[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?

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Interview With Multiplatinum Songwriter Jovette Rivera| nihonchique

Most people who follow me on social media and my blog know that I am obsessed with Johnnys. It’s not just the idols themselves I am interested in, but the business behind it as well, which includes the songwriters themselves.

Back in July, I had the opportunity to sit down with multiplatinum Jpop songwriter Jovette Rivera and interview him all about his career and what it is like to work in the Japanese entertainment industry, as he does more than just songwriting. He has written song for some of Japan’s top artists, including Johnnys groups like KAT-TUN, Sexy Zone, Kis-my-ft2 and more. He gave some amazing insight into the Japanese entertainment industry and his whole story was so fascinating to me, especially that he is a  self-taught songwriter.

If you would like more insight into the Japanese entertainment industry and learn about an amazingly talented interview,  head on over to the website I work for Izanau for the two part interview that I conducted with Jovette.

Part 1: https://izanau.com/article/jovette-interview

Part 2: https://izanau.com/article/jovette-interview-2

If you would like to check out more details about Jovette, head on over to his twitter and his company website, Royal Kingdom Music.

24Hour Television 39 – NEWS Showers Japan with Love!

The last weekend of August, Nippon TV hosted their 39th annual 24 Hour Television marathon. This year in particular I was very interested because my favorite Japanese idol group NEWS was the main personality this year! They had hosted the television program back in 2009 when they were 6 members, when Yamashita Tomohisa and Nishikido Ryo were still in the group. While I did not watch the early morning hours of the show, I watched most of it and I was really impressed at how they handled everything. You could really tell how they had grown in the 7 years since they had hosted their first 24Hour TV.

I think the thing that impressed me most was how the entire 24Hour staff, including NEWS, handled the scandal regarding Takahata Yuta. Takahata was chosen as one of the 24Hour TV personalities, and a few days before it started he was arrested for sexual assault of a female hotel employee. Everything with his face on it regarding 24Hour TV with removed in hours, including his appearance in the special 24Hour TV drama “Blind Teacher Yoshinori”, that NEWS member Kato Shigeaki starred in. The next day, it was announced that they would be re-filming the parts that he was in and NEWS member Koyama would be taking his place as the rehab employee. The effort that everyone has put into the refilling and rearranging the schedule really impressed me.

I want to thank NEWS and the staff for putting on an amazing 24Hour Television this year! I was moved and NEWS’s “Member Ai” really showed

Also, if you want to read more about my thoughts on this year’s 24Hour TV, head over to the website I work for Izanau and read this article here!

Why I am a proud “Johnny’s Otaku”

This post is a reaction post to the Otaku post on Tofugu. I know this post mostly covers anime otaku, but I thought it was a good article to describe Otaku culture in general.

A few months back, I was invited out to lunch by a co-worker at the last minute. We mostly talked about happenings in the office and somehow the subject of me going to a concert in Tokyo dome recently came up. I told her “Yes, I am a huge fan of Johnny’s” and I explained how I go to many concerts in the same tour, especially for NEWS. The topic of my MBA thesis also came up from this, which was the business of Johnnys and if/how they could go overseas. I was proud to tell her all of this and at the end she told me “You really do not look like the type that would be into something like Johnny’s”

If you had asked me about this a few years back, I would not have had the same opinion at all. In fact, I used to hate the word “Otaku”, especially “Johnny’s Otaku”. In America, the word “Otaku” comes from being a huge anime fan or loving Japan, and to me it was on the same level as “Weaboo”…. basically “crazy Japan lover”. So, Johnny’s Otaku basically meant “Crazy Johnny’s fan” to me. I don’t dress up for Johnny’s concerts (I prefer to go in regular clothes…. I already stand out being foreign) , I don’t go out to the store and buy the CD’s anymore (once I began my career I began to order the CD’s online because they got to you just as fast as if you went to the store here in Japan and I don’t have to rush out of work), I don’t want to marry any Johnnys guys or even be in a romantic relationship with any of them, and my whole life does not revolve around a concert tour.  What I DO do though is I buy all of NEWS’s CD and DVD releases religiously, I follow all of the information online of all of the Johnnys groups and know basically what is going on in the agency as a whole, I watch the TV shows when I am home, and I go to many different Johnny’s concerts. Even with just simply “Otaku” tacked on as a title, I am not anti-social and I do not just have Johnny’s as my only interest. I also consider myself a part of the fandom, though I support my favorites and the agency as a whole in my own way. I balance my fandom life with my career and my other interests, such as traveling and fashion.

