The Beauty of Effort

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This week’s Shukan Bunshun (8.2.07 edition) has a story by writer Ochi Yoshiko (越智良子) called “What is good about her? The current aesthetics of beautiful women”「どこがいいの?」今どきの美女論 examining the mysterious popularity of models Ebihara Yuri (“Ebi-chan”) and Oshikiri Moe, singers Koda Kumi and Hamasaki Ayumi, and Miss Universe Mori Riyo. The first article reiterates the fact that no one in Japan has anything but total antagonism towards Mori Riyo, so we can leave her out of this discussion. (Damn you, America and Donald Trump).

With the other women, however, the older generation and a great deal of Japanese men cannot comprehend why these particular stars are popular. Out of the remaining four, Ebi-chan is the only one with any real appeal to men, but at the end of the day, even her fame is primarily the product of female admiration. Ochi names these women 「下積り美人」— something to the effect of “bottom of the barrel beauties.”

Ochi comes to the conclusion that contemporary girls like “imperfect” celebrities who have reached physical beauty only through hard work and determination. Even the Koda Kumi fan interviewed for the piece acknowledges that Koda is not an “orthodox beauty” but has worked her ass off to become “pretty.” Same goes for the CanCam girls Ebihara and Oshikiri who have shown that apparel expertise, make-up techniques, and hair curling voodoo complete the woman more than her raw material. These stars suggest that contemporary Japanese women want idols who look similar to themselves, thus creating a comfortable myth that anyone can overcome natural flaws to reach the top. Sympathy now trumps simple adoration.

Guys, on the other hand, still like the natural girl who doesn’t look like she’s trying so hard. This was true with Hirosue Ryoko and now explains the popularity of Nagasawa Masami. Girls may admit that Matsushima Nanako is as elegant as they come, but they are totally disinterested. She can’t teach them anything about struggle. For the exact same reason, third-world despots looked to Stalin and not Kaiser Wilhelm the Second.

I find it hard not to draw some general socio-psychological conclusions from this trend. The emphasis on the gambaru concept — doing one’s best — opposed to natural talent echoes the Japanese post-war national mythology. But in opposition to the static Confucian view of the world, Japanese women now seem to be hesitant to blindly accept their social-betters in a pre-determined hierarchy. They want style and beauty leaders who can be imagined to represent them and thus prove the possibilities of upward-beauty-mobility. If I can become Ebi-chan through effort, there is no reason why I too cannot become #1 like Ebi-chan. This seems to reflect a much more American democratic-capitalist “can-do” spirit of self-betterment through determined effort, rather than a Confucian-statist belief that low social position should be embraced and higher-ups worshiped unconditionally. Is this further proof that the onset of socioeconomic disparity has shaken faith in a static universe? Everyone is aiming for the top, and these girls are dragging down the quality of their idols to make sure they can get there themselves.

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

88 Responses

  1. alin Says:

    >> If I can become Ebi-chan through effort, there is no reason why I too cannot become #1 like Ebi-chan. This seems to reflect a much more American democratic-capitalist “can-do” spirit of self-betterment through determined effort,

    hmmm, i think you’re rushing here, putting some of your own and missing the point. if everyone is striving up then it’s not that everyone wants to be the singular star but that the general level is level-up-ed. (still within the parameters of what you call confucian // a walk through anywhere in central tokyo will testify this)

  2. alin Says:

    this might come across a bit rude or dickhead-ish but i want to remind you that neither democracy nor capitalism are american ideas.

  3. marxy Says:

    yes, but you can have “American democracy-capitalism” opposed to German democracy-capitalism.

  4. marxy Says:

    I usually resist the calls of “Americanization” because I don’t think Japanese society actively wants to become more “American” and I don’t think it’s an inevitable stage of progress. In this case though, this does seem to be linked with the rise in social class or at least the competitive pressures of a non-equal society.

    “everyone wants to be the singular star but that the general level is level-up-ed. ”

    CanCam is not about style standards, it’s about attaining a goal in fierce competition. There are only so many rich husbands to go around.

  5. alin Says:

    it seems you take can-cam more seriously than most of its readers.

    i don’t know, aey, like , you, yes sarcasticaly, say ‘the beauty of effort’ and stuff and it’s like you can say that about anything japanese from bonsai to whatever so where’s the point and the currency here. and it’s not like showa or before that was cultivating sloppiness or anything. anyway i don’t want to argue.

  6. marxy Says:

    It may be equally insulting to believe that its readers are not serious about their choice of reading that magazine and taking the editorial advice to heart. My understanding of CanCam is partially personal observation, but I get the other half from pre-existing Japanese analysis of the phenomenon.

  7. neogeisha Says:

    democracy of beauty idols is inversely proportional to democracy of government. note jennifer aniston’s meteoric rise during the bush administration. the media, as an apparatus of the state, uses standards of glamour as a smokescreen for inequality of wealth distribution. you [the consumer] cannot actually become rich or powerful in said society, but you can become “beautiful”.

  8. marxy Says:

    Well if you are in a society where the earning potential and career prospects for women still vastly dwarf that of men, a lot of unskilled young women in their early 20s are pretty sure the only way to escape yucky poverty is “kachigumi” white-collar management track husband. If those are becoming more rare due to corporate labor policy, the competition for these men increases.

