Sakai Noriko and "Japanese" Morality

morality

There is a standard protocol for Japanese record labels when their artists are arrested on drug charges or for any other anti-social acts: they pull all of the artists’ CDs from stores. When Makihara Noriyuki was arrested for amphetamines in 1999, Sony dutifully removed the singer’s records from record stops. This kneejerk reaction even applies ex post facto: when guitarist Suzuki Shigeru of ’60s hippie band Happy End was arrested for marijuana in February of this year, all the classic Happy End records — perhaps the most canonic recordings of Japanese pop music history — became unavailable through major commercial channels.

The idea is not just that these recordings are “tainted” by a drug using artist, but that companies must self-censor their catalogs to make sure that the offender does not profit during the criminal proceedings. But this behavior also conforms to a Japanese cultural principle: 「臭いものにふたをしろ」”Put a lid on things that smell.” In other words, companies want bury anything controversial as soon as possible. By removing the CDs, record labels feel like they are quietly erasing any legacy of the criminal artist’s existence.

So when Sakai Noriko was arrested for amphetamines in August, her record label Victor Entertainment — as is the convention — took all of her albums out of distribution. And in this digital age, Victor also had to remove all her songs from iTunes. But here’s where the label messed up: they forgot to remove Sakai songs that showed up on compilation albums.

Horror! There were free-floating Nori-P songs out there on iTunes. Surely the Japanese people — who we are told again and again have a low moral tolerance for drug use — rose up in outrage against Victor, Apple, and Sakai for the oversight. Or maybe in more predictable Japanese style, everyone just ignored these offending tracks.

Actually, that’s not what happened at all: Sakai’s 1995 hit “Blue Rabbit” (「青いウサギ」) was the number one song on iTunes for the week.

If anything, this proves the old adage that “all publicity is good publicity.” Surely the arrest made a lot of casual fans think about Sakai for the first time in years. They thought, “You know what I want to hear? ‘Blue Rabbit.’” So they went to iTunes and bought it. There was likely nothing particularly complicated about their motivations.

The high sales for “Aoi Usagi” was big egg on the face of Victor, but on the bright side, this slip-up let us test the idea that Japanese companies and Japanese people share the same morality. Before now, record labels could successfully remove records from distribution, therefore consumers had no way of showing any kind of countervailing reaction against the self-flagellation. Now with iTunes, we see that Japanese consumers’ primary reaction to seeing a disgraced starlet arrested for drugs… is to buy her work. This is not an affirmation of drug use, but it surely is not a hyperventilating rejection of it either.

Record label self-censoring therefore is an elitist act. Consumers should be able to make their own moral choice about whether they want to support or reject Sakai Noriko through purchase of her work. Until now, record labels have prevented this choice and imposed their own perceptions of a monolithic conservative morality upon the market. The case of “Blue Rabbit” shows that pulling records from stores is not in accordance with “Japanese morality” but only the industry’s own guidelines.

When looking at consumer phenomenon in Japan, trends and booms correspond so directly with huge marketing campaigns that it is often hard to separate out natural consumer interest when so many want to consume “whatever is popular.” And that’s why this iTunes “mistake” was crucial: the media and record labels for once were telling consumers not to buy and they did anyway. Perhaps the so celebrated Japanese “singularity of experience” is imposed by the market and the authorities rather than an actual expression of society.

W. David MARX
November 16, 2009

W. David Marx (Marxy) — Tokyo-based writer and musician — is the founder and chief editor of Néojaponisme.

52 Responses

  1. Peter Says:

    I agree that “[t]here was likely nothing particularly complicated” about the motivations of most of the people buying Sakai’s work off of iTunes.

    But I don’t understand the opinion that “Consumers should be able to make their own moral choice about whether they want to support or reject Sakai Noriko through purchase of her work.” That statement implies that the record companies are imposing or mapping their own idea of morality on the would-be consumers of Sakai’s music; however, the first few paragraphs of this article seem to convey the motives of self-censorship as a “cover-your-ass” device to prevent the company and the artist from profiting while an artist is under suspicion of or has been convicted of a crime.

    The assumption that suggests this is a morality move is in essence the company protecting the consumers from the company’s product, and the other assumption is the company protecting themselves from the wrath of the consumers.

