Japanese dramas have a knack for tapping into the zeitgeist, and a forthcoming offering from TV Tokyo in cooperation with Spotify aims to be even more ambitious by bringing the zeitgeist to a Japanese drama.
“Omimi ni Aimashitara” stars Marika Ito as Misono Takamura, a podcaster who hosts a show about chēn meshi (chain restaurant food). She will go to real-life venues, eat her favorite dishes and talk about them starting July 8. (There’s a Japanese phrase that goes “o-kuchi ni aimashitara,” which you say when you hope someone likes the food you’re serving — the title swaps o-kuchi [mouth] for o-mimi [ears].)
Along the way, the audience will get to hear about the protagonist’s personal life, too. It’s as if we’re getting the lovechild of the 1996 rom-com series “Long Vacation” and the American “Doughboys” podcast.
“Omimi” is more than just a chance to celebrate Saizeriya while navigating romance, however. TV Tokyo is producing the show with Spotify’s full cooperation and the main character’s in-show podcast will appear exclusively on the audio service. It’ll be Spotify’s boldest move yet to push podcasts in Japan, a country that is slowly coming around to the format but has yet to see the kind of boom that has happened in other countries. So far, Spotify has concentrated on producing platform-only programs helmed by popular influencers and comedy troupes, along with all kinds of education-themed originals aimed at wooing local ears.
Besides Spotify’s stable of shows, Japan has also seen the emergence of companies like Spinear, which is devoted entirely to making podcasts and creating branded audio content for the likes of Starbucks, All Nippon Airlines and others — including Spotify itself.
Still, Japan is nowhere near as close to becoming an established podcast environment like the United States, or even an emerging force like India, which now boasts the third-largest podcast market in the world (the second-largest is China).
Spotify has been trying to turn its original podcasts into TV shows for a while now, but “Omimi” marks the first time it has partnered with a television network to create an original show aimed at promoting the very concept of podcasting through a more established medium. It has made a good choice to partner with TV Tokyo, which excels at generating internet buzz, whether on purpose or unintentionally (remember that meme of the channel airing fluff while major news events were unfolding?).
“Omimi” also appears to follow a successful blueprint laid down by the hit show “Kodoku no Gurume” (“Solitary Gourmet”) about a middle-aged salaryman who eats meals by himself and then describes them in detail.
Broadcast on Fridays at midnight, the program reeled people in with delicious-looking food that inspired Twitter hashtags like “meshi tero” (roughly, “food terrorism”) as viewers felt subjected to staring at such scrumptious offerings late at night when they couldn’t eat them. “Omimi” will air at 12:30 a.m. on Thursdays, setting it up to replicate this midnight-snack strategy.
However, “Kodoku no Gurume” didn’t have an entire new medium perched on its shoulders. “Omimi” will have to be both a great food series and semi-informative introduction to the very concept of podcasting, because a lot of viewers may be encountering the medium for the first time. On top of that, the audio series central to the TV show has to be a standalone podcast that Spotify users will want to listen to. There are a lot of parts in motion.
However, this is still the best way to promote podcasts in a country where seemingly outdated media platforms such as newspapers and broadcast television remain vital to most of the population, and remain the most effective way to promote a product. (While I’m here, have you checked out The Japan Times’ own Deep Dive podcast?) After all, it wasn’t long ago that the concept of a “YouTuber” mystified most of Japan, but following a consistent flow of news segments and variety show bits about this new type of creator, the idea of a YouTuber became mainstream. “Omimi” might just be able to pull off the same for podcasts … or, at the very least, bring about a renaissance for a Denny’s breakfast.
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