5 Realities of Living in Japan as a Foreigner

Living in Japan as a foreigner is such a fulfilling experience. I have been living here for over 7 years now and can’t imagine living anywhere else, but with the good comes the bad and there are some realities of living in Japan as a foreigner that some people might not be aware of before they move here. There are so many realities of living abroad, but the ones I wanted to talk about this time are Japan specific. So let’s take off those rose colored glasses for a few minutes and discuss 5 realities of living in Japan as a foreigner.

1. Life in Japan is NOT an Anime, Manga or J-Drama

Japan is the land of anime and manga, but it is not the reality of daily life here. I grew up watching anime and dramas and reading manga and it taught me a LOT about how life in Japan was, but the reality is that it’s a stretch of the real day-to-day life here. It’s the same as watching Friends or Disney channel movies and shows to learn about the US…. it shows only a snapshot of real life in Japan. In fact, real life is probably more boring and mundane than you think and and not so different from other countries. We all commute to school/ work, go grocery shopping, have friends and family etc. After a while the novelty of the convenience stores wears off (though I still think they are convenient and use them every day), riding on trains with people sleeping on you starts to annoy you and your foreign “charm” wears off on the people around you. So please… don’t expect to come to Japan and think real school life or work life is like in an anime OR that everyone reads the same manga here. If you do want something that is relatable and pretty accurate I highly recommend “Wota Koi” as an AMAZING slice of life anime about adult life as an otaku though!

Speaking of liking anime and manga, there are so many options of entertainment in Japan and everyone has their own preferences here, so not everyone will share your same interest. Of course you will find people with similar interests if you look for them, but please don’t assume everyone likes what is “mainstream” outside of Japan.

2. Foreigners will always be outsiders

Now this one is for the non-asian foreigners in Japan, but I’ve been living in Japan for over 7 years now and am fluent in the language and yet I still get treated as a foreigner… because I AM one and look like one. I know the culture pretty well (though not an expert) and know how to navigate society here decently, but I still get talked to like I don’t understand. I still get spoken to in English a lot when people first talk to me, in which I politely respond to them in Japanese. I will always be asked “foreigner questions” and will always be told “your Japanese is so good!” when they have only heard me say 1 phrase. Yes, I know this is them being polite, but for someone living in Japan for so long it can be disheartening when you have spent so long learning the language and the culture. I am always polite because I know that the Japanese people don’t mean harm but its something to be aware of as a foreigner here.

Something that all foreigners here can Japan can relate to the string of extra paperwork and procedures that you have to go through because you are a foreigner. Some phone companies won’t give you a contract for monthly payments for a phone unless you pay for the price of the phone upfront if your visa is shorter than the contract amount. You will be discriminated for renting places (though in Osaka I have never had that experience) because you are a foreigner and you have to jump through hoops to get a loan from the bank and credit cards from banks are almost impossible to get at times as a foreigner. Unless you get permanent residency you will have to deal with most of this for the entire time you live here in Japan.

Random fact: You can’t actually become Japanese unless you give up your own country’s citizenship because Japan doesn’t allow dual citizenship. Also, something I learned recently that people born to non-Japanese parents (both are foreign not just 1 foreign) are not Japanese citizens. They are given a special “zainichi” visa but not citizenship.

3. Japan will NOT change to accommodate you

Japan has its own unique culture and ways of doing things and just because you are foreign doesn’t mean it will change to accommodate you nor should you force Japan to change itself. Foreigners are still outsiders in their eyes and telling them something is wrong or they should change an aspect of their culture is not respectful. When in Rome, do at the Romans do. There are rules and regulations in place for a reason, so before raising up in arms and try to change it, take a minute to ask why it is in place and to understand why first. Of course there will still be things that make absolutely no sense, but at least you know the reason why. If it is too hard to do this and understand why, then Japan might not be the place for you.

4. Its hard to build deeper relationships with Japanese people (but not impossible)

Japan is a very heterogenous country… only abut 2% of the population are foreigners as of 2017. With this comes the automatic barrier and pride of being Japanese. Now, not all Japanese people are like this, but it’s very common for Japanese people to approach you to “learn English” or have you be the “token foreigner friend”, or just be plain cold to you because you are a foreigner. They will be nice and polite to you, but it will stay at surface level or “drinking buddy” level and rarely go deeper than that. There is also the element of not haven’t known them for very long; In fact A LOT of Japanese people still have relationships with people from when they were in grade school that they still keep up with. There is the final element of that they are just plain busy. Working in a Japanese company means long hours and not much time for rest and days off can be all over the place depending on your job, so Japanese people a good majority of the time can’t meet up because of work obligations sometimes.