    The circumstances surrounding why record companies opt (or perhaps have) to cut artists loose after run-ins with the law seem complicated, but I have had little impression that they deal with some sort of “elitist” act.

  2. W. David MARX Says:

    I am saying, no matter what the motive is, it ends up being an elitist act by robbing consumers of their own right to support or not support these artists. And in the end, everyone can point to the record labels’ actions as the “right thing to do” as some sort of social collective action even though consumers’ actually behavior shows that this is not the case.

    “the other assumption is the company protecting themselves from the wrath of the consumers.”

    Yes, I should have talked about this to, and again, consumers here have shown that they are not likely to be mad at Victor for NOT recalling her work. In fact, if Victor had done nothing, no one would have noticed.

  3. Erik Says:

    It would be interesting to see whether CD sales would increase in the same manner as iTunes downloads if left on the market, or if Japanese consumers would feel embarrassed buying CDs by the offending artist publicly. There might be a difference in the willingness to buy tunes for download from the privacy of your own home, as compared to actually buying them at a store, with other people (at least the sales staff) seeing what you buy.

  4. W. David MARX Says:

    That’s a good point. Buying “Aoi Usagi” for your iPod is a private act.

  5. Carl Says:

    By this logic, since a significant number of Japanese cheat on their wives, do drugs, etc. should we say there is no public approbation of such behaviors? It could just be that the consumers bought Aoi Usagi as a “guilty pleasure” in the literal sense of guilt. Or perhaps shame, whatever.

    I’m not saying that I have a strong argument, just that the question is hardly settled by iTunes sales.

  6. Adamu Says:

    Record company self-censorship is not “elitist” any more than a defective product recall is “elitist” — at least how the record execs must think. They were selling CDs based on a wholesome, karaoke-friendly image and that got tarnished. How could you sleep on your rotating bed knowing full well those poisonous songs are being sold to impressionable youths? How could you buy that Ferrari with blood money?

    One explanation for this phenomenon that you mention is preventing supposedly untoward profiteering off the scandal. Kind of makes you do a face-palm, but I would dispute your claim that consumers have a “right” to buy CDs. Isn’t the whole point of commerce that merchants offer items for sale? If the merchant decides he doesn’t want to deal, isn’t that within his or her rights? There might be an argument that it’s not fair to music stores that are pressured into complying with record companies’ demands, but if the record companies decide to pull their songs despite the strong temptation to make windfall profits, then how can we stop them? Would you complain that the companies that published Hatoyama’s hit single or that horror movie where the DPJ woman gets naked were violating people’s rights by not having copies ready for distribution as soon as the public was interested?

    Another reason for this practice is the music industry’s need to project an image of morality, which is both good politics and good business. Good politics because you want to stay friendly with the people you work with, and good business because once an artist becomes tainted the long term fanbase can disappear (how long would Aiko fans stay loyal if she were arrested for drugs?) and the scandal can stain all the other talent in the jimusho stable. TV stations might not want to work with you, other jimusho might start to spread even more nasty rumors, and on and on. Best to erase the talent’s existence, get the agency president to come out in public and bow his head, and move on. Remember, scandal profits are a windfall, not part of a long-term business plan (though of course the US example shows scandal *can* be a long-term option). Well-known bands like B’z, for example, make steady money for decades by periodically releasing very similar-sounding singles and touring for their core audience who will always open their wallets for their favorite band.

    It’s also important to note that aside from the rational business reasons for pulling CDs, this practice has become a tradition. So a musician scandal without CD censorship is like Xmas without stockings – an essential element is missing.

    I don’t think the itunes purchases are a vote in either direction. In fact, some of those same people who bought the song might have seen the headlines about her CDs getting pulled and thought, They’re doing the right thing. As far as I could tell, people were just about unanimous in agreeing that Sakai did something pretty much unforgivable, even if the media coverage went overboard. And in that sense, I can forgive people if they confused a record company’s decision with an essentialist property of “the Japanese.”

    If you start with the premise that the US model is correct, or at least “normal” then I think you’re going to hit a wall. The Japanese entertainment industry has much more in common with other Japanese industries than with its US counterpart. Like most Japanese industries, the big jimusho offer lifetime employment to their mainstream talent and employees, and their management tends to be populated with veterans of this system. Once they reach the top of the pyramid, their overriding motivation becomes maintaining their harmonious business lifestyle of golf sessions and gourmet meals until a luxurious retirement. This is not a world where scandal whores like Eminem can thrive (at least as a Japanese talent) because that sort of cutthroat hyper-competition is frowned upon. Imagine if the members of your local Rotary Club were suddenly appointed to an ad hoc committee to rule the US. That’s what it’s like.