    CanCam sells them the recipe for bagging one of these men, and it’s not intelligence, wit, and conversational skill they champion.

  9. alin Says:

    but to get a better picture it should also be mentioned that careering for women is actually at historical height, isnit ?

  10. marxy Says:

    Yes, but the number of “regular employee” jobs with actual potential of rising salaries at a post-war low — for both sexes.

    The fringe of career women in Japan are still in the shadow of the army of junior college graduates and women’s college graduates who become OLs. No OLs switch over to the management track. And it’s these women who read CanCam and form the plurality we are discussing today. I bet that college-educated career women could care less about Oshikiri Moe.

  11. puyopuyo Says:

    > no one in Japan has anything but total antagonism towards Mori Riyo

    really? I believe you, but boys and girls I know like her.

  12. neogeisha Says:

    alin, you must remember, as marxy points out, that the bulk of the well-publicized job options for women are mostly arubaito-type dead-end positions. j-society stills suffocates nearly all womanly ambitions aside from that of attaining “beauty”.

  13. justmy2yen Says:

    >>CanCam is not about style standards, it’s about attaining a goal in fierce competition. There are only so many rich husbands to go around.
    >>I bet that college-educated career women could care less about Oshikiri Moe.

    I go to one of the “good” universities which has the reputation of attracting the “ojyosama”(rich girl) type students (or just girls in general), and the girls I see on campus do reflect the CanCam taste. (when I visited Waseda, I noticed the students dressed much more casually). In our campus book store, the fashion mag section is set up near the main entrance, just like a regular book stores, and there are always several girls browsing the magazines. Of course the popular choices are CanCam, ViVi…etc. When job hunting season begins, most of them apply for career jobs. Also some of the successful women I know are avid Can Cam readers and fashion followers (they may actually get some flak from it though). Yeah I admit I am surrounded by the better off, elite student crowd thus they represent the minority amongst the general CanCam readership…but I still thought I would point out the fact that yes, there are college educated girls who go gaga over Moe and Ebi chan. Whose primary aspirations are geared towards building a career, not catching a husband(for now). Who read the magazine because they like the fashion style.(although one career woman I know who buys Can Cam, ViVi, Ray each month complained that she didn’t have the time to actually go through the magazines because she is so occupied with her job)

  14. alin Says:

    > . j-society stills suffocates nearly all womanly ambitions aside from that of attaining “beauty”.

    well, i was speaking relatively. also i’d just come back from a walk across the river to the amazingly jacques tati-esque east tokyo which seems to be a bit of a hi-density career woman area.

    of course there’s the old arguement, that’s been going here for too long so i don’t want to dwell on it, as to what attainment really is and so on. i mean marxy with his insights into the female psyche reducing it all to ‘getting a husband’ is absurd AND obscene.

    now on the other hand i am basically with you that there should be a wider range of oportunities etc but the situation is a lot more complex and double-bound so drawing critical conclusions from a reading of a glossy magazine is a bit lame. look at the education process itself (ok, marxy does sometimes but still with this idea of an evil hand controlling it all) , look at the family, i’d say the primary cause, for better or worse, for things being as they are (marxy never does. why ? i can only guess that as a good american he holds the family, any family, sacred, yet anything he’s ever criticized or lamented about japan, the decline of shibuya-kei aside, has it’s equivalent if not origin in the average family. ) anyway there’s lots more to look at but more important are some hooks of genuine sympathy for goodness..

  15. marxy Says:

    “i mean marxy with his insights into the female psyche reducing it all to ‘getting a husband’ is absurd AND obscene.”

    Again, this is not my idea. Blame Japanese people for this one, alin.

  16. alin Says:

    that’s so slutty of you though.

  17. marxy Says:

    This is my main problem with the oldie goldie alin/Momus line is that you are so absolutely outraged with the implications of the argument presented here that you never try to find out where it comes from or if it’s true. It’s easier to just assume that I personally am terrible for dreaming it up out of whole cloth.

    Have you read CanCam? Are the ideal boyfriends in that mag struggling artists in rags or are they entrepreneurs in suits without ties?

    “I still thought I would point out the fact that yes, there are college educated girls who go gaga over Moe and Ebi chan. ”

    You are totally right: CanCam’s readers are 1/2 OLs and 1/2 college girls. Although I would like to know what kind of jobs these girls end up getting (yes, you can go to a 4-year college and still be put on the glorified OL track), I do think they go into their careers as CanCam girls. Question is, do they stop being CanCam girls faster than the OLs? AneCan feels very post-gal to me, and that does not signal white-collar workforce women…

    There is probably data on this somewhere.

  18. alin Says:

    so you’re saying you’re some sort of jean snow of can-cam studies or something ?

    > where it comes from or if it’s true.

    on the contrary, it’s that even the most basic tv talk show tends to show the situation in a more complex and multi-sided way that leaves me a bit dissapointed.

  19. marxy Says:

    “on the contrary, it’s that even the most basic tv talk show tends to show the situation in a more complex and multi-sided way that leaves me a bit dissapointed.”

    Great, send a link. You are like the anti-Aceface of this blog – all retort, no facts.

