Friday, February 12, 2010

The 'Talento' With No Talent


The 'Talento' With No Talent

It has been said that technologically, Japan is always ahead of America by 5-10 years. Just look at cell phones: they've been able to watch broadcast television and cable on those for years. And where are we? We are only just now implementing those technologies into our 'smart' phones, which then aren't really that smart at all.

But what about cultural advancement? What about Pop cultural advancement? Right now, due to the effects of the Great Recession, the question everybody is asking is, "Will America become the next Japan?". Japan's recession in the 80's was so severe that they call it 'The Lost Decade'.

Sound familiar? That lost decade in Japan changed the popular cultural landscape and now, all of us are resembling the Japanese more and more. This article will focus on the rise of what are called Talento in Japan, and the changing of American broadcast TV shows.

In Japan, Talento have no real talent. Their ranks are usually composed of 'retired' Idols whose fifteen minutes of fame has run out, or D-list actors and comedians who are known only for their outrageous personas or catch-phrases than for actual accomplishments. Their agencies farming them out from guest appearances on one show to another endlessly.

The demise of scripted TV shows due to both changing viewing habits and Japan's Lost Decade, caused TV producers to depend on more easily produced Reality TV shows and game shows to recoup profits. And where did they look to fill a cast with slightly recognizable faces, but without the high paychecks a real star would require? The Talento class of TV personalities was created out of necessity, growing larger exponentially as more shows are created and die off season after season.

And now in America, if you flip through your channels, you will find that Reality TV has in the past few years has gone from the exception to the new norm. And so are we growing accustomed to seeing American Talento steadily increasing in number and decreasing in talent.

The Kardashians, Dancing With the Stars, Celebrity Apprentice, The Hills, and most recently the cast of Jersey Shore.

How long will it be before the number of Talento churned out by the constant parade of reality TV shows spits out so many that new types of shows will be created to support them? In the midst of the Great Recession, Americans yearn to lose themselves in the distraction, feasting on Talento and Idols, the comfort food of the entertainment world.

The future of TV and film in America as it becomes more Japanese is the topic of my last article of this series.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Turning Japanese Part I

Turning Japanese Part I


Without us even knowing it, we have all become Japanese. For awhile now, I have had "The Japanese In Me", but now, the Japanese is in you too. This is the first article of three that will focus on just a few of the many ways that popular culture in Japan has silently infiltrated our conciousness and is taking root. The tide has turned, the roles have been reversed, Japan is now the new trendsetter of cultural-cool.

The Idols and Talento in Japan, have reinvented what it takes to become famous -- young and female.

Inspired by the popularity the all-female French 'Ye-Ye' pop music movement in during the 60s in Japan, Japanese record companies created their own versions called "Idoru".

They were teenaged, they were fresh-faced and innocent --and they had no real talent.

All they had to do was prance around on stage, look cute and adorable, sing the pop songs written for them, and they were instantly famous.

But when fans tired of one particular idol, after they had consumed all the albums, the
magazines, the fashions imitated, then all was forgotten and they moved on to the next idol.

Over and over in Japan this process has repeated itself for decades. The Idoru genre expanding itself into TV, where 'retired' idols and B-grade movie stars mingle and milk their fame for all it's worth.

On TV they become 'Talento', or those with no talent. You may vaguely recognize their names, but you can't remember what they've done. Suddenly they're featured on every show that you watch.

And now, America too has been entranced by the Idol phenomenon.

In the 90's Japan had Amuro, Utada, Hamazaki:

In America now we have Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Rihanna:

Japanese record labels have had much longer to hone their craft; creating, packaging, and selling the public the concept of the Idol. And thanks to hugely popular show American Idol, we aren't too far behind.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Japanese Drugs

"Japanese Drugs"

You've gotten everything ready for your semester or your year abroad in Japan? But during summer break you've gotten yourself hooked on drugs? Weed, prescription pills, ecstasy? And now soon you're heading off to Japan and you haven't even thought once about how you're going to score some, have you?

Japan is a different country with a different drug culture--for both legal and illegal drugs alike.
Let's start with the basics, the lightweights, and move up to the heavies, known as 'Ma-yaku' (まやく)


Japan was once known as "Smokers Heaven", but in the last few years it has been slowly decending down to "Smokers Hell". Consider yourself lucky if your school is in a rural area or inaka; you'll still be able to light up in any public places like resturants, cafes, bars, train platforms, whenever you please -- thats the heaven side.

The hell side is that now smokers in big cities will have to get their nicotine fix caged up in protective plexi cages, like plagued paraqueets.

You also will have to use this age-verification card if you want to buy your cigs from a vending machine.

On the heaven side, price per pack is still a steal at nearly half those in America. If you're gonna pick up the habit at some point in your life, Japan is still the place to light up!


Legal drinking age is 20 but you wouldn't know it because it's never enforced. It's kind of like having a speed limit, but never posting it anywhere along the highway so you can fly as fast as you want.

You'll see it's quite the opposite of a law, when without warning despite your age, you're encouraged to drink up, and drink up often.

During homestays, during dinner, during lunch, during train rides, during ceremonies, during damn near any social gathering. Sake, Shochu, Umeshu, can-cocktails, beer, wine, whiskey...