  7. W. David MARX Says:

    How could you sleep on your rotating bed knowing full well those poisonous songs are being sold to impressionable youths?

    A product recall is a bad analogy. No one actually believes that the songs themselves are “dangerous.” The songs do not have a pro-drug message AND were recorded way before Sakai (probably) did drugs.

    If the merchant decides he doesn’t want to deal, isn’t that within his or her rights?

    I thought of this too, but I think there is a case that Noriko Sakai’s work has become an integral part of Japanese culture to the degree that pulling her work gives too much power to the seller. When music goes on sale, is there not an implicit agreement that the work will always be available?

    Another reason for this practice is the music industry’s need to project an image of morality, which is both good politics and good business.

    The irony of course is that the entertainment business in Japan is easily one of the most corrupt and dirty, so the “self-censorship” is a risk-hedging attempt to make sure no one looks closer… and finds rampant drug use, mob control, and all the icky date club stuff.

    If you start with the premise that the US model is correct, or at least “normal” then I think you’re going to hit a wall.

    I don’t think a non-recall is a specifically “US” thing to do. Western markets just have more transparency: fans know that musicians use drugs and that the entertainment world is a nasty place. This is universal: Japan just has to hide it a lot more. The “Japan” model basically says, we the industry get to project whatever image we want to consumers and consumers have no right to ever find out what the real story is like. Again, this is not culture, but power imbalance.

    Can you imagine what would happen if tomorrow the media was able to print everything it actually knew about the Japanese entertainment world? Noriko Sakai’s drug use would look like jaywalking. Media here is just powerless to actually share information with the public.

    J*hnny’s entire business model rests on the idea that the media can never ever report on the incredibly diabolic things that happens between the boss of that company and his underage employees.

  8. Leonardo Boiko Says:

    > If the merchant decides he doesn’t want to deal, isn’t that within his or her rights?

    The elephant in the room here is the monopoly of the record industry, something that’s frankly absurd in our age. Noriko Sakai wants to sell her music. Japanese people want to buy her music. The only merchant here should be Noriko Sakai. So how come commerce is blocked? With not only electronic distribution but absurdly low and ever-falling producing and media costs, why does some old guy who has nothing to do with the actual product gets to decide whether Sakai can sell her music or not?

    Thankfully, the current (or should I say, ancient) model of the music industry won’t last two more generations.

  9. M-Bone Says:

    I tend to lean toward Adamu’s “moral branding” argument.

    Nobody, after all, is going to stop selling Gunbuster because of the Sakai taint -

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xO_2isD-yu8

    It is a strategic choice in some areas and not others.

    “The only merchant here should be Noriko Sakai.”

    This isn’t McCartney/Lennon we are talking about here. Sakai sings. Her office prepares the music, delivers the backup and choreography, devises the style, markets, promotes, and makes the career. Pop acts like her’s are as interchangeable as TV talent and I don’t think that she can command some kind of auteur power over the work.

  10. RMilner Says:

    US retailers such as Walmart exercise censorship on products like video games and magazines prior to the products going on sale, by refusing to stock products which do not comply to their re-determined specification.

    This can become a problem when the publisher is unwilling or unable to publish two versions of the product and chooses to publish the Walmart approved version.

  11. W. David MARX Says:

    Moral branding may be at work, but I think the company gets a relatively weak boost from the move. I just don’t think anyone thinks pop records need to be recalled when an artist does something bad years later. The case of Happy End is just unbelievably pathetic.

  12. Adamu on itouch Says:

    Never heard the term moral branding before.

    What the companies gain is nothing less than permission to stay a member of the club. Openly flaunting convention is no way to run a jimusho! The behind the scenes intrigue is intense enough without drawing needless additional heat on yourself. If some fans don’t get their piece of history, so be it.

    The music cartel isn’t the elephant in the room. It’s the starting point of the whole discussion. For an industry to organize around a few strongmen who preside over fiefdoms is almost a natural state of being if there is no strong legal regime to punish exploitation and anti competitive practices. This cd recall practice is just one of many that serve critical roles in industry politics but have zero to do with providing the best possible entertainment.

