The news that Korean girl group Kara will be performing on “Kohaku Uta Gassen,” a widely watched New Year’s TV show that features Japan’s top artists, is further proof that the Korean boom is here to stay. As K-pop continues to dominate the charts, it’s now an irrefutable fact that the craze for all things Korean has crossed over to the younger generation and officially become cool.
Though an older generation of Japanese women have been swooning over handsome Korean actors for years, now the younger generation is hooked on the upfront sexiness of acts like Girls’ Generation and Kara. Along with getting into the music, many fans have developed a curiosity about all things Korean, which has lead to growing numbers of young Japanese hitting the streets of Shin-Okubo, Tokyo’s Korea town.
Aside from the spicy cuisine, one of the biggest draws in Shin-Okubo is K-pop music hall Seichi, which opened in April this year. Performances by young Korean musicians are held three times a day and groups of fans can be seen waiting outside for performances on the streets. Also opening in April this year was the K Theatre, located in the slightly more upmarket Ebisu area. Further uptown a third venue opened in September. Rather more pricey, Ginza K Place caters to the older diehard fans who come to swoon over attractive male Korean singers.
But don’t let this lead you to believe all Japanese are enamored with Korean entertainment. This year Japan witnessed a rather ugly backlash against the trend for airing Korean dramas on Japanese TV. Five-hundred protesters gathered outside of Fuji TV headquarters to protest against the channel’s programming policy. The protest was sparked off by a tweet from disgruntled actor Sousuke Takaoka. Takaoka wrote: “I’ll never watch Channel 8 (Fuji TV) again. I often think it’s Korean TV. Japanese people want traditional Japanese programs.” Predictably, the nationalist far right rallied around his whine and mobilized the 2chan forces.
The summer’s skirmish aside, the Korean phenomena is likely to continue apace in 2012. Nikkei Women is predicting that Japanese women will be embracing the latest Korean cosmetic trend: a beauty cream called Prestige cream d’escargot made from snail entrails that is all the rage in Seoul.