising Secret) Leah Dizon is Actually Fluent in Japanese!?" (人気沸騰“21世紀のアグネス・ラム”に意外なヒミツ■リア・ディゾン 実は日本語ペラペラ!?) At first I wanted to write about this as an example of the weekly magazines...

Bibliography

I am not sure if you noticed, but I created a bibliography for Néomarxisme on LibraryThing. Now thanks to the joys of social cataloging, you can discover the books I have read that brought me to my current perspectives on...

Rip Slyme in a One-Act Play Entitled "Sony Vaio: Fight the Power"

At Rip Slyme headquarters... Pes: Yo, yo, yo. 'Sup, 'sup, 'sup. Su: What? Pes: Sorry. I mean, hey, can I have your attention everybody? Fumiya - stop sampling for a minute. We need to plan out the video for...

The Japanese Theory of Blood Type and Eugenics

An interesting tidbit from Eiji Oguma's A Genealogy of 'Japanese' Self-Images (translated by David Askew): Furuhata Tanemoto, a professor at Kanazawa Medical University and later at Tokyo Imperial University,... his speciality was medical jurisprudence and blood types, and he triggered...

Stop Using Images of People We Own!

The members of JAME - the Japanese Association of Music Enterprises - have taken out a very expensive banner advertisement in the subways (or at least, the Ginza Line) screaming out 「私たち、本気です。」 with the furigana above indicating that 本気 (honki)...

LOHAS are NERDS (and probably poor)

What's hot for early 2007? Carbon emissions and poison exhaust, boys. Japan may have superior public transportation, but who wants to share the train with hordes of downwardly-mobile white-collar trash. Actually, let me reconsider that. Thanks to those worker bees,...

Little Grown-Ups

Here are three clips of Japanese female idol singers from the 60s and 70s. The first is Hirota Mieko's debut single 「子供じゃないの」 - a cover of Helen Shapiro's "Don't Treat Me Like a Child." Note that she is only...

The Japanification of Leah Dizon

The March 2007 issue of Nikkei Entertainment! playfully warns that "Black Ships" - a reference to American Commodore Matthew Perry's 1853 opening of Japan - have arrived in the Japanese gravure (gurabia) bikini model world. Out of nowhere, a foreign...

Ugaya Trial Goes to Court

Yesterday, February 13, saw the first hearing for the Oricon vs. freelance writer Ugaya Hiro civil trial. Now that Ugaya has countersued Oricon for infringing on his freedom of speech and abusing the legal system, both sides are on the...

Fables of the Reconstruction

In just 160 pages of their new book The Fables of the Keiretsu, Tokyo University economics professor Yoshiro Miwa and Harvard Law School professor J. Mark Ramseyer manage to raise doubts about almost all conventional wisdom regarding the structure...

Nikkei Entertainment Looks at Oricon vs. Soundscan

The March 2007 issue of Nikkei Entertainment has a two-page article entitled "In Light of Court-related Problems, Music Fans' Debate Has Become White-Hot: We Test the 'Accuracy of Oricon.'" (『裁判問題で音楽ファンの議論が白熱「オリコンチャートの正しさ」を検証』) The Oricon suit against freelance writer Ugaya Hiro for publicly...

Updates on Sex, Violence, and Backhand Deals

1) I never really saw this picked up anywhere else, so I wanted to bring it up here: on January 30th Freakonomics author Steven Levitt wrote on his Freakonomics blog about the recent allegations that yokozuna Asashoryu has been rigging...

Your Faked TV Segment of the Day: Female Otaku

Fuji TV show "Stamen" recently profiled a "female game otaku" Urakawa Kana who is a "normal OL" (at a "game-related company") but plays Street Fighter II like a pro. Turns out Urakawa is actually an employee at Capcom - the...

One Update and Two Questions about Japanese TV

1. An Update on the Natto Diet scandal As written in this Japanese article, the revelations that producers of the television show Hakkutsu! Aru Aru Daijiten 2 completely fabricated scientific-sounding results in order to prove the veracity of a fantastical...

Your Little Sister

This "slightly bonkers" blog gets a fair amount of net traffic, but not because of my illuminating insight on Japan nor my biting wit. As far as my stats suggest, everyone mostly drops in to gawk at the pictures of...

My Donkey Kong Naming Theory

Before the internet could assume its fundamental duties of myth-busting and old-wives-tale-wrastlin', there was a rumor going around that Nintendo meant to call the gorilla from landmark game Donkey Kong "Monkey Kong," but the "M" got changed into a "D"...

The Misanthropology of Late-Stage Kogal

"There is a case to be made that the kogal image epitomized Japan's hazily defined crisis of the 1990s at least as well as did layoffs by top Japanese firms," writes Prof. David Leheny in his book Think Local, Fear...

Don't Try the Natto Diet

Turns out the whole Natto Diet introduced on Hakkutsu! Aru Aru Daijiten 2 (発掘!あるある大辞典)that sparked a national selling panic on natto (fermented soybeans) was based on fabricated data. Oops. There's been an ongoing debate upon this blog about whether news/informational...

The Japanese-Koguryoic Language Family

One of the enduring mysteries of Japan is the origin of the language. Besides the clearly-related Ryukyuan languages (not dialects) spoken in Okinawa and the other islands stretching from south of Kyushu to Taiwan, no other contemporary language resembles Japanese...

Oricon Music Charts Sues Freelancer Over Quoted Comment in Article

I have recently learned that on December 13, 2006 Oricon - Japan's analog to Billboard in the United States and top music industry ranking chart provider - filed a civil suit against freelance writer and music critic Ugaya Hiro in...

From the Japanese Bookshelf: Nazis and Jews!

『ナチスの発明』/武田 知弘Nazi Inventions / Takeda Tomohiro12/2006Did you know that the Nazis were responsible for TV, highways, space travel, and other wonders of the modern era? At last, someone bravely sticks up for the Nazis and restores their honor as Mothers...

The Success and Limits of Japanese Gross National Cool

Maybe I have an allergy to fabric dyes and plastic packaging, but there was nowhere I despised more as a teenager than the local shopping mall. Being inside the giant complex always made me feel physically ill. When I finally...

We.

Back to my normal morning routine today and thus greeted with a banner ad in the trains for this cover story in weekly Spa! magazine: "Saturday-Sunday Emptiness Syndrome": you wake up and it's already evening, eagerly watch DVDs, desperately visit...

Densha Otoko: Finally Interviewed!

In the January 2007 issue of Wired there is an article "Love Train" about our favorite "true love story" 「電車男」(Densha Otoko). Writer Brian Ashcraft gets a special interview with the "man" behind the phenomenon. Not in person, of course. Observe:...

Marxy on Hysteric Glamour in Nylon Guys

I have a rather long profile of Nobu Kitamura - designer/founder of classic Japanese street brand Hysteric Glamour - in the Winter 2007 issue of Nylon Guys (on newsstands now!), thus completing my coverage of the Holy Trinity of Japanese...

The Forty Year-Old Virgin's Global Cool

On the left is an image currently used in Marui (OI) department store's Christmas campaign. The model is Ikeuchi Hiroyuki, who plays the lead role in a special tie-up short drama series available on the Marui website. The story...

Krispy Kreme: Only Southerners Can Criticize

Glazed donut makers Krispy Kreme opened in Japan last Friday, and although lines were full of peacefully-exuberant locals, dissent is brewing stronger than the accompanying coffee. "Krispy Kreme donuts are too big and too sweet...Mister Donut donuts keep better in...

Kanji Causes Manga: Why?

Japan is a visually-oriented culture. That makes sense. Why so? Because of kanji of course. I don't follow. Let me quote from Donald Richie's book The Image Factory: Fads & Fashions in Japan (2003): Some reasons have been suggested...

Rich Kids

Although you never hear much about it, Murakami Haruki clearly comes from money. Grandson of a Buddhist priest on one side and an Osaka merchant on the other, he was raised in the upscale Ashiyashi region of Kobe, took seven...

Marxy's Guide to DJing Corporate Christmas Parties

Let's keep this short and simple. Don't even bother picking up a pen and paper. You can copy-paste it and print it out later; 1) Always start off with "Ruckzuck" by Kraftwerk. All seven minutes, and no, "Kling Klang" is...

Japan: Major or Minor Country?

Famed Neomarxisme insurgent commenter alin wrote the following in our debate about Dentsu (literally, the world's largest ad firm) the other day: but see japan too is basically a minor country and I'm very politically motivated to support that in...

All Behold the Monolithic Beauty of the Mobile Ad Monopoly

We all know that DoCoMo (NTT), au (KDDI), and SoftBank (once Vodaphone) are fierce rivals in the Japanese mobile phone market. So who is behind their cutting-edge campaigns trying to win consumers over to their side at the expense of...

Red Yebisu

Japanese beer is great, and (Y)ebisu is the best of the best. And the best thing about Yebisu is that the cans are the same color as the beer. The Gold of the normal brew shines out in such regal...

Lackluster Video: The Continuing Enigma of Japanese Television

Monday nights at 9? Nodame Cantabile. Not gonna front like I ever read the manga (manga?) or even that I manage to keep up with the show every week, but yes, I sometimes watch one television show in the Japanese...

No Chances in the Early Days of the "Second-Chance Society"

As reported on 2-ch's Itai News Blog, Kinki University in Osaka is telling juniors they must take a job right outside of graduation in the traditional "shinsotsu saiyou" (新卒採用) system. Why? "Because there are no second chances." (「2度とチャンスはありません。」) What about...

The Kevin Smith Nightmare

Every story from my teenage years starts with a cassette tape but so be it: I had the entire audio track to the film Clerks on a Maxell Type II tape - with all the interstitial vocabulary words written in...

PS3 Lines as Metaphors for Japan/America

American PS3 Lines: fights, arguments, BB gun attacks, robberies - overall, slightly violent and rowdy. Japanese PS3 Lines: relatively peaceful and good-natured from afar, but semi-sinister on closer inspection - with the mainstream media avoiding reports of anything that might...

R.I.P. Velfarre

Finally, an obituary for a cultural artifact I never liked to start with: Velfarre - Avex's inessential megaclub in Roppongi has contracted a severe case of reality and has two months to live. Apparently the fancy complex lost money from...

Homeless in PS3 Lines: A Non-Japanese Media Conspiracy?

Search for "Playstation homeless" on Google News (in English): China Post, BBC, Virgin.net, Middle East TImes, Hong Kong's The Standard, and The Sunday Times all reported on the presence of homeless men waiting in line for the Playstation 3. No...

It is no longer fun to wait in line.

Ever since I first lived in Tokyo back in 1998, the concept of lines/queues has always been inextricably central to my understanding of Japanese consumer culture. I hate to keep retelling the story, but perhaps nothing was more pivotal to...

Japan Times-Soka Gakkai Connection or What?

I do not want to be too controversial or conspiratorial here - especially seeing that The Japan Times sends me work once in a while - but I cannot help but put two-and-two together: JT seems to dedicate a disproportionate...

The Republic of (Un)Educated Elites

The good people at work got me a 10,000 yen gift card to iTunes Music Store Japan for my wedding, but due to Sony's boycott and other various factors, I found myself mostly unable to spend this virtual loot on...

Selling Commodities to Demanding Markets

Last month, top blogger Momus exuberantly celebrated C-ute - the new music group offering from idol factory Hello! Project (of oligopolistic management company Up Front Agency). Although he attempted to explain the social subtext through invoking the mystical Japanese dissolution...

Japanese TV: Passing the Savings onto the Top

Let's face it: film is ugly. American mainstays Law and Order and 24 do little more than recall ancient relics of the inferior 20th century. Beta is the future. Japanese television has openly embraced majestic advances in cinematography - the...

Idol Decline

At State Fairs, they have those "Put Your Picture on a Magazine" booths and 350 lb. fathers-of-three walk away with a personalized "Dwayne Wins the Superbowl" cover of Time (or Timely). I was pretty sure this hilarious convention didn't exist...

Take Anything You Want

Back up a minute, and take another look at yesterday's link to the "Weird Japanese Video" on YouTube that looks to be a daily fitness video/English lesson from the early 90s (judging by the haircuts.) My intelligence network correctly identified...

Defeated in One Fell Swoop

Sometimes I fall prey to the hubristic notion that I am close to "understanding Japan," and then something like this comes along and knocks me back to zero....

Finally, the SP-202 is Being Put to Good Use

Look carefully at this snapshot taken of the small train station in Rendaiji (a stop above Shimoda in the Izu Peninsula). To the right of the microphone sits a Boss SP-202 - a phrase sampler with big soft plastic buttons...

Cornelius and Shibuya-kei Revisted

Now that Cornelius (Oyamada Keigo) is finally releasing his new album after five years of quiet laboratory work and being the Japanese Music World's Greatest Dad1, everyone is suddenly interested in taking another look at Shibuya-kei as background to how...

White Dogs and Kyushu: Japan's Greatest Travel Ads

JR Kyushu has created highly-effective print advertisments for their current "Kyushu Destination Campaign" featuring the world's cutest small white dog (some kind of Shiba-ken mix, perhaps? a Kyushu-native kishu inu) making his way to all of the southern island's...

