Fancy joining AKB48?
It was announced yesterday that the idol mega group is now recruiting a new member to join the ranks for a limited time only. The newbie will be over 30 years old, a stark contrast to the ever-younger girls in the group, typically in their teens or early twenties.
The Adult AKB48 Auditions campaign is looking for a female idol to join the group from April 12th to August 31st. She can be a professional or amateur, married or single — but she must be 30 or over.
She will be a central part of advertising fronted by AKB in the spring and summer, as well as participate in concerts, hand-shaking events and more. The whole thing is part of a campaign for Papico, an ice cream product by Glico.
We look forward to seeing an older AKB girl, though it remains to see how far they are prepared to take it. After all, Japanese women tend to look much younger than they are and there are plenty of famous models and actresses in their forties and fifties still regarded as beauties. But will AKB genuinely accepted a middle-aged “idol” or rather opt for a “still” cute-looking lady just into her thirties?
At present, the oldest member of AKB48 is Haruna Kojima (just under 26 years old). Mariko Shinoda graduated last year in July when she was a ripe old 27.
Applications for the new “older” AKB48 idol have already opened and close on March 28th. Ladies, what are you waiting for?!
Work by the composer of the most famous pieces of Japanese contemporary classical music from this century is now alleged not to have been composed wholly by its official creator.
The score for Mamoru Samuragochi’s piece Sonatina for Violin was set to be published and released on February 11th but this has now been cancelled. It is also planned to be used as the music for skater Daisuke Takahashi’s solo in the showcase program at the upcoming Sochi Olympics this month, though this too may not be able to go ahead now.
Samuragochi — though sometimes written “Samuragoch,” this is apparently the preferred Romanization of his name, rather than the literal “Samuragouchi” — lost his hearing at the age of 35 and has also composed for video games such as “Biohazard” and “Onimusha”. He is a self-taught composer and a second-generation hibakusha, both his parents having suffered the Hiroshima bombing. His condition led to him being hailed (or hyped) as a modern-day Japanese Beethoven.
Hiroshima is the most famous work by Samuragochi.
“I hope listeners will feel the darkness of hopelessness and the gentle light hope that follows,” he said in 2011 when Hiroshima was released as a CD in the wake of the Tohoku disaster. It went on to sell over 100,000 copies.
Now aged 50, he began to suffer from hearing issues when a high school student but relying on absolute pitch, he could continue to compose. According to his official profile, he “suffers from neurotic depression, anxiety neurosis, and chronic headaches and has a persistent ringing in his ears, but composes by relying on his perfect pitch.”
Symphony No. 1 Hiroshima was completed in 2003. It was then premiered at a the meeting of the Group of Eight leaders in Hiroshima in 2008.
It has now been alleged that a third party actually composed much of Samuragochi’s oeuvre. Samuragochi’s agents announced that his lawyer had received a message claiming that Samuragochi had composed only the overall structures, while the finer details had been done by someone else without credit.
“I’ve been told that there are certain circumstances that make it hard for the person (who composed the works) to come out in public, and Samuragochi has come to describe himself as the sole composer,” the lawyer told Kyodo News.
Symphony No. 1 Hiroshima has also not always met universal acclaim, being criticized as too “commercial” by some classical music reviewers.
It has been reported that Samuragochi has already accepted the claims as true and expressed remorse. His ghost writer is a college music teacher Takashi Niigaki, who had received a fee from Sakuragochi to compose his music for the past ten years.
An interview with Niigaki was set to be published, which prompted the revelations at last.
*Updated*: Niigaki has said that he does not believe that Samuragochi is even deaf!
This is an awesome innovation on what many people would say is a dying medium. And the best thing about it is that it doesn’t resort to digital or technological gimmicks. It just takes two very analogue things and makes them even better.
Mieru Record is a combination of a music box and a manga comic strip. With the former you usually have a cylinder, but there are types which use a punched tape strips of paper for the music box to “read” as musical notation, like the book music read by mechanical organs.
Mieru Record, a project which explores ways to fuse sound and manga, added manga cells to the music box punched tape strip, creating a manga music box organ, the Mieru Record with Otowa.
In other words, it is a book that you listen to — and music that you read.
The idea is that the sounds and music accompany the manga strip both in terms of the melody and also the speed. As you turn you control the speed of the soundtrack, which in turn controls the speed with which you read the manga images that are revealed.
See how it works in practice with this video. Note how you slow down to read the parts with dialogue and then speed up over the more visual cells.
I guess this is like the pianists who used to accompany a silent film back in the days before talkies.
Mieru Record is a project that started earlier this year and this Mieru Record with Otowa is still only a prototype, so don’t expect it to be on sale any time soon.
It worked with seven manga artist to create the music box’s music roll paper, and the results were exhibited in a book store and gallery in Tokyo over the summer.
With more sophisticated music roll strips and organs we reckon you could create all kinds of audio manga experiences.
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.