Sunday, January 24, 2010

Very popular Japanese male groups "SMAP"and 嵐/Arashi.

In Japan, there is a top talent agency that is well known for managing only good-looking men and boys. This agency selects potentialidols at its auditions and trains them. They receive training in singing, dancing, acting performances, comedy performances and others. After that, the agency picks out prominent, talented ones among these trained boys and officially makes them debut.

Up to about 25 years ago, the agency successfully had many boysdebut on TV as idol singers, since music TV programs were very popular here. With the fade-out of these programs, the way these boys at the agency make their debut and gain popularity was forced to change. I think that a group called "SMAP", which consists of five men now in their 30s, developed a new way (the first video, SMAP in New York, this is a cell phone's TV commercial). Although they made their debut as a singer group two decades ago, they became popular mainly through their performances on TV comedy shows. Two decades ago, it was actually surprising that good-looking guys wore funny costumes and did stand-up comedy. They have been enjoying their super popularity for more than 10 years. They have been supported especially by women of all ages and have gained a national superstar status.

After SMAP became popular, other boys at the agency have achieved great success in the same way that SMAP did. Among them, one group is very hot lately. They are called 嵐/Arashi and they consist of five men in their 20s. Since they seem to have been gaining a lot of momentum, I frequently see them on TV.

I think that some differences between SMAP and 嵐/Arashi reflect the ones between two generations; the middle 30s and the middle 20s. From the time the members of SMAP were young, they have frequently said they don't know about the other members' private lives. Some of them even don't know some others' numbers. They appear to consider the others as business partners or coworkers. They sometimes argue. In contrast, when you see 嵐 on TV, you might notice that all the members of the group are close. In fact, they have had a few short trips together. They try to share private time even though each of them has his own busy schedule. They are surely friends. I don't know if my observations are right. However, I can see some similar differences between the two generations I mentioned above.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The disaster revealed people's true nature??

As I mentioned in my last post, 15 years ago, a huge earthquake struck the Osaka area in Japan while I was in Sydney on vacation. When I returned to work in Osaka, a coworker of mine greeted me, saying "Welcome to hell". Since I was young and my house wasn't damaged, coworkers expected the sunburned, refreshed woman to work hard.

At the time, my office was really messed up. My team members went to their urban-development project sites in the devastated area by bike in order to examine how to deal with the serious damage. To make matters worse, many workers at my company were the victims. Some of them got out of their houses that had been flattened out by the quake. Many of them didn't know where to start even though they really had to tidy up their rooms.One thing that helped me feel relieved was that all of my coworkers were alive and they didn't lose their families.

This disaster revealed people's true nature. Many coworkers were very impressed by the brave, kind actions that a manager took, partly because they had considered him unreliable before the quake. On the other hand, they were disappointed in some people who had had good reputations. Some victims at my company tried to do something to help others even though they didn't have any regular places to sleep. In contrast, some victims always asked someone to do something for them, insisting that they weren't able to do anything because they were victims. 

Everybody had their own circumstance, so I can't say who was right or wrong. However, we saw something that we hadn't found before the quake. On top of that, a few secret office love affairs were also revealed. 

Monday, January 18, 2010

I found out about that disaster while I was in Sydney

15 years ago yesterday (on the 17th of January), I was at my boyfriend's house in Sydney on my holidays. He is Japanese and now my husband. When I was drinking my morning coffee at around 9 A.M., the phone rang. Since my boyfriend had already left for his office, I picked it up. It was his Australian friend who worked at a bank. He said that according to the latest world news at his office, something terrible was going on in Osaka, Japan, and perhaps a big earthquake had struck there. He strongly advised me to turn on a TV immediately, check the situation, and call my parents there.

The TV news televised places that I was supposed to be familiar with, but I hardly recognized them. The highway where I would drive nearly everyday was partly laid on its side. The familiar railway track was heaved up. The news was filled with inconceivable sights. I was numb with shock.

When my mother answered my international call, she was surprised because she had been unable to make any calls since the disaster occurred. Emotionally, she told me it was the strongest quake she had seen in her life. According to her story, the devastating quake, which struck around a quarter to six at dawn, woke my parents up. She felt as if she had been strongly lifted. My father held back a large tottering cupboard and managed to prevent it from hitting the floor. My mother tried to head for the the gas main to make sure it was turned off, but couldn't reach it because of the powerful quake.

I think that since my house was located at some distance from the earthquake epicenter, they were able to take those actions. In fact, my friend who lived in the focal region said that all she had been able to do was flap away at objects falling onto her bed. She felt as if she had been inside a washing machine. Even though the first floor of her condo was flattened out during the quake, she didn't realize when this happened, despite the fact that she was on the 5th floor. Although schools conduct earthquake response drills to educate children, many of the victims said that it was impossible to follow the instruction that they were taught when the powerful quake occurred. At the time, nobody expected such a severe earthquake to strike the Osaka area, although other places were warned as potential sites where major earthquakes could hit.

When I returned to work several days later, various unbelievable things were waiting for me.

Photo Gallery : the 1/17 earthquake happening in 1995