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Feeling lonely during lockdown? Why not have dinner with Naomi Watanabe?

25 Comments
By Luke Mahoney, grape Japan

For the last few weeks, the coronavirus lockdown has been in full effect across Japan. Although criticized as "toothless" by many—the power of the government to enforce quarantine-like measures is limited by the Constitution—there are encouraging signs that the steps are having a positive effect. As Bloomberg reported, residents are mainly heeding the prime minister's call to stay home. Train usage has dropped, and GPS data show a decrease in public activities. These effects, among others, have likely helped the country avoid an explosive increase in infections.

That's all well and good, but those figures gloss over the struggle of many individuals. Parents currently have their hands full as children stay home from canceled schools. Married couples are also struggling to cope as work from home orders keep them confined to close-quartered home offices. As stress mounts, many are finding it too much to take. Sadly, #coronadivorce is trending online.

Yet, much less has been said about those living by themselves. In Japan, a growing number of working adults are perennially single. Retirees, too, often find themselves living alone throughout old age. With an estimated 34.5% of residents leading solitary lives—estimated to be 39.3% by 2040—many are likely feeling isolated as work schedules and business activities remain on hiatus.

In order to see a smiling face and get some much needed human interaction, many are looking to social media and online broadcasts to fill the void. Yoga teachers and spiritual gurus are holding online workouts and retreats while giving advice about dealing with loneliness. Celebrities and influencers, on the other hand, are inviting their followers to join in on the minutiae of their everyday lives during the 2020 coronavirus lockdown.

Comedian Naomi Watanabe

Naomi Watanabe is a famous comedian and actress in Japan. Known for her outlandish impersonations, she is commonly known as the "Beyonce of Japan" after her renowned impression of the pop diva.

The comedian, however, has a complicated past. Half-Taiwanese and half-Japanese, she grew up poor with her divorced mother in Ibaraki. After failing to enter high school, she worked at a fast-food restaurant for several years until running away to Osaka to become an entertainer. After a short stint in a manzai comedy group, she found herself invited to perform on variety shows. She became a regular on the variety show "Warratte Iitomo!," and eventually met Beyonce through this role. During this same period, she also appeared on a comedy sketch show helping to cement her fame.

Nevertheless, as a plus-size figure, she had other aspirations. As perhaps you can imagine, Japanese women are notoriously slim. As retailers cater to this common body type, it can be exceedingly difficult for larger shoppers to find appropriately sized outfits. Naomi herself claimed that she often resorted to wearing men's clothes or even using dresses as a top.

In 2014, she launched Punyus, a fashion brand offering an exceptionally wide range of sizes and styles. The brand was immediately successful, given the comedian's international online credibility. After her brand's rollout, she soon became the most followed person in Japan. Indeed, from high school drop out to superstar influencer, she has experienced a whirlwind of success.

#StayHome with Naomi Watanabe

Nevertheless, no matter how famous anyone is, the coronavirus has a way of stopping life in its tracks. Like in other countries, talk show hosts, musicians, and performers of every walk are finding ways to work online, employing technology to address their audiences.

Under the #StayHome (#家で一緒にやってみよう in Japanese), Naomi Watanabe is holding casual online dinner parties. The slapstick comedian starts each episode by introducing her dish. She has cooked up a meat and vegetable stir fry, mentaiko and butter spaghetti, ginger pan-fried pork, and several other savory entrees.

The episode below features homemade Japanese fried chicken as well as the company of guest Gen Hoshino, a famous artist and actor in Japan. While he eats a plate of sweets and nuts, the two talk about various things and interact with fans watching live.

After introducing their food and getting settled, the two talk about taking some time off from work due to the current situation, SNS, and just joke around and have a good time.

Another video is just with Naomi:

The performer sits down with mixed vegetables as well as grilled chicken, and a scrambled egg dish. The vegetables are in ponzu sauce, while the chicken has a side of minced garlic and mayonnaise. She goes on to explain how her diet has changed while she has been staying home. Throughout the two-hour live stream, she interacts with viewers, talking about whatever comes up.