Now, its not impossible to make friendships with Japanese people and though most of my close friends here in Japan are not Japanese at all, I do have a handful of Japanese friends that I can ask for advice or contact to hang out with if needed. Also, when you are in a Japanese company your co-workers are decently close to you so you have a support network there most of the time too. In the end though, the reality is that the people I make the most connection with are my foreign friends because they understand what I am going through and I am most comfortable talking to them in my native language.

5. Bureaucracy and following strict procedures are the norm

There is hardly any bending the rules here and you are always filling in tons of paperwork that is inefficient. Foreigners may come from different countries where things are more efficient and the corporate structure is looser, but in Japan when there is a rule set the rule is going to be abided by come hell and high-water. The littlest things are checked down to the most minute detail and corrections are made over and over again until it is perfect. Even if you go to a restaurant it is rare to be able to customize and substitute something in your meal and if you even ask for what is inside of it or to change it you will get a blank stare from the staff and they won’t do it. Banks are a nightmare sometimes with tons and tons of paperwork you have to fill out and very strict guidelines on how to fill it all out or you have to re-write it all over again. Despite being perceived as one of the most technologically advanced nations, they are still mostly living in an era of paperwork and paper money and ancient computer systems.

I say this particular point inside of realities for foreigners because this is a HUGE point for some people for leaving Japan and not staying for the long term, they can’t adapt to these procedures and some of the “ridiculous” bureaucracy and they eventually go back to their own home country. It can be quite annoying when it seems you have to jump over hurtles all the time and I don’t blame people for turning back and heading home. This just serves

All in all, I love living in Japan and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but there are some downsides to living here. What are your thoughts on these? Would these be deal breakers for you to live in Japan? Let me know in the comments below!

Working in a Japanese Company: Part 7 – 5 Mistakes to Avoid Working in a Japanese Company

Adapting to a completely different work culture in another country can be a huge learning curve. I live in Japan and have been working here for almost 5 years at a regular office job as an “OL”, or an “office lady” the term for a woman working in an office here in Japan. Throughout my experience working here I have a few things I have learned to avoid doing while working in a Japanese office, so here are 5 things that you should avoid doing while working in a Japanese company.

Being Late

Being late is a HUGE faux pas in Japan, especially in the workplace. Being “fashionably late” is not a concept here (unless you are the big boss) and in fact, you should be 5-10 minutes early to anything to be prepared. This is the same for when you come into work to begin the workday; I always make sure I am about 10 minutes early to work. My first job actually required me to be to work about 20 minutes early to do radio exercises with everyone and be prepared to start work on time.

Not knowing and practicing “Ho Ren So”

“Spinach??” you might think, but this is a business concept in Japan that stands for “Houkoku, Renraku, Soudan”, which translates to “Report, Inform, and Consult”. This is the basic process on how you interact with your boss/ superior about your tasks in your job that a lot of companies in Japan swear by. Report means to report what you are doing, Inform means to inform all parties involved of the information/ decision from the boss and Consult means to get advice from your boss about your tasks if you are having trouble with something or the boss gives his input into what you are doing. Coming from a western background this concept can seem like you are being babysat by your boss and you cant make your own decisions, but it’s important to know and follow in order to interact with your boss properly in Japan. Not all companies are like this and there are different levels of this depending on how your company is set up, but this is a generally good concept to know so you can understand how these companies operate. Read this article here for more information on this concept!

Not Helping To Clean the Office

Surprise! The workers in the office clean the office, not a janitorial team. You see this often when talking about Japan with the school system, but it actually permeates into the workplace too. Of course, if you are in a huge corporation in a huge building then there might not be cleaning duties, but at a small-medium size company in its own building, you will most likely be required to do some type of cleaning in the office, especially women. More traditional companies will only make the woman rotate cleaning duties, but in more modern companies everyone helps out with the tasks such as taking the trash out, vacuuming, and tidying the break room/ kitchen area etc. So don’t try to wiggle your way out of this! Even try to be the first one to speak up about cleaning duties when you first start at the company as sometimes your Japanese co-workers might not want to bother you as a foreigner. They will really appreciate you helping out!