  13. M-Bone Says:

    “but I think the company gets a relatively weak boost from the move.”

    I agree. But this is perhaps yet another example of the 80s Japanese culture industries ghost haunting the present, not something common to the Japanese media environment as a whole.

    Anime/game companies are not only not pulling anything, they are doing other “progressive” things like allowing rampant trampling of their copyrights by the (huge) dojinshi industry because they recognize it as a form of promotion and a way to recruit talent.

    Pop music is different, perhaps because the “happy end” is an assumed part of the marketing. I wouldn’t mind seeing and end to the happy end, but I don’t that that the entire Japanese entertainment world (if you consider it to include a bunch of narrative media too) needs to get tarred with the same brush.

    Also worth considering the alternative. American media companies used to cover up scandals, mob involvement, etc. and it is fair to suggest that this has been shaken because of a stronger sense of journalistic integrity and civic consciousness there than in Japan. There is another purely economic explanation that works just as well, however – scandal is now seen as a means of promotion and is anxiously played up by a media environment that markets the worship of shoddy legitimized unwholesomeness (okay – crack dealer, concealed carry charge, domestic violence; not okay – dog fighting, being gay in hiphop). We end up with another part of the same incestuous conglomerate (Fox is the worst for this) making money hand over fist by ruining the lives of their artists. The stories come out if they are overall profitable with responsibility / public first attitudes not even entering into things. Meanwhile, something that would sink a “brand” like the gangster down low scene or celebrity abortions gets relegated to the US version of those Takarajima books.

  14. M-Bone Says:

    “They were selling CDs based on a wholesome, karaoke-friendly image and that got tarnished.”

    I summarized this as “moral branding”. I made it up, but had “moral panic” – a serious sociological term used to describe things like the Noripi drug hysteria – in mind when I did.

  15. Jason J Says:

    In an era where record companies are looking at a slow decline in profits from here onward, these are simply acts of survival. Any company that decides to keep and there re-endorse Sakai’s records will risk tainting its reputation, adding to the list of problems they are going to be facing in the next decade.

    “By removing the CDs, record labels feel like they are quietly erasing any legacy of the criminal artist’s existence.”

    This comment may well serve the author’s agenda that proports that ““singularity of experience” is imposed by the market and the authorities rather than an actual expression of society.”
    but actually record companies merely cannot afford to risk dirtying their name. They couldn’t care less about noriko sakai taking speed. They are all probably off their mash on high drugs anyway.

  16. W. David MARX Says:

    I just don’t buy the idea that (1) consumers would know that a record label DIDN’T take products out of the market and (2) that they would do anything to punish that label.

    They are going to not buy other Victor recordings? I don’t think there is any evidence that something like that has ever happened in Japan. Any negative pressure would be from within the industry or the media, not from the public.

  17. Jason J Says:

    Whatever the situation,
    Noriko Sakai’s records being taken off the market is a fucking blessing.
    The less shit music on sale the better

  18. Mulboyne Says:

    I think your piece looks at the issue a little too narrowly. You are really looking at corporate scandal management and damage limitation strategies. These differ greatly in Japan as many foreign companies have learned to their cost. Here, an individual criminal is routinely identified by occupation and a company will frequently apologize for having employed someone who commits a crime.

    In this particular case, you have to look back at how the strategy evolved. Life looks different in a world of digital distribution but, basically, entertainment companies are consumer goods providers. Specifically, Victor, Toshiba, Sony & Columbia were all labels affiliated with consumer electronics companies. Taking an artist’s work off the market is effectively a defective product recall. Shops didn’t store a lot of back catalogue in the 50′s and 60′s so all it used to entail was shutting down a current promotion campaign.

    The market for these goods has changed over the years but companies tend to respond to scandals in tried and trusted ways. You propose the idea that consumers wouldn’t punish a company which decided to keep selling the work of a scandal-hit artist. However, who wants to be the executive who says “Let’s try something different”? Get it wrong and that’s your career finished.

  19. W. David MARX Says:

    However, who wants to be the executive who says “Let’s try something different”? Get it wrong and that’s your career finished.

    This explains all corporate inertia, yet corporations change over time.

    I’ll say it this way, the entire idea that a old song by a tainted singer is “defective” is based on the idea an older idea of shared society-wide morality. The iTunes example shows that assumption to be false.

