The Acceptance of J-Pop in Singapore

In 2006, Arashi, one of the best-known J-pop group in Asia held their first concert in Taiwan.  Their popularity in Asia is tremendous.  Including Arashi, J-pop groups are popular in East and Southeast Asian countries.  What made J-pop popular in those countries?  Singapore, where the sales of Japanese recordings have increased by more than ten times from 1999 to 2002, shows a good example. [Read more…]

The “radio” of the 21st Century


Radio changed American society in a huge way, and not too long ago our grandparents grew up listening to news, weather, and entertainment programs around the radio. They thought of radio the same way we view TV. This quotation from the newsletter Interadio expresses the importance of the radio: [Read more…]

J-Pop and Its Appeal

J-pop.  You can go almost anywhere in the world and find a J-pop fanatic.   The melodies are catchy, the rhythm is upbeat and the singers are ultra-glamorous.   But what is it exactly that makes J-pop so irresistible?  The music itself is somewhat uncreative, and most of the “artists” are contrived, being told by their managers how to look, act and sing.  According to Koizumi, the reason J-pop is so popular, in Japan at least, is precisely because it is all pretty much the same.



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Spirited Away and Anime in the American Cinema Market

Far more Americans saw the clips from Spirited Away shown just before its Academy Award was announced than will ever see the movie. Despite anime’s extreme popularity in certain US markets, anime films have almost universally underwhelmed at US box offices and receive little general exposure in the states. What did it take for Spirited Away to attain its relative prominence in the American market and, if any, what effect has its story tell us about the possibilities for wide scale US distribution of anime films in the States? [Read more…]

Pop Psychosis: the Influence of the Bomb on Superflat Art

Takashi Murakami,

Murakami Takashi, "Gero-Tan" "I express hopelessness."

In the past several decades, Japanese popular culture has become inundated with a “cute” or kawaii aesthetic that is unique to the country. This imagery is present in media, advertising, and merchandise, and its appeal has expanded to overseas markets—the worldwide popularity of Hello Kitty being one of the best examples of this phenomenon. But when the bright colors, cartoon characters and whimsical subject matter began appearing in high art, it prompted a discussion as to why cuteness had developed such appeal and become so omnipresent. Japanese artists of the Superflat movement use the language of this pop culture iconography to explore what kawaii says about the Japanese people and their history. Takashi Murakami, founding member of the Superflat movement and author of its manifesto, views the development of kawaii as Japan’s response to World War II and the atomic bomb. [Read more…]

Takashi Murakami & Louis Vuitton: Superflat meets Superfashion

When these two giants met, things went wild. The first collection of bags Murakami designed for the fashion house (at the order of creative director, Marc Jacobs) rejuvenated the brand–Louis Vuitton wasn’t just high-end French couture anymore, it was kawaii!3lvmurbags460 Everyone loved the collection, and the West took notice–suddenly, Murakami and his Superflatness became a big name, and not just for those in the Art scene. In fact, Murakami was worried that his initial association with LV would mislead his new found fans into thinking he was simply a hand bag designer. In a TIME Magazine article, he said that he was going to take a break from the commercial and re-establish himself as a fine artist. This reaction is strange, considering that Murakami widely promotes his art as commercial–as only commercial–as if there was no difference between the two. He even included a mini Louis Vuitton boutique in his traveling  ©Murakami show, which toured around the US. It’s this idea of superflat and commercial consumption as indistinguishable that seems, well, a little more complicated than that. [Read more…]

Sasuke Mania

Sasuke Mania

In class we have discussed the Otaku culture in Japan, and how it is perceived by through the media, and within certain social frames.  While there are similar social phenomena in the United States within certain communities (gaming, comic book, etc), I would argue that the otaku lifestyle seems to be a uniquely Japanese occurrence.  I find this to be true because unlike American geek communities Otaku have a stronger influence on greater Japanese culture and lifestyle, which is evident through the existance of locations like Akihabara (certain similar American communities have not yet reached a level of influence that they have entire neigborhoods).  Generally an otaku is an individual whose life is governed by their obsessions, that generally relate to gaming, anime, manga, dame, and other virtual experiences. [Read more…]

Hello Couture Kitty! Sanrio Kawaii as “Re-juvenilization”

Based in Tokyo, Japan, the Sanrio Corporation was founded by Shintaro Tsuji as the Yamanashi Silk Company in 1960, intended to produce a line of character merchandise and stationary appropriate for Japanese gift-giving occasions. In 1973 the company was officially established under the name “Sanrio,” which combines the Japanese word “San” (meaning three) and the Spanish word “Rio” (meaning river). By 1990, Sanrio was the largest greeting card company in Japan, with a cat named Hello Kitty as its most popular character. Currently, Hello Kitty represents roughly 5,000 of the 15,000 Sanrio products available, and she accounts for over half of Sanrio’s annual sales, which reached approximately $1.2 billion dollars (¥139 billion) in the year 2000 alone. Despite the fact that Hello Kitty has helped Sanrio gain worldwide notoriety, more than 90 percent of the company’s sales are generated in Japan, where Sanrio owns a restaurant chain, movie theaters and a production company, a television and video game series, book and magazine publications, two amusement parks, and a franchises a chain of more than 2,500 retail stores. [Read more…]

Mukoku- Kitty: The Postmodern Cat

Hello Kitty Airplane-704368

Hello Kitty is one of the most recognizable characters of Japanese cool.  Created in 1974, Kitty-chan merchandise has been marketed worldwide to children and adults alike, and she was recently named the Ambassador of Tourism for Japan.  So what is so special about this kitty?  What exactly are Americans consuming when we take part in the Kitty Boom?  Are we buying Japan, or is it just cute? [Read more…]

Hayao Miyazaki: The Transnational Fantasy of Post-WWII Japan

Of all of Japan’s modern international cultural product, perhaps the most prominent is Japanese animation, or animé, and for more than a decade, Hayao Miyazaki has been the preeminent Japananese anime filmmaker.  Wildly popular within Japan, Miyazaki’s influence has gone global, and his art is appreciated by both young and old worldwide. [Read more…]