Archive for September, 2007

Don’t Talk, Just React

As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, Masi Oka’s morning show spot was a rare moment in Japanese television because he was able to speak in their native tongue. No ill-equipped interpreters. No cultural barriers. No awkward silence. So what happens when other American actors come to Japan? Well, take a look for yourself…

I give Johnny Depp an A+ for not showing just how freaked out he was after that odd circus routine. I’m imagining those kids were either tortured or deprived of food in order to get them to conduct themselves in that most robotic way. (@_@)

Of course, from the kids’ costumes you can deduce that Depp is in town to promote the latest Pirates of the Caribbean epic. They have nothing to do with the movie, but when it comes to Japanese TV, who cares? Personally, it gets boring when celebrities go from one talk show to the next, regurgitating the same promotional pitch for their latest movie.

I prefer the Japanese TV show formula:

American actor + wacky Japanese = pure silliness

It’s especially great for people interested in seeing how their favorite actor is like in person. In lieu of serious questions, Japanese people like getting a rise out of Americans. It’s more fun that way.

I’ll leave you with a strange confrontation between Japanese comedian Akiba Kanpe and Angelina Jolie. It’s a little long but hang in there because it gets funnier by the minute.

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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September 28, 2007 at 1:43 pm

Feel the Techno Beat

On Saturday, September 1, when Americans were kicking back in anticipation of a nice long Labor Day weekend, techno music fans in Japan were partying from 6 pm to 6 am at Wire ’07, the best and biggest Japanese techno event of the year.

Wire, an all-ages show, was held in the enormous Yokohama Arena. Picture massive dance floors, several stages, a couple of bars and a World Café, packed with 15,000 excited people. Luckily there was also a so-called “Relaxing Area,” situated away from the high-energy rooms, where exhausted dancers were allowed to simply stand or sit when they could no longer move. (Everywhere else in the arena you were expected to partake in a Dance Dance Revolution.) Without a caffeine IV, I’d probably collapse after an hour or two of dancing, let alone twelve! But according to Japan Times, the huge, pulsing crowds at events like Wire feed off one another’s euphoria all night long. The electronic beat is intense and addictive. Just try listening to techno music without bopping your head and starting to groove.

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Famous DJs (notably Dave Clarke, who’s booked months in advance all over the world and has a new mix album due out in October) flew in from places like Munich, Beijing, Amsterdam, Paris, London, and Sao Paolo, and brought unique global sounds with them. Most DJs worked their magic in 70-minute individual sets of synthesized techno, combined with extraordinary light shows and endless video screens that mesmerized and entranced. Plenty of local talent like Ken Ishii, considered Japan’s first techno superstar, took to the stage as well.

Want to get your own techno party started? Check out the Wire ’07 compilation CD for ideas.

Next year is Wire’s 10th Anniversary. (I’m tired just imagining it!)

Sarah S.

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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September 25, 2007 at 1:40 pm

Think you know Japanese culture? Watch this video

If you fell off your chair from laughter then you probably realize that most of it is fallacious, or at least exaggerations of the truth. Of course there are the straight-up lies about cheap sushi containing chopped pasta and bad meat parts. And most people can call the bluff of sushi chefs using wooden sandals for plates.

Intermediate Japanese enthusiasts would know that the yellow-colored vegetable on the plate is actually pickled ginger, and that it’s impolite to drench your sushi in that much soy sauce.

But it’s the super Japanese enthusiast who’ll know that this is actually a video of what the Japanese people assume the rest of the world thinks of them: polite, misogynistic, serious, and anal. In reality, some of the cultural points are actually true. For example, you should always pour beer for your superiors, though most Japanese these days would say that women deserve to the favor, too. After all, Samurai rule ended over a century ago.

The video is part of a series on Japanese culture by the comedic duo The Rahmens, who previously made appearances on Mac vs. PC commercials. They’ve done other videos on the art of paper-folding, dancing, chopsticks, bowing, and how to woo women. They all teeter between reality and comedy and serve no purpose other than to amuse the audience.

My favorite segment in the sushi video comes at the end when the customers stoop in front of the restaurant to dabble their fingers in a dish of salt. Some You Tube viewers commented that they’d never seen salt laid out like that ― but it’s an actual practice. Salt is a symbol of purity. Not the virginal kind, but of cleanliness. When sumo wrestlers enter the ring they throw salt on the ground as a symbolic cleansing. (Traditionally, women are not allowed to stand in the ring because their menstrual cycle deems them impure.) So seeing the Rahmens licking the salt supposedly because they didn’t get enough for dinner is quite a sight. In fact, it’s making me hungry. ^_<

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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September 20, 2007 at 1:36 pm 2 comments

Lights! Camera! Action! Commercial?

In Sofia Coppola’s 2003 ode to Tokyo, Lost in Translation, Bill Murray’s character is washed-up movie star who heads to Japan to film a commercial for Suntory whiskey. He’s lured there by promises of a big paycheck and the assumption that nobody in the United States will ever see him schilling the product.

suntory.jpg

In the U.S. we have a pretty clear “class distinction” between movie stars, TV stars, and commercial actors. Most American movie stars wouldn’t be caught dead appearing in TV commercials — they don’t want to be viewed as sell-outs — but if they’re guaranteed no one from home will see the ad, they certainly don’t mind the extra cash for a day or two’s work!

