If you ever wish to find out who’s hot in the Japanese show biz today, simply pay close attention to TV commercials.

SoftBank, for example, is famous for featuring the latest trends in its commercials before anyone else does it. There’s nothing wrong with being opportunistic when seeking the attention of the masses, for TV commercials indeed are the most expensive kind of advertising and so it follows that people should put all their efforts into making the fifteen (or thirty) seconds the most memorable. Speaking of the number fifteen and TV commercials, though, Osamu Hayashi has certainly been having his fifteen minutes of fame on the screen. He’s a college prep school teacher who’s turned into one of the biggest celebrities of 2013.

He teaches contemporary Japanese literature at Toshin High School, one of the biggest prep schools in Japan. In fact, Hayashi was already famous even before making his way into the show biz world. In this commercial, he’s the last one to appear, sending his students a message of what has now become the most ubiquitous advertising phrase: “It’s now or never!” (Imadesho!)

The message was originally intended for students planning to take college entrance exams (as in the context of “You’ve got to start now, or you won’t get accepted”), yet some business people saw a great opportunity for how to use it.

Since then, Hayashi has appeared in a number of TV commercials and campaigns. The most recent tie-up is with Warner Music Japan, titled “Imadesho Price Campaign”, where Hayashi promotes the sales of some good old music by giving us a final “push” with his famous phrase –- The famous songs that you didn’t get to listen to back in the days. When is the time to listen to them? It’s now or never!


This campaign will continue until the end of May during which you can receive many discounts — as much as 63% off — on some of the best-selling CDs of all time on iTunes Store. You can check the complete list here.

So what does the popularity of Hayashi tell us about Japanese education? Thanks to its commercials, Toshin High School is now famous for having “erratic” teachers who could otherwise be a target of harsh criticism. Their mission is simply to help their students pass the college entrance exams at some of the top universities in Japan, including the University of Tokyo from where Hayashi himself graduated.

What they teach is not so much knowledge of the subject but rather the most useful tips to get a passing score on the exam. Perhaps the blame is on the system itself where the extra money that parents spend on their kids for supplementary education is deemed requisite to get that golden ticket to the university of their first choice.

After all, cram school or prep school is a business whose “product” quality is solely based on their number of admissions –- which can be seen as the exploitation of young kids (or maybe I should say, their parents who have to leave the future of their kids in the hands of commercialized teachers), who get forced into thinking that getting into a university is the ultimate goal of their life.

A prep school teacher turning into a celebrity is a wake-up call for all of us — education in this country has become a commercial product.