More Japan loves Cute!

4 07 2007

Ai IijimaJapan’s obsession with all things ‘Kawaii’ has not lessened at all over the last few weeks, that’s for sure. ’90s Japanese adult-movie star Ai Iijima (now a mainstream celebrity) is in the news for having ‘found true love’… new ‘idols’ (cute celebrities) seem to spring up almost daily, and the sports-world is no different…

The Shy Prince on Tuesday at Nagoya’s Aichi Country ClubSo just a quick update on one of Japan’s favorite idols at the moment, the 15 year old Ryo Ishikawa – nicknamed “hanikami oji” (bashful prince) who is in Nagoya to play in the Japan Amateur Championships, which started Tuesday. Normally a fairly quiet affair, the Aichi country club has had to triple the amount of security it normally employs for the event. A course official stated that normally they only have to do this for pro-events, and even then, only when a really famous golfer is playing.

Ishikawa is expected to have a following of perhaps 4,000 fans, but his aims are being kept realistic: “I want to aim at finishing first if I can get through the elimination rounds,” Ishikawa said.

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[source: Mainichi Shimbun]

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Jubilo soccer star sacked for sex suspicions!

30 06 2007

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Jubilo Iwata (Japanese soccer team based in Shizuoka prefecture) cut ties with Naoya Kikuchi due to Kikuchi being arrested on suspicion of having had sex with a 15 year old girl. He was fined, his contract was terminated, and rumors abound as to whether some officials were aware of the incident prior to the arrest – as fines have been placed on both the team president, and the head of team development.

What amazes me is the attitude of people in general here in Japan. It’s met with a pretty blase attitude – enjou kosaii (compensated dating with schoolgirls) is as bad as it’s always been, so this situation involving a football (soccer) player raises nary an eyebrow.

Imagine what Roger Goodell’d be doing…


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“KAWAAIIII!!!”… or Japan Loves Cute… part 2

21 06 2007

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As discussed yesterday, Japan loves cute. When walking outside with my baby boy, the most oft thing I hear is “KAWAAIIII!!!” (‘kawaii’ = cute)… and that’s an exclamation that’s oh-so-often used in Japan…

A small furry animal – “KAWAAIIII!!!”

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Anything small – “KAWAAIIII!!!”

Animated characters – “KAWAAIIII!!!”

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Anything related to Disney – “KAWAAIIII!!!”

Riyo Mori – … … … “KAWAAIIII!!!”

If you’re a female, you have to say it with in a very, very high-pitched voice, attempting to sound like an anime character yourself (and thus, “KAWAAIIII!!!”). If you’re a male, you don’t say it…

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And so, with a ball-peen-hammer-to-the-knees segue, let’s look at the second part of ‘Japan Loves Cute…’ and it’s subject matter, Ryo Ishikawa.

Last month, teen phenom Ryo Ishikawa won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup, becoming the youngest ever player to win a Japanese Pro Tour event, and the first amateur to win in more than 25 years. His first tour appearance, Ishikawa, 15 years old, shot a 6 under 66 to win by one stroke. His baby-face & bashful demeanor earned him the sobriquet “The Shy Prince”.

He followed this up with an 8th place in the prestigious Kanto Amateur Championships, and that will grant him an invitation to the Japan National Amateur Championships to be held in early July at the Aichi Country Club.

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Video of Ishikawa & Saito…

During the Kanto event, the Shy Prince gathered in excess of 3000 fans (many of whom were young girls!) who followed him dutifully around the links. Such is the first-year-high school student’s popularity, that the Japanese TV station TBS tried to get one of his playing partners to wear a hidden microphone… which was eventually foiled by the officials.

Yuki Saito and Ryo Ishikawa… two of the most popular sports icons in Japan today. Both with very unfortunate nicknames. But as I said, Japan loves ‘cute’…

I’ll keep you posted with updates on the Handkerchief Prince, and the Shy Prince!


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Japan Loves Cute…

20 06 2007

Japan really has a predilection for things ‘cutesy’. They do it pretty well too… Japanese anime is right at the forefront of animation. Riyo Mori is the current Miss Universe (and daaaaamn is she cute!), Kurara Chibana was runner-up last year (same). Banks use animation characters as their logos (some of the bigger ones actually have tie-ins with Disney, or Warner Bros.)… cuteness abounds in Japan, and the Japanese love ‘cute’.

Miss Universe, Riyo Mori…
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And two of the latest to be added to this are both darlings of the house-wife set…

Firstly, the “Handkerchief Prince”, Yukio Saito. A right-handed pitcher of unremarkable stature, Saito first blasted on to the scene with a thrilling win in the High School Championships last year at Koshien Stadium (think NCAA March Madness in terms of hype), pitching for the prestigious Waseda Jitsugyo High School – leading them to a 4-1 win of the title game over Komadai High School.

Saito pitched 4 consecutive days, and was still hitting mid-90s on day 4. He had pitched 5 complete games in 14 days, and been used in relief many times in between. He had drawn as much attention for his use of a blue handkerchief to mop his sweaty brow as for his ability. Verily, Saito was dubbed ‘The Handkerchief Prince’… and he set the hearts aflutter of both housewives & schoolgirls alike.

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The Handkerchief Prince went on to the prestigious Waseda University, and last Sunday (June 18th) lead the University to the first All-Japan Intercollegiate Championship in 33 years. He won 2 games in the tournament, and was given the MVP. He is the first freshman to be given the MVP award in the history of the tournament (56 years).

Despite only being of slight stature (5’9″, 154 pounds), Saito at nearly 19 has a fastball measured in the mid-90s, and an impressive array of off-speed pitches. Saito next heads to the US to represent Japan in the US/Japan University Games. This certainly is a ‘Prince’ that bears watching…

Tomorrow, part two of ‘Japan Loves Cute…’ (The Shy Prince – Ryo Ishikawa)


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Japanese Schoolgirls fight it out… on the table.

13 06 2007

Two girls enter the ping-pong arena, the tension is palpable…


Japanese teen table-tennis talent Ai Fukuhara isn’t happy that she has a new rival: 14 year old Kasumi Ishikawa.

For many a year now (ever since as a paddle-wielding seven year old she featured in a commercial), Ai-chan’s been the darling of the table-tennis set. But now the 18 year old Ai (pictured above in pink) has serious competition in the form of Ishikawa (above in blue) – who in making the National team, became the youngest ever member.

During the National team camp, Fukuhara headed off to a practice session, only to be confronted by a horde of over 70 media & Ishikawa, awaiting her to play a practice match (set up by the coaching staff).

It was all too much for Ai, who hadn’t been told that the match was going to occur. She fled to a toilet, and hid – delaying the start of the much-anticipated match. Eventually, she did come out, and even though Ai-chan lost the first set of the match, she did go on to take the last two sets.

An insider said that the match was a matter of pride for Fukuhara – who detests losing, especially to younger opponents. The source stated that when Ai-chan loses, she often locks herself away in her changing room, and cries uncontrollably.

Fukuhara has done very well internationally (currently ranked #14), but has struggled domestically. The national women’s coach hopes that a budding rivalry with another wunderkind will help lift her game.


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