A Refreshed Hierarchy for the Japanese Hypermeritocracy

Last month, I attended a talk with an ex-bigwig from Seibu Mizuno Seiichi and downwardly-mobile market expert Miura Atsushi, and they discussed how the Tokyo University students of yore were terrible dressers. Back when Japan was a well-oiled machine built...

Back to the jungle for you, Jungle Park

Let's stop all this "decline of Japan" talk: Japan is just normalizing. The country had way too many young people and too few old people, so now that the wrongs have been reversed, Japan has the highest proportion of old...

OK Fred: Fight, This Generation Vol. 2

The new OK Fred is out and boy does it look fantastic. Regrettably but understandably, almost all of the English text has disappeared - except for within my column "Fight, This Generation," which this time looks at the effects of...

The Wrench in the Fashion Cycle

For the last four years, I have felt that the gears of Japanese fashion cycles have ground to a rusty halt, but now it is spelled out for all to see: the November issue of Vingtaine boasts the headline article...

Fun, Sun, and Black Ships

Last Sunday, the bride and I went down to Shimoda at the bottom of the Izu Peninsula to stay at a fancy old onsen for a brief mini-honeymoon. Upon first glance, Shimoda has a low-rent tacky charm common to all...

International as Language Mashup

Weird to find myself fondly looking back on the days of nonsense product Engrish, but there was a clean unity of absurdity in the text - something completely lacking in the copy gracing this French Shake cardboard dairy quart. For...

No-Sword on Erokoto

I try not to do too much cross-linking here at Neomarxisme, seeing that we cocoon members all read the same blogs, but I will make an exception for the venerable No-Sword's analysis of the new "erotic LOHAS" one-off Erokoto. After...

Nitpicking the Mainstream Media

While iMomus and Jeans Now properly dealt with Ben Anderson's Tokyo travel article in The Guardian last week, I had not taken a look until it popped up on my screen while searching for something unrelated earlier today. Obviously the...

On the Utada Hikaru Mom Scandal

On March 3rd of this year, ultra-mega pop star Utada Hikaru's mother - 60s folk singer Fuji Keiko (aka "Junko Utada") - was detained in New York's Kennedy airport for possessing over $420,000 in one-hundred dollar bills. She also had...

Booze, Babes, and Bawling

Rock'n'roll not only brought the youth generations of the 50s and 60s together, but the original set of songs continued to be the rallying cry for teenage estrangement for decades to come. But now that "modern rock" is rarely more...

From First Class to Coach: Beginnings of Taste Deflation in Japanese Fashion

In the middle of the 1990s, beer alone made up something like 75% of the liquor market in Japan. No surprise, really: most everyone around the world loves a cold tall one no matter whether the occasion is celebrating a...

Asada Akira in New Left Review

Thanks to Google's cache, I found a 2000 interview with Japanese philosopher and critic Asada Akira, which is probably one of the most interesting things I have read on Japan in a long, long time. Included are a concise history...

The Miracle of Hot Water

There has been a "Miracle on Route 246" - at least, so goes the ad copy. Zaboo: the new onsen spa located smack in the middle of Tokyo, conveniently located across the street from once-trendy mega-complex Roppongi Hills. Thanks to...

Japanese Girls Love Marketing Reports

Maybe the 600,000-circulation Can Cam and neomarxisme are not so different after all. I had naively assumed that female readers took interest in Louis Vuitton and other mass luxuries as something to consume and wear, but this month's special feature...

On the New Japanese Tokion

I am not sure any single magazine has seen so many reincarnations in the last few years than Tokion. Started in 1996 by two Americans living in Japan - Lucas Badtke-Berkow and Adam Glickman - the bilingual magazine went from...

Marxy Music News: New Album(s)

For those keeping score (and hopefully listening on the sly), I released my debut (mini)album Kyoshu Nostalgia back in January 2005. I essentially finished the album back in November 2003, so it was an antsy, drawn-out process waiting to...

How Did Japanese Analysts Make Money Before the Rise of Poor People?

Last week, I attended a small talk with Miura Atsushi - author of best-selling book about the rise of downwardly-mobile Japanese youth 『下流社会』 (Karyuu Shakai) - on the topic "New Rich vs. New Poor." The New Rich make over 70...

Too Hot for Civil Society

Just when I thought Autumn had finally joined us at the table and Summer was excusing itself to take a leave of absence, yesterday was barbs of yellow sun carving marks in your face in a murky swamp of maximum...

Wake Up to the Same Coffee at Your Friendly Gigolo

As far as I know, Suntory comes out with a new coffee product every third or fourth day, but they got my attention with a set of new ads for Boss Begin! - a coffee for morning, no matter what...

Abe and the Politics of Being Korean

Graham pointed me to a recent Deux-Chanel thread (http://news19.2ch.net/test/read.cgi/newsplus/1157178684/) protesting the New York Times Japan-based correspondent Norimitsu Onishi's recent profile of prime-minister-in-waiting Abe Shinzo. The motley crew of posters found particular offense in this line: Until a few years ago...

Otaku: The Last Nerds Left Standing

Fujiwara Hiroshi and Fujiwara Hiroshi Nigo (usually known as "Nigo") live on the top two floors of glamourous Roppongi Hills - the most concrete and visible symbol of achievement in contemporary Japanese society. Both run fashion labels and provide consulting...

I Know What Boys Like

As part of some professional research I am engaged in, I talked with two female fashion marketing experts last night about contemporary Japanese women in their 20s. For a majority of the post-war, a Japanese woman's lifestyle - fashion,...

Pirates are bad. Now enjoy this movie about Pirates.

I really don't like making girls cry, so imagine my horror upon discovering that when I once innocently bought a bootleg video of the South Park movie for $3 on the streets of Manhattan back in 1999, I not only...

Corrections to the Last Post

* There are essentially no panty vending machines in Japan at present - at least in Tokyo. * Nyutai mori - eating sushi off of a naked woman - ranges from ultra-rare to nonexistant. * Wanikuge is not a word....

Japan: Still Crazy After All These Years

God Bless the Inogashira Line. Bored on a Sunday afternon? Board on a Sunday afternoon, sit in the air conditioning, read Gaddis, get off at the last stop, return your crazy episode of The Prisoner where No. 6 is in...

Family Tree

Even though Abe Shinzo's got a lock on the Prime Minister election, Foreign Minister Aso Taro formally announced his candidacy today. The two men are cousins, by the way, linked to several former Prime Ministers and the Imperial family. Thanks...

I Rove You

Okay, imagine a new American television show called I Rove You where they collect Asian-American women and have them complain about their Anglo-Saxon husbands. Sound like a hit? Last night, I got to see a bit of Aichiteru! - a...

「国家の品格」, Chapter 5: Reviving the Bushido Spirit

Bushido has been Japan's moral compass since the days of the Kamakura Bakufu. Kindness (慈愛), sincerity (誠実), perseverance (忍耐), justice (正義), courage (勇気), compassion (惻隠), honor (名誉), shame (恥) - who can say no to such a long list of...

How about that weather!

I have not looked at the data (nor will I, thank you), but this is the coolest summer in Tokyo I can remember. I have activated my air conditioning unit only three or four times so far, the first time...

Does the Long Tail Apply to Japan?

The July 2006 issue of Wired had an excerpt from Chris Anderson's book The Long Tail called "The Rise and Fall of the Hit." In recent years, sales for "blockbuster" movies and "hit" songs have been in decline. Smash-hit TV...

The Excitement of Shuukanshi Irrelevancy

On my Tuesday night commute home, I spied an advert for the newest issue of weekly magazine Shuukan Bunshun. The mag promised five stories on the Kameda fight controversy, including dirt on the Korean judge, an interview with the losing...

Happy Anti-Russia Day

What did you get your significant other for Anti-Russia Day (反ロシアデー)? I had completely forgotten that ARD was upon us, but the nice people from the Dainippon Aikokutou (Greater Japan Patriot Party) rolled by the office in soundtrucks this morning...

Japanese Magazine Stats

The Boys: Boon (streetwear): 1997 (1st half) - 563,924; 2005 (2nd half) - 49,090 relax (street culture): 2001 (2nd half) - 46,239; 2005 (2nd half) - 19,982 The Girls: nonno (general fashion): 1995 (2nd half) - 898,771; 2005 (2nd half)...

Further Kameda Conspiracy Theories from Encyclopedia Brown

* A friend had ramen in some shop in Yamanashi, and the boxing-obsessed owner went on a diatribe about the terrible Kameda decision. According to this particular piece of hearsay, the Korean judge was paid off, and the Kameda victory...

「国家の品格」, Chapter 4: Japan - the Nation of Sensitivity and Form

All right, class. Back to your seats. Open up your copy of Fujiwara to page 95. The last three chapters have seen the author launching a concerted critical attack upon what he sees as Western institutions forced upon Japanese society:...

Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

On Wednesday night, Kameda Koki won the WBA light flyweight belt in Yokohama on a 2-1 judges decision. A brief glance at the morning papers, Yahoo! polls, and blogs, and it appears that basically every single Japanese person believes the...

Odds and Ends from the Japanese Version of the Internet

* Young boxing thug Kameda should have lost last night? Yaochou? The Japanese boxing world is rigged? Has nothing changed since the days of Rikidozan? Say it ain't so, Kikko! ("I want an honest confession from the judges about how...

Dignity of a Nation Analysis Sidebar 1: Income Inequality and Lifetime Employment

The OECD just came out with their 2006 Economic Survey of Japan, which generally says, Japan's economy is doing pretty good at the moment, but the nation has to undertake serious steps in managing innovation and reducing inequality to keep...

「国家の品格」, Chapter 3: Doubting freedom, equality, and democracy

If you think you like democracy, freedom, and equality, listen up. This chapter is for you. 1. Freedom (自由) was used in Japan to mean "selfishness, egotism" until the American occupation, where the nuance changed to "human rights." But it...

「国家の品格」, Chapter 2: The World Will Be Ruined with "Logic" Alone

In this installment, I will summarize Fujiwara's arguments in their original order and then add commentary at the end. Main point: "logic" alone cannot lead to a good society. Four reasons supporting his thesis: 1) Limits to logic A. Students...

「国家の品格」, Chapter 1: The Limits of the Modern Spirit of Rationality

In his JDate profile, right-wing math professor Fujiwara Masahiko would list "Japan, Japanese, bushido, moral education, lifetime employment, decision-making by feeling" in his Likes column and "capitalism, democracy, the United States, stockholders, decision-making by logic, globalization" in his Dislikes column....

Are You Ready for 「国家の品格」 Week?

Upon reading a Mutantfrog post last Friday, I went out and purchased a copy of Fujiwara Masahiko's massive best-seller 「国家の品格」 (Diginity of a Nation) - a book that openly describes itself as "画期的な日本論" (An epoch-making theory of Japan). According to...

The Hilarious Misadventures of Mori Ogai, M.D.

Sgt. Kurihama: Dr. Ogai! Here is another patient with beriberi. Patient Yokomizo: I have beriberi. Sgt. Kurihama: I am no doctor, but I recommend giving him vitamin B1. Mori Ogai, M.D.: Nonsense! Patient Yokomizo: I am dead. --- Ms. Shimizu:...

Deductive Argument on Advertorial

A. Japanese consumer magazines are primarily advertorial. B. Negative commentary or reviewing directly violates the contract of an advertising buy. THEREFORE: Japanese magazines cannot take critical stances. A. Japanese consumer magazines are primarily advertorial. B. Larger amount of spending leads...

The Imperial Calendar Makes Concessions to the Western Alphabet

Although the Western calendar - ex-AD, now-CE - is becoming more and more standard in Japan, the Imperial Era system of year counting still rules the school on official documents and formal announcements. All you terrible ethnocentric hordes reading this...

Cyzo on Irie Saaya

I am not going to go as far as to say I scooped Cyzo, but we are certainly asking the same questions. The July Issue (on sale since June 19th) has a small story investigating whether the new Irie Saaya...

Now I Understand Why Contemporary Japanese Pop Culture is at a Nadir

One of the key presuppositions of this blog is, "For the last five years, Japanese mainstream pop culture has gotten progressively more boring and less stimulating," to which many answer: 1. Yes! The innovation and spark of the 90s is...

ダーリンは愛国人

Meet Japan's next Prime Minister, Abe Shinzo:* Calls for pre-emptive strikes against North Korea*Grandson of anti-democratic, Class A war criminal Kishi Nobusuke*Believes that Prime Ministers should worship at Yasukuni Shrine*Believes that Japanese school textbooks must follow the party line*Friend to...

Data Rock

Here is a Japanese website (with English) that ranks the OECD countries on all sorts of subjects. Some interesting findings: 1) The only people who drink less milk than the Japanese are the Koreans. But the Japanese love eggs. 2)...

Pompous Particularism vs. Pompous Universalism

On a tip from the good people at Mutantfrog, I ran across this link to a New York Times Magazine about the the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project's “America Against the World”: The book’s authors, Andrew Kohut and Bruce...

Hyper-Speed Product Proliferation? Blame Distribution.

