Boys School’s Nishikawa Transfers To Co-Ed

Ah, the endless allure of the Japanese high-school. The days of the beauty of youth and overwhelming innocence…Something that appeals quite a bit, it would seem, to pop god and on-the-side metal magician Nishikawa Takanori, who will spend some academic time away from abingdon boys school in order to go co-ed for Fuji TV’s new drama, Okusama wa 18-sai [My Wife is 18-Years-Old].

Okusama wa 18-Sai is based on the shoujo manga of the same name, as penned by Motomura Miyoko. Okusama wa 18-Sai revolves around the secret marriage between a Japanese-language teacher and his student, and was originally set to take place in the United States. The manga was serialized in Margaret magazine by Shueisha Publishing in 1969.

The secret relationship between teacher and student is one of the more popular topics in dramas and animes, and apparently is in no danger of losing popularity. Especially once Nishikawa gets in on it, I have no doubt the limelight relationship will cause all kinds of schoolgirl fantasies to unfurl…Unsatisfied, the principles of every Tokyo school district hope.

The show originally aired in 1970, catching the late Ishidate Tetsuo with his hand in the cookie-jar, and Okazaki Yuki as the kitten Okusama.

2011 brings Okusama wa 18-Sai back to Japan and the romantic tension of democratic classroom cleaning policies and a sea of plaid-skirted temptation, enough to drive any man over the edge. And we’re right there with Nishikawa Takanori as he navigates the plot-thick high-school days as teacher Takagi, who must hide his relationship with his wife Asuka (Watanabe Natsuna), who is also his student.

Although I’m sure he’ll have no trouble pretending he’s not married to her (most people try anyway, don’t they?), while sporting that impeccable blond coif Nishikawa may have a harder time convincing us that he’s not T.M.Revolution doing some kind of social services. That being said, for someone who just hit their 4th decade, Nishikawa is defying age as admirably as any Cullen, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays some 8th-grader in the next unnecessary Great Teacher Onizuka remake.

His variety show and hosting experience aside, Nishikawa has appeared in several other television dramas, such as “Beautiful Life“, and has also starred in the full-length film Corazon de Melon, which premiered at NYU’s Cantor Film Center in New York City on September 28, 2008.

Watanabe Natsuna has appeared in a smattering of shows since 2006, none of which I have heard of and therefore hardly feel motivated to list. She also appears in feature-films Kimi ni Todoke (2010) and GANTZ (2011).

Nishikawa and Watanabe tie the knot for 4 episodes.

Fetishes and immortality aside, Nishikawa’s newest venture into acting, Okusama wa 18-sai sounds like a charming drama, and I look forward to getting an opportunity to see the abingdon boys school frontman go totally co-ed.

The new TV series will be on air from 22:00 March 27th on Fuji TV, and so far has a scheduled run of 4 episodes.

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What Toyota has to say about wussy-boys

How could you doubt the manliness of Japanese men?

Yes, I know, poor kid– Kamenashi Kazuya is Secret Garden’s posterchild for all that is confused and confusing in Japan.

For the past several months my interest in gender issues in Japanese pop culture have had me following this topic of Soushokukei Danshi Nikushokukei Jyou, translated: Herbivore guys, carnivore girls.

Soushokukei danshi” describes a “trend” of  ‘herbivore men’, or a group of young men (typically classified as being metrosexual) who are rejecting the typical guidelines of masculinity, and embracing an alternative style. It’s a type of Otomen syndrome, as it were, for anyone who has read the manga/seen the drama. Otomen follows the story of a young man who, on the outside appears to be a manly-man, but who secretly loves sewing, crochet, stuffed animals, strawberry parfaits and baking beautiful cakes. Soushokukei danshi have been described as being more “family oriented”, and being uninterested in women and dating.

Next in line are the carnivorous girls, beautiful, intelligent, ambitious young women displaying all of the characteristics it seems the men should be displaying: charisma, confidence, focus, and guts. These go-getters have been described by the soushokukei danshi as being “scary” (I’m shaking in my boots already…).

The typical dynamic spelled out by this phenomenon is a type of gender-role-reversal, where the herbivorous guys seem unable to get up the manly gumption to go after girls, but prefer to wait for the carnivorous beauty (as long as he’s not scared of her, that is) to hunt him down and snatch him up in one fell swoop (sounds okay to me…).

The problem apparently lies in the recent decline of the birthrate in Japan, which isn’t the only thing that’s been declining in recent years. Machoness seems to have also hit an all-time low, leaving this new generation of young guys who are officially pegged as having little or no interest in dating or sex. This seems to be the distress of anthropologists and hopeful young single women web-wide, as the aforementioned are concerned about the society itself stumbling, and the latter for more obvious reasons. This could be a legitimate claim, except that in an article by NPR a young soushokukei danshi admitted that he didn’t talk to girls, but it wasn’t because he wasn’t interested. If a girl approached him first, he would be thrilled– he just isn’t willing (or able) to make the first move.