So, why would I still be considered a “Johnny’s Otaku” if I don’t do a lot of the conventional things that I consider being a “Crazy Johnny’s fan?” or “Otaku” in general? Well, I am still involved in the fandom. I might dip my feet in on my own terms, but I still interact with other fans and some of my best friends I have made out of our mutual love for Johnny’s. I also know a lot more information than the conventional person would about the groups and the inter-working of the agency because I am naturally curious about the things that interest me and it was my research/thesis topic for my MBA program. I get told quite a lot “Wow! You know more information about Johnnys than me and I am even Japanese!”. This knowledge of information and interaction in the fandom is what I believe makes me a “Johnny’s Otaku”. You don’t even have to be in the fandom to be an Otaku because fundamentally you can just know a lot of information and still be a fan. There is nothing that says you have to interact with other fans and buy the goods to be an Otaku. In fact, I have heard stories of people actually hiding that they are a Johnny’s fan and do not buy goods or items at all, but still follow everything religiously and go to concerts….They still take possession of what they love and make it into their own.

In the post by Tofugu, they say “Otaku take possession of what they love and make it their own…..this possession is the result of remixing the source material and contributing it to the community” I love Johnny’s and I take possession of that and make it my own by writing an MBA thesis on it, and by choosing what I want to consume. To someone else, this could mean fan fiction, creating cosplay for concerts, making Uchiwas, creating a copy group and more. The post by Tofugu continues on to say, with a quote from Tamaki Saitou“(Otaku are) not just fans, but connoisseurs, critics, and authors themselves. This blurring of the distinction between producer and consumer is another characteristic of the otaku.” I love Johnny’s, but I am also very critical about the agency and it is a reason I chose to research it and made it into my MBA thesis and why I dabble in fandom on my own terms. Everyone has their own way that they do this in and no way is wrong, as long as it is considerate of the unspoken and spoken fan concert manners, as these types of manners all fandoms have.

I suppose to sum it up: To me, being an Otaku means supporting your interest (wether it be anime, video games, boybands etc.) in whatever way suits YOU and YOUR lifestyle best. I am a proud Johnny’s Otaku and I do not see that changing anytime soon.

Johnny’s Talk – Concert Rules

The first time I went to a Johnny’s concert back in 2009, I had no idea about concert manners. I didn’t understand why people held these things with messages or people’s faces on them (later finding out they were called “Uchiwas”) and waved glow sticks in unison (called penlights) or why there were no photos allowed inside the venue. Over the years, I learned the concert manners and now understand why these things, and many others, happen. In this post, I will discuss some major concert rules and why they are there.

No Photography or Video allowed During the Concert or in the Venue.

The number one thing you will notice when you get in line for a Johnny’s concert is that they search your bag. During this check they ask you if you have a camera, the reason being you are not allowed to take pictures or videos during concerts. This is one of the biggest rules that might be a huge contrast to your own home country. In America, and many other countries, you are allowed to take video and pictures during a concert or inside the venue. In Japan for the most part you can’t, even for concerts outside Johnny’s. This doesn’t mean as a visitor to Japan and as a foreigner that this rule doesn’t apply to you though.

The reason for no pictures or videos during the concert or inside the venue is because they don’t want anything shared on social media or to be shared without their consent. This may seem constraining, but that is how the Japanese music industry works. In return, they usually release a DVD and official pictures. Another reason is etiquette, holding a camera up in the air the whole concert may mean blocking other people’s view around you. In some venues, cameras are also seen as a health and safety hazard.

