Japan for the Uninvited

Japanese culture from a bemused foreign perspective

Nasubi

For more than a year, a young comedian called Nasubi (meaning "eggplant") was the unwitting star of one of Japan's most infamous TV shows. For 24 hours a day, Nasubi was naked and alone in a small room. His only relief from hunger, discomfort and boredom came from prizes he ...

Ainori (“Love Ride”)

Ainori ("Ride Together" or "Love Ride") is a popular reality TV show in Japan. Seven young people tour the world in a pink bus, hoping to find love with a fellow passenger. When a contestant finds someone they like, they must make a public confession of their love. If this is ...

Otaku

The term "otaku", literally meaning "your house", is used to describe Japan's legion of obsessive young men. Comparable to "geek" in English, the word carries mostly negative connotations of social ineptitude, unkemptness and lack of popularity. The otaku image was dealt a serious blow in 1989, when 26-year-old Tsutomu Miyazaki raped, ...

Gothic Lolita

Like ganguro, Gothic Lolita ("GothLoli") is a popular fashion statement made by young Japanese women. However, GothLoli is the antithesis of the tanned, bleached ganguro craze. Unlike many goth fashions in the West, GothLoli embraces femininity and grace. It idealizes modest Victorian elegance, and GothLoli girls try to look as much ...

Cosplay

Cosplay allows grown men and women to explore different identities by donning elaborate costumes. Costumes are often based on popular anime characters, or visual-kei musicians. Usually, this has no sexual focus, but the tight outfits and element of fantasy have made cosplay a significant part of modern Japanese sexuality. The idea of ...

Manzai (Double-act comedy)

Manzai is the Japanese version of the classic double act, in which a straight man ("tsukkomi") feeds punchlines to a funny man ("boke"). The difference between manzai and Western double acts is the frenzied pace. The emphasis is less on material (which rarely strays far from the toilet or childish puns), ...

BoA

BoA (real name Kwon Boa) is the ultimate manufactured pop product. She was recruited by Korean promotion giant SM Entertainment when she was 11, with the explicit intention of creating an internationally-recognisable Korean pop idol. This painstaking process included intensive English and Japanese lessons (she's fluent in both) as well as ...

Namie Amuro

Under the expert eye of legendary producer Tetsuya Komuro, Okinawan singer Namie Amuro burst onto the music scene in 1996. Her distinctive look (long auburn hair, thin eyebrows, short skirts and knee high boots) spawned a generation of "Amuraas" (identically-dressed teenage girls). One-quarter Italian, her husky complexion was an inspiration for the ...

Hikaru Utada

Hikaru Utada, "Hikki", stands out in a music industry packed with cute, talentless people. Born in New York, she showed talent from an early age and released her first US single (under the name "Cubic U") before she was 12. Before she was 20, she married Kazuaki Kiritani, a photographer 15 years ...

SMAP

SMAP (Sports Music Assemble People) are not so much a pop group as a multimedia marketing wet dream. Starting in 1988, SMAP (Takuya Kimura, Shingo Katori, Masahiro Nakai, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, and Goro Inagaki) were lucky enough to be based in a market which never gets tired of bland pop acts, and ...

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