Not Taking Notes

In my first company in Japan I was CONSTANTLY told to take notes. Now, in school I was the type to not take that many notes and still somehow pass the classes well, so I fought tooth and nail against this but after a while I realized that the co-workers in my first company were in fact correct that I needed to take notes. I ALWAYS forget small things that my boss tells me off handedly to do and having a notebook with me at all times when I talk to him has been a life saver to remember them. On top of this, if you don’t have a notebook and a pen in a meeting it is seen as rude and you are not engaging and absorbing the information presented in the meeting.

Forgetting Proper Greetings

“Aisatsu” or greetings in Japan are essential in all-around in daily life, not just business, so if you do not say the proper greetings throughout the day it can be seen as rude to your co-workers. In the morning when you come into the office you always say “Ohayougozaimasu”, which is “Good morning”, and before you leave for the day you say “osakini shitsureshimasu”, which is a polite way of saying “Excuse me, I’m leaving before you” in combination with “Otsukaresamadesu”, 「お疲れ様です」or “Thank you for the hard work” a phrase that is used in the workplace A LOT. If there is one greeting/ phrase that you NEED to know in a Japanese company it is “Otsukaresamadesu”. It is not only used when you leave for the day but when you greet a co-worker throughout the day or on the phone. For example, when your boss or co-worker calls you on the phone you pick up with Otsukaresamadesu if you know it’s them or after you know who is calling, when you pass a co-worker in the hallway or in the breakroom you say it and when you enter into another part of your office you say it to them as well. You do NOT say it to someone outside of your company, as there is another phrase that you say to a customer or someone outside your company you interact with for work.

What did you think? Do these differ from your country and which ones do you find the strangest? Let me know in the comments below!

Go to Part 6 | Go to Part 8 (Coming soon!)

NEWS – “Topgun/ Love Story” Single Review

Top Gun/ Love Story is Double A-side single released on June 12th, 2019 with a pure love ballad paired together with a passionate, upbeat song about longing after an elite, hard to get woman. On release day, it just scrapped by their 4 member comeback single Chankapana in number of copies sold, making it their best selling single as 4 members. Love Story/ Top Gun sold 121,842 copies and Chankapana sold 121,097 on the first day of sales.

The Songs

Love Story

First let me give a bit of background of this song:
Johnny’s and Associates (NEWS’s management) released a dating simulator game app in March 2018 in collaboration with Gree, a game application developer here in Japan called 「NEWSに恋して」, or “Fall in love with NEWS”. For the 1 year anniversary of the app launch in March 2019, they released a series of commercials, which featured Love Story in it, and was the first time us fans had heard it… or so we thought. NEWS fans were surprised that they actually recognized the tune. It had originally been part of the series of New Year’s concerts “EPCOTIA – encore-” that NEWS held at the beginning of the year where NEWS had the fans hum the melody at one point, recorded it, and then put that recording into the single as a surprise for the fans. When I mean surprised, we really were surprised! During NEWS concerts, to transition between different parts of the show NEWS has the fans do all kinds of things to keep us distracted, such as a quiz game, stomping and clapping to the rhythm of something related to the show theme, etc. So this time they had us do the same thing to help everyone “escape from inside a blackhole”, but to the tune of Love Story. So the fans didn’t suspect a thing!

So, Love Story is actually a love song from NEWS to their fans, but it can be interpreted as a love song in general as well. I love how its a ballad, but has a really nice beat and seriously gets stuck in my head. 12/10 would love another song like this again!

Top Gun「トップガン」

Top Guns is a fun, upbeat song with lots of brass and string sounds and old-school disco-esque guitar, making it have a 70’s sort to feel to it. The first few times I heard this song though I wasn’t impressed with it as I had only heard it as the ending song of the drama …… Even after I saw it during the WORLDISTA tour, I wasn’t a fan of it until I heard the studio version of it. I am a fan of brass sounds combined with other modern elements so as soon as I heard the sounds on the studio version I fell in love with it, and the music video just made me love it even more. My favorite part of the song has to be when Massu raps towards the end in a kind of rap-dubstep breakdown.