Now, treading carefully around this topic which could potentially get heated quite quickly, I would like to address the fact that the world-wide-media loves nothing better than to peg the Japanese as eternal wrong-doers. I realize the Japanese are concerned about this new trend as well, but I also think it’s positively ridiculous that everyone thinks the problem lies just in Japanese society. I for one know without a doubt that this trend of soushokukei danshi and nikushokukei jyou is running rampant in the American youth culture as well. Take for example the emo sub-culture where boys openly admit they like Disney movies, cry at the end of them, and wear girl’s jeans. I have close friends who personify the pairing almost perfectly– literally, the woman swooped in and snatched him up in one fell swoop while he was eating strawberry Pocky. Are they Japanese? No, unfortunately (just kidding, guys).

Why everyone was blowing all of this seemingly way out of proportion wasn’t making sense to me until I got deeper into that particular article on the subject. It was with grim relish that I found the most descriptive cause for alarm this new generation poses. An “expert” of the generation commented that “…the impact of the herbivores on the economy is very big. They’re such big news now because sales are down, especially of status products like cars and alcohol.” [1]

Someone in the comments made several points with which I agreed to the fullest. They said that for one, it was almost impossible to believe that 60% of all Japanese males between the ages of 18-30 weren’t interested in women; and two, Japanese [and many other nationalities’] men have always been afraid of high-powered, strong, “scary” girls, so it’s no surprise many of them shy away from “carnivorous” women.

"I just....feel like he should approach me first..."

Personally, I believe that Toyota and Suntori have more to say about this as an “issue” than any girls out there. When I asked around, at least ten girls said they didn’t want macho men, and several guys responded with revulsion at the sheer mention of the concept.

If all these girls are as beautiful and confident and carnivorous as they claim to be, then why are they all whining about guys being more of an opposite polarity? It looks like an a-typical feminist “get your cake and eat it too” situation to me– no disrespect to the fems. Do women really want to be powerful and, let’s face the facts, masculine, and have guys still playing that role too? How can guys be expected to play by traditional gender-roles that have already been altered?

It’s like women (the only ones who seem to have a problem with this, well, aside from Toyota), and people in general, make this huge push for feminism and then refuse to accept that there will be consequences. Women will change their gender-roles so that they can “wear the trousers” as it were, and yet they expect there to be no change on the male side of things? Do women who have high-powered careers and confident attitudes really sit back and wait for these men to come after them? I think not– even if they idealize that situation, in reality it would create a paradox of personalities.

Essentially, by becoming the “carnivore” of the dynamic, it seems only cosmically natural that men would also begin changing in order to create harmony and balance in any given situation. Let’s take GACKT as an example. GACKT often expresses his personal taste in women- as far as we know, he prefers a docile, soft-spoken girl who “walks three steps behind”. This is a term referring to the fact that traditionally a bride would walk several steps behind her husband. Nowadays, GACKT is using it to refer to the business of equality and roles in a relationship. He talks in GACKTIONARY about the “sun and moon” polarities of any given relationship. That there is always one person who is giving (sun) and one person who is receiving (moon). Between two people the roles may change depending on the circumstances and situations, but without them, there’s almost no balance. As GACKT put it, if you have two ‘sun’ roles, they would always be arguing and butting heads. In a good relationship, people should naturally assume a role (and always do, regardless of whether they are conscious of it or not). Since I agree with pretty much everything GACKT says on the matter, I would like to apply it to the discussion at hand by pointing out that in this generation of soushokukei danshi and nikushokukei jyou, the women are suddenly rising up to become the ‘sun’ role, while expecting the men to also remain in that role. However, in response to the women assuming the ‘sun’ or ‘giving’ role, these men are naturally assuming a ‘moon’ or more ‘receptive’ role.

You can’t choose in which aspects a person, or a gender as a whole, is either giving or receptive. You have to be sensitive and aware of how the roles change in any given situation, and be prepared to work with them. If men no longer have the machoness gene to talk to women first, and women continue refusing to accept any responsibility whatsoever, is it any wonder that the birth rate is declining?

Now, I’d just like to finish up by making it clear that I’m not taking sides, or saying that the women are wrong and the men are right. Nor is any disrespect to any party intended in any way. I’ve just seen a lot of women writing about this subject lately, and few of them seemed able to not make the men come out as some kind of enemy. And I apparently had a few things to say about that. Oh, and I am not endorsing Toyota or Suntori in any way– not until they send me product to test first.