You'll be expected to get tipsy along with everyone else or you risk insult. Just make sure to scream "Kanpai!".


Unfortunately, for us gaijin potheads in Japan, marijuana has never been the casual drug that it is back home. The J-Weed has always been overpriced and underrated. The stiff penalties with actual jail time for possesion an overreaction. You can't just skip out and take a short stroll to your corner conbini and grip a dub from your dealer. So if you're stuck in an inaka you're out of luck. But there's still hope! J-Weed has been in the national news a lot lately, increasing the interest, and we hope the availability of it among the youth:

Magic Mushrooms

Have you ever wondered why J-Art is always so original and creative? Have you ever wondered why Mario grew to such a gigantic size after gorging himself on a massive, multi-colored mushroom?

Well, most of Japan is covered in lush, dark-green, mysterious mountain country. The perfect place to incubate a Mushroom Kingdom.

The Japanese are known to eat just about anything, so why would magic mushrooms be any different?

Shrooms were perfectly legal in Japan until 2002; many famous J-Artists admit to using the psychedelic fungi. Can you imagine, there never would've been a Super Mario without the Super Shroom!


Shabu is 'speed'. Not Speed Racer. Made with pride in Japan in the late great 1800s. Widely used during WWII to fight fatigue and increase battle performance.

Controlled by the Yakuza after the War, shabu use became more widespread as the ravished populace raced to rebuild the country.

Shabu proved to be a hit and a perfect fit with the hardworking, detail-oriented, workaholics of the "Bubble Generation". It helped them to leap-frog the rest of the world, leaving them in the dust--until the bubble burst.

And since that blown tire, America has caught up and caught on: another name for Shabu is Meth.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

An Introduction

The Japanese In Me is firstly a collaboration between myself (Adam Glover), Joey Ridge, Remi Klauser, and Alex Johnston. The theme is: sex, drugs, love, Japan. A while ago I initially approached Alex with my idea and he was enthused. I told him that I wanted to create, or produce a book about studying abroad in Japan, based on our own experiences.

We just thought that it was strange that every year so many college students go to Japan, but everyone keeps all the crazy things that go on there a secret. As the project grew we included Joey and Remi, who I was friends with from Japan. They gave me access to their own personal journals and testimony and I created this novel, The Japanese In Me, with them.

As we go about promoting the novel and the project, we will all be blogging from this site and writing short ‘essays’ and articles about Japan. I will mainly be moderating in the background, but Remi, Alex, and Ridge, will be in charge of writing.

We aim to create the most “original” site about Japan and we will write about and cover topics that none other has before. We want people to use this site with the novel to learn what Japan is like before they go there.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Culture Shock and White Out, By Joey Ridge

Joey Ridge

"Culture Shock and White Out"

You think that you know "Japanese", but really you don't.

When you do get to Japan, and hear that gibberish spoken for real.

You won't even be able to say you know SOME Japanese!

You know what? I actually think it's better for you to go knowing nothing.

Then you'd be starting at zero. Not going backwards like I was...

I thought that I knew a little Japanese.

And tried so hard to hold onto what I had I couldn't learn anything else.

Add to that living in Japan, with all the people everywhere, and everything feels so tight and cramped.

Pretty soon the White-out was everywhere. It was like someone had gone into my head and left a trail of empty white splotches behind.

If I had known what it was really like in Japan, things would've been different.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An American Virgin in Japan, by Remi Klauser

Remi Klauser

"An American Virgin in Japan"

If, by the time you step off your 14 hour flight to Narita

or Kansai Airports in Japan, you still find yourself a virgin, don't worry.

You now find yourself Japan, the best possible place in the world to finally lose it!

This isn't like back home in America, despite what you've come to believe about yourself, in Japan you're different.

Here you're special, you're a commodity, you're a "GAIJIN".

Doesn't matter much whether you're into J-Girls,

or J-Guys, they'll all be into any kind of you.

And then after that, it's all up to you and what you do:

Will you finally figure out how to say the right things?

Will you live openly and only in the moment?

Will you ever be able to think about someone else?

Other than yourself?

Is LOVE too much for you?

The Japanese are waiting for you.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Capsule Hotels (I Chose To Be Japanese), By Alex Johnston

Alex on Capsule Hotels:

"I Chose To Be Japanese"

Whether you end up studying in Japan someday, or you never even get there, the odds you'll ever end up in a Capsule Hotel are STILL slim to none.

Doesn't matter if you're a student studying abroad in a remote rural village in the boonies of Wakayama.

Or a clueless, jet-lagged-out tourist at Akihabara, or a bored salaryman on a brief business trip in Roppongi Hills. Only very few will ever seek out sanctuary in a Capsule Hotel.

So, I won't bore you with "The Modern History of Compact Lodgings in Japan, and the Cultural Roles They've played in Shaping Japanese Society."

But, some of you may end up in a Capsule. At the end of a drunken dreary night, in Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo. An accident so you think, but really every moment in Japan had led you there fatigued, finally.

Inside the plastic-molded coccoon you fight back down the creeping of claustrophobia.

Barely roomier than a coffin, like being buried alive--only you're being born again.

When you flick off the mini track-light, a darkness so thick and imposing it doesn't stop, it envelopes you.

And then you can become someone else..

I chose to become Japanese.