The merry-go-round of 'Best' awards

By E.H. Fields

Last week, actor Shosuke Tanihara and model Karina were named Japan's "Best Leathernists" for 2008 at a plush ceremony at Aoyama Spiral Hall, as the rest of the world sat back and wondered what next after recent prizes for Best Profile, Best Make-up, Best Jeanist, Best Teeth and Best Formalist, alongside an increasing willingness to simply make words up for the sake of yet another trophy and a few minutes of air time on TV.

The merry-go-round of awards vying for time on the daily "Wide Shows" is perhaps not surprising given the seemingly formulaic approach taken by television in Japan that sees "tarento" take it in turns to appear on each others' programs, eating, cooking and talking about food. It sometimes really does seem that fame in Japan is a chicken and egg situation with "stars" famous because they appear on TV and appearing on TV because they are famous.

Perhaps I am being unfair and some terrible kind of selective memory syndrome is kicking in. After living abroad for a prolonged period of time, sentimental notions of home and childhood are masking the reality that television is ultimately dross regardless of the country you're in at the time; maybe "Benny Hill," "Knight Rider" and "The Sullivans" only stood out because other shows were worse.

So what beyond the knee-jerk mantra of "things aren't like they used to be" does a sentimental look at popular culture in Japan reveal? Undoubtedly, on the surface, things have come a long way since the post-war period when Michiko Namiki's song "Ringo no Uta" and Kasutori Bunka publications like "Bizarre Seminar," "All Romance," "Venus" and "Pinup" enjoyed enormous popularity.

Namiki's life was similar to that of many of her admirers; her mother killed in the fire-bombing of Tokyo, Michiko herself having to rescued from the Sumida river after the raid and both her father and a brother would never return home from the battlefront. "Ringo no Uta," which was released in 1945, became a symbol of escape from hard times for millions of Japanese pointing the way to a bright and innocent future of apples, blue skies and togetherness.

While the "ero-guro-nansensu" (erotic, grotesque and nonsensical) Kasutori Bunka that flourished during the post-war period was at best escapism and at worst outright sleaze, Kasutori magazines were devoted to pseudo-serious investigations into such topics as sexual problems, kissing, strip shows, lonely widows and chastity. However, while being little more than simple titillation, they were undoubtedly a long way removed from the emperor worship of the war years as any song about apples.

Is there really all that much difference between the chirpiness of songs made by idols from Pink Lady and Wink to Moritaka Chisato and Berryz Kobo? The voyeurism of the Kasutori publications seems rather tame compared the reportage of the sports newspapers and late night TV shows.

It might well be that nothing much has changed at all beyond the emergence of a plague of prizes and awards that keeps things moving on daytime TV. I look forward to the day that someone wins Best Foreigner.

© Japan Today

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You lost me half way through that article.

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To save money in these hard times, why don't we have just one award to cover the whole gambit of whacky stuff they make in Japan, "The Best Bestist". Now, wouldn't that be so cool?

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This article kind of veered away from the '~ist' topic and into post-war cheerfulness and then back, almost, to '~ist' awards. But it isn't going to be Best Foreigner, it'll be Best Gaijinist

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I'll vote for 'Best Talentist' if only it rewards real talent.

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Perhaps I am being unfair

No you have my permission to kick the sh*t out of this topic for all it is worth. Please don't hold back. If you try hard, we here on JT (and my friends at the Horst Wessel Appreciation Society) might nominate you for the "Best Bootist" award.

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Best "Your post is of topic-ist"

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as the rest of the world sat back and wondered what next

Hmm probably only as the JT readership wondered "what next". I seriously doubt this would ever make news in any other country/forum.

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Soon we shall hear of the "Best bestist" award.

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question: how are the recipients of these awards decided anyway? it seems rather arbitrary and based solely upon the flavour of the day/week/month/moment. for example, the japanese young man who received the silver medal at the beijing olympics seemed confused as to why he was being awarded a best jeanist plaque, when in fact he is often/usually seen in fencing attire or sweats.

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Just combine all of them. We can call the winner the.....wait for it...

Best istist

Ba lum pum

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