Uchiwa Etiquette

Uchiwas are those things that fans hold with the member’s faces on it or a message written on it. In a concert in America, you are allowed to make signs or something to hold during a concert, but since they are too big, Japan uses Uchiwas to do the same thing. Now, these Uchiwas are not allowed to be held over your face or be more than the typical Uchiwa size. If you do not know the size of an uchiwa and want to make one, click here for the proper dimensions.

The reason that these rules are in place is because if you raise the Uchiwa over your head, it blocks the view of the person behind you and ruins the concert experience for them. This also goes for the amount of Uchiwas you hold at the same time. You are only allowed to hold 2 Uchiwas at a time in your hands, as it will block the person to the side and behind you from seeing properly.

Stay in your Assigned Seat

As a health and safety standard, as well as to keep things orderly and to protect the safety of the talents, stay in your assigned seat. Even if you are on the end of a row, don’t step out into the aisle. Also, don’t run to catch any streamers that are falling further away from your seat.

Listen to the Venue Staff

The staff members are in the venue for a reason, to help direct the audience and make sure everything is in order. You will see the staff members everywhere, and they will also be directing you to where to go and what to do. When you are in and around the venue, follow their instructions. They are the people holding the signs that tell you to take no pictures in the venue and also direct you if you need help. If they approach you about something, please be respectful and do what they say. The staff do not bother you if you aren’t doing something out of line. I am not perfect about this, and I have snapped at a staff member before, but also know that they are just doing their job.

I hope you guys have enjoyed this post and give it a like if you found it helpful! Please let me know in the comments below what you think and if you have any other things to add from your experience.

Album Review: NEWS – WHITE

NEWS-WHITE

NEWS “WHITE”, released on February 28th 2015, is NEW’s most recent album released a year and a half after their previous one. This time they used the theme of “white”, which has always been their “group color”. They also experimented with new sounds and new concepts, such as implementing a short film in the album. It topped the weekly charts, beating Acid Black Cherry.

The Songs

MR.WHITE

This is the title song of their album and also what their short film was based off of. I heard it on Koyama’s radio show K-chan news in the middle of February and I loved it the first time I heard it! This is a different type of sound compared to what NEWS has done in the past, with a “funk” vibe to it. I love the combination of the beat with the horns. The vocals are amazing and the key really suits their voices. When singing on music programs to promote the album, they always sung this song and you could see how confident they were with the concept through their performance.

KAGUYA

KAGUYA was NEWS’s most recent single that was released in January. It has a very “modern meets old” feel to it and is an “epic love song” that showed a more sensual side to NEWS. For a full review of this single, please click here to read my post about it.

NYARO

NYARO was originally released about a year ago, but only as a Bra commercial tie-up song for the brand Walcol. The fans have never heard the full version of this song, so it was great to finally hear it. It’s a very NEWS like “summery” song. It has a country feel to it with fiddle like sounds and country like guitar. Paired with the kind of dance beat in the background, I think it makes a new and interesting combination. The echo of “Nyaro” in the background in the chorus makes it such a fun and catchy song that get’s stuck in your head.

SEVEN COLORS

SEVEN COLORS was the theme song for the 2013 and 2014 FIFA Club World Cup and is personally my favorite of the three soccer songs that they have released. Since both times were in Morroco, it has a dance-electronic beat combined with African drums.  I like the uptempo-ness of the song combined and the variety of sounds.

Weather NEWS

Weather NEWS is probably the most news-like song out of this whole album to me. It’s a call and response song, very much like “4-Fan” was in their 2013 “NEWS” album. The whole concept of having a call and response song is such a fun concept to me and makes me feel involved in the concert and with the other fans as well. For the music, it’s a very simple song with simple lyrics, and it was a very nice surprise to have Shige do the rap part and not Massu, who had seemed to take on the rap parts since Yapami had left the group.

Super Sonic

NEWS normally has one “hard dance” song on their album, and Super Sonic was this album’s dance song. What makes it different than the other dance songs that they have done more of an electronic and dubstep feel to it, which seems to be a theme in Asian pop in general recently. When I first heard it, it sounded reminiscent of an Arashi song from their “Digitialian” album. It’s like a combination of a rock song and a dance song combined together and is probably my favorite dance song of theirs to date.