  20. Adamu Says:

    Question: are Noripi CDs still available to rent?

    If anything, the Noripi scandal shows that “society wide morality” is as strong as ever, though it’s imposed from the top down. Let me explain:

    From where I am sitting, all the itunes purchases show is that there was heightened interest in the songs as a result of the scandal. The people buying the songs might feel one way or the other about the scandal itself, but just because someone buys a song that doesn’t mean they support everything the singer does. And my feeling is they *don’t* approve and probably wouldn’t object much to the decision to pull her CDs (and hence wouldn’t be surprised to see them off iTunes).

    The best-known grassroots parody of the incident was a song voiced with the Hatsune Miku voice effect. The lyrics were all about how a once-adored aidoru fell into disgrace by using drugs. Does that sound like a passionate defense? Perhaps it doesn’t speak for Japan as a whole but it’s at least one (seemingly genuine) “non-elite” reaction.

    In other words, even though people logged into itunes to buy her song, they are still following the moral lead of the talking heads on TV. In fact, a big reason this story got such headlines for so long was the fact that people actually enjoyed indulging in the Five Minutes Hate of condemning Noripi. Consider it a one-off tapping of the same demand that exists in the US for trashy reality shows that star completely loathsome and useless celebrities.

    As for the idea of erasing history, we face some of the same issues in the US as well. For instance, there were some cries of inauthenticity when Stephen Spielberg decided to cut out a reference to terrorism in a re-release of ET. But the cuts were made and we moved on. Nowadays most people watching probably don’t even remember. Elliot’s mom calling him a terrorist is lost down the memory hole.

  21. Adamu Says:

    Yikes that reference is supposed to be two minutes hate…

  22. Adamu Says:

    Latest case of a company apologizing for conduct of an employee:

    http://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20091117-00000119-jij-soci

    NHK cameraman felt up a woman in her 20s on the Inokashira Line. NHK apologizes, pledges to punish him severely once the facts are known.

  23. W. David MARX Says:

    Singers are not technically employees of record labels. In Sakai case, Sun Music likely licensed the master rights to the recordings to Victor.

  24. Mulboyne Says:

    All that means is that there are often several companies who don’t want to be seen to be associated with a scandal-hit star.

    By the way, I agree that with Adamu that you can’t draw definite conclusions about how someone who bought Sakai’s songs might judge companies associated with her. You can’t rule out people having the same sense of humour that drove some to buy ホリエナジー drinks from am/pm after the Livedoor story broke or grab 白い恋人 chocolates when that company was in the press for the wrong reasons. Both were given as joke presents but the joke had more meaning precisely because the giver knew the products would be taken off the shelves. I don’t think anyone who bought then particularly wanted them to stay on the market.

    The Japanese media and public is notoriously fickle about the way they judge a scandal and the web has made it harder to judge how to respond. Beat Takeshi commented once about how he seemed to be able to shrug off bad behaviour which might have ended the career of another star. He said:

    “After the Friday incident, the reason I was able to return was, well, I just seem like that type of guy, I guess. It just seems like from person to person, some people can be forgiven and some can’t. After a celebrity is involved in a scandal of fraud or violence, some of them are just wiped off the face of the earth, and some of them are just the kind of people about whom you’d say ‘well, you can’t help that’ and just let them back in. Ok, it’s not that easy, but they still get back in. I guess I was just born to be a guy who seems like he can make a comeback.”

  25. W. David MARX Says:

    1) Again, music is not “defective” or “dangerous,” nor a gag product. It is a product with the assumption of permanent existence. And in most cases, when the crime has been forgiven, the music returns to the market. You can buy Makihara’s music now. Same will happen to Happy End at some point. Sakai’s music is not gone forever. It’s just in this weird limbo where we are supposed to pretend like no one should buy or listen to it.

    2) “The Japanese media and public is notoriously fickle about the way they judge a scandal”

    But the “public” also contains alternate opinions, and there is no reason that the loudest members (or assumptions of unanimous opinion) should be able to control the others’ behavior. In the iTunes case, people who wanted to buy it were able to buy it. Those who didn’t want to buy it didn’t have to buy it nor would have even known that it was on sale, likely.