  20. alin Says:

    i’m glad you don’t see me as the anti-marxy. (can’t link to tv)

  21. neogeisha Says:

    alin, please! we musn’t lapse into questioning the basic premise of media studies, which is that YES, we can get insight into an entire culture through analysis of the readership patterns of one glossy.

    as far as your astute, but undeveloped argument about “the family” goes, i direct your attention to anne allison’s work on the subject– she reads the j-family unit as an extension of the state apparatus, in which fathers are compelled to self-marginialize, mothers are surveilled by the school system (and forced to submit to it), sons are held hostage under the threat of life-long failure, and daughters are also-rans. what can this wounded, stunted social body do for feminist social advancement?

  22. Aceface Says:

    “fathers are compelled to self-marginialize, mothers are surveilled by the school system (and forced to submit to it), sons are held hostage under the threat of life-long failure, and daughters are also-rans”

    Haven’t read the book,so this is all retort and no facts,but it seems to me that Anne Allison is a keen viewer of “The Sopranos”….

    Why it’s always Can-Cam and no mentioning of JJ,marxy?
    Because back in my days it was JJ that “good wife,smart mother” wannabes picked up from the magazine racks…

    Is Ebi-chan,an everyman’s dream sweetheart?Not exactly.And as I trust the argument raised by Bunshun article(and my manly instincts),many men think the same about Koda Kumi,Miss Universe and Ayu.Personally,Oshikiri Moe frightens me and I swear I will run for my life,if I saw her in the dark on a moonless night….

    This may counter your argument on CanCam is the goodgirl guidebooks to the boyhunts,for boys prefers something else.

  23. Chris_B Says:

    All the usual questions of fashion mags aside, I think the much more interesting topic here is about the idea of “ganbaru” overall. For all the totem that word caries, my observations are that anyone who is demonstrating ganbaru is really just putting on a tatemae show. Or to be more clear, ganbaru is 99% bullshit; wasted showy effort which pretty much never produces any tangible quality of result.

    Then again it might be that thats the point, but if so it digs into my whole question of perhaps the lack of “there there” really is the point after all around here.

  24. alin Says:

    > we musn’t lapse into questioning the basic premise of media studies

    my concern here was rather that reading the media was being exactly that, (literally) reading the media.

    >anyone who is demonstrating ganbaru is really just putting on a tatemae

    that’s a pretty funny way to put it chris but it opens the door to those gaps and surpluses that tend escape the analysis here.

  25. Brown Says:

    OK, since we’re (kind of, tangentailly) on the subject, I have to ask: Does anyone know what the music in the new Shiseido CMs is?

    http://www.shiseido.co.jp/mq/index.htm

    I was very pleasantly surprised- sounds like Mogwai or something…

    Aceface, here’s an (old) interview with Allison to get you started:

    http://www.japanreview.net/interview_Anne_Allison.htm

    Alin, you should check her work out- she’s in that whole Lacan/Deleuze constellation. She happens to be in Japan right now, as a visiting prof at Sophia:

    http://www.fcc.sophia.ac.jp/academics/professors2.php?FacultyID=137

    Oh yeah, Re: The elections- Take that, LDP!

  26. marxy Says:

    “This may counter your argument on CanCam is the goodgirl guidebooks to the boyhunts,for boys prefers something else.”

    I don’t think this counters my arguments: CanCam has convinced girls that they offer the best solution for being beloved but whether that is true or not is a different issue. This Bunshun article generally questions that idea, and I do think that tastes have split among the sexes (although this may not be new).

  27. TJJ Says:

    marxy wrote

    “where the earning potential and career prospects for women still vastly dwarf that of men”

    Did I wake up in a different world this morning?

  28. marxy Says:

    Elaborate.

  29. Slim Says:

    “where the earning potential and career prospects for women still vastly dwarf that of men”

    Surely this sentence is missing an “are” an “ed” and a “by”.

    neogeisha wrote:
    “the media, as an apparatus of the state, uses standards of glamour as a smokescreen for inequality of wealth distribution. you [the consumer] cannot actually become rich or powerful in said society, but you can become “beautiful”.”

    The fashion and advertising industry in Japan seems to live by that idea anyway. I lived in Japan in the immediate post-bubble era. As the bubble burst, I was once recruited by a modelling agency. When I told them they must be kidding (since i don’t have the typical male model look at all), they told me that during the bubble, the Japanese, having arrived at the top of the economic world, were comfortable looking at perfect models, both Japanese and foreign, in their advertising. But that those days had changed: in bad economic times, the Japanese do not want to look at ‘perfect’ models, especially not foreign ones, and so a more ordinary guy like myself is what they were looking for.

  30. marxy Says:

    “Surely this sentence is missing an “are” an “ed” and a “by”.”

    Oh, that.

  31. confused Says:

    Backing up for a moment, “looks” are a long-range tool – they draw in a potential mate, so that close-range tools like personality/intelligence can be used to complete the close.

    That being said, is there anything wrong with women who are considered “unattractive” trying to compete with “attractive” women through external means? Eh, probably not, as long as these women understand that looks are a merely part of this larger package.

    The problem here, as presented by Japanese researchers, seems to be that most of CanCam’s target audience focuses exclusively on looks, and forgets about the other aspects of being an appealing mate.

    Unfortunately, I am struggling to connect how these women can afford to be uncomplicated and impersonal if hunting for a husband is such a highly competitive market.

    Does anyone else see these two statements as contradictory? Or is this supposed to be an ironic observation that expresses the ineffectiveness of the CanCam readership?

