Can you tell which is the “real” Gaga in this picture?
Here’s the official description:
Japan’s latest and finest technologies were put into the creation of the “GAGADOLL”. It’s the world’s first life-size human-shaped listening station that closely resembles Lady Gaga. The bone conduction system enables one to listen to her songs and message.
The “GAGADOLL” was inspired by the concept of “ARTPOP” and this masterpiece made by Japan’s master craftsmen has been highly-praised by Lady Gaga herself.
Orient Industry are more craftsmen than “adult toy” manufacturers, and their commitment to extreme detail and realism is legendary. From movable fingers and eyes to a myriad variations in body, bust and face, they provide customizable life companions for those who dare to desire one.
The Gagadoll is not on sale but it can be booked for events and appearances, according to the official website.
ARTPOP opened at number one in Japan and no doubt this marketing stunt can’t have hurt sales.
Nippon TV’s Song for Japan might seem like a typical singing contest except for the fact that none of the contestants are Japanese. It’s a contest that is exclusive to foreigners, presumably for the purpose of showcasing gaijin singers on stage first and foremost, for the entertainment of the Japanese. I consider this program to be more like a talent show rather than a singing competition because it’s not really the vocal skills that contestants are judged on — but on how well they can impress the audience with their unusually Japanese language talent, to say the least.
It’s one thing to say that we Japanese all love anyone who is genuinely interested in Japan and willing to show their love of Japanese songs. But why does the contest need to be so segregated, as if to say that one must first prove themselves alien to this country?
Often on the show we hear comments from the judges saying how perfectly a contestant can sing in Japanese. They say it with such good-hearted spirit it’s as if they feel grateful for foreign singers who remind them once again of just how great Japan is. To me, this sounds a little fake, as if the entire show is scripted. They called for foreigners who love Japanese songs, so they simply got what they expected. OK, maybe enough about the contest.
Some of the winners from past contests have gone on to their professional debut in Japan.
Chris Hart is perhaps one of the best vocals in Japan’s music scene today.
On October 30th, his latest single “Yume-ga-samete” was released from Universal Music Japan, a duet with Japan’s all-time queen of music idols, Seiko Matsuda.
Diana Garnet is another winner of the contest who recently made her professional debut on the label Sony Music.
And now Nicholas Edwards has released his first mini-album “Skies”, which hit the shelves on October 9th courtesy of Warner Music Japan.
We’ve all seen Jero, an American enka singer who found himself at the center of media attention not necessarily for his singing talent alone but rather for the novelty of being the first black enka singer ever. This catchphrase, by the way, was repeatedly used in a variety of media coverage, which no doubt made him experience both the best and the worst of being a foreign singer in Japan. He is actually one of the very few foreign singers who made a success here.
The Japanese would surely praise anyone who shows their love of J-pop and Japan through singing, but things become a little different when it comes to business. Are they good singers because they are foreigners singing in a non-native language or does their singing talent come first? That’s what they have to prove themselves once they pass the first phase of fame.
One of our favorite Japanese enterprises, Maywa Denki, has made a typically originally and hilarious group music video to celebrate twenty years since it was founded.
Maywa Denki is part music band, part art unit, inspired by the medium-sized production companies that have been the backbone of Japan’s manufacturing and technology growth. They create unique products, run special kids’ workshops, perform concerts and more.
Its hits include the Otamatone sound toy, a remake of the classic Theremin, and many other “nonsense” machines and musical products.
And not only are these designers talented folk, they certainly don’t take themselves seriously at all, as we think you can tell from the video!
Produced by Novumichi [sic] Tosa (he’s the guy on the bottom row), past employees include the sound designer Yuri Suzuki, another one of our favorite Japanese talents. The founder styled the unit from the name of his father’s old manufacturing firm, though Maywa Denki itself was originally signed to Sony Music Entertainment and is now managed by entertainment giant Yoshimoto Kogyo.
Even better news than this video? There is going to be a twentieth anniversary concert at Akasaka Blitz on December 13th!
With the recent release of their 32nd single, “Koisuru Fortune Cookie,” AKB48 has once again proven their monopoly in Japan’s music industry. After hitting the physical and digital shelves on August 21st, the song topped the Oricon hit charts in its first appearance, selling over a million copies on the first day of release alone.