1- NPR: “In Japan, ‘Herbivore’ Boys Subvert Ideas Of Manhood, by Louisa Lim

2-GACKTIONARY #16, by GACKT

Zen Visual Kei

I apologize for not being very active lately. Truth be told, I haven’t really been feeling inspired by anything enough that I would want to write about it/review it. Most of what I’ve been listening to this past month has been pretty much the same old stuff. To put it in internet layman’s terms: meh.

So, recently, instead of listening to tons of music, I climbed into the mountains to hear the sound of the birds, and live off the land, miles and miles from the nearest tub of Gatsby Moving Rubber, without a perm in sight…And while I was in retreat…I wish I could say something like “I became enlightened”, but unfortunately my realization was somewhat lesser. I realized that I’ve been kind of snobbish, mostly because I’ve become paranoid in recent days about the creativity involved in the recent Visual Kei (and Jrock at large) releases. Some of them have felt more than a little mainstream, and of late, I’ve been waking up from gloomy nightmares, the word Commercialism…commercialism…commercialism… echoing around the room.

However, thankfully before my threats of KAT-TUN rebellion actually resulted in the buying of best-of albums and switching my banner out for one of Kamenashi Kazuya with his hair knotted up in a pink hair-tie, I started thinking more about where things stand, not in regards to the music industry and commercialistic totalitarianism,  but in regards to being a Visualist, and the listening to music aspect of our fandom. (I made the new banner just in case though!)

Just being annoying...

I like the Japanese word “Hajime” 「始め」 which means “beginning”. What I like about it is the kanji because it’s an extremely common and simple character, 始, but it has multiple parts, which, in my eyes, kind of represents the causes and conditions that need to be in place for anything to “begin”. In Japanese, the phrase meaning “Nice to meet you/How do you do” is “Hajimemashite” 「始めまして」 which means, literally, “it has begun”. I like this sentiment because, unlike “Nice to meet you”, it has a feeling of continuity and progressiveness.

In the same way that a personal relationship has a “it has begun” moment, which then develops and progresses into a “now we’re bros” plateau of mutual acknowledgement, media and music has the same patterning (in fact, most things do). In this case, you’re hearing a song for the first time– that’s the “hajimemashite”. Then, if you liked that song enough to look into it further, you will continue to explore that artist’s works (music, movies, media), to the point that maybe you will even travel to foreign countries to see them perform live (is the personal-relationship equivalent engagement? just kidding).

A while ago I read a book called Zen Guitar, which, you guessed it, applied the concepts of zen to playing guitar. The format of the “method” in this book was that the “student” was supposed to think of playing the guitar in the same way you would practice a martial art. The first thing the author tackled was the “black belt” issue. People wanted to know what it took to become a “black belt”. Sparing you the sentiments about how “one will forever be a student” and all that (he doesn’t spare you, but I will), I did like his comment on the topic. He said (paraphrased, as I can’t remember it verbatim) that “in the way of Zen Guitar there is only one belt: the white belt. The student must always return to white belt, every time. The only way that you can attain a “black belt” is by practicing to such an extent that your white belt becomes soiled, and steadily, blackens from use.”

Now, taking all of this philosophy into consideration and then looking at the actual experience of this developing relationship with the experience of listening to certain music, there is no definite point of fulfillment, is there? And yet we rush (it’s a side-effect of visualist dementia– don’t worry, we all have it) forward as if there’s some sort of finish line, or black belt. Essentially, there isn’t one.  At least I don’t think there is– not for me, anyway. And yet it’s interesting to see how, even with something as circular in nature as the appreciation of music, impatience develops. We obsess over when new material will be released– forgetting that there are still songs on old albums that we haven’t even listened to properly.

Essentially, it’s hard to avoid becoming jaded to something. At first and for a while it’s exciting, but if you do something enough, live it and breathe it enough, it becomes a habit – something done without thinking. Even if new material comes out, are we really as excited about it as we were right when we first started listening to The GazettE? I’m not trying to speak for anyone else, or state that this is just how it is. But for me, at least, Visual Kei and Jrock isn’t just a “phase” or something that I will lose interest in after a while. I would never “break up with it” as it were, just because I’ve hit a flat area. These are the points in ones relationship– with anyone and anything– where it actually starts to take awareness and conscious action to keep something alive, strong, and healthy. When you stop appreciating something properly, the jadedness creeps in, lethargy soon follows, and then who knows what’s next– gangrene, maybe. Or even worse, you find yourself actually checking out DBSK albums on eBay (don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not saying I’ve done that. Not yet, anyway.).

What I’m going to do about it, to both help refresh my appreciation of Visual Kei, and bring some new material to SG, is go back through all of my albums/singles/DVDs/whatever, many of which are dated from several years ago and haven’t been reviewed (I won’t do repeats) yet. I will do my best to listen to them with a “white belt” ear, and review them. It will definitely help me get back in touch with the older stuff, hopefully it will help newcomers to VK check out some classics, and maybe it will send some of you vets back to your dusty collections. Who knows, right?