The Jpop-Friendly Workplace

Filed in Cult Of Pop 2.0

The temp assignment I’m currently at – and have been for almost a year – is a pretty relaxed office, all male and the typical Hawaiian mix of ethnicities. The younger guys I work with are into the usual geek pursuits – anime, comics, video games – as well as the usual sports and cars (neither of which I care for), so there’s a general knowledge of Jpop among them. At first it was like, "Jpop? That’s like Speed, yah?" But it’s moved beyond that. It turns out one of my co-workers is into Jdorama and loves Every Little Thing; several of my colleagues, including the ELT fan, have a passing fondness for Hamasaki Ayumi, Utada Hikaru, and Amuro Namie.

Of course, I’ve been forcing the matter. Since I’ve been working here a while, I’ve had a chance to adapt to the workplace and have the workplace adapt to me. First, I began messing with the computer wallpapers: at different points, I’ve had SweetS on all the public-use computers, then Berryz Koubo, then SweetS again, and now Morning Musume. I was thinking that somebody’d change the wallpapers on me, and there’s been one or two computers that were changed – but mostly, they leave it the way I set it.

I think if I set up an all-Gackt or all-SMAP series of wallpapers, that’d go too far. Especially Gackt. But girl groups are acceptable, though there’ve been frequent discussions of just how young the girls of Berryz and SweetS are. Actually, it reached the point where my taunting query, "What do you think, she’s hot, isn’t she?" will be greeted not with a yes or no but, "How old is she? Twelve?" In short, the charms of Momoko – who very briefly dominated all the wallpaper screens, solo (apparently, one twelve-year-old on all the computers was way too pedo-creepy, large groups of girls are safer for the workplace) – is lost on my co-workers.

In recent weeks I’ve also been playing music and DVDs at work – for my own pleasure, but it’s not like I’m using headphones. I often have to listen to a shitload of eighties music or metal or whatever, so why not some Jpop in the mix? I didn’t realize how far I’d gotten, though, until the ELT fan complained at the beginning of this week, "Again? It’s getting to the point where I know the words to the songs."

He was talking about the SweetS DVD for 5 Elements – and yes indeed, I’ve had it in heavy rotation at home and at work since I got my hands on this indispensable treasure. I then decided to make sure I play the SweetS DVD every day for the others to listen to until they learn to love SweetS with the same passion I bring to the group. For now, I have to settle for the fact that they’ve each made fun of me for missing out on SweetS when they came to the island this past March – but what the heck, I’m still kicking myself over that, too.

The main workplace complaint with my Jpop isn’t the music itself, but my rather pronounced fondness – an exaggerated-for-the-workplace (if only slightly) mania, one might say – for the underage acts. SweetS, Berryz, Hinoi Team, half of Morning Musume – all of them bring up some weird dread in my co-workers, a kind of "what now" anticipation often followed with a shaking of the head and the muttering of, "That’s wrong, dude." Being a sadistic bastard, I enjoy this, of course, and sometimes switch my game accordingly. So when I played the Koda Kumi Best DVD at work, I tried to make my co-workers believe Ku-chan’s only sixteen. (It didn’t work.) Or I’d pull up some particularly winsome model from Cute Cosplay Angels and ask the always-loaded, "What do you think of this one?"

Don’t worry, I’m not giving these people the impression that Jpop is all about depraved attention geared towards innocents. Just to add some context, there’s a lot of friendly banter at work revolving around touching each other inappropriately, cannibalism, porn, people’s spouses, people’s mothers, and so on. So I’m about depravity – as are some others at the office – but Jpop isn’t about that at all. And it actually made me feel just a little sunshine inside when a co-worker said he liked "Lolita Strawberry in Summer" and another one stopped and noted that "Love Like Candy Floss" actually sounded good.

That said, Jpop’s become more and more a part of workday life. The ELT fan actually downloaded and burnt for me a DVD from Jpopsuki of one hundred live Speed performances. He’s something of a Speed fan, and my constant natter about Jpop seems to have re-awakened some interest with him as well. The two main observations he makes are: Eriko and Hiro sing so much that Takako and Hitoe are rendered superfluous; and that Takako is real hot, and his favorite. Myself, I think that even if Eriko and Hiro dominate the leads, Takako and Hitoe play an important role in the group simply by being there and dancing and looking cute (especially Hitoe). And of course, my favorites are Hiro and Hitoe.

