Reading the Air, Writing with Thumbs

Introducing Students to Contemporary Japanese Youth Culture
Jennifer Murawski
Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program Participant, 2005-2007 April 19, 2008

Integrating Culture and Language Learning
• Why do students choose to study Japanese?
– What do students already know about Japan?

• What do students want to know more about?
– What would students find interesting about Japan?

What do students already know and like about Japan?

Big in the USA?
• The U.S. market for Japanese animation is currently worth approximately $4.35 billion according to the Japan External Trade Organization.
- Wall Street Journal, August 31, 2007

• Japanese comic books routinely appear on New York Times and USA Today Bestseller lists.
• In April 2007, one volume of the girl’s manga

Fruits Basket was the 15th best-selling book in the United States.

Big in Japan?
• Where do US teens receive information about Japan? • How does this information differ from what Japanese teenagers perceive to be popular?

Photo by Lou

Current Trends in Japanese Pop Culture

Photo by Speedwaystar

Keitai Culture
• Advances in cell phone technology • Cheaper data packet transmission rates than USA = frequent use of internet applications • Creating personal space in a crowded nation • Personalized accessories and services create new markets

Foreign TV & Movies
• Korean dramas and action movies
– Since Fuyu no Sonata (2004), Korean media and celebrities have been extremely popular in Japan

• US television
– Extremely popular imports include 24, Heroes, Lost, and Full House – DVD market has led sales of these properties

Thumb Novels ( 携帯小説)
“Of last year’s 10 bestselling novels, five were originally cell phone novels, mostly love stories written in the short sentences characteristic of text messaging..”
• New York Times, January 20, 2008

New Technology = New Vocabulary
• KY 語

– Ongoing trend in internet slang – Popular with youth as well as media
• What does “KY” stand for?

– 空気が読めない
Kuuki ga Yomenai, a popular phrase meaning “to be clueless” (i.e. one who can’t pick up unspoken social cues)

KY 語 Dictionary
• Format: Abbreviated romaji phrases
Common expressions – • JK = Joshi Kousei 女子高生 • GHQ (Go Home Quickly)

– Newly invented phrases • IT (Ice Taberu) アイス食べる • 3M (Maji de Mou Muri) マジでもう無理 • WK (White Kick = 白 [white] + 蹴る [kick])   白ける

Sports Life
• Little change in the sports and club culture at schools • Many boys still dream of making it to Kōshien Stadium for the national baseball championships
• First appearance of MLB players Hideki Matsui and Daisuke Matsuzaka
Photo by Chris Chang

Street Fashion
• Boys and men are just as much into fashion as the women are, particularly in large cities
– “Young males between the ages of 18 and 30 make up the slimmest segment of the population and the ideal fashion weight as decreed by the apparel industry is …about 125 pounds, for a height of …5 feet 8 inches. Many men try to adhere to that figure and some claim they want to be even skinnier.”
• International Herald Tribune November 11, 2007

Photo by Excite Snap

The Cult of Cute
• Japan’s national obsession with cuteness • Goes beyond Hello Kitty • Huge market for consumer goods and fashion that might be considered cutesy or childish in the United States

Photo by Mike J. Zitek

Photo by Saya M.

Where to Find Resources on Contemporary Youth Culture

Language Resources
• Rikai and Rikaichan – – • Inserts furigana and definitions (in English) when the mouse moves over a word written in Japanese text on any website.

Informative Links
• Japan Probe (English)
– • The best website to keep up with current news, trends, culture, curiosities, fashion, and more • Updated very frequently

• Web Japan (English)
– • Education-oriented site with facts, trends, geography, an up-to-date children’s section and magazine

Informative Links
• What Japan Thinks (English)
– • Translated opinion polls from a variety of Japanese magazines and news sources • Updated very frequently • Appeals to older students as well

Entertainment & Culture
• Anime News Network (English)
– • News, reviews, and information about anime and manga releases

• Oricon Style (Japanese)
– • Weekly ranking charts for music and TV shows/movies • Information about performers

Celebrities & “Talent”
• Who are the Paris Hiltons and Bob Barkers of Japan (and why does it matter)?

• List of Japanese Celebrities

Images by miyunepapa -

Social Networking
• mixi ( ミクシィ ) (Japanese) –
• MySpace / Facebook • Find Japanese penpals • Practice casual Japanese writing forms • Find communities related to one’s interests

Entertainment & Culture
• YouTube / YouTube Japan
– • Countless videos to introduce students to Japanese pop culture, music, TV, commercials, and more – • Japanese language version of YouTube – Supports Japanese text input, all menus and text in Japanese

YouTube Clips
–  日本の形:すし
– Mockumentary featuring Japanese comedy group “Rahmens”

–   Apple CM: I-Life – Japanese version of Apple’s
popular “I’m a Mac” ads

– ジェロ: 黒 人演歌歌手 – 2003 University of Pittsburgh

Guide to Finding Media
• Available on YouTube
– 日本の形 / The Japanese Tradition

• A series of mock documentary clips by comedy group Rahmenz parodying aspects of Japanese culture, some subtitled in English. –Sushi (s), Chopsticks (s), Origami (s), Apologies (s), Dogeza, Summer Vacation

Guide to Finding Media
• TV in Japan
– Frequently updated, features clips of interesting, popular, or bizarre Japanese TV programs. – Goldmine for video clips, such as performances from the All-Japan Kasou Taishou, Pythagoras Switch, and other popular or interesting shows

“Matrix Ping Pong”

Guide to Finding Media
• D-Addicts – • Information wiki, links, and discussion about J-drama new and old • Mysoju –
• Contains links to full TV episodes hosted on YouTube, MySpace Video, and other media sites.

Recommended Dramas
• High School – 野ブタ。をプロデュース
wo Produce (2005) Nobuta.

– ごくせん 1 & 2
Gokusen (2003)

– グレート ティーチャー オニヅカ
Great Teacher Onizuka (1998)

– My Boss « MM

He ro

Recommended Dramas
College • のだめカンタービレ
Nodame Cantabile (2006)

Family friendly • 電車男
Densha Otoko (2005)

• ちびまる子ちゃん
Chibi Maruko-chan (2006)

• 暴れん坊将軍
Abarenbō Shōgun (1978-2003)

Anime & Manga

• TV Asahi Top 100 Anime – Voted on in a nationwide survey of multiple age groups conducted in 2005 • Japan Media Arts Festival Top 10 A – 80,000 votes cast to determine the best anime and manga ever made

• Video Research, Ltd.
– Weekly television ratings

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