Eco Edo Nihonbashi Art Aquarium: Tokyo’s summer spectacle of goldfish and Edo colors returns

Written by: William on July 17, 2014 at 8:55 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | 1 Comment

After first appearing in 2011 and proving a massive success in both 2012 and in 2013, the spectacular Eco Edo Nihonbashi Art Aquarium 2014 is back. Exploiting Japan’s love of the decorative and the vibrant colors of kingyo goldfish to the max, the Art Aquarium event is popular with couples on dates and families looking for eye candy for the kids.

It opened for the fourth time at the Nihonbashi venue on July 11th. Last year’s edition achieved more than 300,000 visitors and this year the organizers surely hope to match this, pulling out all the stops with 5,000 goldfish and even new aquaria that use mirrors and lens called Paradoxrium and Reflectrium.

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

Technically speaking, there are two events: Art Aquarium is open from 11:00 to 19:00 while the Night Aquarium is from 19:00 to 23:30. As we said, the two main targets here are surely families and couples, so from 19:00 the lighting and music change, and visitors are allowed to take around drinks with them. There will also be live music from 19:00 on weekends. In other words, expect things to feel more romantic from the evening.

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

Themed around Edo and the goldfish motifs that populate art from the period, the aquarium is very much steeped in the tones of Japonism. It’s only a small coincidence that the venue is in Nihonbashi, an area that was instrumental in the Meiji and Taisho eras as Tokyo modernized.

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

There are many different kinds of aquaria featured in the exhibition, from balls to folding screen shapes, and complete with outlandish names like Elegance Dance, Bonborium, and Byouburium. You can see a slideshow and bilingual descriptions on the Art Aquarium website.

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

eco edo nihonbashi art aquarium tokyo goldfish event summer

Eco Edo Nihonbashi Art Aquarium 2014 runs until September 23rd at the Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall.

[Images source]

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Japanese idol metal band Babymetal appears in UK fashion magazine i-D

Written by: William on July 16, 2014 at 9:08 am | In CULTURE | 5 Comments

The website for UK fashion magazine i-D currently features Japanese idol group Babymetal. Online you can find an interview with the three young Japanese ladies, “bringing kawaii-metal to the world”.

Part gothic Lolita, part heavy metal, Babymetal have just appeared at Sonicsphere along with the likes of Iron Maiden. The three-piece is SU-METAL (16), YUIMETAL (15) and MOAMETAL (15), who certainly know how to scream.

baby metal kawaii idol band japanese i-d magazine world tour

i-D claims that Babymetal’s “eponymous debut album headed straight to the top of the charts worldwide, with a unique sound that merges Slayer with the very best dance mat anthems.” Well, we’re not sure they have their facts right (top of the charts worldwide?) but we like their enthusiasm. “It is awesome. With an incredible energy and a performance unlike anything you’ve seen before, a new legend is born.”

Here are some extracts from the “giggle-filled interview ahead of the band’s very first, very sold-out, London show.”

How was Sonisphere?

SU-METAL: It was the first time that we performed on such a huge stage so before we went on we were very nervous. The audience cheered lots so it made us very happy.

I heard that you performed on the same stage as Iron Maiden, who you’ve said before is your favorite metal band, how was that?

SU-METAL: We actually stayed on to watch their performance and we were like “did we really just play the same stage as them?!” It was really unbelievable.

You met some legendary metal bands too!

SU-METAL: Yes! Backstage at Sonisphere we were wearing BABYMETAL tshirts that reference classic metal bands like Anthrax, Slayer and Megadeath, so people recognise those and come to talk to us. So we took photos with some of the artists which was really cool.

Tell us about the fox god…

SU-METAL: We don’t really know what the fox god like because we’ve never met it, but we always have this message from this little master and we act accordingly. So we’re doing this European tour because of the calling. We’ve managed to achieve so many things that we would never even have dreamed of, so we really feel that there is a fox god leading us.

How does metal music make you feel? Angry? Powerful?

SU-METAL: It is more to do with my relation to the music, but whenever I perform it’s different to how I feel normally. I’m quite shy myself – I don’t actually go out dancing and headbanging but when I become SU-METAL and perform, it’s not embarrassing anymore. So when I perform, there are new discoveries in myself.

You’re supporting Lady Gaga. Are you excited?

SU-METAL: We’re all so excited! It still feels like a dream.