    3) Whether a celebrity comes back from a scandal or not is almost wholly unrelated to public feelings. The public has always been on the side of people like Suzuki Ami and GLAY, yet because of some weird insider industry rules, they completely disappeared. The public can’t bring back talent blacklisted by the industry from some hidden transgression.

    In the case of Koda Kumi’s dumb comment a few years ago, the public amplified the punishment it seems. But that was more about the fact that she was the #1 idol even though everyone who wasn’t a gyaru hated her. That seemed like a rebellion against Avex strong arming the system rather than a beloved idol “falling.”

  26. Chuckles Says:

    Paternalistic, yes, but elitist? How?

  27. Adamu Says:

    Not sure if anyone saw this, but the broadcasting ethics commission has produced this report on the crisis of awful variety shows that is nothing short of revolutionary:

    http://www.bpo.gr.jp/kensyo/decision/001-010/007_variety.pdf

    Ikeda Nobuo has a short summary (a slightly NSFW manga is at the top of the post)
    http://ikedanobuo.livedoor.biz/archives/51315031.html

    Especially gripping was this passage:
    ここに漂っている閉塞感は、おそらくバラエティだけの問題ではない。経済の先詰まり感、政治の停滞感、行政の不透明感・・・私たち一人ひとりはこうしたさまざまに気を滅入らせる現実に囲まれて暮らしている。せいぜい内輪の話題で盛り上がり、憂さを晴らすことぐらいしかやることがない。面白くない出来事、不愉快なノイズ、癪に障る連中のことなんか知ったことか。無視を決め込むか、イジメてやってせせら笑ってりゃいい・・・とばかりに、あっちでもこっちでもサディスティックな冷笑的な気分がわき上がり、広がっていく。

  28. W. David MARX Says:

    Paternalistic, yes, but elitist? How?

    Paternalistic is a better way of describing it, yes.

  29. M-Bone Says:

    Nice grab Adamu.

    It’s not like the stuff was so different back in the 80s when everyone was optimistic, however.

  30. jasong Says:

    Music business jishuku seems like an auto-response rather than something thought out. The press release templates and recall protocols are in place — there probably isn’t even a meeting held.

    You could argue that the temporary (not permanent, right?) unavailability makes a certain segment jones for the product. Then Victor can release remasters.

    With their expense, multiple investors, casts, etc. movies are harder to bury, though releases are sometimes pushed back (it almost happened with The Hanging Garden when director Toyoda Toshiaki was busted for drug possession). But Geneon-Universal did nothing to pull the March ’09 premium edition DVD of Premonition (Yogen) with Nori-P, for example.

    Interestingly, Kadokawa’s upcoming film Yûkai Rhapsody had Oshio Manabu in a supporting role as a head smart yakuza but rather that push the release back director Sakaki Hideo, who’s also an actor, reshot Oshio’s scenes with himself in the role. April 2010 release is on schedule.

  31. catoneinutica Says:

    Google translation of the Japanese quote in Adamu’s comment (#27):

    “Sense of frustration that is floating around here, the problem is probably not enough variety. Clogging the tip of the sense of economic stagnation in the political sense, our individual sense of uncertainty the government is surrounded by real life to these different 滅入Ra careful. The topic of inner excitement, at best, not only to do enough to dispel the gloom. Interesting events, an unpleasant noise, why not give the crowd something to feel sore. I refuse to ignore the good and just doing the bullying Terya sneeringly, rising beside sadistic feeling cynical here but even over there, will spread.”

    Three observations:
    1. Machine translation is still in its phetal phase.
    2. I really need to learn Japanese
    3. On the blog linked by Adamu there’s an ad for a book named

    チャイナ・アズ・ナンバーワン

    http://www.amazon.co.jp/%E3%83%81%E3%83%A3%E3%82%A4%E3%83%8A%E3%83%BB%E3%82%A2%E3%82%BA%E3%83%BB%E3%83%8A%E3%83%B3%E3%83%90%E3%83%BC%E3%83%AF%E3%83%B3-%E9%96%A2-%E5%BF%97%E9%9B%84/dp/4492443622%3FSubscriptionId%3DAKIAIM37F4M6SCT5W23Q%26tag%3Dld-news3-22%26linkCode%3Dxm2%26camp%3D2025%26creative%3D165953%26creativeASIN%3D4492443622

    Heh, I think that answers the question posited by the title of Ezra Vogel’s most recent tome,
    “Is Japan Still Number One?” (2000)

  32. jasong Says:

    To clarify — Yûkai was tentatively set for December release but production committee had to decide whether to stick to it. Rather than delaying indefinitely came up with plan to reshoot. Now demanding over 10 million yen in damages from Oshio for breach of contract.