If you, yourself, are feeling lonely, keep an eye on Naomi's social media accounts. Her live stream dinner parties are randomly scheduled but often. Why not tune in?

Read more stories from grape Japan.

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© grape Japan

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

25 Comments
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A tonic for these troubled times.

Respect and thanks to Naomi.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

She graduated from middle school then started working at a fast food restaurant? Did she want to go to high school? She's done very well. I wonder why she wasn't able to go to high school. I knew a girl who was born in Peru and was raised there till around age 6 then sent to Japan. Like Naomi, she finished middle school then started working. She told me that she decided not to go to high school and she liked her life in Peru much better but education was much better in Japan.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

No thank you..I don't want to watch anyone eat -live, on TV, on youtube, or especially on the news

11 ( +14 / -3 )

I'd rather have dinner with someone whose entire comedy schtick relies on something more than "being fat is hilarious".

12 ( +16 / -4 )

Mirai Hayashi -No thank you..I don't want to watch anyone eat -live, on TV, on youtube, or especially on the news

Just about every time you turn on Japanese TV you see somebody eating something.

16 ( +17 / -1 )

Weird times!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I’m all for creative entertainment and cultural experiences. However, I really don’t understand entertainment by massive eating. I do enjoy the program about celebrities that travel the world and find Japanese citizens living in different countries. It’s a good perspective on how Japanese handle life in other countries.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Dinner's the last thing this girl needs.

4 ( +14 / -10 )

By the looks of her she’ll eat you for dinner

-2 ( +10 / -12 )

entire comedy schtick relies on something more than "being fat is hilarious".

In fairness, she also gets very good mileage out of her exaggerated version of gaijin san. I bet 90% of the Japanese public couldn't even name one Beyonce song, so they will not know if the impression is a good one or not. It will just be a funny version of gaijin san.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

As perhaps you can imagine, Japanese women are notoriously slim. 

Let me fix this for you: As perhaps you can imagine, some Japanese women are notoriously slim while others are not so much so.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

And childish..

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Heuuuuu, i'll pass thank you.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

By the looks of her she’ll eat you for dinner

That's a good one... too bad your comment won't last the day ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Just about every time you turn on Japanese TV you see somebody eating something.

No kidding! I totally don't understand the obsession with watching other people eat in this country. Totally something that can be left out

1 ( +2 / -1 )

No thanks.

If Naomi chan did a bangumi on her gambatte iru and losing weight, yeah Id watch

Short dumpy and fat J girls...not my thing

1 ( +8 / -7 )

She started with Kyotei boat race CM, wearing a costume that concealed her identity; has certainly come a long way!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@Jimizo

Very overweight people know they are risking their health. Just existing as an overweight person isn't telling people that it's healthy to be that way. Nearly all of the commenters here degraded her about her size. She's a comedian, if you don't like her comedy that's perfectly fine.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

“After failing to enter high school”

“Indeed, from high school drop out to superstar influencer”

How is it possible to drop out of high school if you’ve never entered high school?

Not surprised to see the perfect specimens and God’s gifts to women, are once again busy telling women what they should look like and what they should do. People like that may (or then again may not) look physically beautiful themselves but their souls and moral characters are far from it.

Invalid CSRF

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Good on her. Little things like this go a VERY long way, and further enamour us to celebrities as well as others.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

the "Beyonce of Japan"

With a few added pounds. Tee hee!

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

I'd be very interested to know what other female readers think, especially with the body shaming comments.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

SerranoMay 3  08:13 am JST

the "Beyonce of Japan"

With a few added pounds. Tee hee!

What a repugnant comment. She could add a dozen more and I'd still think more highly of her than...people with no better way to amuse themselves than things like this.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Mirai HayashiMay 1  12:24 pm JST

"Just about every time you turn on Japanese TV you see somebody eating something."

No kidding! I totally don't understand the obsession with watching other people eat in this country. Totally something that can be left out

I suspect that the TV and catering industries have got some kind of tie-up. I mean, when some tarento is stuffing his face they always seem to make sure to let you know what restaurant it's in, who the chef is... kind of like covert advertising, really.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

No thanks. I want to enjoy my meal in peace. She can enjoy her dinner on the treadmill.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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