Her sound is very different to kawaii-metal, how do you think her fans will react?

SU-METAL: You’re right — in terms of music we’re completely different, but we ourselves didn’t know about metal music before Babymetal. When we first heard it we thought ‘what the hell is this?!’ but found it very interesting and enjoyed it, so I think the fans of Lady Gaga who don’t normally listen to metal music might feel the same way as us.

If you weren’t in Babymetal, what do you think you’d be doing right now?

SU-METAL: Just going to school and studying like ordinary kids. I don’t think we’d have the opportunity to go abroad or anything like that.

Which characters do you think you’re most like?

MOAMETAL: My favorite animation is “Love Live” and there is a character called Honoka Kosaka and I think I’m most like her, but who I aspire to be like is Nausicaa from “Valley of the Wind”.

YUIMETAL: I would like to be the Little Mermaid so I can live in the sea

SU-METAL: I would like to be the lead girl in Mama-Mia because she’s such a positive thinker.

This is the trailer to the band’s world tour, which kicked off in March in Tokyo.

Two years ago, in a country far, far away… It is a period of pop music. Rebel idols, striking from a hidden base in Japan, have won their first victory against the boring music empire. During the battle, the kitsune-sama fox god revealed his ultimate weapon, BABYMETAL, a kawaii-metal band with enough power to drive the metal resistance and restore musical freedom to the galaxy…

i-D magazine has been a stable for over 30 years now, famed for its wink-and-smile front covers and its coverage of the world’s fashion elite.

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Transformers, Anime in Disguise: Chogokin Chogattai SF Robot Fujiko F Fujio Character Robot is an amazing six anime character combo!

Written by: Japan Trends on July 15, 2014 at 10:14 am | In CULTURE, PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

While the latest Michael Bay Transformers movie is shooting up the box office around the world (though not yet in Japan), it’s worth taking a look at a pretty spectacular local Japanese version. A veritable manga character Transformer!

Celebrating 80 years since the birth of Hiroshi Fujimoto, one of the manga-writing duo Fujiko Fujio, here is Bandai Tamashii’s Chogokin Chogattai SF Robot Fujiko F Fujio Character Robot! We don’t know how to begin describing this. It is made up of SIX Fujiko F Fujio (Hiroshi Fujimoto) characters that combine into one model. The “SF” in the name stands for both “sci-fi” and “sukoshi fushigi” (a bit mysterious), while “Chogattai” is a play on the name of the series (Chogokin) and means “super combo”.

chogokin chogattai sf robot fujiko f fujio model bandai tamashii toy doraemon

How’s your anime and manga character knowledge? How many of the “parts” can you name?

Okay, here’s a spoiler: The cast is made up Doraemon, Dorami (Doraemon’s sister), Perman, Korosuke (from Kiteretsu Daihyakka), Chinpui, and Gonsuke (from 21emon).

If you wondering what that big thing the Chogattai is carrying, it’s artist Fujimoto’s iconic red beret hat and pen. Another accessory included is the popular time machine from the Doraemon series.

chogokin chogattai sf robot fujiko f fujio model bandai tamashii toy doraemon

This rather strange but also rather awesome model/toy will get a release in late November.

Chogokin (literally “super alloy”) is a series of die-cast metal toys and models that first appeared in the late 1970′s. It’s pretty geekily Japanese — after all, who names a series after a fake material?! It is undergoing something of a revival at the moment. It’s the 40th anniversary of the model series owned by parent company Bandai, who now release the series through its Tamashii arm.

In recent years Chogokin has only been known for superior scale models of bullet trains, GX-64 Space Battleship Yamato 2199 and other modes of transport. However, of late we have seen an incredible Chogokin Hello Kitty there are more original releases to come, it seems. Look out for a Chogokin model based on the iconic Tower of the Sun by Taro Okamoto!

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Save the Okura: Monocle magazine campaigns to rescue Tokyo’s Hotel Okura from demolition

Written by: William on July 14, 2014 at 8:56 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | No Comments

We remember the good ol’ days when every tech blog was keen-eyed for the latest development from Japan, when mainstream newspapers at least partly seemed to take Japanese fashion seriously, and… well, when our job was way easier! It’s so much harder these days to get other folk excited about Japan, even with the Olympics a few years away and the government’s mega-budget “Cool Japan” juggernaut apparently running at full steam. Japan just ain’t cool anymore.

