Sunday Blog Spotlight: So, Did Anything Interesting Happen Last Week?

Filed in American Wota 1.0

So… did anything interesting happen in the world of Japanese pop music last week?

No? It was pretty quiet in the Jpop blogosphere?

Oh, wait… there was that one little thing. What was it again? Something about Jun Lin, or Chun Li, or something like that?

Oh, yeah. That.

Having kept an eye on the English-language part of the Jpop blogosphere for over a year and a half now, I can honestly say I had never seen such a reaction before. I try to think of the last time there was such a blow-up – that’d be Micchi’s induction in Momusu, perhaps… And before that, the graduation of Konogawa last summer. But the range and breadth and passion surrounding the addition of two Chinese members to Morning Musume was astounding. I found what seemed like dozens of previously unread (by me) blogs discussing the issue – some of them quite excellent blogs, and added to my links – and many of the H!P oriented blogs I knew about had strong opinions of their own.

And after sifting through it all, after reading what I could manage, I came to a clear conclusion:


No, wait. That’s not inclusive enough.


Because I can’t excuse myself from this, can I? And while that reaction now seems a bit out of proportion, there was something about reading all these blog entries and making sense of it all that was daunting. I like to read political blogs across the spectrum, from Michelle Malkin to Kos, and there was a whiff of that kind of energy and partisanship and vitriol which confused me just a little. I didn’t know if that kind of tone – that kind of feel – was a good or bad thing, but it’s died down now and we’ll see where Jun Jun and Lin Lin will go from here.

Anyway, here’s the highlights from when the news first broke out… Oh, and some other blogging as well.








  • On a personal note, pengie of unchained writes about the kindness of others. It’s very sweet of her, and again she’s quite welcome…
  • Following up on Pata’s article and my response to it, CJ Marsicano of Stuck in a Pagoda with Motoko Aoyama explains why exactly Tofu Records sucks. His article is oriented more towards the record industry than the wota / otaku angle that Pata takes, and adds considerably to the debate. Well, not a debate really – all three of us seem to agree that Tofu currently sucks… But again, mandatory reading for anyone interested in the culture.
  • Craig of the delightfully maddening Love Raspberry Juice draws parallels between Don Quixote and my idea of wota courtly love. If I was still teaching literature, I’d be beaming with pride. As it is, the comparison makes me fear for all our sanity…

I’m real late on the Sunday Blog Spotlight this week, mostly because I’ve been launching International Wota, but I was hoping that by putting off this post I’d have something deep and meaningful to say about the wave of SinoMoni posts from last week.

I’m still drawing a blank, except for this: we can look at the addition of Chinese members as a litmus test for what we want from our idols. I was initially ambivalent about it and then I realized that Jun Jun is so freaking cute, I couldn’t wait to see more of her. Did it matter to me that she was Chinese? Of course not, she’s a really really cute girl. That’s all that matters to me – it was an almost Pavlovian response, showing what I want out of my idols more than anything else: the ability to make me go squee and desire bikini photobooks of said idol.

For some people, preserving Momusu’s Japanese-ness is important. For others, the notion of a pan-Asian Musume is much more enticing, as it opens up new markets for the group and makes them more inclusive. The accusations of racism had to occur, I guess, though luckily I haven’t seen anything yet that makes the debate cross over into Godwin’s Law. And while there’s been much grief directed to the poor girls – simply for being chosen, for having the honor of being considered good enough for Morning Musume – I don’t think all criticism (or even a majority) against them is necessarily racist. A group as stridently nationalist as Morning Musume has been – their best known song is about the world being jealous of Japan, they’ve been used for recruitment by the Self Defense Force – would of course have their Japanese-ness as part of their mystique.

However, some of the more esoteric rhetoric used along this line – the kind about daughters of Japan, the pride of Nippon, and so on – risks looking silly by losing that other all-important thread: idols are about making money, they are pre-fab entertainers meant to separate wota from their wallet. If they can get more wota lucre by marketing aggressively for a pan-Asian market, that’s their prerogative – and that’s what this seems to be about.

The counter-argument has nothing to do with race and national pride directly, but how race and national pride impacts the marketing of the idols. Does this move compromise the fan base of wota? Apparently, there’s a very vocal section of Momusu fans who don’t want Chinese members. Is it worth going to China if the hardcore Japanese fan base is compromised too much?

I don’t have any answers; if anything, I’m willing to admit that my focus on marketing may be too reductive (though the commercial aspect of Jpop is certainly one of the biggest draws for me). That said, all the raw nerves touched by this – both those who think it’s about time and those who think this should have never happened – tells me that if there IS an answer, it’ll take further debate and a willingness to go beyond the surface reactions that we saw last week. Some bloggers did an excellent job in that direction – I’d single out Hamiwari and Pearl, for starters, but many others detect that this event is knottier and less obvious than it first looks. It’s easy to take sides – red states or blue states – but it’s more difficult to figure where red and blue bleed into purple in most people’s lives and choices.

And if anything, popular culture – as a brightly lit, sharply cut reflection of mainstream values (in this case, Japan’s mainstream) – tends to complicate matters because the love of money and the respect for art has to factor into the mix. How important are cultural factors when we try to enjoy our chosen entertainments? Where does race and culture fit in, what are our expectations? Is a Chinese Musume like having a black or Jewish country singer, or a white rapper from the suburbs? Is having the right bona fides as integral as talent? I refuse to go all Benetton and insist that color or background doesn’t matter – it almost always does, and to say otherwise is to deny differences that enrich us. Rather, the question should be on HOW these things matter, what criteria do we apply in our lives – and in our consumption of pop culture – and what does that tell us about ourselves?