    A little confused…

  32. marxy Says:

    “The problem here, as presented by Japanese researchers, seems to be that most of CanCam’s target audience focuses exclusively on looks, and forgets about the other aspects of being an appealing mate.”

    It’s a lot easier to teach visual techniques than education, grace, and personality.

    That being said, a huge best seller right now is 女性の品格 which is basically a manner’s guide for women. The CanCam reader is stereotyped as an ex-gyaru, and I am not sure whether the gyaru upbringing every emphasized class and grace…

  33. alin Says:

    > a huge best seller right now is 女性の品格 which

    but i still have to say you’re narrowing it down but drawing general conclusions. japan is the country of the (excellent) manual. there’s also a pretty well(if not best)-selling one on fellatio, some great ones on mountaineering etc

    in case of can-cam however, isn’t precisely the fact that it fails to be a good how-to-find-a-rich-husband manual enough proof that it’s investment, partially at least, goes in different directions (narcisistic pleasure etc , ultimately it contains its own subversive level; if i recall nate or someone said something similar long ago),
    and as in the case of you failing to acknowledge the element of female enjoyment in the host club phenomenon isn’t it ultimately you who’s between the lines advocating the truly conservative, chauvinistic values ?

  34. marxy Says:

    “and as in the case of you failing to acknowledge the element of female enjoyment in the host club phenomenon isn’t it ultimately you who’s between the lines advocating the truly conservative, chauvinistic values ?”

    I never said there’s no “female enjoyment” at host clubs. I just reminded everyone that a majority of the clientele work in the mizu shobai industry (which is true), and this should be some indication of what drives most of the demand. And just as there are some men who don’t enjoy hostess clubs, there are lots and lots of women who would never go to a host club even if they became as respectable as going to a concert or something. (Based on the Avex and Johnny’s artist release schedule, the host industry and music industry should merge sometime around Fall 2008.)

    I think to a certain degree CanCam’s styling also pleases the women involved. Certainly, it’s not like they are sacrificing anything by adopting that wardrobe. Whether or not they actually can meet men in those outfits, they feel like they can, and there’s self-confidence in that. I am just saying, the text/subtext in CanCam is VERY VERY clear that the goal is attraction from the opposite sex. This is not true at all for Nonno or even Vivi. Those particular magazines seem to be way more girl-to-girl focused.

  35. alin Says:

    > more girl-to-girl focused.

    i’m glad you mention this because i meant to say it there with ‘narcisistic pleasure’ but i left it as ‘etc’. even with can-cam i think it’s still strong and the male imaginary character is there partly to facilitate this “lesbian” bonding.

  36. Ricahrd Says:

    One thing I don’t buy is this “fierce competition” idea. Sure, The pool of elgible husbands is less . . . but so is the pool of women trying to find one. Japan’s a shrinking society, and it’s shrinking on both sides of the gender divide.

  37. marxy Says:

    “the male imaginary character is there partly to facilitate this “lesbian” bonding.”

    I don’t. Other magazines have the female bonding angle without need of any male intrusion. Listen, you are free to do a close reading of CanCam anyway you want and draw all sorts of totally contrarian, backwards conclusions, but if you want to draw your decided meanings to real life psychosocial phenomena, you can’t ignore the whole 常識/pre-existing understanding that モテ系 – a word that CanCam uses all the time – is about attracting the opposite sex. If you want to invent me some post-post-post-post rhetoric (10 pts for Guattari, 7.5 for Deleuze) about how モテる does not primarily indicate “being attractive to the opposite sex” (just like your steadfast announcement that 四季 somehow did not mean “four seasons” because I guess I was missing the 言霊 that you magically have access to [no link, natch]) then you will just prove why these “debates” between you and me never lead to any kind of beneficial understanding.

  38. marxy Says:

    “Japan’s a shrinking society, and it’s shrinking on both sides of the gender divide.”

    Well, yes and no. The birth rate is down. But if you are marrying age, you are not in a demographic zone with serious underpopulation.

    What is shrinking faster than population is the number of men who can be guaranteed a “middle class’ life because of the use of non-regular workers.

  39. alin Says:

    > never lead to any kind of beneficial understanding.

    i have to agree on this.
    as to 四季 , i think it’s a kind of pizza.

  40. neogeisha Says:

    however pathetic is the shrinking, or static, opportunity circle for j-women, the looking-cute-is-best value that chracterizes this social condition is actually on the ascent in all the late-capitalist societies at the moment. feminism is in a dark age in the “developed” world: a recent survey in the US showed over sixty per cent of women under the age of 30 specifying “lose weight” as their number one goal.

  41. Aceface Says:

    Japan as shrinking society is difficult to feel in real life,at least for now(ever took your kids to Tokyo Disney Land?).
    And competition for looking soul mate on both gender have never stopped and will only accelarate because we are now marrying more with foreigners.One out of eleven of couples getting marry in Tokyo in 2006(one out of 17 in national level)were international marriages.

  42. ndkent Says:

    Well isn’t it just pragmatism? If the model looks too amazing then they distract from the cloths. If they are too “ordinary” then they risk second thoughts that the outfit doesn’t help them enough. They have to strike a non-threatening balance of looking very good. Clearly they so much modeling for that magazine because they’ve been proven to be that balance and the repetition cements it. Readers see them in ever issue, what they don’t want is some new woman coming along in nice cloths. All that ought to be (slightly) different is the cloths.