But Monocle disagrees: Monocle loves Japan. The magazine of choice for hipsters, sophisticates and pseuds has an obsession with things Japanese — well, at least, that certain kind of highly curated and orchestrated “design” world Japan. It might not have anything to do with how ordinary Japanese people live their lives but Monocle at any rate adores Tokyo’s pristine and over-priced coffee shops, its toniest of tony boutiques, the design for exclusive clients by the likes of Kengo Kuma, and so on.

Its issues invariably feature a dose of Japan content from both Tokyo and the regions, and in the past it has put out a mini select store in the FrancFranc in Aoyama and even set up a Monocle Cafe in Marunouchi.

monocle save the okura hotel tokyo designer demolition online petition campaign

Founder Tyler Brûlé once mused to The Japan Times about what it is that he loves about Japan.

Tokyo is a city with a 24-hour metabolism. Customer service in Japan has an enthusiasm, a sense of “going for it,” that’s consistent. Whether it’s in a convenience store or a hotel, there’s an attention to detail. In the West, in too many cases, doing things “quickly” has become “slapdash.”

Now Monocle is on a mission: to save the Hotel Okura.

monocle save the okura hotel tokyo designer demolition online petition campaign

monocle save the okura hotel tokyo designer demolition online petition campaign

The magazine has launched an online petition to have the famous hotel saved from demolition.

It’s the “final checkout,” as they say.

News that Tokyo’s iconic 1960s Hotel Okura is to be reconstructed has been met with outrage from admirers of its unique design. While Tokyo’s changing skyline is what makes it special, demolitions like this threaten its architectural history.

monocle save the okura hotel tokyo designer demolition online petition campaign

The Hotel Okura is one of the great symbols of Japan’s postwar recovery, along with the Shinkanzen bullet train and Tokyo Tower. It opened two years ahead of the first Tokyo Olympics and its recent guests have included President Obama.

In September 2015 the best bit of the most loved hotel in Tokyo will be torn down by its owners to make way for a 38-storey glass tower. It will be a heartbreaking and irreparable loss.

The 550-room hotel will open 2019, in time for the Rugby World Cup and Tokyo Olympics. Though the 1973 Okura annex will remain, we can bid farewell to the murals, the wood, the tuxedos (on the staff), and the folk art motifs.

monocle save the okura hotel tokyo designer demolition online petition campaign

As a devotee of Japanese aesthetics, Monocle is taking the redevelopment very personally:

The demise of the Okura is akine to the loss of a good friend. Tokyo will not be the same without it.

As well as this online endeavor, Monocle’s current July/August issue is running a generous six-page photo report paying tribute to the Okura and showcasing the efforts to save it.

monocle save the okura hotel tokyo designer demolition online petition campaign

Sign the petition on savetheokura.com.

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“One Piece” exhibition canceled in Seoul due to Rising Sun Flag “nationalist” images

Written by: William on July 11, 2014 at 10:11 am | In CULTURE | 3 Comments

An exhibition based on the massively popular manga “One Piece” scheduled to take place at the War Memorial of Korea in Seoul from July 12th has been canceled, it was announced on July 10th.

Organizers said they have made the decision after people realized that numerous motifs in the original manga were reminiscent of the Rising Sun flag, a symbol of Japanese militarism and which has a particularly painful resonance in Korea, a country which suffered from decades as a colony of Japan.

The TV anime version of “One Piece” has already been broadcast in Korea and so the content of the exhibition had previously been judged as harmless, according to the museum. As such, they agreed to rent out a section of the venue for the event. However, after being told that Rising Sun Flag images appeared in the original manga they changed their minds, although no such images were featured in the actual planned exhibits. As the museum is run as a public organization funded by the state they had no choice but to cancel the exhibition.

one piece manga expo exhibition korea seoul cancel politics rising sun flag nationalist symbol wartime aggression

Like in Japan, Eiichiro Oda’s “One Piece” is popular in Korea and the exhibition, along with sketches and other materials, was going to feature life-size models of the characters, bringing the world of the manga and anime to 3D life for visitors. It would have been very successful too if early numbers are anything to go by. The events company behind the show said it had received reservations alone from 5,000 people! Not surprisingly they are now looking for an alternative venue for their exhibition since there is clearly demand for it, regardless of the politics.