The Music Videos

Love Story

The music video for Love Story had 5 different versions; 1 for each member and 1 combined video. Each video was made in 1 cut (with the combined one taking cuts from the individual ones) and the theme was a “date” with them. I like cute, but this really took it to another level but it was very tasteful. It was very well shot and reminded me to Tegomassu’s video “Moshimo Kono Sekai kara ○○ ga nakunatara”. I liked Koyama’s look the the most in this video with his hair and the necklace he wore. It was still sickly sweet and I did squeal at some points, so if you are looking for something overly sweet then this the video for you!

Top Gun「トップガン」

The Top Gun music is a piece of art. I love so much about it I don’t even know where to start. The aesthetic of the boys laying in the flower and the transitions between the dance scenes and the “portrait” flower scenes are phenomenal. Massu’s costumes were really a vital part of the video with the red, black and white combined with the white background. I have to point out that only Massu would make them wear Christian Lou Boutin slightly heeled dress shoes to dance and make it work fantastically. This music video really made me fall in love with the song and has to be one of my favorite NEWS music videos to date, only second to Kaguya. I could watch this video over and over again, that’s how much I love it.

The Verdict

Overall I rank this single as one of my top NEWS singles as 4 members, right next to Ikiro and Kaguya. I like how they have 2 different sounding songs on one single, plus the surprise with Love Story and recording the fans at the concert. Because they released a double A-side single, they will probably only release 1 more single or no more singles before their new album “Story” comes out (production is in process and confirmed by the label) probably sometime in Spring 2020. I highly recommend this single to anyone getting into NEWS, as both singles show different sides of NEWS.

What did you guys think of this single? Did you like Love Story or Top Gun better? Let me know in the comments below!

[Translation] Nishino Kana – Bedtime Story

むかしむかし、あるところに、
不器用な男の子と、少し気の強い女の子がいました。
Once Upon a time in a far away place,
There lived a clumsy boy and a slightly strong-willed girl.

違う世界に住んでいたふたりは、ある日偶然出会い、
恋に落ちました。
They lived in different worlds, met by chance one day and fell in love.

男の子はやさしくて、いつも振りまわされて、
女の子は手紙で、いつも謝りました。
The boy was kind but was always manipulated*,
The girl always apologize by letter.

星が降るある日のこと。
男の子は手をとって、こう言いました。
One day when the stars fell,
The boy took her hand and said:

‘愛してる。誰よりも、君が思うよりも。
いつだって、君のことで心はいっぱいなんだよ。
頼りないかもしれない、でも必ず守るから。
ああ、どうか僕のそばに、
ずっと僕のそばにいてほしい。’

“I love you. More than anyone,  more than you think.
My heart is always filled with your presence.
I might not be reliable, but I will defiantly protect you.
Ahh,  somehow,
I want you to always be by my side. ”

やがて月日は流れて、ふたりは歳をとって、
深い絆ができました。
Time passed, the two became older and they formed a strong bond.

相変わらず男の子は、いつも振りまわされて、
女の子は、やさしさに感謝していました。
As always, the boy was always  manipulated
and the girl was grateful for that kindness.

星が降るあの日と同じように、
男の子は手をとって、こう言いました。
One Day when stars fell just like before,
The boy took her hand and said:

‘愛してる。誰よりも、君が思うよりも。
いつだって、君のことで心はいっぱいなんだよ。
頼りないかもしれない、でも必ず守るから。
ああ、どうか僕のそばに、
ずっと僕のそばにいてほしい。’
“I love you. More than anyone,  more than you think.
My heart is always filled with your presence.
I might not be reliable, but I will defiantly protect you.
Ahh,  somehow,
I want you to always be by my side. ”

それからふたりは、
いばらの道を何度もきり抜けて、時に嵐と戦って、
どんな時だって互いに手をとり合って、
いくつも大きな奇跡を起こしていきました。
After that they cut through thorny paths many times and fought off storms occasionally.
At anytime they would work together and many great miracles happened.

‘愛してる。私も。君に負けないくらい。
いつだって、君のことで心がいっぱいなんだよ。
今までも、これからも、頼りにしてるから。
ねぇ、だから君のそばに、
ずっと君のそばにいさせて。’

” I love you. Me too. So much it won’t be surpassed by yours.
My heart is always filled with your presence.
Up until now, from now on, you have been so reliable to me.
So please,
let me always be by your side.”

そしてふたりは、いつまでも幸せに暮らしました。
And they lived happily ever after.