Black-Jack –Inter- and “BYAKUYA”

I combined these two together because one leads into another. Black Jack is an interlude or kind of intermission into the other part of the album, but more specifically into BYAKUYA. It’s a dubstep type song that you would probably hear in a club and somehow merges well together with the fantasy like sounds in BYAKUYA.

Now speaking of fantasy, BYAKUYA is an all out fantasy song, a cross between a pirate theme song, like out of Pirates of the Caribbean, and something out of Harry Potter or “Nightmare Before Christmas”. If you think about it, it also sounds like something that KAT-TUN would do, an epic song that has lots of “visuals”. There is so much going on in this song that you have to listen to it a few times to really hear everything. The first time I heard this song I felt a combination of “What is this epicness?” and “What did I just listen to?” because there was so much going on.

ONE –for the win-

One -for the win- was the 2014 FIFA World Cup theme song that member Tegoshi was also the main caster for.  This song has a more Latin feel to it, which really surprised me the first time I heard the song. This song is one of the songs that gets stuck in my head so easily because the chorus says all the names of the countries that participated in the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

White Love Story

Out of all of the songs on the album, this has to be the song that struck me the most. It is such a light and fluffy love song, but more specifically a wedding song. The lyrics are so sweet and the harmonization combined with the piano and the lyrics make me tear up every time I hear this song. This song personally showed me an evolution in NEWS, a maturity from the typical love song to something that was deeper in a sense. The lyrics talk about a man treasuring a woman so much and wanting to make her happy and protect her from now on. At one point the lyrics say “You are my Heroine”, it might seem sickly sweet to some people, but I think that it’s a beautiful song and a beautiful melody, which makes it on my top songs on this album.

Ai Kotoba 「愛言葉」

Ai Kotoba is the song that NEWS wrote themselves for their 10 Year Anniversary Event. NEWS has gone through a lot in the past 10 years, going from 9-8-6 and then to 4 members, so this was was a song dedicated to the fans and them coming this far as 4 members. It’s a very sweet song with a simple melody, but a deep meaning. It’s  a special song for the members, as well as the fans. When I heard it in the countdown this past year, I was crying so hard.

Solo Songs

Koyama Keiichiro – Romeo 2015 「ロメオ2015」

This was a song that Koyama and former NEWS member Nishikido Ryo did as a duet together in a concert a long time ago and Koyama decided to revamp it as his solo for this tour. It has a latin flair, but it is quite simple if you listen carefully. It is sexy in a subtle way and the vocals aren’t too harsh and it suits Koyama’s voice very nicely.

Masuda Takahisa – Skye Beautiful

The first time I heard this song I didn’t know what to think of it and I didn’t like it that much. I was very confused at the rhythm changes, going from soft and “mysterious” to hard dance club like music. I had to listen a second time before I actually understood the tempo changes and how it all flowed together, and then it became one of my top songs on the album.

Tegoshi Yuya – Anata 「あなた」

Coming from his solo last album/ tour “Lovin U”, this was a bit of a disappointment to me when I first listened to it. It was very simple love ballad compared to the previous two solo songs, really focusing on the voice more than anything. It was quite boring for a while, but once I listened to it a few times and felt the lyrics and the piano, I began to like it more.

Kato Shigeaki – Escort

Escort is my favorite of all of the solo songs this tour, just for the beat of the song combined with the lyrics. Shige wrote the lyrics of the song again this time, and I think he was trying to spin off of his previous solo “Dreamcatcher” with “flowery” lyrics again. I like the piano and “funk” kind of vibe to the song and it flows very nicely, although some of the English lyrics make me giggle every time I listen to it.

Overall impressions

This album was a new direction for NEWS, they experimented with some new styles of music, but you could still very much feel classic “NEWS” throughout. It showed a more mature side of NEWS in a way, an evolution almost. In particular, Byakuya and Black Jack –Intern- and Kaguya were a bit out of the ordinary for NEWS, but it gave them a more mature feel. My favorite songs were White Love Story and NYARO, along with Weather NEWS, which were the most “NEWS” like songs on the album, in my opinion.

