Why do Japanese editions of CDs have extra tracks?

The law was changed so that music retailers could import CDs themselves, so the local record companies added the extra tracks so that they could still try to sell the horribly overpriced editions of CDs (which even now cost at least 30% more than imported versions). That this makes them something that music obsessives in other countries like the teenaged me will pay double or triple the price for is just an added bonus for them…

Why isn’t Japanese folk music more popular abroad?

I can’t stand J-pop, but I’ve got a real soft spot for Japanese regional folk music (not meaning enka!) I must have had at least 12 Rough Guide to the Music of… CDs over the years, but the Japan and Okinawa ones (with groups like Nenes) are two of my favourites. I’ve therefore been wondering why it isn’t more popular among my fellow World Music fans back in Europe.

A pattern I’ve noticed is that the World Music artists that become popular in Europe are mainly the ones who tour there all the time. Being actually based in London or Paris also doesn’t hurt. For example, looking back that seems like the only possible explanation for the popularity of The Bhundu Boys, hardly among the best African groups in the 80s.

So, my main theory is that Japanese acts just don’t tour enough, and with the strength of the yen that is unlikely to change!

Why is the playing time of a CD 74 minutes 42 seconds?

“Because its Japanese developers were determined that it be stretched long enough to contain Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, a huge seller in Japan” From Thunder in the East: Portrait of a Rising Asia, an interesting book I have a feeling I’ll be quoting more from.

Of course, that answer just prompts another question, which is “Why is Beethoven’s Ninth so popular in Japan?”

Here are some possible answers?

1. “It’s a mystery even for the Japanese why it’s so popular,” Suzuki said. “I think a lot of people in Japan sympathize with Beethoven. He was not a happy person, in constant agony, and that attracts people.”

2. “I’ve heard a lot of theories,” said Kerry Candaele, who is making a documentary on the cultural influence of the Ninth around the world. “Someone told me that it’s the only time that Japanese women are allowed to scream.

“But I think it really has to do with a coming together as equals, of climbing this musical mountain together. In a way, it represents a kind of utopianism.”

Both from this article in the LA Times

Personally, I just think it’s the connection to the New Year. That, of course, poses another question…

Why are people more fascinated with Japan than Korea?

There is little point in talking about the fundamental appeal of the countries as they are now, but I’ve come up with some possible historical explanations:

- Japan opened up to the world just as Chinoiserie was getting old hat, making Japanisme a sure fire hit. By the time that Korea also opened up, the last thing people wanted was yet another Asian fashion boom

- Like it or not, military success (even of your enemies) has a certain appeal. Just as the Nazis are much more interesting for the Hitler Channel (“affectionate” nickname of the History Channel) than the sufferings of the Dutch, the military exploits of the first Asian country to defeat a European one are much more interesting to read about, both as fiction and history, than the litany of victimhood that is the Korean past.

- Ditto for the militaristic Samurai and the bureaucratic Yangban, or at least the self image of them

- The economic growth of Korea is even more impressive than that of Japan, but happened when the Japanese overtaking the US made the news much more than the Koreans rapidly coming up behind.

- Korea simply doesn’t lend itself to the simplistic one line explanations that have spawned a million bullshit but still readable books about Japan

- Much of what we think we appreciate as exotic Japanese art (such as late ukiyoe, manga, Murakami Haruki, Kurosawa movies, and contemporary Japanese art) is much more affected by Western influence and therefore palatable to us than we might think

- Other examples of the Japanese just getting there first while we were still interested, such as Akira Kurosawa being the first Asian to win a big cinematic prize

- The conscious selling of Japanese culture by the Japanese government and business. The Koreans have mainly concentrated on selling their own pop music and soap operas to other Asian countries, a market with some understandable resistance to the Japanese, leaving the Japanese to take over the west

- Some random influences, like Memoirs of a Geisha, Shogun and The Last Samurai being the right kind of populist escapist tosh at the right time. They could just as easily have been based in Korea, but they just weren’t. Unfortunately for the Koreans, each random happening like that sets up another whole generation of people who are fascinated by Japan and so more likely to support the next Japan based Western cultural product rather than a

- Just as the Japanese economy was sinking and anyway becoming a story that had been covered to death and the Korean economic miracle looked like becoming newsworthy, the Chinese economy opened up and the film industry took off, making for a cultural version of most of their historical overshadowing

Why are concerts in Japan so early?

The Prodigy, 7pm (!) on MONDAY Aug 11. Who finishes work early enough for that?? Or do Japanese people just take the day off?

Why is The Girl from Ipanema so popular in Japan?

 I often go to Excelsior Cafes because their Assam tea is the closest thing to English “builders’ tea”, but if I’ve forgotten my walkman one version or another of that song (my most hated ever) will drive me out of there.
I was guessing it must be included in some Japanese film,TV ad and/or TV programme,but my missus tells me it all started with a version by Ono Risa, a Nikkei (ethnic Japanese) singer, in the 80s

Why is Aud Lang Syne not played at New Year in Japan but instead played by department stores and local councils at the end of the day?

The Japanese know the tune very well from the traditional graduation song “Hotaru no hikari”, a very pre-war sounding song about a student studying by the light of a firefly and then going on to serve his country, and most are unaware that it is not Japanese. How a graduation song became a end-of-sale-of-Louis-Vuitton-for-the-day song I’m not sure, but it does have a kind of ending feeling to it.

Lots more Japanese New Year explanations and links here.

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