Murakami Draws Flak for Calling Johnny’s “A Culture to Be Proud of”

Murakami Shingo of Kanjani 8 drew flak for calling Johnny’s network “a culture to be proud of” on NHK World Japan’s program NHK World Japan presents Songs of Tokyo, where he plays host.

In his words, Johnny’s entertainment network of male idols can be said to be Japanese culture and by spreading this culture to the world, there can be endless possibilities.

The program is slated to air in 160 countries, and it is clear Murakami’s comment is largely due to Japan’s hosting of the 2020 Olympics. Johnny Kitagawa had also suggested forming a new idol group named “2020” and it appears that the agency is trying to reach into overseas markets, which I thought they already have. Or should I say “had.”

Murakami’s comments earned the ire of the Japanese public with several saying things like:

People who come for the Olympics are here for the games, please don’t get yourselves involved.

It’s embarrassing to call Johnny’s a Japanese culture, please stop it.

It is a “Japan-only” culture, in a bad way.

People from such a hard-handed agency have no right to talk about Japanese culture.

According to a writer on music and entertainment, “To people overseas, Johnny’s is just a group of middle-aged men who can neither sing nor dance and yet call themselves idols. Idols in Japan are not expected to sing or dance well, but this will not work overseas. To remain in showbiz, it is necessary to have good singing and dancing skills to be able to move audiences. Further, a culture is derived from various factors that goes through years of changes and cultivation to become what it is. For an agency that destroys idols of other agencies through power and pressure, Johnny’s is nothing but a destroyer of cultures. Please don’t call yourself a Japanese culture.”

I’ve always found Japanese choices of singers very unusual, but it’s also why there’s huge opportunity for those dreaming to be stars because you don’t need to be good to be a singer. Take Goriki Ayame’s debut performance on Music Station and you see what I mean. As a fan of X Japan, I can only say to Murakami, there’s a reason why X is successful globally. And it’s less because they are the reason for the birth of visual kei, but more because they are good at what they do, with an engaging yet heart-wrenching story no less. In the words of Gene Simmons of Kiss, one of the most successful rock bands ever, “if (X Japan) sang in English, this could be the biggest band in the world.”

I’m not even sorry for hijacking the story and making it about X in the end.

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