Products come and go in Japanese convenience stores at a bewildering velocity. One day you pick up a delightful pint of old-fashioned French Style Milk Seeki, and a week later, this new product is gone forever - a total existence...

Import/Export

Thanks to the Internet and improved distribution channels, there seems to be very little Japanese product not making its way over to the West these days. And for the melon pan, Pocky, panko bread crumbs, and Mitsuya cider that Japan...

I don't know if I mentioned it, but the Nationalist soundtrucks often roll by my office

Forget the noise terrorism and the anger and the political distortions of Ultra-Nationalists - let's talk about the tunes. Oh, so very square. First: the prerequisite pentatonic scales - because the Imperial nation-family (國體) believes in an austerity of note-saving...

Back from America - This Time with Internet

I got back in town yesterday, after a weekend of eating Grillades & Grits and passively aiding the American assault on all unique global cultures. A day at the beach + a sunscreen mishap = red, red shoulders which prevented...

Neomarxisme - T.G.I.F Edition!!!!

Item: New York's Jacob the Jeweler is arrested on drug and laundering charges. Where will Nigo go now for his bling? Is this end of bling-bling Nigo and the beginning of Lohas Eco-Nigo? Also, America arrests cultural icons who do...

Terminal Decline... of a Certain Subculture (Which Had its Many Foreign Fans)

Breaking news from Jean Snow: Relax Magazine will soon cease publication. This is the Bible going out of print, if Japanese teenage hipsters were Christians, and there were still Japanese teenage hipsters left. For anyone refusing to admit that Japan...

You gotta have 倭!

Rebranding, my friends. When the world gives you lemons, you change the meaning of the word "lemons" to have a positive meaning. Long long ago, Old World powerhouse China liked to give somewhat unflattering names to the "civilizations" (Ha ha!)...

Right-Wing Parad(is)e

Currently, there is a parade of over forty sound-trucks blazing down the avenue, all chanting right-wing slogans in unison, successfully recreating the high-decibel aural terrorism on their first 120 albums. Police escort, of course, otherwise things may spin out of...

Again the crime of pakuri is not a Western conceit

I have been following the Yoshihiko Wada controversy on Kikko's blog (click to see a visual comparison), but now the Japan Times is reporting in English on the topic. Long story short, an esteemed artist is being stripped of his...

Hunters and the Hunted

I forgot to post this last week, but Weekly Pureboi - my favorite mainstream source of jingoistic sexual objectification - warned readers of the "Three Threats" to the Japanese at the German World Cup, of which one was Neo-Nazis...

The Country in Which Krautrock is Next to 24 DVDs

Which krautrock band is not available at Japanese rental chain Tsutaya? 1. Can 2. Neu! 3. Faust 4. Cluster 5. Guru Guru Post your guesses in the comment area! (How great is Tsutaya "5 CDs for 1000 yen" + laptop?)...

Here We Are - Live Blogging - We are the 21st Century

Okay, I'm here at Office in Gaienmae - the Music Related event - using some sort of "wireless" Internet contraption called "wifi" (pronounced: why-thigh) on some sort of Apple Macintosh II - all white - that requires all sentences to...

Populist Democratic Argument Against Japanese War Guilt

Patriotism is a new buzz-word in Japan, with the right-wing politicians scurrying to make flag-waving pride and exuberant nation-state membership a fundamental part of the educational experience. These are the same grandchildren of war criminals who think visiting the Yasukuni...

What to do about Saaya Irie?

Before we start seriously discussing the meaning of Japanese mainstream nudie magazines featuring voluptuous elementary schoolgirls in bikinis, let us dispense with a modern myth about Japan: Myth: Japanese “pedophilia” is an a-historical phenomenon. Unlike the Christian West, Japanese...

The Competing Orthopraxies of Three-Button Suits in Japan

There comes a time in every young boy's life - at least in the Southern United States - where a blue blazer and khaki slacks no longer cut it at semi-formal functions. Around sixteen or seventen, the pants and the...

Familial Relations

* There is an interview over at the Japan Times today with Mei (May) Shigenobu - daughter of Japanese Red Army founder, Shigenobu Fusako. Mei keeps her father's identity a closely-guarded secret, but hear me out with some wild conjecture:...

Golden Girls Week

Hi, everybody. My name is Marxy. You may know me from my writing on Neomarxisme. This week is Golden Week (GW) in Japan, where we get three days off in a row. We find this much superior to taking an...

Dropping and Shopping in the TYO

Dudes lining up for the ill new Ice Cream Store A train to JFK, and like a day or so later, I'm in Japan, ready to stock up on 12"s, sneaks, and chicks. On Sunday I hit Haryjuku. I eat...

Harajuku/Omotesando: Radically Cool or just Totally Awesome?

Ice Cream takes the torch from Vintage King I got my hair cut in late February to gear up for job interviews, and then grew it back to the shag once I became complacently employed. Now with the warmer weather...

Being For the Benefit of Mr. K

Sometime in the recent past, Gus van Sant made a poorly-received film with an actor pretending to be Kur(d)t Cobain in his Last Days on Earth. I forget the name of this film - Heart Shaped Coffin? All Apol-Eulogies? Suicide...

Why Not to Take Neomarxisme On the Road in Verbalized Form

Oops. Last night, I found myself at a gallery opening for a NY'er responsible for the world's greatest T-shirt (NWA + a wizard), and I ran into a Japanese Green Carder whom I have not seen in quite a while....

Two Things About Working in Akasaka

Akasaka is a charmless business district, filled with grey office buildings, yellowed interiors, blue pinstripes, double-breasted middle-managers, a gravity that sucks all desks to the center of each room, 600 yen cups of coffee, 1000 yen lunch sets, and spotless...

Fight, This Generation.

My new column for OK Fred entitled - Fight, This Generation (現代文化の舞台裏を解明しよう!) - debuts in their brand new issue Vol. 7 "Fashion Now!" For this first installment, I look at the influence of television as a promotional channel on the...

Today's Vocabulary Lesson: 日猶同祖論

日猶同祖論 (にちゆうどうそろん; nichiyuu dousoron): "hypothesis that Jews and Japanese are of common ancestry" *note: 「猶」is the kanji used to represent the Jewish people, from 「猶太」(ゆだや;yudaya) "Judea, Jewish people."...

Japanese Employment, the Adventure

Being the stereotypically uncouth American, the proverbial unruly bull in the particularly fragile china shop, I intentionally decided to search for gainful employment this Spring without undertaking one of Japan's great social rituals: shuushoku katsudou, the rigid and formal three-to-four...

Have you ever noticed...

...that McDonald's hamburgers are not as good as backyard grilled burgers? ...that some of the fashion from the 1970s is no longer regarded as being in good taste? ...that The Da Vinci Code is not exactly a literary masterpiece? ...that...

Post-Vacation Malaise and the End of an Era

As of next Wednesday, I am officially an ex-student, and the last week has been spent tying up loose ends: listening to teary, drunken speeches at the oidashi konpa, ridding my room of all hardcover books, securing new means of...

Marxy in New Cyzo

There is a Japanese language summary of my master's thesis within the cover story section 「その嘘、暴きます。」in the April issue of Cyzo. Some of the graphs based on my data turned out a bit wonky, but I'm happy to have the...

Portugal and Superintimacy

A wise sage once spoke, "Always stay a tourist" - for no one is more adept at analysis and explanation than the occasional and casual traveler. Just recently, I spent a half-fortnight in the Atlantic nation of Portugal, and...

友人税 (Friend Tax)

Tokyo has a reputation for being the world's most irrationally expensive big city, but once you actually live here, you realize that prices do not live up to the hype. Few individuals in New York City can expect to rent...

V.A.C.A.T.I.O.N.

Early tomorrow morning, I'm jetting off to Lusitania for a short vacation. Thanks to globalization, I can keep doing this blog, even on the road. But seeing that this is a vacation away from my normal routine, I am going...

Kikko-san and the Current Rumor Mill

The cover article for the Feb. 4th Asia-edition of The Economist was titled "Saving Japan from the shadows" - referencing the idea that the old secret, cabalistic Japan had risen up again to swallow the New Capitalist Horie. The editors...

Recycling Clichés: Rakugo vs. Stella

A couple of weeks ago, my professor invited me and the other grad students out to Ryogoku to watch a rakugo performance. For those unfamiliar with the artform, rakugo is a traditional type of long Japanese comic monologue, dating...

Nylon for Guys, Etc.

I have a relatively long profile of A Bathing Ape director Nigo titled "Gorillas in our Midst in the new Nylon for Guys, out on newsstands in the U.S. today. Pictures of Nigo's house can be seen here.Also, my...

Doravideo

Last Saturday, I saw Doravideo open up for dueling two-girl prog-pop units M.A.G.O. and Kiiiiiii at Shinjuku Red Cloth . The drummer pictured on the left has MIDI-triggers hooked on to his drums that carry signals through fancy Max/MSP programming...

Destroying Harajuku from the Inside-Out

A long time ago, the Mori company tore down an old Christian church on the corner of Meiji-doori and Omotesando-doori to build the mecca to Japanese alternative teenage girl fashion - La Foret - thus solidifying Harajuku's image as the...

Radio MXUT Vol. 2 - Electricity!

Radio MXUT returns to the Internet with a new frantic mega-mix podcast based on the theme of "electricity." Over the course of 49 minutes, hosts marxy and u.t. (Kiiiiiii) bring you twenty-five energetic musical selections: obscure pico pico Japanese electro-pop,...

Prelude to new Radio MXUT: Electrical Appliance and Material Safety Law

Yesterday I got a frantic email from a Japanese music connoisseur in New York who had heard wild rumors that a new law will ban the sale of all vintage synths in Japan come April 1st. Surely this would result...

Winter Olympic Backlash

Japan Today - I mean, "crisscross.com" - had a curious article yesterday about the Japan Olympic Committee being flooded with angry calls wondering why Japanese athletes were not winning more medals at the Torino Olympics. I'm not sure 70...

C is for Curling

Someday our kids will ask us, where were you when Japan beat Italy in women's curling at the 2006 Turin Winter Olympics? And I will say, I was watching it live on television. Then someone will pipe up, did you...

Finally, a Comical Discussion about Curling

Valentine's Day is not an actual red-letter day, but I decided to take a mini-vacation out in Mitaka-shi, eating chocolate cake, watching The Electric Company and various Michael Jackson videos (Have you ever worn a pointy red vinyl outfit to...

A Sudden Influx of Foreign Labor

For as long as I can remember (c. 1998), the free smiles I received at Tokyo fast food outlets and convenience stores have beamed back from Japanese middle-class teenagers or freeter in their twenties with low ambition. The whole idea...

Was Japan a CIA-Backed One-Party State?

Short answer: Yes. Long answer: In his book Blowback, Chalmers Johnson suggests that all the 20th century Asian Communist movements found mass support in anti-Imperialist Nationalism, not ideological Leftism nor pro-Soviet leanings. There's that old story of Ho Chi Minh,...

Book Report: Speed Tribes

Those interested in Japanese youth culture will encounter a very meager selection of published English literature on the subject. After glancing through Merry White's The Material Child, there's really nowhere to go but Speed Tribes - a 1995 anthology of...

Old NHK News Clip about Shibuya-kei

Yoshi from OK Fred just sent me this news clip of a March 1995 NHK evening news report on "Shibuya-kei." (Note the male newscaster's hilarilously outdated reference to shibukaji - a late 80s clothing trend that had already been over...

The Lion Whispers

Five years into the 21st century and trends have become so fast-paced that they no longer make any sense. Our culture rusts immediately upon touching the air. The so-called trendy cafe feels dated the minute it opens. By the...

The Rise of Social Class in Japan, Pt. 1.5

I've been meaning to write about the best-seller Karyu Shakai, which I am reading, but I have been both busy and lazy. While eating kappa maki last night in front of the television (I tragically don't eat fish), I watched...

nhhmbase

I am snobby, jaded, cynical, and bored with guitar bands, and due to these character flaws, I have been unenthusiastic in recent days about the state of Japanese non-experimental indie music. But I like this band nhhmbase ("ne-han base"),...

Noah's Ark

This afternoon, I went to the local Sound Studio Noah to record vocals for two songs on my new album, tentatively titled néomarxisme II - De La Soul is Dead. My music is self-financed, created mostly in my bedroom...

Lip Service

I'm not a particularly big anime fan for a variety of reasons (mostly petty snobbery). The only shows I've made an effort to watch are the "classic" 70s and 80s television series like Gundam - because it's culturally relevant -...

Livedoor, Con't.

Just as the "Breaking News" first reported yesterday at dinner time, police arrested Livedoor CEO Horie Takafumi and three other executives on suspicion of financial fraud. For those new to the story, check the excellent coverage on Joi Ito's blog....

Busy Being Not Busy

I just noticed that I went five days without providing the Internet with free content, and I apologize. Thursday was my last class ever, followed by three drinking engagements: one for graduate students, one for undergraduate students, and one with...

Solid Gold

I've got one question for you: which of the following three is more fly?(a) Mickey "scratching" a record(b) Donald and Goofy with their hats backwards and big gold chains(c) Chip and Dale breakdancing If you answered "(d) all of the...