  43. marxy Says:

    “One out of eleven of couples getting marry in Tokyo in 2006(one out of 17 in national level)were international marriages.”

    And yes, these are 80% Japanese male-foreign female.

  44. Aceface Says:

    “these are 80% Japanese male-foreign female.”

    The ratio I’ve heard from my lawyer was 3 to 1.
    Perhaps we should encourage GasPanic to enlarge their establishment….

    I’m always discouraged by the fact that Japanese men are so unpopular in overseas.Can’t find the link,but Harlequin Romance had a global survey once,and Japanese men were least popular along with Saudis….The most popular were New Zealanders.I admit about the reasons of our unpopularity,But what do you make of Kiwis? The survey was launched long before “The Lord of The Ring”boom… (reading this,Don and Bryce?)

  45. GBB Says:

    I think you take the media and its assumed consumption too much on face value. You list the best seller on manners. Those guides have been around forever and always do well…but their consumption is not always what it appears. I know women who purchase them as objects of amusement. They get together and roll with laughter at the ridiculous phrases and manners they’re supposed to master.

    But in many ways, while manners, etc. serve to divide a population on status (which can, but doesn’t always match class), they also make the boundary porous. In other words, if you can master the lingo, you too can join (although obviously there are also material requirements that necessitate a certain level of wealth).

    And Anne Allison already knew exactly what she was going to argue prior to even doing her fieldwork. Her interpretation suffers due to this. In other words, her interpretation was determined by her politics and theory rather than an examination of the evidence.

  46. Richard Says:

    Kiwi men are popular

    because

    1. They don’t invade other countries.

    2. New Zealand’s seen as a place of open, hearty, rugged individualism, and the women who read romance novels probably fantasize about open, hearty, rugged individualists (who are tall, broad-shouldered, Fabio-like, etc. etc.)

  47. Aceface Says:

    I disagree.

    Ever heard of the Maoris before,Richard?
    And I still have to wonder why Saudis have to share the least popular status with Japanese…
    They may have halem but never heard of them invading others,Ask Osama.

    and “a place of open, hearty, rugged individualism”.Not that I don’t think New Zealand fits the description,but what about Texas?
    Not only “open, hearty, rugged individualists”they are,but they also carry guns.

  48. neogeisha Says:

    aceface,
    i myself (american woman) have been astonished by the global lack of interest in j-men. i am not a fetishist by any means– i’m attracted to japanese AND other nationalities– but i have noticed that most western women consider me a fanatic, and i’ve thought long and hard on why in this age of globalization, these handsome j-guys are passed over. my conclusion: it’s a linguistic, rather than aesthetic issue. the “harlequin”-type media sets romantic precedents for various foreign accents [italian, spanish, french, british] but excludes others [all the asian languages plus arabic], so the ears of conventional western girls aren’t attuned to the speech patterns of j-men. it would only take a couple of stupid hollywood movies in which a blonde female movie star was in love with a male j-movie star to start a rash of copycat relationships.

  49. Don Says:

    Aceface,

    I have no idea why Harlequin Romance readers would go for New Zealand guys above others. Maybe it’s the lingering effect of that Love Boat episode where Patrick Duffy played a sheep farmer from Taranaki.

    By the way, Maori are Kiwis too (as are all NZers, not just the white fullas). And while I’m being pedantic, it was the British who ‘invaded’ Maori land (although some New Zealand-born whites subsequently continued that tradition). New Zealand has never invaded another country, unless you count London pubs as sovereign territory.

  50. Don Says:

    Sorry for going off-topic. Back to the crucial debate about which women we are permitted to find attractive.

  51. marxy Says:

    “Those guides have been around forever and always do well..”

    Examples, please. 女性の品格 has sold something like 2 million copies already.

    Same goes with CanCam, maybe some readership/sponsorship is ironic, but it can’t be more than 10%. And even at 90%, these things sell massively well in a market where nothing sells massively well anymore.

    “they also make the boundary porous. In other words, if you can master the lingo, you too can join”

    I think this is the depressing part of CanCam, which is that, no, you can’t “join” the upper classes or find a perfect husband just because you read CanCam or a manners book. For every Cinderella, there are 99 failures. There is no real indication that CanCam works: they just seem the most credible.

    “And Anne Allison already knew exactly what she was going to argue prior to even doing her fieldwork. ”

    Nightwork is also incredibly boring for such a promising topic.

    “The ratio I’ve heard from my lawyer was 3 to 1.”

    I was off by 5%.

    “Back to the crucial debate about which women we are permitted to find attractive.”

    You can like Koda Kumi or Oshikiri Moe all you want, but I am just trying to show that I am not the only one in protest.

  52. Don Says:

    Apologies if it sounded like I was belittling your post, Marxy – it wasn’t intentional. I find Koda, Oshikiri et al to be as artificial and overexposed as you apparently do, but having the equally vacuous Katori Shingo as Songoku constantly rammed down my throat over the last few weeks has felt far more offensive.

  53. Aceface Says:

    “By the way, Maori are Kiwis too (as are all NZers, not just the white fullas). ”
    Had I not tell you before that I was major in anthropology and my professor was doing field work in the Cook Islands?(I didn’t join him though.Something that I regret of getting my present job instead)That was all retort,little fact.

