If you watch Japanese YouTubers like Heraiza you soon hear the buzzword ‘Owakon’. Owakon is one of those clever Japanese creations that combines ‘owari’ (over) + ‘content’ to create a handy new expression for ‘oh so over’ dead content. And it doesn’t only apply to things, it applies to people too, like ‘oh so over’ dead-tired, overexposed TV ‘talent’ living off the management company connections instead of real talent.
One of the many interesting realizations brought home by the COVID crisis: being stuck at home has only proved how dead Japanese TV is. Young people have turned it off and are streaming or watching YouTube. Proof? Look no further than the overflow of YouTube ‘Kaidan’ content. Kaidan (ghost stories), are a traditional folk performance so well loved in Edo era, also firmly engrained in the Rakugo cannon.
Kaidan YouTuber channels like Shinpei Shimada, Nana-fushigi, Toshi Boys (City Boys) Yachin no Yasui Heya (Cheap rent room) and countless others are fascinating…not so much for the content but the fact that these channels are pulling in viewers and ads. Money and eyeballs are going here instead of ‘Owakon’ TV. Nanafushiki is a duo who were working regional events and radio but never made it big on TV doing better than ever on YouTube.
Heraiza, as usual, deftly points out why Owakon TV talent does so badly when going YouTube. Her latest goes to the heart, er jugular, in her take down of TV comedian Hiroyuki Miyasako’s just announced ‘revolutionary’ new YouTube show: Farthest end of the world Restaurant. The problem? Nothing new and not enough sex, just tired old TV comedians and their management companies trying to escape Owakon TV.
I have no idea who the top Japanese YouTuber is right now but Heraiza is the ‘it girl’, the zeitgeist of our Japanese COVID state of emergency moment. Not only is this 17 year old high schooler way smarter and wicked funnier than the tired recycled Japanese ‘tarento’ on YouTube, she’s also hyper aware of the fleetingly silly perilous nature of the floating world she inhabits. Like she says, ”it’s just YouTube…YOUTUBE!”
Her machine gun rapid delivery takedowns of Japanese entertainers by drily analyzing their YouTube rankings and hit counts are hilarious. She’s also generous and hilarious ranking the ‘Best Boob Phishing‘ Japanese YouTubers for her mostly male ( I assume) audience: “it’s a gross topic but here are the good natured quality sites.” Other standouts include a withering satirical Kuroyanagi Tetsuko impersonation that references 70’s cultural moments (she does her homework), and a hot take of former Johnny’s Jr. group member Nakamura Riku’s scandalous breakup with idol R-Chan (“Do you really think an ex-Johnny’s guy is gonna make it as a YouTuber? Forget it!”).
There are things you can only do at 17, like saying what you want with attitude and still get a free pass, things you can’t do at 20, let alone 18. Enjoy the fun while it lasts. As Heraiza san says with her trademark sign off: Te-koto!
UPDATE Heraiza is under stealth attack from somebody claiming to be Dentsu (they contacted her via a gmail account). Dubious and purposely vague copyright claims are a well known YouTuber attack vector. You would think grownups have better things to do than pick on a 17 year old high school student YouTuber. She now has 2 strikes under the YouTube 3 strikes policy and has temporarily removed most of her previous content until the issues are resolved.
Suit Train posted a wonderful video with his patented narration style. For a college guy he’s already way more professional, and much better than many TV announcers, and has that rare talent of talking with a instantly prepared script in his head.
This particular video covers a section of the Tokaido line between Shizuoka and Yaizu, very close to where I lived from 1987 to 1997, and a section of history I was completely unaware of. The original Shinkansen plan from 1940 bored the famous Nihonzaka tunnel between Shizuoka and Yaizu, through the steep Ōkuzure seacoast. The Tokaido line was then realigned through the unused Shinkansen Nihonzaka tunnel and abandoned the older dangerous Meiji era Sekibe Tunnel route which skirted along the shoreline.
When the Shinkansen plan was revived and built, the Tokaido line was realigned again through a newer tunnel in 1962 which it uses today. Suit Train follows the 1943 alignment, the 1962 alignment and ends with a spectacular hike to the Sekibe tunnel ruins. In all the time that I lived there I wanted to see it but never knew there was a trail. Lost opportunity. Suit Train’s video is the next best thing.
This morning the conductor made an announcement as the Yamanote train pulled into Meguro station: “This train is not a waste basket, kindly fold newspapers and take reading material with you when you leave,” and went on to kindly remind passengers to hold backpacks in the front, put them on the rack or on the floor.
Train announcements used to be an human art that has largely been replaced with recorded machine announcements. It takes great skill to convey important information on the fly in an easy to understand way. There’s pitch, speed, volume and clarity delivered in a focused train of thought, channeled with personality and humor. Surprisingly there are a few JR East conductors on the Yamanote line who go out of their way to practice this lost art, and a rare select few who manage to combine those qualities in magical voice announcements for train manners and other gentle reminders. It’s a treat to hear a lovely low clear live voice announcement calmly cutting through the clutter of noise, calling out the next station and reminding us to be civil to our fellow passengers.
I didn’t learn how to un-worry until I lived in Japan a few years and saw how the Japanese do it. Un-worry is not the same thing as not worrying, the get out of bed late, don’t give a damn about others self centered variety I found too much of in American life. Un-worry is do what you have to do and do your best for yourself and others at any given moment…but don’t worry about the outcome. It’s going to be what it’s going to be.
To that end I always find the Japanese cultural fine art of compartmentalization amazing and extremely useful. No matter what happens there’s enough dry disattachment to switch gears and do…something else, something constructive. It’s the Sho-ga-nai spirit that westerns see as negative that I see as positive gear shift. I secretly think it’s the thing that got Japan from WWII defeat to the world’s 2nd largest (recently 3rd largest) economy. I cannot imagine the American psyche suffering a similar sized defeat from the outside and sifting gears so adroitly, too much hanging on hysteria. Life is tough but it doesn’t have to be tough on you. Sho-ga-nai.