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 ...

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), ...

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 ...

Puffy AmiYumi

Puffy are a Japanese duo who are starting to make waves in the US, where they must call themselves Puffy AmiYumi to avoid offending P.Diddy's lawyers. Ami Ohnuki and Yuki Yoshimura were discovered and put together in 1995, since when their derivative, eccentric pop has sold over 14 million records. In the ...

Bob Sapp

Bob "The Beast" Sapp is a failed American football player who has found fame in K-1 martial arts, which is massive in Japan. Far from the best K-1 fighter, he has earned considerable fame and popularity by selling his dignity to Japanese TV. Exploiting his strange brutal/cuddly persona very effectively, his gurning ...

Takeshi Kitano

Known in the West as a maverick indie director, "Beat" Takeshi is best known in his home country for small screen buffoonery. After dropping out of university, he worked as an MC in a strip club before forming part of a successful TV manzai duo ("The Two Beats"). He earned his fame ...

Downtown

Manzai rules Japanese TV, and Downtown rule manzai. Their popularity owes a lot to the brilliant irreverence of Hitoshi Matsumoto (Ma-chan), whose chaotic ramblings inspire increasing disbelief in straight-man Masatoshi Hamada (Hama-chan). Friends since high-school, the duo worked their way up in Osaka's Yoshimoto Kogyo manzai company, before rising to fame ...

Takuya Kimura

Actor/singer/TV star Takuya Kimura, popularly known as "Kimutaku", is a member of pop-group SMAP and Japan's biggest male star. He is regularly voted Asia's best-looking man and is a major sex-symbol in Asian gay culture. However, he is an atypical heart-throb. In his frequent acting roles, he performs his own stunts, ...

Doraemon

Doraemon starred in countless manga, TV shows, computer games and movies since his birth in 1970. His mission is to make a success of Nobita, a lazy, bullied boy living in ...

Continue Next page