Wednesday, March 25, 2009

"Samurai Japan, congratulations!"

Ohhh, Japanese commercialism, how do you manage to entrance me so? I never cared for the gimmicks in America, I would even spurn a franchise for its annoying radio spots. And yet here I continually fall for it in this country. What is it that makes commercials here different? Is it the actually good music, the artists I already like and the new artists that I have to look up? Is it the insanely high production values, to the point that commercials will have their own press conferences? Is it the use of Western celebrities who wouldn't be caught dead doing commercials like these in their own country, as well as Japanese celebrities who wouldn't be caught dead doing commercials like these if they were Western celebrities? Perhaps it's just that I have the mindset of a young Japanese woman so the marketing hits perfectly on its target. Regardless, I fall and fall.

For example, I love green tea. But I get so much freshly made at school that I rarely buy the bottled kind. But popular brand Suntory has started a campaign - probably specifically for the season - where every bottle comes with a small paper cutout of some cultural beauty - a sprig of cherry blossoms, an elaborate folding fan, a geisha, a tea set. They're so tiny and delicate and would be perfect for scrapbooks or enclosing in envelopes or or or - suddenly I'm much thirsty than before.

That's all well and good, as green tea has health benefits. But when I stopped by the store the other day for my rationed bottle, I was disturbed to see that half the display was now Pepsi bottles. This time the incentive was keychains, connecting Snoopy with the known-for symbols of various prefectures. Even though I don't care for any carbonated beverage except root beer, I couldn't resist a tiny Beagle reclining on a tiny slice of honeydew. And I might also have to get the one on a strawberry because that's my prefecture. But look at the rest! Snoopy on a blowfish! Snoopy on a Peanut (get it?). Pepsi, why must you be so cute?


Another thing I would not normally be a fan of is baseball. (Lately I've been recalling that as a youngster I had a crush on Ken Griffey, Jr. Which is totally inexplicable because how would I even know about him? It's one of the great mysteries of my youth, along with my ambition to go to the Big Apple and my loathing for the Pillsbury Doughboy (Speaking of the later, it's even on TV here! ARGH, I am safe nowhere!)

So lately the World Baseball Classic has been going on, and though I never watch it at home the TV in the staff room will be turned on during lunch. My desk is right next to it, so I've gradually developed a small interest - probably fueled by the enthusiasm. Not only the men will unabashedly stand around watching, the females as well - though it's often with dreamy sighs of how cool Ichiro or Darvish is. (The latter, by the way - hearing a Japanese mouth pronounce "Darvish" is fascinating. They often drop the Rs and Vs in words because there's no exact equivalent, but maybe out of respect for his baseball stardom they are determined to draw to draw his name out, even triple it.) I could admit Ichiro is very cool, especially the Pose, but I didn't get why he was playing for Japan if he was still part of the Mariners (as I am never allowed to forget when I tell people I'm from Seattle). I don't understand baseball or the WBC method of picking teams, but I'm willing to watch and cheer quietly.

So the other day we tuned in and America had just lost to Japan. At first I felt a small twinge of disappointment - but then I realized that was ridiculous. As the only American in a room of people who take the sport much more seriously than I do, it would be a far more comfortable situation to be the graceful loser than the apologetic winner. Plus, my adopted country was still winning, and Ichiro was still very cool. Winning over America set them up to be against Korea, which of course meant the competition is fierce - I prefer the two countries to battle it with balls than with hostages and islands and partridges.

Luckily the students were mostly gone for Spring break, as half the staff was standing around my desk and the TV obviously wasn't going off until Korea lost. Which it did - thankfully for my comfort levels and the continued good mood of my coworkers. I, again, don't understand baseball so I didn't really understand that everyone was cheering for a win rather than just a score. I got the clue when the team started tossing people. I think the victory footage might interest me more than the game - all the players hug a lot and Ichiro, though very cool, is surprisingly adorable when grinning like a fool and getting champagne poured on him. "Stop it - stop it - That's enough! Ow, it's cold!" he complains, and tries to return the favor to Darvish... but can't reach. "You... You're too tall!"


Normally I like to not feature the same artist twice in a row but the music video to Lisa Hannigan's "Lille" shows maybe the most incredible pop-up book ever.

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