The number here merely reminds me of the tragic trend in J-pop today where mass production of music adds almost no value to all the “hard work” of musicians and singers but rather degrades it. However, this actually might work better for an idol group like AKB48 whose longtime catch phrase is: “Idols you can meet every day.” From the beginning, AKB has been marketed as a group of ordinary girls who don’t always find themselves at the center of attention. Their success is attributed to the “mass” part, not each individual, which gives fans a sense of belonging as if they were part of the group themselves.
It’s no surprise, then, that their latest single is now one of the most popular songs in the country. What seems to be different this time, though, is that their marketing strategy has evolved from targeting those who love idols for the sake of worshiping what I call “desexualized love interest of all” to a much wider audience of potential fans who just need a final push to be part of that AKB loving community. For this reason I have nothing but great respect for producer Yasushi Akimoto who chose to assign this role of marketing to the fans and staff, not the AKB girls themselves — a kind of marketing that is built on chain reactions.
The song has some different versions of music video, all of which can be viewed on the AKB official YouTube channel. However, the majority of “work” is done by people you have never seen before. The one that has nearly six million views is performed by the AKB staff members.
The message here is rather simple. AKB48 is supported by such a loving crew, so why not love them yourself? Another version features fashion brand Samantha Thavasa and its employees. (Certain girls from AKB48 have appeared in the brand’s advertising in the past.) The most recent collaboration is done by Saga prefecture.
With more than a thousand members participating (including governor Yasushi Furukawa and some yuru-kyara mascots) and at a cost of 500,000 yen, the video serves as a promotional attempt not so much to introduce the prefecture but rather to bring our attention to the people who work there – again, the AKB brand is used to appeal positively to nonchalant viewers who might not necessarily be so interested in this otherwise unknown yet noteworthy corner of Japan.
In fact, Saga already has its own promotional video called “Three Minutes to Saga.” The first half shows everything Saga has to offer in three minutes, as the title says, and the second half looks more like a plain guidebook. If the primary function of promotional videos is to engage viewers and keep their attention from start to finish, then the AKB song and dance has definitely helped them to improve service this purpose.
So what will their next strategy be? One thing we know for sure is that Akimoto would never turn to a fortune cookie when deciding the future prospects of his empire, as he always seems to know exactly how best to promote and sell his products.
A new Guinness World Record has been set for the number of theremins ever being played together. Masami Takeuchi organized the music concert of 272 theremin “Matryomin” instruments in Hamamatsu in Shizuoka on July 20th.
In 2000, Takeuchi also developed this Matryomin QT, a miniature theremin encased in a handmade colorful matryoshka doll. The instruments played at the Hamamatsu concert were the same Matryomin design, which has a pitch distance of five octaves.
The battalion of theremin players knocked out a rendition of Amazing Grace.
Japan has always had a liking for the theremin.
Who can forget the Otamatone Sound Toy from Maywa Denki that was such a hit a few years ago?
And for those who really love their electronic musical instruments can even build their own with the Gakken Otona no Kagaku Theremin Mini kit.
Tokyo Reporter has posted about another incident in the ongoing “No dancing” saga that is affecting Japan’s nightlife.
GP Bar in Roppongi was raided and the manager and DJ arrested for the heinous crime of allowing patrons to boogie.
This is not the first time that police have raided clubs in the Gas Panic chain and arrested staff for violating the 1948 law that prevents bars from operating as dance clubs after midnight. The antiquated law was an anti-prostitution statute and has been superseded by the fact that most prostitution in Japan involves venues where the last thing people want to do is dance, and of course, now we have proper dance clubs. The GIs are no longer in town and the sudden drive to tackle clubs, especially in Tokyo, Kyoto, Fukuoka and Osaka, is literally killing off the scene. Those clubs that are re-opening are often being careful and shutting their doors at 1am. Even big name dance clubs are avoiding using words like “DJ” on their websites and it’s not uncommon to find signs posted at establishments warning people not to dance. (For more on the background to the loaw and its effects on the club scene, Time Out Tokyo published this excellent article last year.)