    Oshio’s other films — Spanish production “Map of the Sounds of Tokyo” (with Kikuchi Rinko) had no J-release set and looks to stay that way, while small distributor Astaire’s 「だから俺達は、朝を待っていた」had too many scenes with Oshio and other cast members to reshoot. It’s shelved for now.

    How much flak would music and film companies get for “doing nothing” in these cases?

  33. W. David MARX Says:

    Those are all new products yet to be released. Releasing them with Oshio in them is just dumb. It’s different than removing catalog albums that are just sitting in stores with no promotion.

  34. Adamu Says:

    jasong:

    I don’t think pulling the CDs at the very time demand for them is greatest is a strategy to maximize sales of remasters later. Like you said it’s an automated response. The remasters/greatest hits can only be sold once the heat dies down.

    One Noripi movie was recalled – a propaganda DVD promoting the new lay judge system. Sadly, it was the director’s last film before he died of cancer.

    catone:
    That report is written in a very conversational tone that probably makes it even less amenable to machine translation than usual. One part is an extended allegory based on the Momotaro story that I had a very hard time following (that this came from the broadcasting ethics commission, possibly one of the most egregious perpetrators of platitudes and disingenuous seriousness, floors me completely)

  35. jasong Says:

    “Those are all new products yet to be released. Releasing them with Oshio in them is just dumb. It’s different than removing catalog albums that are just sitting in stores with no promotion.”

    I know — my point was that music (old and new) is easier to bury whereas old movies with offenders aren’t touched and new ones are dealt with in different ways. Pulling old CDs is ludicrous but I don’t think it’s anything elitist or even paternalistic. It’s just content producer jishuku.

    Although Oshio hasn’t yet been charged with any offense related to the woman who died (that Cyzo conspiracy article vibed true), the films’ producers obviously are taking that aspect into account . I doubt they would’ve gone to the trouble of reshooting scenes if it was just drug possession.

    Adamu, I forgot about the Nori P court video — probably produced for a pittance and obviously not for profit. They could’ve recut it to work in clips from her and her hubby’s trials. Gah!

  36. roger Says:

    I didn’t know about Suzuki Shigeru. I can understand pulling a pop idol’s CD after a drug scandal, but it seems even stranger to do the same thing with a countercultural band like Happy End. I guess that’s what happens when avex buys the rights to the URC catalog…

  37. Matt TREYVAUD Says:

    Happy End, man. Did anyone really believe that that long drag in the first verse of “Dakishimetai” was on the innocent cigarette described in the lyrics? There’s a psychedelic freakout like four lines later.

  38. W. David MARX Says:

    Hmm. That long drag sound at the beginning of Cornelius’ Fantasma… I smell a recall…

  39. Matt TREYVAUD Says:

    I smell a recall…

    Ah, is that what the kids are calling it these days?

  40. spandrell Says:

    The interesting thing about self-censorship/conformity is that its not enforced, so what prevents someone from innovating? As someone said the US used to be paternalist too, but people started to challenge it. Why nobody ever, ever challenges the system here?

    Are we condemned to SMAP and Arashi and lame idols for eternity?

  41. W. David MARX Says:

    The American pop music world was almost identical to Japan’s in the 1950s: mob control, no music reviews, serious collusion, etc. Then the ’60s happened in the US and the government stepped in to clean out the worst parts.

  42. Aceface Says:

    “Why nobody ever, ever challenges the system here?”

    Kinda funny hearing this from a guy who proposed pre-”Montgomery Bus Boycott”KKKesque solution for Uyghurs in Xinjiang.Spandrell.

    “self-censorship/conformity” is usually the product of certain level of enforcement.If you cross that line,you’ll be punished from multiple direction.

    Here in Japan,pop music industry is run by one and only principle,which is to make money.and not fighting power.

    If “challenge to the system” means dominance of American pop icon à la Britney Spears,why challenge Johnny’s Inc in the first place?

  43. W. David Marx Says:

    If “challenge to the system” means dominance of American pop icon à la Britney Spears,why challenge Johnny’s Inc in the first place?