I’m actually wondering if this is just a tempest in a teapot, if the initial burst of reactions will just give way to wota complacency – some will shrug and leave Momusu behind, others will rally behind the new members, growing to like them the way they have previous gens – and that an opportunity to dig deeper will be lost. Of course, that’s the other threat of pop culture – we’re so willing to amuse ourselves to death that even if Neil Postman always rings twice, we’ll just move on to the next big distraction and not take the time to ponder why we all got so worked up in the first place.

We in the Jpop blogosphere – and elsewhere on the gory internets – are unafraid to voice our opinions as loudly and stridently as we like. I celebrate that impulse every week with this feature. It would help if more of us also took the time to wonder why these opinions are so strong in the first place, and what it says about us that we have to share those opinions in the manner that we do. There’s a great deal of meaning left to unpack with the addition of Jun Jun and Lin Lin to Morning Musume, and it’d be nice if the sound and fury softened to a more open-ended, lively conversation.

And in conclusion… Hitler!


Comments (Comments are closed)

13 Responses to “Sunday Blog Spotlight: So, Did Anything Interesting Happen Last Week?”
  1. Craig says:

    I would’ve put that up on International Wota but I don’t like your conclusion. ROFLMAO

  2. Wu-san says:

    @Craig XD

    well, I’m a little stunned how negative some of the blogs have been, and shocked at, I guess by the level of prejudice that’s entered the air of discussion. I understand of course but, I didn’t think it would matter to people.

    I understand the loyalty, and the romantic notions of keeping MM as a stright and narrow Japanese outfit…but as a person, I’m not going to give the girls a harder time from the off-set because they’re Chinese. Its not everyone of course ^___^, but the few things I’ve read, that have talked that way, stick with me.

    like I said though, I’m not gonna take it seriously, just enjoy and hope for the best. As we all know, there have been typical Tsunku choices in the past we all hated at one point, then fell in love with.

    on a less serious note, I need more people to fancy in current MM, just got my Eri, Mikitty and Sayu…I remember the days where I loved at least 80% of the line up XD

    good summary at the end Ray

  3. pengie says:

    I lol at the “that’s it, I give up on Momusu” people. Okay, cool. Bye!

    No, seriously. If these people are going to be racist fucktards and are going to speculate and make stupid assumptions before the girls even join the damn group, then we’re better off without them in the fandom. I can understand the “this might be weird…” reactions, but not the purist, bigoted responses that essentially come down to “wah wah if I can’t be in Morning Musume then Chinese girls can’t!”

    If you’re one of those people who pulled the “I HATE THE GROUP NOW” reactions, I don’t expect to see you harping all over the girls when they get another #1 single. Get out of here and let us enjoy our music.

  4. Wu-san says:

    here here Pengie… Kampai to that!

  5. Julia says:

    Lol you called me Julia of Satsumaimo and Julia of Wings of My Heart in one entry. (Sorry, that amused me.) Anyway, damn, that’s a *lot* of entries on the issue. Maybe we are all fucking insane. o.o

  6. jinryuichi says:

    I seriously hope you didn’t offend any German readers
    with your “conclusion”. (^_^;) What does “Sino” mean, btw?

    Found this blog entry by a Chinese girl (in the States currently) about this news and her own views. In summary, echoing what she said and what pengie just said up there… Don’t like ’em, just leave ’em. As for me, I have gone from 50% supportive, up to 80% supportive – That’s about the standard Momusu-wota ratio.

    Even now, I suspect those who declared “I hate Momusu now”, would keep their ears open for any news on Momusu, just to see if they’re right………. and if not, they’ll come back to join the party. Kinda like Major League 2. ^_^

  7. The only explanation is that old Madison Avenue axiom: “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” It’s reminiscent of when Hugh Grant’s career surged after his highly publicized arrest for soliciting a prostitute. And right after Grant appears on the Tonight Show, Leno’s ratings shot past Letterman’s and that was that. Maybe Tsunku is shooting for the moon, and if he even dents the Chinese market with this move, it will be worth all the angst.

  8. Verilian says:

    I think Tsunku did an amazing job of generating interest in Momosu. From “let’s see how many copies Koharu sells today” to “OHMYGOSH TSUNKU YOU CRAZY BASTARD!!”, I’d say that he’s managed to stir up more interest this week alone than during a lot of the times for the 8th Gen Auditions.

    And I love the section captions. 😀

  9. CJ Marsicano says:

    Hear hear.

    Now if only my blog could get some love at *hints*

  10. Holly says:

    Wow, you actually read mine ^^;; Yay! xD

  11. Garamond says:

    Quote jinryuichi:
    “I seriously hope you didn’t offend any German readers
    with your “conclusion”. (^_^;) What does “Sino” mean, btw?”

    I doubt if Ray would offend any Germans with that conclusion, not sure though. BTW aren’t you partly German yourself Ray?
    Anyway, since I see Ray as a sort of mad genious his conclusion didn’t shock me or anything; instead it amused me, but then Hitler has fascinated me for as long as I can remember.

    Sino means “Chinese” as far as I know mate. 🙂

  12. Ray Mescallado says:

    Sino does mean Chinese.

    My wife is half-German and half-Japanese. I’m 100% Filipino and 110% pedo sonuvabitch.

    And the last line was a reference to Godwin’s Law.

  13. Suri says:

    I’m German =O