The GP chain of bars and clubs in Roppongi (and one in Shibuya) are notorious for being rather sleazy dives, frequented by foreign expats looking to pick up. However, promiscuity and unsavory men are nothing new, and the police raids on Vanity and the GP chain are ridiculous. There is no justification for it except that some middle-aged police chief is being a stickler for outdated laws. There is plenty of trouble in areas like Roppongi, yet it would be a real stretch to suggest that a few drunk people in their twenties dancing badly are to blame.
Why are they doing it? This is our theory: It gives the police something to do and exert their manpower. Flashing muscle is what the police in Japan does to show how much authority they have. Although the system of koban is often praised as a way of providing communities and neighborhoods with a “listening post” for residents to drop in with problems or questions, in fact these police boxes are instruments for the police to keep an eye on the area. The police go to great lengths to establish community links (such as paying daily house visits) since a lot of crime gets reported to police by civilians. In other words, they set up an unofficial network of spies.
For a nation with very low crime statistics, the number of police greatly outweigh the necessity. Likewise, spot raids on dance clubs are not actually effective since the number of clubs and criminal dancers are too many. But raids get headlines and this instills a culture of fear.
People are fighting back, though, including flash dance mobs in protest and petition campaigns. However, it must be only a matter of time before the police raid a major Shibuya club, or perhaps the protection money to the Yakuza has some use after all.
In 1998 the famous guitarist from pioneering visual kei rock band X JAPAN, Hideto Matsumoto (commonly known as just “hide”), suddenly passed away at the age of thirty-three. To remember this, every May Kawasaki Club Citta shows the film “hide FILM ALIVE!”
This year will mark the twentieth anniversary of hide starting his solo work and next year is also what would have been hide’s fiftieth birthday. For the occasion new merchandise will be released, such as a hide twentieth anniversary pin set, photo sets and more.
In 2000, two years after his death, a museum opened in his birthplace Yokosuka, which became a mecca for many fans from all over the world as well as Japan. This hide Museum was originally planned to be open for three years, but due to its popularity it didn’t close until September 2005. During those five years the hide Museum attracted about 450,000 visitors and now it is being reopened in Tokyo and Osaka for the first time in eight years.
In Tokyo, the hide Museum 2013 will be at DiverCity Tokyo Plaza from June 29th until July 28th, and in Osaka at Universal Studios Japan from August 7th to August 9th.
Each venue will display objects such as hide’s 1959 Gibson Les Paul Standard guitar, costumes from his music videos, the mask from the cover of his first solo album “hide your face”, and more, introducing hide’s music, art and lifestyle to his fans.
Two tribute albums with “hide TRIBUTE II & III Visual Spirits” will also be released with covers of hide’s songs by other visual kei artists and bands like Sadie, heidi., or Screw, priced ¥3,000 each.
Whether you like them or not, Golden Bomber seems to have found their own gold in the entertainment scene. Their latest album titled The Past Masters Vol. 1 which was released on April 24th, topped the Oricon hit charts in its first appearance, selling over 110,000 copies in the debut week alone. This actually follows another record they made back in January with which their thirteenth single Dance My Generation also entered top of the charts in its first appearance.
Now they have become the first music artists to achieve having both their single and album ranking at the top of the charts in their first appearance. Wait — something is missing here. Yes, their real achievement is attributed to the fact that they don’t belong to a major record label. They are proud to be the first artists representing an indie record label whose single and album both dominated the Oricon charts in their first appearance.
Perhaps they will be even more proud as they continue to see more success in the industry, knowing that people like their music for its authenticity — even though they appear to be deceiving audiences due to the very simple fact that three of the members don’t play any instruments.
Previously we published a post on lip-syncing in the Japanese music industry and talked about just how ubiquitous and accepted it is here, so some people might wonder. Lip-syncing and hand-syncing. Which is more fake?
While I can imagine some people claiming it’s a meaningless question to begin with: We know they are both bad, so what’s the point of asking which is worse? Golden Bomber, though, has made hand-syncing part of their performance and thus perhaps a little less sinful as well. After all, they owe their fame partially to the fact that they don’t play any instrument on stage or even in a recording studio. All of their songs are recorded by “professional” musicians.