The Rise of Social Class in Japan, Pt. I

Last night, I stumbled upon the fact that the late 50s student Leftist group Bund is now a political NGO working towards the establishment of an emperor-less Japanese republic and greater environmental consciousness. They currently have an essay on their...

Proof!

I have not been interested in seeing the Gwyneth Paltrow movie Proof. What do you mean "proof"? Mathematical proof? Proof as in evidence proof? These figurative, double-meaning titles drive me up the wall! Marche de l'empereur??? I thought it...

All We Do Here is Sleep, Work, and Eat.

Maybe it's my age or my gender or my nationality or my political leanings or some deeply-repressed Kindergarden memory, but I'm a fundamentally cynical person. And here again, I find myself deeply intrigued by Momus's ability to project notions of...

Backstreet's Back, Alright.

The thesis is now at the binder, and I am ready to give my heart and soul back to the Internet. By the way, I believe that my thesis contains the worst pick up line of all time: is the...

Turbulence

The atomic clock has struck 2006, and the new year finds me oddly agreeing with Momus: it's great to be back in Japan. We have different reasons, of course. He needed to "recharge his batteries." I needed to return to...

Japan Discovers Poor People... and They're Awesome!

The new issue of Asahi Shimbun's weekly magazine Aera speaks out to its readers: "We support both the upper class and lower classes!" The headlines: * Does escaping the lower classes really lead to happiness? * The happy lower...

Hamasaki Ayumi Engagement: Ultimate Paranoid Narrative

The other day I had the chance to interview an actual member of the Japanese television network music-media complex, and that person confirmed all the terrible things I had only once believed were part of my comfortably paranoid fantasy of...

The Hamasaki Ayumi Wedding Fiasco - Part II

Stop what you're doing, people, and listen up. Remember what I wrote about Japanese pop megastar Hamasaki Ayumi being engaged to young, non-African American Brooklynite Timothy Something Something? Well, according to this Yahoo Japan Entertainment News article things may not...

The America that Mistranslates Japan

The cover story in the new issue of Newsweek Japan (which I am pretty sure is an independent company from Newsweek in the U.S.) focuses on 「日本を誤訳するアメリカ」- "The America that Mistranslates Japan." The editors ask over a picture of 「SAYURI」(aka...

廃墟ブログ

How did this blog go from being a very active, daily source of opinion and debate about the Japanese pop culture industrial complex to a totally abandoned shell of a website with the only the occasional dry satire about imaginary...

Matchups

I remember very clearly the first time I heard a mashup. I was sitting at the computer at my old job back in New York and out of iTunes comes Skee-lo (impossibly) rapping over The Breeders' "Cannonball." Then came Dangermouse...

小春日和の出来事

I've always wondered why Japanese homes do not have laundry dryers (乾燥機), and today I learned firsthand about the barriers preventing diffusion of these appliances: the unit is often larger than the doorframe. At least, that was true for the...

Who's Got Beef? You Chicken?

Word's already out on the street and I've got a published review coming out later this week, so I don't want to go all apesh*t on Teriyaki Boyz' "Beef or Chicken," but before you all dismiss the group as a...

Friday Night

I'm sick and shouldn't be out....

Mourning Musuko

Recently, the world's least musical superproducer Tsunku (of Sharan Q and Morning Musume fame) appeared on a talk show in the town hall of his native Osaka and stated that he is interested in putting together a "Morning Musuko" group...

The Raddest Wimps in J-Pop: Radwimps

Enter Radwimps - a J-Pop band who pledge to bring wimpiness to new radical heights. What's "rad" about Radwimps? The sing-song Dragon Ash/Def Tech Japanese hip hop vocals. What's "wimp" about Radwimps? The sentimental Mr. Children chorus melody and guitar...

趣味の悪い時代

I went down to Cow Books in Nakameguro on Saturday night, and browsed through some old Popeye magazines from the late 70s/early 80s. For as long as I've been coming to Japan, Popeye has mainly been a subdued street-fashion magazine,...

Gimme Shelter and Towel Rock

Last night I attended the sold-out Cubismo Grafico 5-Kiiiiiii-Backdrop Bomb show at Shimokitazawa's Shelter, "sold-out" being a codeword for "way over-capacity and we're all going to die from either asphyxiation or a stampede when the crowd shifts position to get...

Pew, Pt. II

The Pew Research Center in the United States conducted 44,000 interviews in a massive survey of 44 countries to look at current trends in happiness - with a specific focus on gender differences. The United States and Canada took the...

FAQ: Teriyaki Boyz "HeartBreaker"

1. Who produced the first single "Heartbreaker" from Bape-sponsored Japanese hip hop supergroup, Teriyaki Boyz? Daft Punk. 2. How did that happen? Nigo made Daft Punk a special shoe. 3. Is "HeartBreaker" just rapping over a slowed down version...

Sturm und Traing

Japan's public transportation system has come to symbolize everything right about Japanese society. Almost without exception, the trains come exactly on schedule, the stations are air-conditioned or heated depending on the season, and the seats are upholstered. There is little...

Japanese Tribute Bands

I've had this blog for how long? - one year? - and I still haven't talked about my favorite Japanese tribute bands? W.T.F.? Here we go.... Slanted and Enchanted - Pavement 120%, lo-fi and sloppy to an exact T Footloose...

Japanese TV, Part II - Sonin vs. Orlando Bloom

A couple of weeks ago, I saw Korean-Japanese teenybopper Sonim interview international heartthrob Orlando Bloom in English on a prime-time television show, and without hyperbole, I present for you the dialogue that transpired.... Sonin: Hi! ... I'm really nervous. Orlando:...

THX-1138

According to the audio commentary on the DVD release of George Lucas' 1971 debut THX-1138, Lucas originally wanted to shoot the film in Japan because its unique mixture of authoritarian social order and rampant consumerism matched his creative vision of...

And Another Thing...!

Sorry I have to be the one to say it, but the matzo ball soup selection in this city is terrible. And I doubt there exists a single brisket in the whole Tokyo-ku, which somewhat explains why an authentic reuben...

Everything Bad is Good For You (In Selected Media Markets)

Last week I found myself watching a rental videotape of Amazing Stories - Steven Spielberg's mid-80s "cinematic" television show. I remember it being "highly acclaimed" during its short life, but perhaps my memories are malformed from a limited seven year-old...

15%

Still riding high from their electoral landslide last month, the conservative Liberal Democratic Party is proposing to raise the national consumption tax from 5% to 10-15% in order to pay for rising welfare and pension costs. The Communists had been...

Class and Creativity

Yesterday I attended Tokion Magazine's sold-out Creativity Now Conference, again at the La Foret museum in Harajuku. I cannot provide a play-by-play report like last year, but I want to mention a couple points about social class and Japanese...

Numbers

I guess what's good about having a real job is that you do eight hours of data entry and then can come home and do something else. Being a last semester student means I do something else all day and...

Relax on Peace

About two months ago, our favorite Japanese consumer-lifestyle magazine Relax did a special feature on "peace," which our favorite Scottish musician/critic Momus called in a recent comment on this blog, "quite admirable." I agree there is something positive about dedicating...

2-Ch Foils Manga Pakuri

According to this Yahoo Japan news item, Kodansha has ceased production of shojo manga by artist Suetsugu Yuki because the work contained plagiarized scenes from several of Inoue Takehiko's comics. The rabble-rousers over at 2-Ch are credited with bringing attention...

One Year

On October 14, 2004, I posted this entry, thus making my entry into the "blog" universe. After making the effort to write something every single day, my mt.cgi file weighs 4.5 mb! Okay, that does not sound very impressive. Let's...

In Search of... 変拍子

Friday night: Shugo Tokumaru with full band. Just by himself, he's able to make an entertaining amount of extremely-precise, endlessly-overdubbed guitar loop noise with his Telecaster and somehow use the ensuing feedback work as an seamless introduction to his...

Jpop Over Time

Some notes on these "tomorrow I have a mid-research thesis presentation" charts: 1) In the context of my research, "TV Appearances" means a song performance on Music Station, Utaban, and Hey! Hey! Hey Music Terebi. 2) Hikaru Genji takes...

Trendy Japanese Magazines - Two Steps Ahead of the World

And if you think Bus Otoko is awesome, you'll love the pages upon pages of badly-pixelated screenshots inside! For those worried about the current state of subcultural sophistication in Japanese youth culture, you'll be happy to know the new issue...

Hanryu

Watching Japanese television the other day, my girlfriend astutely noted, "This hanryu boom (Korean boom) is bad for Japan, because it is inherently regressive." This trend is hardly concerned with Korea's exciting and innovative film scene: rather, older Japanese female...

If You Can't Beat 'Em, Tax 'Em

According to this International Herald Tribune article, the Japanese record labels are calling for a 2%-5% tax on portable digital music players, such as, the category-killing American-made iPod. These record companies claim that "the sudden rise of the portable digital...

The Economist: Japan Has to Improve, right?

This month's The Economist is convinced that Japan is going to be A.O.K. after all. Why? Well, after fifteen years of sluggish, incremental reforms, the economy has to be back on track, right? Right?While I was intrigued with the possibility...

Marxy on the News Stand

I just wanted to mention that I've recently had some writing published in the following magazines: Harper's Magazine - September 2005 issue. "Grandma's Little Helper." I did a translation of Yumel doll spoken phrases for the "Readings" section. (Listen to...

Ken-chan Ganbare!

On Saturday night, Japanese avant-comedy theater troupe Tetsuwari (Crack Iron Albatorosskett) finished up a month-long run of daily performances at the Little More Gallery in Harajuku. In tribute, I have translated their skit "Ken-chan's Mandala Reading" into English for your...

Too Hot for Japan

The special feature for this month's Cyzo is "Japan's Taboos." That does not entail stories on sticking chopsticks upright into a bowl of rice - they mean "media taboos." Those accustomed to the Fourth Estate and rampant tabloid journalism will...

Low on Budget, Low on Concept, High on Rock

By playing your jetlag right, you have the opportunity to engineer yourself an early wake-up schedule, leading to a longer, more productive day. Working from 8 a.m., however, requires a pause for breakfast, and I spent this beautiful morning in...

Ramseyer on Researching Japan

Harvard law and economics scholar J. Mark Ramseyer on researching Japan, from his book Odd Markets in Japanese History (Cambridge University Press, 1996): After decades of dissertations on the subject, few self-respecting scholars any more start their analysis of Japanese...

Autumn

Fall is in the air! Crisp weather goes nicely with my return to campus life. The professors are making my class load light to provide ample time for research. The data is falling into place, but there remains the steeplechase...

Hollywood Stays Home

This L.A. Times article explores the decline of Hollywood star appearances in Japanese commercials. While more self-confidence about Japanese culture and a new interest in Asian celebrities has perhaps softened the demand for Western talent, the Japanese market is no...

A Eulogy for Zest Records

A friend told me last night that the Shibuya record store Zest Records has closed up shop. A sign on the door states simply, "We have closed. Thank you," and with no new address provided and the webpage non-responsive,...

My Favorite Band is Dinosaur Jr. T-shirts

This picture again! About four months ago, the Japanese street-wear consumer guide for boys - Boon - had a special issue on "Cool T-shirts for Summer." One of the lucky tees to grace the cover was this Dinosaur Jr. tour...

A Boy Named Sudoku

For the last year or so, the Japanese number-puzzles sudoku (数独)have become a cult hit in the English speaking world. Although they appear at first glance to require mathematical skill, these games need only logical reasoning and the ability to...

From EWR to NRT

At this point in my life, Newark to Narita is nothing more than a time-stretched commute - some su doku, an Adam Sandler movie with the sound off, The Theory of Innovation (page 1-2), selected articles in the New Yorker...

Busy, Etc.

Dear Blog Readers and Marxy Fans, I am currently winding up my last days of New York vacation and album production. Just hours ago, we recorded me (literally) banging on an upright piano in an unseasonably hot Midtown apartment. Now...

Fuji Fires Yarase Staffers

On a tip from Chris, here is an article about Fuji TV firing a director who was found to fake "reality" segments on the station's morning wide-show. This practice is called "yarase" in Japan, and morning shows have gotten into...

Watermelons Abroad and At Home

When I was in Western North Carolina, we stopped at a farmer's market fruit-stand where the giant watermelon above was all of $5.50. Fresh farm peaches are $.50/pound, compared to $2.00/pound at a NYC farmer's market. Excellent, excellent fruit...

Puffy Amiyumi as Neo-Bubblegum

I discovered Puffy on my first trip to Japan in Summer 1996, and the fact that they inexplicably have their own American cartoon on the Cartoon Network has weirded me out for the last year. But now that I'm home...

Freakonomics on Sumo Wrestling

The non-fiction bestseller Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner - a book about using economic methodology to analyze a whole host of social behavior - is currently huge in America, and I finally got a chance to...

Bad Japanese Importations: Kudzu

In the early 20th century, soil erosion plagued the American South, but luckily there was a cure-all available from the Far East: kudzu (from the Japanese word for "vine": 葛 or kuzu). Farmers expected the plant to crawl graciously like...