I hope you enjoyed this review! What do you all think of NEWS “White” album? Please let me know what you think in the comments below and press the like button if you enjoyed this post.

Review: NEWS – KAGUYA

KaguyaKAGUYA is NEWS’s first single of 2015 released on January 7th, and they came out with a bang! The theme of this single was “Princess Kaguya”, which is a famous story in Japan called “Princess Kaguya – The tale of the Bamboo Cutter”. It made it to the #1 spot on the Oricon weekly charts and stayed in the top 3 throughout January. Famous Director Ninagawa Mika directed the Music Video and did the Cover Jacket shooting.

The Songs

KAGUYA

KAGUYA is an “epic love song” that is a perfect combination between modern and ancient; the overall sound is modern with a combination of old sounds and old style lyrics infused into it. I love the echo of “Saga, Saga” in the background of chorus! The lyrics have a poetic feel to them, written in the perspective of the men who loved Princess Kaguya. The song is quite sexy, but in a subtle way, really showing NEWS’s grown up and sensual side. The song follows the story of Princess Kaguya, in which there are 4 princes that are invited to the home of the princess to try and become her husband, and they instantly fall in love with her.

Butterfly 「バタフライ」

The first time I heard this song I thought, “This is very much a NEWS-like song”. The vocals are very sweet and is a typical NEWS-like love song. I love the piano in it combined with the soft guitar. The part Koyama sings before the chorus starting with “Anata” each time is just so heartfelt and sweet and the harmonization of NEWS’s voices when they sing “Butterfly” is just amazing.

“Wasurenagusa” (Forget-me-not) 勿忘草」

The melody of this song, combined with the piano, reminded me of TM Revolution’s “Thunderbird”, which Tegomass had performed together with him on Music Fair before. This song is short, but very heart wrenchingly beautiful. This song surprised me because it sounds more like a Tegomass song than a NEWS song, but the vocals, especially Shige’s, are amazing for this song.

TOP OF THE WORLD

This is a very upbeat, dubstep-electronic like song. It’s not hard-core dub-step like Kanjani 8’s “Sorry Sorry Love”, but it is more of a lighter electronic dub-step song. I was attracted to this song because I love dance like songs, so I hope that this is one of the songs that they perform in concert in their upcoming tour.

TRAVeLiNG

This is a more of a swing like song with elements of their past song “Say Hello” in it. I liked the fun swing sound to it, which is rare in NEWS songs. Based on some feedback online I saw, people really didn’t seem to like this song, but I think it would be a fun song for them to do in concert.

KAGUYA – Music Video

The music video, as mentioned previously, was directed by Ninagawa Mika, who is a famous director and photographer known for a very colorful and sexy style to her works. She has directed AKB48’s “Heavy Rotation” music video and also was the director for the movies “Helter Skelter” and “Sakuran”, a movie about high-level prostitutes in the Edo period of Japan (Please correct me if I am wrong). This music video for Kaguya was no exception, full of color and very sexy, but in a subtle way. There is something very sexy about old-style Japanese clothing and props, like kimonos. It showed a more sensual side to NEWS that we haven’t really seen before. I love the dance when they pull their shirts to the side and show their shoulder slightly and also dancing while holding the Japanese style umbrellas. The set covered with colorful umbrellas and ornaments was outstandingly beautiful as well. I love the old style Japanese feel to the music video, showing them in an array of outfits from traditional kimonos to a more modern style button down shirt during the water scene. Ninagawa Mika did an amazing job with this music video, bringing out NEWS’s sexy side.

Final Thoughts

This is NEWS’s first single that hasn’t had any tie-in to it in a long time, and no soccer song as well. I am in love with this single and think NEWS and their whole team did an amazing job planning it. I think it was sexy and colorful, but still stuck to NEWS’s regular style, which is more “pure”. The B-sides were really good as well, making this one of my favorite NEWS singles in recent times. I really liked this change of pace and I can’t wait to see more from them in the future.

 

What do you think of KAGUYA? What did you think about Ninagawa Mika directing the Music Video? Let me know in the comments below!