Then what is it about them that attracts our attention? The popularity of so-called “visual-kei bands” peaked in the early Nineties so we have seen this kind of thing before — there’s nothing new about their heavy make-up or fashion.
It’s more likely that their popularity and fame stem from their act of not playing cool. For example, the title of their smashhit single, which basically pushed them to the fore of the music scene, is Memeshikute. The word literally means “like a woman” and is used negatively to describe any male who’s not manly enough, whatever that means.
The meaning is more easily “seen” than explained. The first twenty seconds of this music video will show you everything about being memeshii. See how this guy reacts when he gets dumped by his girlfriend.
The song is about having lingering feelings for our ex, told in a not so sentimental way. Life is a performance, they seem to say, so learn to laugh at life.
Their brutally honest expressions of what could otherwise be featured as a central theme of tear-jerking romance films can be seen in the titles of their songs alone. The level of “honesty” varies greatly from “I couldn’t ask for your phone number again” to “I’m going to kill your ex-boyfriend,” both of which are actual titles of their songs. Being uncool is the coolest thing, so embrace the darkest, the most shameful part of yourself.
In their latest single though, they are getting more political. The music video is obviously a satire mocking the people who enjoyed the triumph of Japan’s Bubble economy in the late Eighties when money was believed to take them to the top of the world.
Yet even the burst of the Bubble economy can be turned into a piece of entertainment — it’s just too much fun not to!
An actor is someone who acts. A dancer is someone who dances. A singer is someone who sings. They all get paid to do what their job title claims, but when it comes to singing, we tend to become more tolerant. It’s OK that singers don’t sing on stage, right? Well, maybe not anymore.
On March 5, a TV producer at Fuji Television Network Inc., Shin Kikuchi openly declared on his blog an end to lip-syncing in his show, Music Fair, to follow the same rule in his other two music programs, Bokura-no-ongaku (Our Music) and Domoto Brothers. He says that the decision was unanimous and that any professional singers should be able to sing live. While this movement might make us appreciate live performances of those who CAN sing live on stage (which by the way don’t seem to exist that many in the current Japanese music industry), traditionally in Japan we have never been so critical of singers not using their voice on TV.
Source: Fuji Television Network
After all, watching TV is a passive experience and we can change channels anytime if we don’t want to see singers lip-sync in a show. We might even be a little sympathetic to hundreds of poor idols out there, who have to dance and sing all at the same time. Because their schedule is so tight, they don’t have time for such training anyway.
So why are the Japanese so tolerant of lip-syncing?
One possible reason is that in Japan, the level of professionalism required and expected of singers is not very high to begin with. One notorious case I remember is Arashi singing in FNS Music Festival, a live music show aired on Fuji TV Network back in 2011. Arashi undoubtedly has become one of the biggest pop groups and dominated the Japanese music industry over the past decade, together with the female idol group, AKB48.
Ironically, what made their performance so controversial was not that they lip-synched — but rather that they actually sang live AND sounded completely out of tune. People immediately fired up comments online: they either mocked at Arashi’s poor live performance or backed up the idols for their diligent effort to finish the song despite having “technical problems” backstage. What really happened was not the question (the auto-tune was not working). The controversy surrounding this incident made me realize that in general, we don’t want to see people suffer on stage.
As the current Japanese music industry is in large part made of idol groups, what we expect from their performance is not their singing but merely their appearance — looking good on camera. (Plus some dancing, perhaps.) Considering that Beyonce’s alleged lip-syncing made huge headlines in the US, we could say authenticity is much more valued overseas even if it results in mediocre or even poorer performances.
The bottom line is, we just want to be entertained. If their singing is so bad, I would rather see them lip-sync and appreciate their music more. In this music video I recently found on YouTube, Rola, a Japanese model who’s also known for her supposedly “innocent” use of tameguchi slang, lip-syncs to Carly Rae Jepsen’s smash hit “Call Me Maybe”.
Why is she doing this? Is she trying to impersonate Jepsen? Personally, I don’t get this, but if the attempt was to show how easy it is nowadays for anyone to be a “singer”, then maybe Kikuchi was right. We should have been more critical.