TRANSLATION NOTE *The Japanese word 「振りまわされて」can mea to abuse one’s power or to manipulate someone but in the case of this song, I took it to mean manipulate means that he always bent to the will of the girl, because she was strong willed, not that she was being manipulative in a bad way to him.

This was my translation of “Bedtime Story”, the theme song for the live action version of “3D彼女リアルガール , 3D Real Girl” Please note that Japanese is my second language and this translation is just my interpretation of the lyrics based on my knowledge of the Japanese and English language. If you have any suggestions to better it, please comment below! Also, I do not own the rights to these song lyrics.

How to Get a Non-English Teaching Job in Japan Through Higher Education

When talking about landing a non-English teaching job in Japan, there are many different options, like Japanese language school or a  working holiday, but the option that I chose to come to Japan was higher education. I wanted to talk about this route that not many people seem to address  much when talking about moving and working in Japan.  Since I wanted a long term solution to living in Japan, I decided that investing in higher education was the best route for me.  Here is a bit of my story:

DISCLAIMER before I get started: I am NOT an expert in Japanese visas or in the process of higher education in Japan but I do have my own experience going through these things so I am sharing my story in the hopes it will help someone!

I graduated from University in the United States in 2012 and went straight to get my MBA in Japan at a program that was in all in English just 5 months after graduation in the US. The program I chose was Doshisha University’s Global MBA program in Kyoto, but there are lots of other schools in Tokyo and in Japan in general that offer Master’s degree programs that are not just business. I chose business because that was my major in undergrad and I had alway knew I would get my MBA at some point, but If you don’t have a university degree yet, never fear! As an alternative, you can apply to go to regular University in Japan on a full program in English like Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto or Sophia University in Tokyo.

Important to note: Even though I say the programs are in English, in this route it is essential to learn Japanese fluently. Even though some companies are becoming more international and letting people work in English, its still an exception to the normal, so you must be able to work in Japanese in the Japanese way of working. I took my MBA in English because I only had conversational Japanese at the time, so I applied to the English program in order to get to Japan to practice Japanese and immerse myself. I even took Japanese classes as well and made the effort to study Japanese as much as I could while I was there. By the time job hunting came around, I could interview in Japanese and was able to get a job that was mostly in Japanese, where my level went from intermediate-conversational to Basic Business Japanese through immersion after 1 year of working. Now after almost 5 years of working in Japan in mostly Japanese,  my level is in-between N2 and N1 on the JLPT.

Now, why is a degree from a Japanese University beneficial?

#1,  Japan Immigration weighs a degree from a Japanese University higher than a degree from a foreign university when deciding your visa for working later on, so its the “gift to yourself that keeps on giving” so to speak.  If you go to graduate school in Japan for your masters degree, this works even more in your favor because Japan has been giving more priority to highly skilled workers in Japan, which having a masters degree counts as being “highly skilled”. Of course a Master’s degree from a non-Japanese university is still considered highly skilled, but it weighs even higher if its from a Japanese university. Plus, you will get more connections in order to get a Job which leads to #2, which is networking.

#2 If you get your higher education in Japan, you will be able to network around while you are going to school and learn the ropes of job hunting, as well as the name of your school will give you a boost for jobs. Whenever I tell anyone I went to Doshisha, they immediately say “oh you must be so smart!”, even if I follow up with “oh, the program was in English though”. Names DO matter, so be sure to choose your school wisely! Also, the school will have a career development office that can help you, but be aware that they are still very traditional and will mostly operate on the standard Japanese job hunting schedule. Though this is the case, you can still get valuable information on how to act in an interview, how to set up your resume, etc.

TIP:  I recommend during the job hunting process that you contact recruitment agencies while you are job hunting and get advice from them and have them connect you to jobs in Japan. I actually worked together with a recruitment agency in Tokyo that got me a few interviews for jobs that were looking for foreigners, one in Nagoya and one in Kobe.  Also, go to Job fairs whenever you can and dish out the money to go to Tokyo to go to the big international job fairs there. You can speak directly with hiring managers and get interviews right on the spot. This might not lead to jobs right away, as you have to play a “long game” so to speak, but through these you will get valuable interview experience and practice interviewing in Japanese as well and see what companies are looking for out there.