Time Asia on Japanese Women

The latest issue of Time Asia has a rather informative cover story on the place of women in contemporary Japanese society. They seem to take that morally-corrupt Western position of thinking women deserve equal pay for equal work, and on...

Breakfast Notes on Jpop Videos

1) Yes, they still make plenty of videos where barefoot girls sing shrill ballads in the great outdoors. 2) No matter whether the video tries to sell the band as a "real" band - complete with two guitars, a bassist,...

Ends and Odds

I'm heading back to America for three weeks on Tuesday to take a small vacation with my family in Western North Carolina and then work a bit on my new album in New York. Hopefully this hurricane Katrina will spare...

Japanese Artists With Foreign Names 1984-2004

When trying to describe the characteristics of a national culture, one of the main problems is that these characteristics - held by some to be essential and unchanging - are always in flux. For example, take a look at the...

Bus Man

From Yuki, who got it from WTBW: the Japanese title (houdai) of American film Napoleon Dynamite will be Bus Otoko (Bus Man.) As Yuki points out, this new title has almost nothing to do with the film itself and 100%...

The Soft Appeal, Con't

I just viewed the "crazy" rock band Sambomaster's video for "世界はそれを愛と呼ぶんだぜ" (The world calls that love), which begins with a middle-aged boss telling a uniformed OL that she has failed to do an adequate job on her assignment. She then...

Momus on Keitai

Tokyo's oppressive humidity has made all daily activity feel like walking knee-high in a bath of maple syrup. I'm exhausted from the minute I wake up to moment I start napping at 5 pm. This is bad for my productivity,...

Japanese Wikipedia on Burning Pro

The Japanese-language Wikipedia is a very helpful online resource - especially for those looking for information about celebrities and Japanese popular culture. The management companies tightly control most information in the mainstream media on these topics, so Wikipedia writers appear...

Gaijin Talent Ranking

The September issue of monthly entertainment magazine Nikkei Entertainment - with Kuraki Mai on the cover and a completely unrelated Kuraki Mai advertisement on page six - has a four-page article ranking the popularity of Japan's gaijin talent (talk-show circuit...

On that OTAK Otaku Certification Exam...

As reported in the news media, the "Akiba-kei" magazine Elfics is holding the first "otaku" certification exam, OTAK. For those interested in taking the take-home test, the question booklet is included in this month's issue, between the anime-parodies and forty...

The Soft Appeal

I usually can't bring myself to actually sit down and watch Japanese television, even for academic purposes. I've been happy to spend the last several weeks coding the guest lists for Music Station (1991-2004), but I could hardly stomach ten...

Girls, Don't Fight! We Can All be Japanese!!

This is the alternative poster for the Jomon vs. Yayoi exhibit. I recently found an article by Mr. Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond on the origins of the Japanese, and after examining linguistic, archeological and DNA evidence, he concludes...

Popeye '79 on American College Life

Since the beginning of youth consumer culture in the late 60s, Japanese magazines have been the most responsible agent for guiding young, provincial teenagers towards the world's most essential products and lifestyles. No other magazines on earth provide such richly-detailed...

Da Bomb

Yesterday marked the 60th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima - a terrible denouement to a terrible war. I can safely say that nobody spent the solemn occasion thinking about Kris Kross' 1993 album Da Bomb (featuring "Alright"). For...

Some Aspects of U.S. Media Abuses/Problems

Often when I discuss questionable Japanese media practices, there's a cry of "The same thing happens in America!" While this is basically true, the reactions from the government and media are often very different. So let's look at some recent...

Pucchi = Petit

I had always assumed that the Japanese slang for "small" - puchi (or putcchi) - was some sort of homegrown creation, but lo and behold, it's an abbreviated adaptation of the French word petit. Seeing that it took me thirteen...

Canyoning vs. Ikaho

On Sunday, we went out to Gunma-ken to go "Canyoning," which is an outdoor sport involving rappelling down or sliding down 20-100 ft. canyon waterfalls and being sucked into the turbulent waters for just enough time to really understand the...

How Long?

How many years will it take until I can walk around Tokyo without seeing Japanese punk teenagers in t-shirts with the big red-framed Nazi swastika? I mean, Sid Vicious was pretty pathetic and worthless even before considering his fashion habits,...

Abandoned Building in Japan

I was biking near the Tamagawa River yesterday, and we went inside a park complex that includes Neko Tama and Inu Tama, which are like poor man's zoos with only domestic cats and dogs. Towards the back, there are...

Payola

News broke yesterday that New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer's 11-month investigation into radio payola has resulted in a $10 million dollar settlement from Sony, with similar arrangements with the other labels to follow. Everyone is "outraged" of course, but...

A Correction on Japanese Film Criticism

In the course of this blog, I tend to make the assumption that there is essentially no cultural criticism in Japan - i.e., no rated reviews or subjective rankings, just pure information on films, records, television shows, and other products...

Def Tech = Soka Gakkai?

Lately, I've been bemoaning the soft, feel-good rhymes of a two-man reggae/hip-pop unit called Def Tech - featuring a real foreigner! - but I'm a hardened music snob and tend to automatically hate everything in this new youth culture of...

Densha Otoko, Pt. III

I like this magazine Cyzo, but I admit that it's clearly cocooning - i.e., only reading media sources that echo your own opinions. My nay-sayers, however, seem to suggest that I'm the only one worrying about whether Densha Otoko is...

New Cyzo: Censoring Star Wars Reviews in Japan

I picked up a copy of the new Cyzo today, and there's a fascinating article about how the Japanese promoters/distributors of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith systematically censored magazine critics' reviews of the film. The whole story...

Summers in the Pool

A couple of months ago, I biked down to Den-en Chofu - Tokyo's wealthiest neighborhood - to see what constitutes "super-rich" in Japan, and while the large houses and ginkgo-lined streets are certainly nicer than the ugly apartment buildings...

Jomon vs. Yayoi

The National Science Museum is having an exhibition this summer entitled "Jomon vs. Yayoi", comparing the first two cultures found on the Japanese archipelago. The Jomon (10,000 BC to 300 BC) are named after their distinctive "cord-mark" pottery. Yayoi culture...

Punk Rock

As much as I'd love this Yamanote Line "let's speak English" segment to be a subtle criticism on the state of Japanese punk rock (パンク), panku is indeed how you say "flat tire" in Japanese. I learned this after...

Metalchicks

Last night, I saw Metalchicks - the new band from Sugar Yoshinaga (Buffalo Daughter) and Yoshimura Yuka (DMBQ/OOIOO) - who run drop-tuned speed-metal riffs over Groovebox beats and live breakbeat drums. They're like a rock-club version of Atari Teenage Riot...

Namennayo! - On Pirates and Cats

Ignore the delinquent kitten for a moment: on Monday, I'm watching Star Wars - Episode III, and the earth-shaking THX spot comes on - preparing us all for finally seeing the movie we only dreamed about as children - when...

Back to the 90s

I recently saw a Japanese kid walking down the street wearing a shirt that said "Fuck to the Future" - written in the same font, of course, as the Back to the Future logo. Oh, how I miss the carefree...

Densha-Otoko, Pt. II

I asked a Japanese acquaintance who works for the shukanshi (weekly tabloid magazines) about Densha Otoko, and he said that there's a common view that: Someone at 2-ch (specifically, Nishimura Hiroyuki) and a commercial writer planned out the project, aiming...

Sampling 2005

Anybody who has ever listened to early Pizzicato Five records will know that sampling law was essentially non-existent in Japan for a good part of the 1990s. Now, however, things are getting much stricter. For example, I just got the...

The So-Called "Densha Otoko"

For the last six months or so, the Japanese media has been massively obsessed with Densha Otoko ("Train Man") - the "true" story of a nerdy commuter who meets a fancy girl on a train and solicits romantic advice...

Noda Nagi's Pakuri Problem Part Two

In my post from April 30th, I asked whether anyone really cares that art director Noda Nagi habitually steals ideas from other sources? Apparently, people do care. According to some insider sources, Japanese fine artist Aida Makoto's managing gallery -...

Juno 106

I was biking home from the OK Fred office when I spotted an abandoned Roland Juno 106 polyphonic analog 80s synth out in the street. It was moments from raining, so I decided to save the thing from most...

Cyzo! サイゾー!

If you believe the common arguments offered on this blog, the magazine Cyzo should not exist. I'm always barking about "no criticism" in the Japanese press, and team Momus claims that this is because the Japanese are extremely satisfied with...

Top Gun + Japanese Film Practices

A couple of additional points from watching Top Gun on Japanese T.V.: 1) Lyric Translation - Most Japanese films will translate the lyrics to background music in scenes without proper dialogue. So when Maverick and Kelly McGillis are finally having...

Top Gun and Faith Alone

To us children of the early 1980s, one only thing was clear: we were all going to die in a nuclear confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. Looking back on our history, we see a straight line...

Bad Tuning

Speaking of the cinema, one of the things that's almost impossible to do in Japan is talk to Japanese friends about foreign films. Not that they haven't seen the film in question or that they won't have an insightful opinion...

Telecommunications: Culture Killer or Catalyst?

Nothing has eaten into the Japanese cultural industries more than the spread of cell-phones (keitai). Where kids from the 80s and early 90s had 10,000-20,000 yen a month to spend on records, clothing, and karaoke, kids today have to scrap...

Japanese Consumers Want Manuals

For the next six months, I'll be dedicating myself to unlocking the mysteries of Japanese media collusion through enormous music market data sets. Early numbers show that there are indeed cabalistic relations between television shows and artist management companies: how...

The Greatest American Hero

Gazing upon the shelves of Japanese video rental stores, there is apparently much consumer demand for early 1980s American TV. Although I've spent many afternoons watching Night Rider on Tokyo cable channels, I don't know if I could bring myself...

The "Myth" of Japanese Universities

I just finished reading Brian McVeigh's subtly-titled Japanese Higher Education as Myth - a work that spends 250 pages discussing why and how Japanese universities do not particularly function as a higher education system. While Japan's secondary schooling has some...

Tokyo University Dorm Complex

Out near the suburbs of Mitaka-shi, between marine research institutions, vegetable fields, and highway sprawl, there is a complex of dorms for Tokyo University students. The buildings have that decaying Modernist concrete slab look, like if Japan's highest academic...

NY Times on Harajuku Girls... Again.

Since I'm not currently in the United States, it's hard for me to gauge whether the size of Gwen Stefani/Harajuku Girls's stardom warrants all this press attention, but here is a NY Times article on Stefani's limited-edition (oh, so 1998!)...

Murakami Takashi Sells Out!

Working under an ingenious post-modern rhetoric, Japanese artist Murakami Takashi has found a way to sell his cartoons to the rough beast of corporate capitalism and have those financial transactions beheld as subversive, progressive endeavor. Greed is good, and...

Otsuka Ai Pakuri!

This week's Shuukan Bunshun has a story entitled "“中高生の歌姫”大塚愛の新曲にパクリ疑惑!?" (Suspicions of plagurizing for the "song queen of middle-schooler/high schoolers" Otsuka Ai's new song.) Is it just me or are there not a lot of sensational "pakuri" cases in the news...

LoVe

Japan is Louis Vuitton, and Louis Vuitton is Japan. While years of recession have seen domestic fashion brands crash and burn on the homefront, the French luxury brand just keeps on expanding its market share. Although LV is less...

"Uncle Tom/Aunt Jemima/Little Black Sambo"

In the news: Japan's beloved Little Black Sambo has returned to bookshelves. American pressures led to the book's banning in 1988, but an online petition has brought the lovable racist stereotype back from the dead. Some choices quotes from "expert"...

Magazine Rack

The great variety of men's magazines in Japan bind together a post-modern, fragmented, multicultural society through one certain universal: the love of enormous breasts. From the elementary-school manga Shuukan Shonen Magajin to the rabid right-wing sex-and-violence of Weekly Playboy, editors...

Japanese Middle-Aged Men and Fashion?

This article claims that the Japanese fashion world is now targeting Japanese middle-aged corporate male workers. The writer starts his piece with the sexy "no-tie" look - failing to mention that the huge consumer story of the moment is the...

The C & C Music Factory Revival Starts NOW

The new video for Japanese female R&B group Soulhead's song "Fiesta" is a deadly-serious imitation (pakuri) of the C & C Music Factory video for "Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)" complete with vague reproductions of early 90s Black...

Keizo Nagatani on Japanese Economics

When Japan's economy is hot, Japan's social system clearly gets everything right. And when Japan's economy is ice cold, Japan's social system clearly gets everything wrong. No matter our post hoc logical fallacies, the pundits have agreed: Japan's economy is...

Marxy on New Beikoku Ongaku CD

The new issue of Japan's premier indie music magazine Beikoku Ongaku is finally out on stands, and the compilation CD included with the issue features the Marxy track "Neoplasticism vs. de Stijl," along with songs from Plus-Tech Squeeze Box, Quantic,...

