Sunday, July 08, 2007

Going to Japan

Ayumi (L) and Koda Kumi (R). I downloaded the photo from

Ah, sorry for the delay in posting. It has been one of the most hectic four months in my life. During this timespan, I, with the class I was teaching, helped run America`s second maid cafe at the kawaii-kon anime convention, and then I taught summer school classes at UH Manoa. Then, it`s getting ready for my field trip. Yes, I am taking 16 students to Tokyo, so they too can experience the Japan that I know. You know, the one of kitschy pop culture, like the a replica of the Statue of Liberty in front of the shopping center at Odaiba. Or, the joys of a workingman`s drama called taishu engeki (google it with my name *kakure gaijin* and you`ll see my description. Hopefully, I can get others excited about this Japan and spawn more Japanologists.

Anyway, here`s the pop culture tidbit for today. Wanna be a singer? Often, you can find more fame and fortune overseas than in your own backyard. This is a bit dated information, but please let me tell you about Ayumi Lee, a Korean who moved to Japan as a child. She was a member of the girl group Sugar, and last year, as a solo artist, released a cover of Cutie Honey, the theme to a Japanese anime made popular again by Koda Kumi, who did a cover of this song as well. This song became one of the most downloaded songs of the month.

Now the irony is that Korean society prides itself on being homogenous and there is an intense pride in being Korean. And on the other hand, there is a fascination with Koreans from outside Korea. It's as if these Koreans are quite exotic and yet Korean enough to be familiar. Daniel Henney is an example of this.

Let`s start off with the original anime version of Cutie Honey. This is a strange anime, one of the classics that I have never seen but my wife tells me about. This heroine seems to get naked a lot and this was PRIME TIME FAMILY FARE back in the 1970s!

A few years ago, Koda Kumi sang a cover of Cutie Honey and it made her famous.

Now Ayumi Lee, who became popular as a member of the group Sugar, has struck out on her own solo career. It seems that she is playing on her Japanese upbringing to add some exoticism to her image. Koreans who I talk to say that she sings with a thick Japanese accent. Indeed, much criticism was levelled at her, as some thought this song sounded too Japanese, and the video seemed to Japanese influenced.

Ayumi singing Cutie Honey

She`s a good example of how culture and artists can flow between borders. Technically, she's Korean, as she was born in Korea, and thus should have Korean citizenship. But she was raised in Japan, and I think this adds to her exotic appeal among Korean fans.


michan14 said...

I didn't know they changed the singer for the theme to Cutie Honey. Koda Kumi was actually already famous when she recorded the theme. If you every played Final Fantasy X-2 (the Japanese version), she sings both songs. I was so upset when they rerecorded the song for the American version. Koda Kumi actually recorded it in English for the American version.

Another singer that made it big in Japan before going back to America is Utada Hikaru. She also did some songs for video games (Kingdom Hearts I and II). Too bad she's not as big in America as in Japan. Why is that? I don't understand.

maximaro said...

wasup, just happened by your blog...doesn't look like you update still in japan?