    “For every Cinderella, there are 99 failures”
    And as Chris B mentioned earlier,this is a great example for”ganbaru is 99% BS; wasted showy effort which pretty much never produces any tangible quality of result” for men would rather choose 30 years old Hoshino Aki over dozen of Oshikiri Moe look alike in the better side of the 20’S.But still those devoted CanCam readers challenge for the high peak of Moe et al.Very Japanese!
    Perhaps some of us should write and tell Ann Allison where she can dig her new gold mine…

  54. alin Says:

    > it would only take a couple of stupid hollywood movies in which a blonde female movie star was in love with a male j-movie

    i’d like to see one of those.
    from what i know there’s the monkey-like group animal (totally undesirable), the samurai tyrant (possibly desirable to some but few would admit) then the aloof, arial type (nagase) something to be contemplated rather than desired.
    if asano went to hollywood he might be the one.

    even marguarite duras in the script to hiroshima mon amour makes sure the guy is western enough.

    > They get together and roll with laughter at the ridiculous phrases and manners they’re supposed to master.

    now that’s what i mean by “lesbian”. yesterday i was watching this bunch of girls in the park in shinbashi practicing fkn hoola dances after hours. the pleasure factor was pretty high, surely high enough to offset the ihhrkk factor that might come from doing the same in front of salariimen who havn’t realized the 80s are over.

  55. marxy Says:

    “for men would rather choose 30 years old Hoshino Aki over dozen of Oshikiri Moe look alike in the better side of the 20’S”

    CanCam should do an annual “breast augmentation surgery” issue, I guess.

    “But still those devoted CanCam readers challenge for the high peak of Moe et al.Very Japanese!”

    Very 竹棹主義.

  56. Aceface Says:

    It’s 竹槍主義.

  57. marxy Says:

    Damnit! I was going in to edit the Japanese of my comment (after some google searching), and you beat me to the punch!

  58. Richard Says:

    Aceface:

    Disingenuous. People (at least in the West) don’t think of Maoris when they think of New Zealand men. As for the Saudi’s, how they treat women in their society probably has a little to do with their low popularity rating. Finally, not carrying guns is probably a point in favor of the Kiwis. I don’t think a beer-swillin’, shotgun totin’ redneck Texan is what pops to mind when women think of their ideal romantic partner.

  59. Richard Says:

    “I think this is the depressing part of CanCam, which is that, no, you can’t “join” the upper classes or find a perfect husband just because you read CanCam or a manners book. For every Cinderella, there are 99 failures. There is no real indication that CanCam works: they just seem the most credible.”

    OK, so is some enterprising social science grad student going to do a longitudinal study? I’d rather rely on facts than conjecture and hearsay.

  60. marxy Says:

    You are not investing in Shogakukan anyway.

  61. Mulboyne Says:

    I got the impression that Alin wasn’t so much taking issue with the your ideas about CanCam’s ideology but more with how central a role it might play in readers’ lives. It surely has some significance that the magazine is a best seller at a time when other titles are suffering but I pause a little when you go from explaining how it influences the fashions and looks of its target audience to saying it offers them a recipe to get the kind of husband CanCam tells them they should want. Do all readers want that recipe? How many of them really do want that kind of man? Out of that group, how many want to have him as a husband rather than a boyfriend or occasional partner in bed? Or just an escapist dream? I really have no idea.

    On another point, you also write:

    “Japanese women now seem to be hesitant to blindly accept their social-betters in a pre-determined hierarchy. They want style and beauty leaders who can be imagined to represent them and thus prove the possibilities of upward-beauty-mobility.”

    Assume for the moment that you are right that there has been some kind of change. You often make the case that many (not all) trends are producer-led and yet I get a sense from this comment that you believe here that girls desires moved independently of the message the media was sending them. Is CanCam responding to them or are you instead arguing that the magazine was the catalyst for changes?

  62. Aceface Says:

    Richard:

    “I don’t think a beer-swillin’, shotgun totin’ redneck Texan is what pops to mind when women think of their ideal romantic partner. ”
    I was actualy thinking about classic Marlboro man type instead of a Bush supportin’,SUV cruisin’,Joe Six-packs.

    Anyway thanks for your faithful comments on my off topic questions.While I don’t entirely agree with your argument,nonetheless they prove why I am marrying whoelse but a Mongolian woman.
    At least offsprings of Chinghis Khan would concern little over negative past of invading others (Mongolians also happened to be one of the two countries that had invaded Japan in the past millenium.) and since they’ve been surrounded by the “place of open,hearty and rugged individualism” all the time,I could easily speculate that my wife wanted to try for something completely different.

    Neogeisha:
    “it would only take a couple of stupid hollywood movies in which a blonde female movie star was in love with a male j-movie star to start a rash of copycat relationships.”

    Not Hollywood,but an Australian production,there is a film called “Japanese Story”starring Toni Collett(In this movie,She is blonde).It’s about free and independent Australian geologist somehow fell in love with visiting straight Jacketed Japanese buisinessman or so says in IMDB.
    Somehow beyond me,no Japanese distributors are interested in screening this film in Japan and I haven’t got any chance of viewing.Perhaps the distributors thought that Korean man dating Japanese girl can be categorized as a romance that could attract many housewives in Tokyo.While humongous white woman making love to Japanese businessman half a size of her on top of some uranium mine in the Australian outback can only be categorized as science fiction that appeals the fringe of general public…..