Gross National Cool: A Japanese Response

Freelance journalist Douglas McGray's 2002 article for Foreign Policy "Japan's Gross National Cool" (GNC) introduced an extremely intriguing idea to Japanese policy makers: can Japan revive its economic outlook by becoming a content-providing cultural superpower? McGray's point is certainly on-target:...

The Kurile Island Dispute and the World of Women's Fashion

In order to find source material for a current research mission, I rescued a huge stack of women's fashion magazines awaiting trash pickup and gave them a new home (thus, the Can Cam post.) Minutes ago, I was making my...

Weekly Playboy: Say No to "Deai-kei" Sites

Weekly Playboy - Japan's number one magazine for angry, breast-obsessed men - has a banner-article in the new issue advising their readers not to use "deai-kei" websites to meet women. In the enormous deai-kei industry, men pay exorbitant fees to...

OECD Economic Survey on Japan

I just read the OECD Economic Survey on Japan from this year which highlights the "key economic challenges" facing the nation over the next decade. This sentence from the conclusion generally sums it up: While the Japanese economy is in...

Erog Sum

Japanese cyberspace is a-buzz about "erogs" - erotic blogs where women post naked pictures of themselves along with spicy narrative text. The "experts" quoted in this story seem to believe that "there are a lot of eroggers who want people...

I Can Can Cam

Let us applaud the crazy girls in Tokyo wearing demented maid costumes and late 18th century lace contraptions, for they have pulled off the greatest media coup in Japanese history! These are girls from the lowest-rung on the high...

Japanese Blogging: A Recap

Both Japanese conservatives and Western orientalists are quick to claim that a lack of visible, external opposition to the social system in Japan is serious proof of a society built on perfect consensus. Now with the expansion of new media...

Japan as Number One! - Part Two

Knowledge: Pursuit and Consensus In his work Japan as Number One, Ezra Vogel analyzes the secrets to Japanese success, starting first with the "group-directed quest for knowledge." After WWII, Japan's unfailing interest in new ideas and new techniques led to...

Japan as Number One! - Part One

In 1979, Harvard professor and eminent Japanese Studies guru Ezra Vogel published his seminal book Japan as Number One: Lessons for America to uproarious commotion in America and enormous sales in Japan. For the decade after the book's release, Vogel's...

Marxy Back, Lance on Hiatus

Coming back to the computer this morning, I was a little worried about the effect of Lance's posts on my readership, but I checked my stats: my unique visitors went up 25%! Apparently, you would all rather read musings from...

Bloggin'

TGIF - And I don't mean the restaurant! (Although the buffalo wings are tight. EXTRA HOT, y'all.) I hate that skool is totally gettin' in the way of the bloggin' but whadda do? I'd love to skip German III and...

Japan or Japan?

sorry for the late post, dudes. my mom has this weird rule about no 'nettin' until after supper. So, there was supposedly a band called Japan in the 70s! and they were like totally unkown outside of Japan even though...

Lance in the Hiz-OUSE!!!

PARTY PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Lance is in the muzafuzzin' HIZ-HOUSE, y'all. Gonna pimp' it up like itz hott. totally syched that AP American History is behind me (i bet I got a 4, maybe even 5) and Marxy is letting me guest...

Marxy on Break, but Guest Editor Arriving

I have a presentation in Japanese tomorrow about institutional economics (制度派経済学) and a weekend trip out of town, so I won't be able to post for the next couple of days. I hate to let this blogspace go fallow, so...

Shukan Post on Nigo's "Vast Tax Evasion Scheme"!

The sometimes-reliable, always-sensational news magazine Shukan Post reports in their May 27th issue about a "Vast Tax Evasion Scheme" (巨額脱税工作) linked directly to A Bathing Ape's Nigo. I very much doubt that this story would have made the magazine had...

Alas, the iPod Shuffle

While the iPod took three years to break into the Japanese market, the iPod Shuffle exploded onto the scene. At least in Tokyo, everyone aged 18 to 30 is dangling the little white trinket from their necks like an...

A No-Tenkou Japanese Youth

Traditionally, Japanese youth are expected to shed all their fads, fashions, radical ideologies, dreams, aspirations, and ideals upon entering the workforce - and subsequently, adulthood - in a process called tenkou(転向). Like all the youth before them, the hardcore student...

The Trials and Tribulations of Japanese Entertainment

This Japanese site lists trial outcomes for legal cases involving celebrities and the entertainment industry. For example: "On February 25th, 2004 (Heisei 16), the Tokyo High Court found the defendant Taira Tatsuo (age 57) - ex-CEO of large-scale entertainment office...

Den Hideo on the Japanese Media

From 1962 to 1968, Den Hideo hosted the TBS news show "News Scope," becoming the original prototype for the Japanese "kyastaa" (newscaster). In WWII, he had been moments away from departing on a kamikaze suicide mission when news came of...

The Japanese Media: A Recap

Quote from PR agency employee, "Ishikura T." in Anne Cooper-Chen's Mass Communications in Japan (bolding mine): "You CAN be sure of placing materials in small magazines. They willingly accept your news about new products. They like barter: a paid ad...

Shibuya is the New Roppongi

The latest Shibuya trend: the neighborhood smells like an open sewer. I live relatively close so it's a convenient place to meet friends, but everytime I exit the subway, I can't help feeling that it looks dirtier, has more foreigners,...

The America in American Idol, the Japan in Asayan

If you follow the American media, you may have heard that ABC's news program Primetime did a behind-the-scenes look at top FOX music show American Idol, alledging that the judge Paula Abdul (ex-partner to MC Skat Kat) coached one of...

Golden Interview Week: No. 7 - Justin Hall

Justin Hall was essentially the world's first blogger. The guy was on the Net so early that his own personal page is improbably located at links.net. (More biographical information can be found at the "Justin Hall" Wikipedia entry.) He is...

Golden Interview Week: No. 6 - Shugo Tokumaru

Shugo Tokumaru is the rising star of the Japanese indie scene, and his debut album Night Piece was the best thing that ever happened to 2004. Pitchfork gave it an 8.6, and it eventually charted at both Other Music and...

Golden Interview Week: No. 5 - Momus

Momus is a modern man-of-letters with an auspicious track record spanning a half-dozen media and several continents. A pioneering Internet essayist, he currently offers art crit and audioscapes at his blog, Click Opera. 1) America is anti-intellectual, Japan is a-intellectual,...

Golden Interview Week: No. 4 - Trevor

Trevor runs the NY-based indie label music related - home to Shugo Tokumaru's Night Piece and a split 7" of Japanese pico pico poppers MacDonald Duck Eclair/Micro Mach Machine, among others. His personal music project Pandatone has an album -...

Golden Interview Week: No. 3 - Sheila Burgel

Sheila Burgel runs Cha Cha Charming - a net 'zine, previously in print form, dedicated to international girl pop of all eras. She also writes a column for MTV Japan's monthly free paper and is a frequent contributor to Bust...

The Pakuri Debate: Noda vs. Aida

I'm a bit late getting to this topic, but over on the Japanese internet, there was a huge debate raging about the art director/graphic designer Noda Nagi and her cover for Halcali's album Ongaku no Susume (on right) blatantly...

Golden Interview Week: No. 2 - Jean Snow

Jean Snow runs the Internette's most crucial blog about Japanese architecture, design, art, pop culture, and leisure - jeansnow.net. He also writes weekly columns for Tokyo Q on anime and design, frequently contributes articles to the gadget site Gizmodo, and...

Golden Interview Week: No. 1 - B.J. Novak

Here in Japan, we are celebrating Golden Week - a week of consecutive holidays spanning from today's Showa Day (formerly Greenery Day and before that Green Day) to next Thursday's Children's Day. And in this spirit of revelry, I decided...

NY Times on RanKing RanQueen

The N.Y. Times has a little feature on the Japanese knick-knack chain RanKing RanQueen, which purports to sell only the "top" items in a product category. Most select shops operate like editorial-retail and choose goods based on subjective taste criteria....

Do You Hate Uniqlo? Then Buy a Magazine All About the Brand!

Jean mentioned this on his blog last week, but giant publishing company Magazine House recently put out a special mook all about the Japanese mass-fashion brand Uniqlo assembled by the editors of Relax. Japan's trendy lifestyle 'zines tend to sell...

Hip Hoppin' Ben Franklin and Kyrgyzstani Textiles in a World of Curry: Aichi Expo 2005

In the mid-20th century, there was nary a utopian vision of the future that did not include magnetically-levitating monorails and anthropomorphic robots. When the clock struck 12:00 on January 1st, 2001, who didn't feel deep disappointment upon realizing that...

Sex and Violence

This week's issue of Weekly Pureiboi has the usual mammary fetishization and baseball gossip, but also a rabid anti-Chinese cover story: "You won't buy Japanese goods? You say you've got a problem with the history textbooks? Make that Anti-Japanese...

Know Your Blogger: Marxy on Marxy

Marxy (on right) sometime in the early 90s. I often avoid spilling personal details onto my blog, but lately I've felt that it's important for my readers to get a better sense of where I'm coming from. To remedy this...

Textbooks: A Telling Quote

In Norimitsu Onishi's April 18th International Herald Tribune story "Asia history that won't go away," Acting Secretary-General of Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Abe Shinzo was quoted as saying: "There would be a problem if the textbooks state something that...

Gundam: Warriors of Universalism

World War II is in the news these days. Just last weekend, Chinese youth vandalized Japanese restaurants and burned the Hi-no-Maru in response to events from the 1930s, and meanwhile, the Japanese conservative party is on a mission to...

Vocabulary Lesson

Today's featured Japanese lexical item: 花柳病 Today's pointless jouyou kanji: 厘...

JT Anti-Smoking Campaign: Seasonal

I went to the Japan Tobacco (JT) site to grab images of the new spring "smoking manners" posters (there's a really crazy one I saw yesterday), but I could only find the winter series (all images above pop-up larger...

1000+

According to The Economist's April 9th 2005 issue, Japanese television broadcasts over 1000 commercials per week - the highest rate in the world. Japanese commercials are much shorter than the U.S. (15 seconds is average), but the cheap production quality...

Tetsuwari Crack Iron Albatrossket

Tetsuwari Crack Iron Albatrossket is an experimental theatre troupe and may be Japan's premier dramatic ironists and meta-comedians. Tetsuwari's leader and playwrite Inui Akihito's descends from a long line of famous actors/writers, but he's also a student of Monty Python,...

Gasshuku Thoughts

The gasshuku (合宿) experience encapsulates the quintessential aspects of idealized Japanese behavior into a short package: the welcoming of new members into a group, journeys out to the countryside, baseball, onsen, mandatory fun, drinking until 3 a.m. only to get...

Delinquent Subcultures vs. Consumer Lifestyles

Most of the first Western scholarship on "youth subcultures" in the post-War period grew out of work on teenage delinquency. Sociologists explained the Teds, the Mods, Rude Boys, Greasers, the Sharks (vs. the Jets) as working-class youth using their own...

TELEGRAM TO MARXY READERS

W56 DM 26 ML TOKYO JAPANAPRIL 8 2005 READERS OF NEOMARXISME BLOG THE INTERNET SCHOOL STARTED SAKURA BLOOMED HARD TO STAY INDOORS STOP RUMOR ON STREETS NIGO PAID PHARRELL STOP JAPANESE STREET FASHION MARKET CRASHING NEW LABEL FATYO BIG WITH...

In Bloom

If you hate cherry blossoms, I would advise you to stay away from Japan this week....

Flaubert, or the Modernism of Superflatness

Flaubert, for example, explores the question of representation of heterogeneity and difference, of simultaneity and synchrony, in a world where both time and space are being absorbed under the homogenizing powers of money and commodity exchange. 'Everything should sound simultaneously,'...

Old Timey Japanese Sprite Ad

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Japanese Postmodernist on Japanese Postmodernism

Thus, in Japan, there are neither tradition-oriented old people adhering to transcendental values nor inner-oriented adults who have internalized their values; instead, the nearly purely relative (or relativistic) competition exhibited by other-oriented children provides the powerful driving force for capitalism....

Meanwhile on the Other Coast...

...the N.Y. Times goes gaga over Murakami Takashi, conbini, and high-end Japanese fashion/design in their Tokyo Spring suppliment. I don't want to go off on a diatribe against superflat (again), but I cringe at Murakami's tacit equation of a lack...

L.A. Times

My blog somehow is featured in this Sunday's L.A. Times Arts & Entertainment section (full-article for subscribers only - natch.) I'm depicted as an underwhelming wealth of information on "Japanese and American cultural differences" - a reference perhaps to my...

Les Maisons des Nouveaux Riches

Tokyo's Setagaya-ku is unofficially the neighborhood of Japan's nouveau riche. The ultra-rich baseball players, entertainers, and business tycoons live in the American-style mansions arranged in a semi-circle around Den-en Chofu, but if you're part of the upper upper-middle classes...

What Noisy Cats Are We

When I was eight, I would wake up every morning listening to my brother's cassette-deck/alarm play "Swan Swan H" and "Superman" from R.E.M.'s Life's Rich Pagent, and I consider these two songs to be the keystones of my musical foundation....