Japanese ads tend to have higher budgets, and it shows; the slick finished products usually tell a story and are shot artistically like a short film. Even Orson Welles and Audrey Hepburn starred in Japanese ads, while turning down American ones.

But these days, with everything in the world a YouTube click away, actors can’t expect their extracurricular activity to stay hidden, and the results are pretty hilarious.

Cracked.com offers “The Five Most Ridiculous Celebrity Cameos in Japanese Ads” for your viewing amusement. The list features Arnold Schwarzenegger extolling the virtue of Vfuyy, an energy drink, and Nicolas Cage (cousin of Sophia Coppola, by the way!) endorsing a company that makes pachinko parlors.
A more recent Japanese ad stars Kiefer Sutherland playing a version of Jack Bauer, his no-nonsense character on FOX’s 24. The fast-paced commercial, for a gelatinous energy supplement called Calorie Mate, depicts Kief desperately searching for the treat while running through a train filled with Japanese schoolgirls:

Other favorites seen only in Japan, either in print or on TV:

Leonardo DiCaprio endorses the Orico credit card; Winona Ryder likes Caffe Latte; Harrison Ford finds Kirin beer refreshing; and Charlie Sheen likes Parliament cigarettes!

Sarah S.

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more —————————————————————————

September 15, 2007 at 1:35 pm 2 comments

Superheroes Fly to Tokyo

The cast of NBC’s “Heroes” visited Japan last week to promote the sci-fi drama about ordinary people discovering their superhuman powers. The show is yet to air internationally, but given its cult-like status it’s only a matter of time.

heroes-hiro.jpg

It’s especially interesting to see the cast doing the Japanese press circuit because the show’s main star, Masi Oka, happens to be born there. He left Japan when he was 6, so I was curious to see how well he’d interact with people there.

In the above clip, which is from a Fuji TV morning show called “Mezamashi TV,” Masi tells hosts that he’s taken up translating his own lines into Japanese. He mentions how when he first got the show’s script the now-famous phrase “YATTA~!” (“Yes!”) was written as “Bonsai!” But of course, most people know that bonsai are those mini-trees you place next to the mini-Zen sand garden in your office cubicle. What the writers meant to say was “Banzai,” but Masi informed them of the negative wartime implication the word had, so he took it upon himself to correct it. (WWII soldiers had been known to say the phrase before committing suicide.)

To prove just how popular Masi Oka’s character, Hiro Nakamura, has become in the U.S., the morning show asked New Yorkers who they first think of when it comes to Japanese people. Of course, most people said “Hiro” and followed with a “Yatta!” cheer.

For the most part, Masi did a good job chatting it up with talk show hosts, though judging by his intonation my native friends could tell he’d been in the U.S. for a while. He keeps up with the language by reading comics and watching Japanese TV on videotapes sent by his grandmother. One of his favorite comedians is a duo called Taka and Toshi who are seen in the video below. The subtitles let you know what they’re saying verbatim but there’s definitely something lost in translation.

Hiro, whose superpower lets him travel through time and space, is already being compared to the geeks of “Densha Otoko.” I’m sure in Akihabara they’re counting down the days until “Heroes” airs in Japan. That’s when they can relish, once again, in their geeky-cool glory.

Himawari

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Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!
JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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September 7, 2007 at 1:33 pm

Brand New Internet from Japan?

Japan Today reports that Japanese communications minister Yoshihide Suga believes “Japan will start research and development on technology for a new generation of network that would replace the Internet.”

internet2.jpg


Replace the Internet?? Hey, it could happen. Think back to the early ’90s. You probably weren’t even online yet, let alone using email, broadband, Youtube, wireless connections, iPhones, or even digital cameras. Back then, could you even imagine how technology would one day rule your life?

Well, Yoshihide Suga thinks a Japan-led superior internet structure, with security, speed, and reliability to put our current online experience to shame, will reach the public and commercial market in 2020. Suga’s team, which will form this fall, has plans to bring added technology to businesses, government and schools. This isn’t a small project, either. The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry of Japan will seek 7.8 billion (nearly $68 million) for the project in the 2008.

Already, a so-called “Internet2” has been in use by academic institutions for several years. It’s separate from the main worldwide web and moves data up to 1,000 times faster. Members must present a research-related purpose to be allowed to use it, so they don’t clog up the system for everyone else.

Japan is known for taking existing technology and making it smaller, faster, cooler, or cuter. Who knows what innovative changes will be considered commonplace in 2020?

Sarah

—————————————————————————
Thinking of doing business in Japan? We can make it easy for you!

JPBizDirect, a Los Angeles based company, provides practical solutions for U.S. – Japan business projects. Our experienced Japanese staff will support all phases of your business project to seize business opportunities and turn your vision into a reality. >> Learn more
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September 5, 2007 at 1:31 pm


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