  63. marxy Says:

    “Mongolians also happened to be one of the two countries that had invaded Japan in the past millenium.) ”

    Tried to invade. Thank god we had kamikaze.

    “Out of that group, how many want to have him as a husband rather than a boyfriend or occasional partner in bed?”

    If promiscuity was the desire, I’d think you’d see it reflected in the pages of CanCam, which you don’t. Egg, on the other hand, is chock full of stories of girls having group sex with these guys they met at the beach, etc.

    “Do all readers want that recipe?”

    It strikes me that if women don’t want what CanCam is selling, there are about 15-20 other titles on the market. There’s no requirement that CanCam ever had to sell or be the central title.

    “Is CanCam responding to them or are you instead arguing that the magazine was the catalyst for changes?”

    Admittedly, this is hard to pin-down. I will mill it over.

  64. Chris_B Says:

    well as least someone knew what I was talking about and it aint just about trying to hook a man, its all over.

    oh and FWIW, those of you maligning Texans look like a buncha fool yankee carpetbaggers. Just had to get that outa my system.

  65. pamutron Says:

    “i’ve thought long and hard on why in this age of globalization, these handsome j-guys are passed over.”

    i’m not sure about japanese men in particular, but asian men in general seem to be gaining popularity in the states, well at least in the ny metro area. of course all i have to go on is anecdotal evidence from my brother and male friends, but it seems white chicks can’t get enough of them. however, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to find a correlation to the influx of japanese baseball players, in concert with the un-nerding of the nerd (a classification that asian men have been de facto lumped into), as well as possible influence from the popularization of metrosexuals and just how more acceptable it is to be somewhat dandified (the hyper-sexualization of the asian female spills over to the androgynous asian male?) or something like that. but i don’t know anything about it, really. but also – Jin from Lost? hott.

  66. jg Says:

    “While humongous white woman making love to Japanese businessman half a size of her on top of some uranium mine in the Australian outback can only be categorized as science fiction that appeals the fringe of general public…..”

    Too funny!

    10 point question: Which movie has a humongous white man making love to a petite Japanese woman in the Australian outback after she escaped from her Japanese businessman husband.

  67. GB Says:

    Marxy, just go to any bookstore in Japan and look at the manners manuals for women. They might not have all sold a couple million copies, but they’re always on the market, which means there is demand for them. They’ve been there for literally decades. This seems universal across societies as older, more rigid social structures (status, caste, etc.) break down and consumer culture expands. See the culture of “gentility” for 1820s-30s US. George Washington, for instance, was a voracious consumer of such self-help/improvement books. Whether or not EVERYONE can attain the status promised isn’t at all important. The chance exists and some do attain it (unlike in caste/nobility based society). That doesn’t mean, of course, that I agree with the ideals professed in ‘manuals’ like CanCam or Cosmopolitan.

  68. marxy Says:

    “Marxy, just go to any bookstore in Japan and look at the manners manuals for women.”

    So there is no difference between an endless stream of books selling no more than their first runs and a new version of the old formula selling 2 million copies out of nowhere? Yes, there have been lots of manners manuals, but I don’t get the refusal to admit that there is a possible shift in pop culture when the latest version is one of the best-sellers of the year.

    There are a lot of conservative rants on the market, but is there not something to say about Fujiwara Masahiko’s 国家の品格 selling over 2 million copies last year?

  69. Aceface Says:

    “Tried to invade. Thank god we had kamikaze.”

    They did invade Tsushima,Iki and Hakata.Though most of them were non Mongolians.

    “10 point question: Which movie has a humongous white man making love to a petite Japanese woman in the Australian outback after she escaped from her Japanese businessman husband.”

    Since this is happening almost once in every three weeks elsewhere.I imagine the theme has zero production value…

  70. marxy Says:

    http://facta.co.jp/article/200708012.html

    Article on falling magazine sales, except for CanCam of course.

  71. Mulboyne Says:

    Marxy wrote: “So there is no difference between an endless stream of books selling no more than their first runs and a new version of the old formula selling 2 million copies out of nowhere?”

    I’m out of my depth in this exchange but I do know that diet books sold well in the US but then the Atkins diet raised the bar. Did America consequently become thinner? Why is Billy’s Boot Camp big in Japan? Surely many of the buyers in Japan will do the same as everyone else in the world and leave it gathering dust on the shelf.

  72. marxy Says:

    In the case of diets, Atkins seems to have sold more because they came up with a winning formula. I would say with 女性の品格 that women in their 30s and 40s are suddenly interested in learning/re-learning about proper manners in great numbers.

  73. alin Says:

    if Fujiwara Masahiko and can-cam joined forces the dignity of the nation would be instantly restored.

  74. Brown Says:

    Alin, stop- You’re going to give me nightmares!