Ape vs. Good Charlotte

The new cover of street fashion magazine Smart (miniature picture on left) shows "ultra-hip" "fashion" "mogul" Nigo with... embarassing American "punk" "rock" "band" Good Charlotte?!? This cover alone proves about 80% of the points I try to make on my...

April 2nd - the Prank Hangover

So as most of you may suspected, yesterday's post was a prank coordinated in advanced with Momus. Otherwise, I would have not been so bent on alliteration and aggrevating vocabulary. If anyone ran out to the local library to check...

A New Month, A New Year

I admit it: an endless winter pinned me down, hours trapped in front of the computer or buried in books, and in this pit of overanalysis and abject paranoia, I abstracted Japan into a soulless sprawling mess. Browse the...

We Can't Bear their Departure...

On the first of every month, I got an automatic free blog post to save myself from dwindling into a repetitive diatribe about the "Japanese authorities" - namely, the Subway bear posters. Oh, how they were so naughty! Empty...

The Talent Industry 101

The hard-hitting journalists at Japan Today wrote up this expository introduction to the world of Japanese talent. Some choice quotes: Companies like Oscar, Johnny's Jimusho, Sun Music and Yellow Cab have tremendous power when it comes to their talents, so...

Bilinguality is the new Monolinguality

Unfortunately, whether I post in Japanese or English, I'm going to alienate a chunk of my readers, but I'm happy to have opened up some new channels of communication with my recent forays into Japanese. Yesterday, in response to my...

Japanese Dub

Does anyone know why Japanese TV shows from the 70s (think Ultraman) don't have live-sync sound? Even the home dramas are all dubbed. I've never noticed this with American TV, even shows the 50s, but I'm not sure about European...

When Artists Are Resurrected

A month ago, I did a post about Japanese pop musicians "disappeared" by their labels for public transgressions or deviating from the script. Suzuki Ami takes the cake for Best Disappearance Ever when her management company blackballed her from...

The War with Japan that Never Happened

When the Cold War ended in the early 90s, America searched quickly for a new enemy, and as large-scale military battles were also instantly outdated, an economic villan was the obvious answer: JAPAN!!! The CIA went so far as to...

Kenka Bancho

For the last four years or so, new trends have been hard to spot here in Japan, but one thing I keep running into is the 80s yankii revival. First, the band Kishidan showed up with their pastiche of 1980s...

Halcali - HarukaRImikkusu

Remixing began in context of the neo-tribal ritual of "rave parties" and developed afterwards as a less functional, more metatextual advertisement for up-and-coming producers. Both types have become a predictible bore, and the official "Remix Album" is an diabolic act...

The Leftover Plurality

Momus has an excellent essay today about something I had felt vividly when I was back home in December: the U.S. Right has appropriated identity politics from minority movements. After the Republican's total victory last November it has waned a...

Kichiku Daienkai

On a tip from reader Alin, I rented the film Kichiku Daienkai (鬼畜大宴会), thinking it would bring me broader perspective on the Japanese student activism of the late 60s and early 70s. Gasp. I can only blame my own naivete...

The Fader: Yura Yura Teikoku

In the brand new issue of the American music magazine The Fader, I wrote an article about the Japanese psych-rock band Yura Yura Teikoku (ゆらゆら帝国) called "Louder than Bombs." They are pretty fantastic songwriters and otherworldly performers, and what makes...

New Cyzo: Orange Range Pakuri

In the new Saizou (technically, Cyzo), there's a story called "〈オレンジレンジ〉今月もパクリ疑惑を徹底検証" - Orange Range: This month we again throughly examine the suspicion of pakuri (melodic-theft) - in which the writer compares melodies from Orange Range songs with those from older...

Movies on Demand

Tivo and NetFlix are teaming up to provide digital downloads of NetFlix films through the Tivo hardware. Whether they're the first to do it or Anthony Michael Hall storms in later, America is extremely close to having the infrastructure for...

The Fragility of Pop Culture

On Click Opera, Momus wrote in response to a comment: The media reports tendencies and directions and changes and trends rather than underlying solid states. (This same tendency is a real weakness in Marxy's analysis. Incremental changes seem to him...

The Onyanko Club, Pt. III

In the last few days, I've been asking around about The Onyanko Club, and all the girls I know commented that their second single "O-yoshi ni natte ne TEACHER" - "Stop it, Teacher" - was absolutely the worst of their...

The Onyanko Club

Even without a history of Puritanism, Japanese television and mass culture systematically shy away from the controversial and subversive. And therefore, what in the world are we to make of the mid-80's Onyanko Club? A strict translation of their name...

A Small Amount of Interest

I just noticed that my Japanese bank paid me exactly 1 yen in interest for the year. I promise not to spend it all in once place....

English, Pt. III

This ad for the Gaba language school asks Japanese people to fill in the blank: "If I could speak English, I would..." Ads with quotes from "real people" in Japan are often written by copywriters, but even if these aren't...

Okay, Fred.

Thank you to OK FRED for letting me play at the opening party for their fantastic new issue 005 - "This is Our Tokyo." (That's me on the right rocking out on an acoustic guitar like it was 1994.)...

Back from Kyoto

Back from Kyoto, very close to resuming normal blogging. Legs tired from climbing to the completely deserted top-level Daigoji temples. Kyoto is a city-sized commercial for a Japan that no longer exists....

Kids These Days!

For the last week Tokyo's ultratoxic levels of pollen have destroyed my stamina and health, and I can do little more than sit around my room, reading a somewhat new book called Japan's Changing Generations: Are young people creating a...

A Defense of Endism

Editor of Wired, Chris Anderson, wrote this interesting explanation of three different personality types in trend forecasting: 1) position people who judge where something is at the moment 2) velocity people who judge something compared to past size 3) acceleration...

Japan Boom Trickle Down

My friends like to rub in my face the current American fascination with Japanese pop culture - "if Japan has become so uncool," they are prone to ask, "why is it now more popular than ever in the States?" They've...

When Artists Disappear

In Japan, celebrities often vanish from public view in a blink of the eye without any explanation of what happened. Last year, Space Shower TV host Brian Burton-Lewis's sudden disappearance befuddled me, and only later did I hear through the...

Left Alone

In order to find some fresh air in this season of Pop Cultural Malaise, I've recently being reading about the Japanese student movement of the 1960s, so much to my delight, I discovered that a documentary film about the Japanese...

The Oricon Research

I have collected a huge amount of Oricon data and am currently spending my afternoons entering the data into huge Excel charts for my research. Artist names, jimusho affliation, and record labels are all coded for later analysis. I'm also...

Paranoia

When I'm not paying attention, Momus often mentions me on his site as a foil for whatever he's arguing against - this time I'm a paranoid conspiracy theorist in the same vein as David Lynch. As Dali (Mr. Avida...

Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy Pt. II - Music

Robert asked: isn't the SAMPLING of music a kind of non-mediated (i.e. we don't copy the sounds with our instruments, we copy the very sounds themselves with our computers) hyper-orthopraxical musical technique insofar as it is a modification of the...

Happy Valentines Day

I'm off to celebrate a traditional Japanese Valentine's Day - eating homemade Chocolate cake and watching a first-season Twin Peaks marathon. (Good marxy trivia: I dressed up as Agent Cooper for Halloween when I was 11.) Post-viewing: Watching almost a...

瘋癲族

Japan's answer to the Hippies - the Fuuten-zoku - used to clutter up Shinjuku station in the late 60s during the day and sleep out in the bushes in the night (the so-called "Green House"). In a land of few...

Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy

'Twas Max Weber who long ago aimed to peg modern social and economic behavior on the influence of traditional religious patterns - to back up and look at a people's ultimate relation to society through their orientation towards the metaphysical....

Friendster vs. Mixi, U.S. vs. Japan

After six months of invitations, I finally joined Mixi.jp this week. I had been a long-time dormant member of the American Friendster.com and felt no real need to be on two of these sites. Mixi, however, is primarily Japanese users...

Two Video Game Ideas

Hear me out: 1) A video game adaptation of the 1989 Fred Savage/Christian Slater vehicle The Wizard. 2) A game called 「学生運動’69!」 in which the player chooses student rebels from Japan's various Communist factions (民青派、中核、ML、革マル、全共闘, etc.) and goes to battle...

Travel Japan: It's... Not Bad!

As part of some campaign to promote domestic travel, these posters explicitly compare Japanese tourist attractions to Western ones. But for some reason, the Japanese examples are all kind of low-key and boring. The text on the left poster...

Bottom of the Bear-ral

I'm glad these posters come out on a monthly basis, because I need time to think of new puns for my blog posts. With this month's offering, it seems that the advertising team also needs some time to come...

The Mainstreaming of Pico Pico 8-bit

Is the new all-8-bit Beck Hell Yes remix EP the mainstreaming of the pico pico 8-bit sound? Well, I think this is going to make every 16-year-old with (a) Garage Band start sampling his old NES. But Pico Pico is...

Three Jpop Discs that Matter: Number Two

Number Two: Judy and MaryThe Power Source1997 Almost a decade before the "Harajuku Girls" were exploitative fodder for washed-up American singers, they were an vibrantly colored and unique fashion phenomenon on the Japanese scene. Whether it was Cutie that started...

Three Jpop Discs that Matter: Number Three

Jpop is a four-letter word. The domestic fans devour it like character goods. The institutionalized press' palms are greased so well that they can't hold the pencil long enough to write anything critical about it. The "real" rock community in...

A Diet Library

Yesterday I finished a long technical translation (being moments! yield shelfs! epoxy resin!) and an article on a well-known Japanese psych-rock band for a well-known American magazine, so I decided to head down to the Kokuritsu Kokkai Toshokan (The National...

Me and Japan-Bashing: An Explanation

Momus scrieb sarkastisch: Yes, this blog is perfectly balanced. There's bad stuff about Japan day after day, but then you know something nice will come along about Kiiiiiii once in a while. I plead with people not to simplify my...

Architectural Impermanence

I just passed another empty lot in my neighborhood where they've razed an attractive old-style Japanese home - the fifth or sixth in the last three months. Where one family once lived, they can usually build two three-story homes or...

蘇生

"15% of Nagasaki students believe the dead can be resurrected". Ummm.......

Models Rockets in Japan

According to this, the Japanese government did not allow model rocketry until the late 80s and much of the ban was a concern that student radicals in the 60s would use the minor explosives in some kind of unauthorized, violent...

Two-tier division in Japanese labor force

According to this article in the Financial Times, Japan's economy is creating much greater income distribution inequity by creating two classes in the work force: well-paid white collar jobs and poorly-paid working class jobs. As I've written before, income inequality...

Japanese CD Rental Stores

For a long time I've wondered: how did CD/record rental stores establish themselves in Japan when record labels and artist jimusho wield the greatest power in the music market? These stores totally wrecked industry revenue between '81 and '85, and...

No Criticism, No Past

In the West, the end of each year sees a barrage of "Top Ten" and "Best of" lists for music and movies, compiled by critics and offered by media outlets for holiday reading. As I've mentioned before, Japanese magazines and...

Truth in Advertising

This ad from Tu-ka mobile phones shows 100 Japanese men and women representing the current demographic breakdown of the nation. And as the caption on the top says (日本って、おじさんとおばさんの国なんだ!), Japanese has become a country of all old-people. I have...

Happy New Bear

Look who's back for 2005 and still up to the same dirty tricks! This month's ad targets the vice of eating on the subways - especially the consumption of proportionally enormous hamburgers while sitting on the window ledge. Note...

Japanese Online Dating

This is a link to a story about Japanese gangsters running a "dating service" and ripping off their customers - turns out the "women" on the site did not exist, and their emails to the paying customers were written by...

The Year in (J)Pop 2004

Prologue: I don't believe in a cyclical nature of history, so for me, 2004 was the Japanese mainstream music market's last chance to correct its path before crashing into the Sun. I didn't need music to be good this year...

Nagao Tomoaki in the New York Times

The New York Times had a story last Sunday on the new A Bathing Ape store that recently opened in SoHo. Unfortunately, the piece was mainly just descriptions and cheerleading, not any kind of deeper appraisal of the Ape phenomemon...

2004: Disaster

Mr. Duckworth beat me to it: the kanji character picked to symbolize Japan in 2004 was "災" - disaster. See: there are 20,900 Japanese pessimists out there....

Japanese Girls in Paris Apparently Go Crazy

This article in Yahoo News suggests that Japanese girls living in Paris are becoming suicidal in a fit of depression related to "having to reconcile their romanticism about Paris with reality." I don't know if this article really shows me...

Income (In)equality in Japan

The Japanese government likes to boast that Japan enjoys the lowest income inequality rate in First World, and although the equality of income distribution peaked in the early 70s, this is probably still true today. The reason for this income...

Momus Strikes Back

Lots of Japan talk and Marxy bashing over at Momus' Click Opera. Prolific Neomarxisme poster Sparklingbeatnic sticks it to me as being a part of "rational, liberal post-industrial revolution European culture." (Apparently, the idea of free will is out of...

Hark the Herald Angels Sing

For a Pagan nation, Japan sure loves Christmas carols. Today is only December 8th and I can't walk into a store without hearing "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" or "Let it Snow." I am not breaking new ground with this...

