As members of Japan’s postwar baby boom generation approach their seventh decade, they have been wallowing in an extended nostalgia boom over the historical and cultural accouterments of the Showa Era (1926-89). If you feel left out of the discussion, the antidote is to hunt down a copy of this book, which offers a comprehensive look at cultural icons from television, cinema, popular music and others.
Schilling, a regular Japan Times contributor, serves up a veritable cornucopia of useful facts and astute observations from his decades as a well-traveled journalist and film reviewer. For example, he writes: “Foreigners seeing Japanese TV for the first time often comment on its air of amateurishness. … The main reason for this … is bottom-line business. Large segments of the Japanese audience actually like seeing amateurs — or pros acting amateurishly — on the tube.”
Well researched, accurate and enjoyable as a desktop reference or for light reading, its 70 main entries range from sumo, Shonen Jump and SMAP to karaoke and the original 1950s radio drama and film “Kimi no Na wa”; and from such personalities as Hibari Misora, Yujiro Ishihara and Ken Takakura to Pink Lady, Seiko-chan and Momoe Yamaguchi (“who became a legend not so much for her talent … as for her public persona, the perfect arc of her career and her manner of leaving it”).
Read archived reviews of Japanese classics at jtimes.jp/essential.