While it might seem inappropriate or even bizarre to hold a mainstream exhibition (i.e. a piece of entertainment) like this at a war memorial in the first place, the Seoul venue is actually very large and has multiple spaces for all kinds of functions and events.

A similar exhibition opened recently in Taiwan, also a former Japanese colony, apparently without similar issues.

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Noriko Takasugi’s “Fukushima Samurai” photography series documents quiet dignity of Japan’s disaster survivors

Written by: William on July 11, 2014 at 8:41 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

Photographer Noriko Takasugi has devoted herself to going in search of modern-day “samurai” in the devastated region of Fukushima in northeast Japan.

Her “Fukushima Samurai” series, though, is far from being just a cosplay gimmick. It’s a story of identity. As the artist says: “Since 2011, I have devoted my time to capturing the survivors of 3.11. While I am listening to their story, I could not ignore the unique spirit emerging in these people. These photos are part of my long-term project that differs from the major news stories about the disaster, having been investigating the evacuees not as victims, but as part of a 1,000-year-old folk culture of the area and representative of Japanese identity, examining how they are surviving and fighting their fate to retain their sense of self.”

fukushima samurai noriko takasugi photography soma nomaoi festival

With a background in clinical psychology at Waseda University and training under Daido Moriyama, Takasugi is one of eight photographers engaged since 2011 in the “Fukushima Photo Project”. Her own contribution looks at identity and the relationship between man and the environment.

Her project focuses on participants in Soma-Nomaoi, an annual celebration in Fukushima that is 1,000 years old. The high point of the famous three-day festival in the district sees horsemen dressed in traditional samurai gear race against each other.

The resulting work, “Fukushima Samurai”, is available as a photo book and is an exploration of Japan as a “hidden world” of ordinary human warmth and triumph in the wake of the 3.11 disaster. As Takasugi notes, Soma-Nomaoi “is not just an event but also an embodiment of their identity and fight for survival. Here, the samurai way of life, Bushido, corresponds to the concept of chivalry. This sense of identity represents how and why, they live.”

fukushima samurai noriko takasugi photography soma nomaoi festival

The series of portraits of these unbroken men, still intent on participating in Soma-Nomaoi in spite of the hardships they have faced (death, radiation, the destruction of their homes and businesses), is a quiet reflection on masculinity and the dignity and tenacity required to overcome adversity. It might not be the Hollywood version of the samurai spirit but it’s there all right.

Her work has attracted the attention of press such as The Independent newspaper and has been exhibited widely, including in the UK.

fukushima samurai noriko takasugi photography soma nomaoi festival

As Takasugi says:

The Nomaoi Samurai warriors portrayed here were once residents in the area close to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant but they are no longer allowed to live there. Each of them stands in the places that had a personal meaning to them in the area.

Nomaoi Samurai who stand here were the residents of the area near Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. They are unable to live there anymore but are able to enter the territory during a day. The Nomaoi men took me to the restricted area, to the places personally meaningful to them, reviving memories of home.

Armored from head to toe with inherited familial flags hanging from their backs, five hundred samurai storm forward recreating a battle scene. Soma-Nomaoi is an annual celebration of samurai culture in Fukushima more than one thousand years old.

The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 caused widespread destruction including the explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. About two thousand people died in Fukushima, eighty per cent of whom were from the area where the Soma-Nomaoi is held. Due to the radiation, the people were forced to relocate the day after the disaster, with many indefinitely losing their houses, land and jobs.

Despite the harsh conditions, loss of lives and loss of hundreds of their horses and much of their armory, the majority of the surviving Nomaoi men agreed to hold the gathering in 2011, just a few months after the disaster.

Having spent a month with the local people between summer and autumn 2012, I believe Soma-Nomaoi is not just an event but an embodiment of their identity and fight for survival. This unique sense of identity represents not only how, but why, they live.

“It has been tough working there since the disaster,” said one of the portrait subjects, “but I could survive because of Soma-Nomaoi.”

fukushima samurai noriko takasugi photography soma nomaoi festival

If you’re in Tokyo, be sure to check out Takasugi’s series of “Fukushima Samurai” at the Konica Minolta Plaza until July 14th.

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JR West traditional crafts tourist train gets decorated with Wajima lacquer and Kaga Yuzen kimono dyeing design

Written by: William on July 10, 2014 at 10:56 am | In CULTURE | No Comments

JR West has announced a special new tourism train that will run between Kanazawa and Wakura hot spring in 2015.