Now lets talk about some Cons:

#1 This route costs money and you cannot work full time while you are going to school to support yourself, because you must be on a student visa. My tuition for an entire course (without scholarships) was 1M yen, and that did not cover living expenses which was about 150,000  yen a month in Kyoto for 2 years. (Expenses can be less than this based on the type of accommodation that you decide to live in) Part time work is okay up to 20 hours a week with special permission on your student Visa from immigration. With that being said, there  ARE scholarships for international students so its not impossible, but it still is an investment.

#2 This route takes 2-4 years until actually landing a job in Japan. You might be able to shorten this if you take on more course work or get an internship with a company or begin working while working on your graduation thesis etc., but more than likely your main job will be studying for this time, so it is a pretty long time-commitment. If you are looking for a short term solution to come to Japan ASAP,  Japanese Language school or a working Holiday visa is probably a better option for you. Higher education worked out the best route for me, but it certainly isn’t for everyone.

And that’s a wrap! Does anyone here have a different experience with higher education here? Have any questions regarding higher education in Japan? Comment below and I can make a follow up post!

Working in a Japanese Company: Part 6 – It’s Been 4 Years

A lot has changed in the past 4 and a half years since I began working in Japan. I have grown from a 24 year old woman just starting out and adjusting to work life, to an almost 29 year old humbled by a variety of experiences under her belt. So, when I look back on all of the previous  “Working in a Japanese Company” posts that I made in my first 6 months working, I actually cringe a bit inside. Now I don’t mean cringe in a bad way… I mean cringe as in I have empathy for what past Lauren had been going through, but also wishing I could go back in time and let her know that things will work out in the end. Only now when I look back that far do I see how far I really have come in my cultural understanding of working in Japan, but also how far I have come to have found a company that was finally the right fit for me.

I bounced around jobs a bit; a combination of both my doing and outside forces. I won’t get into details of the companies I had worked for/ work for and why I left, but I can say looking back at them they weren’t a good fit. I can also say that I gained valuable life experience (though quite harsh and not the kindest at times) and became fluent in Japanese because I went through those experiences.

I’ve also gained A LOT of knowledge, which has changed my mind about and kind of contradicts some of the things I said in those previous posts. For example, when I talked about the “stamp rally” that Japanese companies have with the Hanko system. I said I didn’t think that it was an effective use of time when things sat on my desk for a long time, and I still stand by that the system my first company used wasn’t the best system at all, but after experiencing 3 other companies after that I realize that each company culture is different for how those documents are handled and if there is a “stamp rally” or not, as well as the contents of your job affects it too. I don’t need to Hanko as many documents anymore as I did at my first company, as I was sending out important orders on a daily basis and handling a lot of finance related matters at the time. At my second company, I hardly stamped anything except for approval for days off and the occasional form to submit to the HR department. At my 3rd company I didn’t stamp anything since it was such a small start up company and  HR procedures were not in place.  At my current job, I only stamp something when I am submitting for a day off or for an expense report at the end of the month. I will say though that having to get a contract signed or a requisition through ASAP and having the HR department not be flexible for timing is one example of when this “stamp rally” isn’t the best system.

Where is my future from here? Well, I will renew my visa towards the end of the year and I plan on being at this company for a while and from there….I am not sure yet. I know that I want to continue living in Japan for the long term though. I’m trying to gain experience in digital marketing and overall business planning at my position here and on the side I want to expand the amount of content that I make here on my blog and on my instagram.

I want to continue this series, so what information do you want to know about working in a Japanese company? Let me know in the comments below!

Go to Part 5 | Go to Part 7

[Johnnys 101] So You Have Begun to Stan A Johnnys Group – All the basics you need to know

So… you have begun to stan a Johnnys group. Welcome! It’s going to be a very sparkly and emotional ride, but let me give you some tips to help you start out.

This is a new series on my blog called “Johnny’s 101”, where I answer as much in depth about the infamous Japanese boyband agency Johnny’s and associates as I possibly can. As a bit of background, I have been a Johnnys fan for over 10 years now, and have also written my graduate school thesis on the business of Johnny’s. I don’t know everything (as Johnny’s can be mysterious in a lot of ways) but I hope I can give an insight into Johnny’s that you might not know yet.

But first… What is Johnnys?

