For Philip Brasor's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Apr 20, 2000
A few weeks ago I submitted a proposal for an April Fool's story to a local publication. The piece would have been a news report about Japanese airline companies taking advantage of "Japan's rapidly aging society" by offering "nursing care miles" to frequent flyers in order to attract middle-aged travelers. The joke was supposed to coincide with the start of the new kaigo hoken (nursing care insurance) system that, coincidentally, went into effect April 1.
Apr 6, 2000
In advertising, success doesn't always mean the same thing to everyone involved. For the client, it means increased sales of his product, while for the copywriter it means cultural impact, and though there's nothing that says these two successes can't coincide, there's also nothing that says they have to.
Mar 30, 2000
Mar 24, 2000
Hyperbole becomes Tony Bennett. His effusiveness is all-encompassing, gathering his audience, his musicians, the people who wrote the songs he sings, and even the singers who covered those songs before him into a warm, gushing embrace. Performing more than 90 minutes' worth of material at Suntory Hall March 19, the 73-year-old singing waiter from Astoria, Queens, dressed in a shiny royal blue suit and powder-blue tie, didn't always know which direction he should face. The audience was all around him, and he kept turning this way and that, nodding to sections and pointing at individuals, bowing or opening his arms after every phrase.
Mar 19, 2000
For the last six months the media has been buzzing over the rumored publication of an unauthorized biography of Hello Kitty by Kitty Kelly. The rumors were confirmed yesterday when Simon & Schuster announced it would release "Cute at Any Cost: The Hello Kitty Story" in early July to take advantage of the summer vacation reading season.
Mar 2, 2000
It will be interesting to see how "The Insider" is promoted when it opens here in May. If it wins a bunch of Academy Awards, then the campaign will be easy, but if it doesn't then the PR people will have to be creative. Most Japanese ad campaigns for foreign films rely on stars, but Russell Crowe, who has already won all sorts of citations for his acting in the film, is still unknown in Japan, and Al Pacino cashed his celebrity check here years ago.
Feb 25, 2000
It was very nice of Laetitia Sadier to introduce each song that Stereolab played at Shinjuku Liquid Room Feb. 16. Though normally I find the practice distracting, in this case I was grateful, since the promoter hadn't provided a set list. (Concert reviewers like to give the impression that they know an artist's repertoire backward and forward, but usually we don't.) I was reminded of the first time I saw Talking Heads in 1978 and David Byrne's anal retentive thoroughness in making clear the name of each song before he played it.
Feb 11, 2000
Every 15 years or so we seem to get another blues revival. Revivals imply something dead being brought back to life, which means the blues isn't considered a living, breathing musical form, but something frozen in time, and each successive generation that revives it is further removed from the cultural and spiritual milieu that gave rise to it.
Jan 21, 2000
Jan 20, 2000
Though Japan is famous for importing technology from the West and then sending it back in cheaper and better form, business practices remain homegrown. The shining exception is convenience stores, an American concept that has been so successful here that one could say it subsidized the rest of the Japanese retail industry during the recession of the '90s.
Jan 6, 2000
The suicide rate goes up at the end of the year, an increase that's usually attributed to depression in the face of what is perceived as everybody else's high holiday spirits. In Japan, there's another reason for despair. That's the prospect of being stuck in the company of relatives you hate eating food you can't stand. To that, add the unavoidable blitz of New Year's TV specials and it's enough to drive even the most well-adjusted person over the edge.
Dec 17, 1999
Nov 26, 1999
Everybody knows that foreign artists can only have a hit in the States as long as they sing in English. Conversely, Ricky Martin, Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony are credited with spearheading a "Latin boom" not only in America, but all over the world, by singing poppish variations of Afro-Cuban styles in English, not Spanish. Think about it, especially if, like me, you don't trust any "Latin boom" that doesn't include Los Van Van.
Oct 7, 1999
In the middle of August, Polydor Records announced it would not release a recently finished album by veteran rock singer Kiyoshiro Imawano because it contained a punk version of "Kimigayo," Japan's newly certified national anthem. Imawano called the decision "silly," an opinion that took on extra layers of meaning last week when TV Asahi's "News Station" invited him on the show to sing the song.
Sep 30, 1999
Japan has produced a fair number of marathon stars. It's an achievement that probably has less to do with genetically bound physical attributes than with culturally bound psychological ones. The "gambaru" mentality that governs so many endeavors in Japan, especially in the world of sports, is central to being a good marathon runner.
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