Kanazawa, known as a “mini Kyoto”, is the main city in Ishikawa Prefecture, which sticks out on the west coast of Japan in the Hokuriku region. The prefecture is famed for its sushi, kimono dyeing, lacquerware, gold leaf, and other traditional crafts. Along with Kanazawa, another major center for the arts is Wajima, a small city located further along the Noto peninsular.

jr west wakura onsen kanazawa tourism sightseeing train lacquerware wajima kaga yuzen crafts traditional design

Not surprisingly then, the new JR West train’s interior and exterior is inspired by the wa and bi (Japanese beauty) of Wajima lacquer and Kaga Yuzen, a local kimono silk fabric dyeing technique (Kaga was the old samurai domain when the Maeda clan ruled Ishikawa before the Meiji Restoration).

The crafts train starts running in October 2015. It has capacity for 52 passengers in two carriages, including private cabins. The carriages are differently designed, either with Wajima lacquer or Kaga Yuzen themes. It will run for around 150 days a year on weekends and holidays.

jr west wakura onsen kanazawa tourism sightseeing train lacquerware wajima kaga yuzen crafts traditional design

JR often creates special trains for sightseeing lines. Along with Japanese prefectures’ penchant for yuru-kyara mascots, it is one of the most successful tactics for luring local tourists. They go as much for the experience of the transportation — whether it be kitsch or luxury — as to visit the place itself. JR West also recently teamed up with Sanrio to create a Hello Kitty locomotive for Wakayama Prefecture.

jr west wakura onsen kanazawa tourism sightseeing train lacquerware wajima kaga yuzen crafts traditional design

Kanazawa is anticipating a huge boost to its already fairly large tourism industry when the extension of the Shinkansen bullet train from Nagano to Kanazawa opens in spring 2015. While Kansai sightseers can take the Thunderbird express from Osaka to Kanazawa, until now Kanto folk had no equivalent and usually change in Niigata to the slower coastal train that passes down through Niigata, Toyama to Ishikawa. With the Shinkansen, they will be able to take one express from Tokyo straight to Kanazawa.

[Via Nippon.com]

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You-Bumi Waterproof Book Cover Bath Bag: A book jacket for analog types who like reading in the bath!

Written by: Japan Trends on July 9, 2014 at 8:55 am | In PRODUCT INNOVATION | No Comments

The Japanese are obsessed with bathing. From hot springs (onsen) to public baths (sento), and even home foot baths for feet saunas, the Japanese take the water, temperature, location and duration of a bath very seriously. They will make special trips to a place just to visit a certain bath.

But sometimes this isn’t practical. It’s hard to read in the bath, as we know, and it’s also getting more dangerous for the wallet as we change the way we read. Dropping a magazine or paperback in the tub is one thing; letting slip your tablet or smartphone is quite another. Luckily there are some waterproof covers and bags to help you stay safe from butterfingers while browsing on your device.

you-bumi reading book cover case jacket bath bag

But what about books? Yes, Japan once had the reputation for being the world’s leading producer of hi-tech, a status it has ceded recently to Korea (i.e., Samsung) and America (i.e., Apple). But this nifty product reminds that people are still innovating — just not in the way you may initially assume. After all, why always move forwards when there is space sideways?

Some people are still very analog (hey, we’re not all digital immigrants, after all) and like to read using good ol’ fashioned paper pages. If you also like to take long baths, you arrive back to that well-known conundrum of how to avoid getting your book wet and wrinkling the pages. Well, the You-Bumi Waterproof Book Cover Bath Bag has you covered, or, to be precise, it has your book covered.

you-bumi reading book cover case jacket bath bag

Available now from the JapanTrendShop, this unusual device is a special inflatable bag for holding your book in the bath. It can hold a variety of book sizes and comes with carefully designed finger slots so you can grasp your favorite tome more easily and — here’s the rub — TURN the pages without getting any page-blotting water involved.

It comes in a pale blue color (obviously transparent) and while you shouldn’t fully submerge the You-Bumi (the name means “bath literature”, by the way) when you’ve got a book inside, it should mean you never had to worry about getting a damp book again.