As for the DVD… my co-worker wasn’t surprised to find me considerably more interested in the early days of Speed – "Body & Soul" and "Go! Go! Heaven" – than with the later years. After all, Speed was once the youngest Jpop superstars in Japan. That said, I’ve been a fan of Speed visually for a while now – I have three of their photobooks on my shelf, there’s something… fascinating, I guess… about the mix of personae evident on their faces. They strike me as something like the Fantastic Four of Jpop, each person clearly defined in a specific role, each face having its own story to tell – but put them all together, and a kind of chemistry emerges, they become more than the sum of their parts. I’ve spent hours poring through the Legend of Speed memorial book and still find the membership of Speed conceptually powerful, hypnotizing in its alchemy of Jpop personae.

As for Speed’s music… well, I like what I hear, but it doesn’t stick with me. Not just yet, at least. Having watched maybe half of the hundred Speed videos, I don’t think I can hum any of their songs yet. I think it’ll take more time, and I’m open to it. But then, watching Hiro and the others grow up over the years is a satisfaction onto itself.

I’m not one to spread the gospel, only to share the good word with those already seeking conversion. I won’t make someone read a comic book if they’re not into it to start with, but I do like to have comics fans try out books they wouldn’t otherwise know about – something I’ve been doing steadily at work with a fellow fanboy whose tastes ran primarily along the line of Marvel superheroes – and now I’m getting a mild kick out of sharing Jpop with those who have some inkling but have only dipped their toes in the water, not drowned in Jpop goodness and come out a Jpop amphibian.

That said, the process of sharing goes both ways. I haven’t been able to get into ELT, but the music can be quite catchy, I’ll admit. And  today I went to the Japanese import store Toys & Joys after work and I saw a copy of the Speed movie Andromedia for sale. I considered buying it… but passed on it today. Still, if I see it there next time, I’ll likely give in.

And if not, they’re also selling both Azumi movies with Ueto Aya, and that’s a can’t-miss for me. It’s also something we can watch at the office so I can go, "She’s cute isn’t she? Isn’t she? Guess how old she was when she made this film." Sure, she was almost eighteen – but they don’t know it.

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4 Responses to “The Jpop-Friendly Workplace”
  1. CJ Marsicano says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who plays J-Pop DVDs while they’re at work. And one of them of late has been the SweetS 5 elementS one. Otherwise, it’s been W (Double You), Viyuden, MiniMoni, MoMusu, all of the H!P Petit Bests, Yui Horie, and Whiteberry. 🙂

  2. Suika says:

    I can’t really play music at work because there are clients running about, so I focus my energies on trolling Jpop forums instead. XD I wouldn’t have the environment you do anyway, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s a little jealous after reading this! The thought of any of my coworkers being into Jpop is a very funny one…although on one slow day, a coworker kept commenting about a certain track of the Zwei album when I played it, but that’s the closet I’ve come to a Jpop-friendly work environment. My friends however have greatly humored me over the years and all have their own favorites now, so not all is lost!

  3. CJ:

    You mention Whiteberry again… maybe I should give them a try?

    Suika:

    Part of the fun for me is seeing how much Jpop I can force on co-workers until it seeps into their subconscious. “Lolita Strawberry in Summer” and “Love Raspberry Juice” have made something of an impression on them already, I’m pleased to say; one of them complains he can almost sing the song. And everybody likes to watch Amuro Namie now.

    One thing I didn’t mention: I’m working for a Japanese company and every once in a while Japanese employees come by the office and notice the Jpop. The older Japanese folks didn’t recognize Morning Musume, and a girl who used to work for the company had lived in Hawaii several years – so she didn’t know SweetS but smiled when I mentioned Da Pump and SMAP. The one older gentleman from Japan who works in my office has actually paged through my SweetS photobook and watched a dream PV with me. He finds it amusing that I’m into this stuff despite not knowing Japanese.

  4. I came across your blog a few days ago when you linked to my article, but I haven’t had a chance to read your site until today (Saturday) because my workplace is not Jpop friendly. So, I am more than a little jealous of you being able to watch DVDs at work. Our computers don’t even have CD drives (becuase they could be used for installing unauthorized software). I could go on, but I mostly just wanted to say I enjoyed reading your page and I’ll be reading in the future.