Freelancer Fights the Kisha Clubs

From the Japan Media Review, this article and interview summarizes the Supreme Court case of freelance journalist Terasawa Yu's fight for the right to receive a seat at trials and court transcripts - a right denied to him since he...

Observations from Watching 5 Mins of Japanese Music Channels

1) Sum 41 - "Still Waiting" video This is the one where they parody the Strokes' video for "Last Night." Things are so confused in the rock music world that the most mainstream, polished punk rock band takes it upon...

Tokyo Jihen - Kyouiku

Our heroine Shiina Ringo would like to see her new band Tokyo Jihen as something larger than a solo project, but we must fill in the bubble "C" - the correct answer is:Shiina Ringo:Tokyo Jihen::John Lennon:Plastic Ono Band. Kyouiku (Education)...

Hegemony of Homogeneity

I just finished reading a short book called Hegemony of Homogeneity by esteemed anthropologist Harumi Befu, and I'd like to stop the usual Japan bickering to approach this idea of "Japan" from a different angle. Befu's book looks at how...

Bearing Straight

This month's teddy is apparently a drunken white-collar bear who has strayed too close to the track in an alcohol-fueled act of sociopathy. When I snapped this pic, a little girl was studying the ad for about a minute...

Mr. Duckworth's Wild Ride

Resident ex-pat Robert Duckworth throws his weight into the Japan debate with a very long and oblique essay on his site. Check it out....

Happōshu Culture

In 2000, I asked a senior employee at the publishing giant Kodansha whether he had ever tried the $200-a-bottle, top-of-the-line Johnny Walker Blue Label scotch. He laughed and said, "During the Bubble, that's all we drank." During Japan's high-growth period,...

Jpop Evolution

I am currently reading the book J-POP Shinkaron (The Evolution of Jpop), which chronicles the melodic changes in Jpop songs from the 50s to today. I'm still stuck in a chapter about the differences between the traditional Japanese pentatonic scale,...

Words of Wisdom

A quote from Steve Albini in the Sept/Oct 2004 issue of Tokion: "Well, I think the '90s created an artificial inflation of attention on music...I think that was a really bad cultural influence. Because it raised the possibility that bands...

The Legacy of Shibuya-Kei Part Six

Neo-Shibuya-kei In the last two years, there has been a small-scale, nostalgic revival of early Shibuya-kei - two Flipper's Guitar tribute albums in four months, the model Meg scoring a minor hit with a cover of "Groove Tube," and magazines/stores...

Marxy's Guide to Foreign Views on Japan

From the posts on my blog and views elsewhere, I've created my own Right-to-Left continuum for views on Japan: Far Right - The Colonialists - "Japan is dumb. The West is better. J-birds are easy. The Japanese are bad at...

Cyzō: The Info Ninja

I am a big fan of Cyzō - an intelligent magazine that works to break down some of the information barriers in the Japanese media (and lately, show girls in various states of undress). They do a lot of stories...

The Legacy of Shibuya-Kei Part Five

What did Shibuya-kei mean? Like the Alternative revolution in America, Shibuya-kei brought more sophisticated musical tastes up from subcultural groups into the mainstream Japanese popular music market. Obscure music that was once only available to a specific underground clique was...

The Legacy of Shibuya-Kei Part Four

The End of Shibuya-kei Identifying the exact moment when Shibuya-kei "ended" is a difficult task, but I tend to see the 2001 release of Cornelius's Point as the beginning of a new era. If Fantasma was the Shibuya hipster-pastiche sound...

The Legacy of Shibuya-Kei Part Three

The First Wave Consolidates Although a strict interpretation of the Shibuya-kei scene would start and end with Flipper's Guitar, the words "shibuya-kei" came to connote the stream of Japanese indiepop following in the original bands' footsteps. The First Wave...

Ringo Star

Supposedly, there is a professor at Rikkyo Daigaku teaching a class called "Shiina Ringo vs. Jpop." I was listening to her last album Karuki Zaamen Kuri no Hana yesterday for the first time in ages and remembered how great it...

Law and Order

For the first time just now, I got stopped by the police while walking down the street. They were on some kind of scout mission, and I haven't shaved in a while, so they asked to see my Foreign Registration...

Authority through Selective Democracy

Graham suggested the new magazine Tokyo Graffiti - NewGeneration Magazine as a democratic antidote to the standard Japanese authoritarian fashion catalog. The magazine is essentially a collection of photos of people on the street, sometimes holding white boards on which...

The Legacy of Shibuya-Kei Part Two

Last time, we left our protagonists Oyamada Keigo and Ozawa Kenji on the verge of their first record release. The Primordial Flipper On August 25, 1989, the five-piece Flipper's Guitar released their first album Three Cheers for Our Side...

The Legacy of Shibuya-Kei Part One

On February 20th of this year, I found myself at a Flipper's Guitar Night at Kichijoji's Bar Drop celebrating the release of the second FG tribute album in four months. The first tribute had been a B-list major label...

The Mechanical Coldness of Music Rankings and Imitation

I was flipping channels today and happened onto some variety show where the short week in review segements had been placed into a chart according to rank. This is a common trope, but I was reminded how much the Japanese...

A Last Defense

I've been under attack for my views on Japan - either I "hate" Japan or I'm "ethnocentric" in my comparisons. (Oddly, all the loudest yells are from Japan fans who don't live in Japan and all the votes of support...

Halcali - Ongaku no Susume

Straight from the middle middle-class ghettos of Gotanda, hard hittin' MCettes Haruca (age 16) and Yucari (age 16) are back with their bling-bling, bang-bang, and boom-boom second album Ongaku no Susume. The material is Olympic material, but Silver Medal range...

Critics, Filter My Life!

I tend to make the "no criticism in Japan" a moral issue. Deep down I do believe that the lack of public criticism and accountability hinders democracy and free discourse, but on a more practical level, there is more and...

Waking Up to You

I just got up and found my last post on Alex Kerr completely disparaged by members of the pro-Japan community. Here are some clarifications so that my writing no longer gets compared to a "fascist dictator." 1) Some kind of...

Logs and Lemons... sorry my "D" key is broken

I finished reading Alex Kerr's Dogs and Demons last night, and I found it a well-written laundry list of grievances against Japan. Kerr sometimes jumps to conclusions and puts words into the Japanese populace's mouth. And he's got some kind...

TOKION's Creativity Now Tokyo

Yesterday I attended Tokion Magazine's Creativity Now Tokyo conference at the La Forêt Museum in Harajuku. I did not get a chance to see all the panels, but I was very impressed with what I did see. First of all,...

Finally, my CD arrives.

I finally got copies of my debut album Kyoshu Nostalgia yesterday. (Japan Post had searched the package and then retaped it with super cute cartoon-character tape). Two more months until the release......

Momus' Guide to Foreign Views of Japan

Momus has a new essay up on his LiveJournal blog that codifies and groups the current Western views on Japan. I get my own section for the "Spenglerian" outlook that the Japanese cultural empire is in decline. I also get...

Dumped by America - The Songs, Pt. I

Honestly, losing this election feels like getting dumped by a girl. This is, of course, the most navel-gazing approach to political involvement ever, but I found much comfort today in my iPod's collection of heartbreak songs. Just replace "you" with...

Who Needs Truth? Use Your Imagination

I am currently reading Alex Kerr's critical reappraisal of Japan, Dogs and Demons. Interesting bits on the lack of free information in Japan: While experts on Japan know all about the commonly encountered difference between tatemae (an official stated position)...

The Morning After

I feel like I got dumped last night, and I'm waking up today to a sunny day, trying to start over. Music sounds better when you're depressed, but when the Zombies' "This Will Be Our Year" popped up on my...

Up for the Results

It's early here, but I'm up to watch results. The internets are bring wall-to-wall excitement to this election. I say we keep them around for 2008. No real news or results yet, so I was flipping channels: man, Japanese videos...

No Lyrics in Music Reviews

I believe that one of the main keys to understanding the difference between Japanese and American cultural consumption is a comparison of published reviews. Almost all Japanese magazines do not use critical reviews or numbered rating systems to evaluate new...

An Answer to Momus

Momus wrote me an eloquent response to my response to his essay on Postmodernism: Sometimes I'm amazed by your anti-Japanese tone, Marxy. You sound like Japan's jilted lover! I mean, I know I probably err too much on the other...

On Infantile Japan

I am really uncomfortable about calling Japan "infantile," because the age-old slander against the East frames it as the pedantic child of the West. I do not mean to call Japan an infantile nation-state, but I don't think anyone would...

Post-modernism - in Retrospect

Momus just did three interesting pieces on postmodernism, its definition, and overuse as a descriptive term. He seems to believe that Japan will lead the world into the Post-postmodernist era, because "Japan is the society currently most at ease with...

The Bad News Bears

This is poster #2 in the series. My earlier post kind of mildly poked fun at the total non-issue of bad subway etiquette, but I kind of missed a broader social observation: they are using stuffed animals to target...

On Karaoke

I first learned to read Japanese from watching tapes of the ultra-cheesy Jpop music program Music Station and following along with the lyrics at the bottom of the screen. Karaoke was the obvious entertainment extension of this tradition, and being...

Barig Schlecht!

(I lost the earlier post in a Spam-related mishap, but have reconstructed a shorter version.--ed.) The Tokyo Metropolitan Subway is cracking down on poor passenger etiquette through a series of teddy bear ads. This first ad in the series...

A Pause from the Textbook

I am taking a break from my "The Decline of the Japanese Music Market" series, and I regret the somewhat didactic nature of those posts. I have this kind of wikipedia sensibility about the web; in other words, we should...

The Decline of the Japanese Music Market, Part Four

5. Way Less New Artists In 1991, the Japanese record industry debuted 510 artists. Ten years later in 2001, the 24 major record companies only debuted 128. There was an increase in 2003 up to 281, but this is still...

The Decline of the Japanese Music Market, Part Three

4. Spending per Capita was High, is now Down Up until 1999 or so, Japan's individual consumption rate for music was the highest in the world. In 1999, the per capita spending rate on music was $53.8 a person, compared...

The Decline of the Japanese Music Market, Part Two

3. Everyone Wanted to be a DJ (in 1999) When the indie kids fought to "save" vinyl records from extinction in the early 90s, I doubt they knew that five years later Japan would become the world's largest market for...

The Decline of the Japanese Music Market, Part One

I recently picked up a copy of "yoku wakaru - ongaku gyoukai" (The Easy to Understand Guide to the Music Business") at my library, and I have learned a lot about the Japanese music market from just a quick reading...

Rethinking the UTADA Conspiracy

I like conspiracy theories, and so I was happy to explain Utada Hikaru's attempt to release an album in America as a convoluted way to sell records in Japan. As fan of japan noted on my website: "this effectively was...

What Fuji Keiko's Daughter is Up to in America

According to Soundscan, Utada's debut album sold 7,105 copies in the United States in its first week. More than I would imagine, but still barely starts to cover 200 million yen ($1.8 million dollars) -- as reported by the Shukan...

Utada and the Bie Lie of Selling Abroad

So, "Utada" aka Utada Hikaru is about to release her English-language record EXODUS in America, which is obnoxiously being referred to as a "debut album." The single "Easy Breezy" is definitely the most irritating song I've heard in ages, and...

The Dasai Market Thesis

Casual readers of my essays and articles would probably assume that my doom-and-gloom pessimism about the current state of Japanese pop culture (see "Lamenting the Death of Trend in the Land of the Rising Sun" in The Fader Sept/Oct issue)...

The Electronic Tomato - S/T

S/TThe Electronic TomatoS.H.A.D.O. The Electronic Tomato is Macdonald Duck Eclair working with people from S.H.A.D.O Records in Italy, but between me and you, there isn't much reason to listen to the tracks that the Italians did. Macdonald Duck Eclair are...

Aprils - Pan-da

Pan-da!AprilsSoftly!In the same vein as he-na-choco, the formerly Usagi-Chang Records flagship-band Aprils are back with an album-long tribute to the Japanese music of their childhood. Band leader Imai's still got one foot in the world of "all Nord Lead, all...

Hazel Nuts Chocolate - Bewitched!

bewitched!Hazel Nuts ChocolateTrolly BusWell, he-na-choco have finally put out their debut album, ending their long reign as Japanese indie's most famous young musicians with no recorded music (Kiiiiiii, you have now won this title). This album certainly is good enough...

The End of Cultural Arbitrage: the West

The media is starting to take note that trend cycles are moving more rapidly than before, and the new shorter trend times are forcing the fashion in question to be judged as inconsequential when implicitly compared to culture of the...

The Music "Business"

Record sales continue to slump here in Japan (and almost everywhere else in the world), and there does not seem to be any hope that this trend will suddenly reverse its course. One new major label artist in my acquaintance...

Master Topic List for First-Time Neomarxisme Readers

Once the "pop sociology of pop" and now a "post-blog," Néomarxisme primarily analyzes the social mechanics and historical circumstances behind contemporary Japanese pop culture. Be suspicious of "Gross National Cool" and the dubious fiction of Speed Tribes. A good deal...

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