Created by Jerry Cole Design (despite the name, they are Japanese), Gizmodo makes a nice comparison to the water wings that kids wear when learning to swim and calls it an inflatable, waterproof life jacket for books that means you can even read in the rain.

you-bumi reading book cover case jacket bath bag

You can order the You-Bumi Waterproof Book Cover Bath Bag from JapanTrendShop.

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As Shinzo Abe’s government seeks to change Constitution, AKB48′s Haruka Shimazaki fronts Self-Defense Forces recruitment video

Written by: William on July 8, 2014 at 8:18 am | In CULTURE, LIFESTYLE | 1 Comment

A recruitment campaign ad fronted by a sweet-looking, innocent pop music idol? Only in Japan.

haruka shimazaki akb48 sdf recruitment ad commercial

“You and Peace” declares Haruka Shimazaki, the 20-year-old pop singer and member of idol group AKB48, who is the face of a new Self-Defense Forces recruitment commercial.

The SDF has a long history now of using moe motifs and Gravure idols in its recruitment campaigns and other promotional materials. It continues to do this because it increases applications among young men, no doubt charmed by the faux innocence of the visuals.

While this may cause a mixture of amusement, embarrassment or even mild shock to outsiders, this time the stakes are higher. The government is ramming through a change to the law to allow for so-called collective self-defense which lets Japan help defend its allies abroad (as opposed to strictly self-defense of Japan only). It is widely seen as the first step towards changing Japan’s much-lauded pacifist Constitution and has met with mass protests around Japan for weeks now, and even a shocking self-immolation in Shinjuku that was inexplicable ignored by much of the mainstream Japanese media.

Though its budget is larger than many nations with very active militaries and spending was boosted in 2013, Japan’s armed forces are still officially only for “self-defense”. As per the controversial Anpo security treaty, the USA promises to step in help defend Japan in the worst case scenario — hence the continued presence of American bases, especially in Japan. As thanks for hosting the US military, Japan benefits from American protection. Ostensibly its own forces, then, are for wasting money on purchasing equipment and arms it won’t need and to be used in major disasters — the SDF proved itself indispensable during the Tohoku crisis in spring 2011.

The new AKB48 Haruka Shimazaki commercial comes at a Rubicon moment. As the scholar Dexter Thomas lucidly points out in a recent column for Al Jazeera:

We might wonder if a male spokesperson might be a better choice: for example, a member of Exile, a J-pop supergroup of 19 men. They are one of the most successful and recognisable pop groups in Japan, with their own magazine, TV show, and over a dozen chart-topping albums. They regularly appear half-clothed on advertisements and billboards, and represent the pinnacle of mass-market masculinity. Also, Abe clearly has access to them: He invited them to perform at an ASEAN banquet only a few months ago. Wouldn’t an Exile member in fatigues be a great encouragement to get young men to rush to the nearest recruitment centre?

In short: no, because it would be too realistic. If one of these popular young men appeared in a military advertisement, it would be too easy to imagine that young man being killed in a war – and, by extension, for a young man watching the commercial to imagine themselves dying. Or, for anyone with a son or brother to imagine that person dying.

Instead, the aim behind using AKB 48 seems to be an attempt to appeal to a specific male desire to protect “their” women, all while cleverly sidestepping the possibility of danger.

Most countries’ military commercials give a glorified version of military service – bravery, sacrifice, adventure. We see images of men and women holding guns, sitting in tanks, and actually preparing for combat. This commercial does none of that.

Instead, the SDF commercial spends more time on close ups of the pretty girl’s face than anything else. The rest of the shots are mainly dedicated to pictures of young men standing at attention or running with tote bags. The last shot of a uniformed soldier is a smiling man hugging a young girl, with the caption “Disaster Relief”.

In other words, there is no mention of armed combat. The cutesy voiceover tells the viewer that the military is a place that is “like the sky, full of unlimited dreams”. This is no longer a military recruitment spot, this is an invitation to Tokyo Disneyland.

“War without actual war”? Yes, a fantasy for sure but no one is talking about this particular elephant in the room.

Japan’s forces have been participating in United Nations peace-keeping operations abroad for years now and SDF personnel were eventually sent to Iraq to assist the American mission (collective self-defense in all but name). However, essentially the SDF is untested in combat and whatever the saccharine appeal of Haruka Shimazaki, the reality of war is very far removed from the artificial world of idols. Any new recruits may one day soon find themselves having signed up for more than they expected…

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