    Chris, didn’t you get the memo that racism is passe but class hatred is totally cool, now more than ever? The one remaining acceptable prejudice. Also, your point about “ganbaru” as a performance is right-on in my experience. If you ganbaru alone in the forest and nobody knows about it…

  75. Laotree Says:

    “CanCam should do an annual “breast augmentation surgery” issue, I guess.”
    A few days after I read your initial rant about Hoshino Aki’s breasts, I noticed an ad on the train for 朝日美容外科’s Sub-Q technique for breast augmentation, which involves no prosthesis or implant, but rather subcutaneous injections of hyaluronic acid gel, so the idea of stars getting “air put in the tires” so to speak is entirely plausible without even requiring surgery. I can’t remember the adjectives or who used them, (delightfully randy? slightly sloppy and rambunctious twins?) but such a technique “toppin’ em off” might explain that endearing pseudo-real effect. A bit different from (and dare I say more forgivable than) plastic surgery disasters like Hamasaki Ayumi (who elicits nothing but disgust from me…)

  76. Duffy Says:

    “I can’t remember the adjectives or who used them, (delightfully randy? slightly sloppy and rambunctious twins?) but such a technique “toppin’ em off” might explain that endearing pseudo-real effect.”

    Interesting.

    It was I, Duffy, and the term (of endearment) was “unruly.” Though I may have mumbled something about them being “pleasantly sloppy” at one point. And now I’m beginning to feel as though I’m edging toward the wrong side of creepy.

  77. Jm2c Says:

    >>I would say with 女性の品格 that women in their 30s and 40s are suddenly interested in learning/re-learning about proper manners in great numbers.

    Haven’t picked up the 女性の品格 but it’s even creeping onto the pages of Japan Economics Newspaper. I think I saw an article on how female executives can learn a lot from this book, add on that last “touch” that will help them acquire that coveted management position.

  78. alin Says:

    they should call it “The idiot’s guide to 女性の品格 ” and everything. how anachronistic.

  79. Rory P. Wavekrest Says:

    top em off!

  80. Laotree Says:

    Sorry Duffy! I was taking liberties with the paraphrasing. Credit where credit’s due! So now that the…unruliness of natural breasts can be duplicated by medical science, wouldn’t every tarento be tempted (or persuaded by the shadow Sasakawa power structure)
    to get more bounce to the ounce?

  81. Duffy Says:

    “Sorry Duffy! I was taking liberties with the paraphrasing. Credit where credit’s due!”

    No probs, Laotree. As Marxy would say, perched upon his hot pink tandem* fixie with Izod collar popped sky-f@cking-high, “It’s all good, m’man.”

    *shared with Aceface — true story! Saw ’em in the ‘Jaya challenging negi-in-the-basket housewives to alley cats. Weird, wild stuff.

  82. Jrim Says:

    “OK, since we’re (kind of, tangentailly) on the subject, I have to ask: Does anyone know what the music in the new Shiseido CMs is?”

    It’s the intro to the first track on ENVY’s ‘Insomniac Doze’ album.

  83. Brown Says:

    Thanks, Jrim! I should have caught that, I have that album- it’s great! Sounds like they added the bell-like synth on top, or at least pumped it up in the mix (nice touch, actually). I wonder why they didn’t credit them as is usually done on Japanese CMs? Or is it a soundalike pakuri interpolation?

  84. Slim Says:

    If Maori’s are “new zealanders” in the way most people understand the term, then debito is japanese. (imho citizenship is trivial, ethnicity/culture is primary).

    “a recent survey in the US showed over sixty per cent of women under the age of 30 specifying “lose weight” as their number one goal.”

    In case any of you haven’t visited the US recently, I can report that they are doing a terrible job of it!

  85. Don Says:

    >10 point question: Which movie has a humongous white man making love to a petite Japanese woman in the Australian outback after she escaped from her Japanese businessman husband.

    Is it “Heaven’s Burning”?

    >If Maori’s are “new zealanders” in the way most people understand the term, then debito is japanese.

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at, but yeah, they are and he is, regardless of how others view them. How exactly do you see most people’s understanding of the term?

  86. Aceface Says:

    “Heaven’s burning”(1997).
    Now there’s a Kiwi in the film,Russell Crow running the desert with Kudoh Yuki.
    Strengthened the Kiwi the sexiest male aregument?
    Anyway I’ll pretend to be a Kiwi on internet from now on.Don.

    I’m curious with so many Japan connected theme in Crowe’s career.There was this straight to video yakuza film with ToyoEtsu that I forgot the name and he was a Japanese teacher of ex-tobacco company executive in “The Insider”.

  87. Don Says:

    That’d be the Ichise Taka-produced “No Way Back”. Mindfuck of a supporting cast too – evil onmyoji Kato Yasunori, Supergirl, and Steve from Beverly Hills 90210.

    My favorite of those 90s low-budget Japanese-US crossovers would have to be “American Yakuza” (ヤクザVSマフィア), another Ichise project starring Ishibashi Ryo and Viggo Mortensen. V-Cinema was the shit.

  88. jg Says:

    Yes, it was “Heaven’s Burning”. It was entertaining on the big screen. I found the D. Siegel influence more interesting than the Japanese content — I don’t think it’d hold up now.

    Michael Mann has a major interest in things Japanese. It was supposed to be Gong Li in “Heat” with DeNiro (probably because like many, he couldn’t think of a Japanese actress to cast). Crowe orders bin biiru in The Insider. He was believable.

    Here’s a list someone made on Amazon of whiteys speaking Japanese in Hollywood movies:

    http://www.amazon.com/Ganbatte-Western-actors-trying-Japanese/lm/349X26JOQWXAW