    The reason you fight JJ is that he has been able to freely sexually assault his underage employees for 40 years without any serious recourse.

  44. Aceface Says:

    Shukan Bunshun has made series of articles about several years ago.And SB lost in the court.
    http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E9%80%B1%E5%88%8A%E6%96%87%E6%98%A5#.E3.82.B8.E3.83.A3.E3.83.8B.E3.83.BC.E3.82.BA.E4.BA.8B.E5.8B.99.E6.89.80.E3.81.A8.E3.81.AE.E5.AF.BE.E7.AB.8B

  45. Aceface Says:

    My previous comment is under moderation due to wikipedia link.

    So the challenge to the system is not about the quality of the pop music but the sexual harassment to the employee by the management?
    So far all we have is accusation coming from disgruntled ex-employee who has serious business conflict with Johnny’s.You are not guilty until you are being sentenced so in court,me think.

  46. W. David MARX Says:

    I think between the large number of confessional books of ex-Johnny’s people, the Shukan Bunshun articles, and the New York Times’ confirmation of those making the accusations’ existence, we can safely assume that JJ has been a site of wrongdoing. The issue has also been taken up in the Diet. And the allegations against Johnny’s date from the late 1960s. The court case against SB basically came down to a “he said/he said” kind of thing, no?

  47. W. David MARX Says:

    You are not guilty until you are being sentenced so in court,me think.

    How many jimusho bosses are arrested for makura eigyo? Almost none, I think. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. We’ll only find out about what Johnny did or didn’t do when he dies and people can speak more freely.

    And there’s no way a prosecutor in Japan is going to go after J. They won’t even arrest Oshio on an incredibly clear case of body abandonment and he’s nobody.

    Anyway, we are getting off topic…

  48. Aceface Says:

    “and the New York Times’ confirmation of those making the accusations’ existence”

    Well,I don’t have too much faith on NYT’s report on Japan,to tell you the truth.

    But you’d agree that SB’s article was based on “he said/she said” level.And if such sexual abuses are so rampant in Johnny’s Inc,why aren’t the victims(or victim’s family members)simply go to the court when the case happened instead of waiting for two decades and chose to write in confessional book format?

    ” And there’s no way a prosecutor in Japan is going to go after J”

    But the diet member could.
    http://www.shugiin.go.jp/itdb_kaigiroku.nsf/html/kaigiroku/007314720000413005.htm

    Oshio case isn’t closed.And body abandonment isn’t a serious crime compare to murder or man slaughter.And there’s very little possibility of him running away.He can surely enjoy his time before his time.

  49. M-Bone Says:

    Not a clear parallel to the current discussion, but I came upon some interesting tidbits today – US TV networks and studios pulled dozens of potentially “objectionable” programs in the weeks after 911 and there are some reports that it cost hundreds of millions in advertising revenue. Anything slightly “disastrous” was pulled from TV and yet there was apparently a huge spike in war and disaster movie rentals in the same period.

  50. W. David MARX Says:

    why aren’t the victims(or victim’s family members)simply go to the court when the case happened instead of waiting for two decades and chose to write in confessional book format

    Yes, this is a good point, but in general, most grievances in the entertainment world are not taken into a legal sphere. The only real court action we see from that industry is when the major jimushos sue publishers or writers. Artists who sue their jimusho are blacklisted — we have seen this happen with GLAY, Ami Suzuki, and lots of others.

    So yes, a legal court case of accuser against JJ would be the best thing, but there is not much precedent for it in Japanese society.

  51. Aceface Says:

    “Artists who sue their jimusho are blacklisted — we have seen this happen with GLAY, Ami Suzuki, and lots of others.”

    True.
    But they sued jimusho as artists,not as the victims of sexual harassment.Things can be different,if the charges are different.Most certainly to the Johnniy’s,for the damage to their reputation is bigger.

  52. M-Bone Says:

    I thought that J was rumored to be molesting kids who didn’t make the cut (a guy in my wife’s high school went to Tokyo for a JJ audition apparently, I should ask him)? In those cases, there would be plenty of motive to sue.

    “precedent for it in Japanese society”

    100s of fake Chikan cases in Tokyo alone each year. Not the same, but it’s not like Japan doesn’t have litigious golddiggers.