Johnnys is an all-male talent agency founded in the 1960s by Johnny Kitagawa. The agency is mostly known for training boys (called Johnny’s Juniors) in different parts of the entertainment industry (singing, dancing, acting, etc.) from a young age by having them back dance for the debuted groups, seeing which ones are popular, and then debuting a select few. They aren’t just simply boybands but are involved in many different activities in the entertainment industry in Japan, such as television, movies, fashion, and even novel writing and newscasting. Some of the most popular groups that have come out of Johnnys are SMAP and Arashi.

Now with that out of the way, let’s get to today’s topic which is basics of the agency and the fandom that you should know as a new fan (and maybe a reminder or refresher for those OG fans out there!)

1. Johnny’s is extremely strict (as are the fans) and behind the times

Johnny’s hasn’t digitalized yet (even worse than the rest of Japan… which is saying something) which means there are no YouTube videos or digital music downloads. Hard copies only, my friends! They are super strict with what is uploaded to social media and media sites as well. Around 2014 or so is when they actually put their artist’s pictures on their OWN website and their fan club was super analog until about 2 years ago (hard copy tickets, paying via bank transfer and all) Shocker isn’t it? In my opinion, this is a huge barrier to growth for them, especially internationally. BUT! With that being said recently they have made some huge changes, like Johnny’s official shop goods being sold online within Japan, revamp of the online fan club system, and especially so with the juniors YouTube channel, which is promising. My question though: is it too slow? Let me know what you think!

As for the fans, concert manners and sharing media online is policed pretty strictly. This varies from group to group though, as each fan base has a different “culture” so to speak. An example of this is with my favorite group NEWS, concert spoilers during the tour are kinda a big no-no, as NEWS themselves said a few years back they prefer all the fans to be surprised, so…. you won’t see the set list and hardly any detailed spoilers until after the final show is finished. It’s not to “end game” level, but we protect from spoilers as much as possible. MC is perfectly fine to spoil so bring all the weird things they say!

2. Johnnys is based in Japan and caters mostly to a Japanese audience

Johnny’s is based in Japan and caters to Japanese fans within Japan. I see a lot of fans getting upset that Johnny’s doesn’t do much for international fans and say “Johnny’s hate international fans” but at this point in time with the current stage of the agency, I think these thoughts are misguided. I could make an entirely separate blog post about this (comment below if you want it!), but to sum it up the Japanese music industry is #2 in the world only after the United States. Because of this, Johnny’s can make enough money just within Japan no problem only catering to Japanese fans. Why should they spend the money to expand overseas when they dominate the Japanese market and make enough money anyway? Even fans inside of Japan have a hard time getting concert tickets even when they are in the fan club and the artists only have enough hours in a day, so how can they expand and think of going overseas when they are at capacity inside of Japan? If you think about it that way, you can see why Johnny’s wouldn’t want to cater to foreign fans, as they have their hands full inside of Japan already. Does this mean they shouldn’t share media outside of Japan? No, I think YouTube and social media is essential, but in terms of an international fan club and translating things into many languages, it’s not going to work for a long time and not a good choice business wise. They first need to get the digital infrastructure up and running in Japan first.

3. The Twitter community is probably the strongest to find fan friends (Japanese and foreign)and get the latest information.

Back in the day, LiveJournal used to be the community of choice but in the past 5 years or so that community has pretty much died and everyone is on Twitter. If you want to make fandom friends, make a twitter account and get started by talking with other fans! Japanese fans are also heavy users of Twitter (as Twitter is the dominant social media platform in Japan besides Instagram) so you can get almost any piece of information you need on there. For the most part, us fans are extremely friendly and are more than happy to point you in the direction of what you see looking for. Just be sure to respect the other fans and don’t assume that the way things are done in your country are done that way in Japan and in Johnny’s.

4. No Johnny’s talents have individual Twitter or Instagram accounts or even social media

Okay okay, there is 1 exception that literally happened when I was writing this, which is Yamapi! He was on Weibo, but then on May 16th, he made an Instagram, a Johnny’s first. In general, though, Johnnys do not have social media (including youtube… except the Junior’s channel I mentioned above!) and their “blogs”, called Jwebs, are behind a paywall and are only in Japanese. This poses an interesting dynamic, as the world has moved rapidly towards an era of social media and digital music downloads and streaming, in which Johnnys is pretty archaic. So, if you want to find any information about the group or see their music videos you will have to go on a hunt around the internet.

 

Did I miss anything? What information would you like as a new Johnnys fan or as an OG fan what advice would you give to new fans?