Category Archives: FEATURED

Allegations about popular model Rola’s harsh contract reveal dark side to Japanese entertainment industry

rola model japan slave contract conditions tarento

The weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun has published allegations that the entertainer Rola is stuck in a 10-year “slave-like” contract with her agency. Though she is apparently suffering mentally and even collapsed at an airport in the United States, it is alleged that her boss at Libera Production has threatened to publish damaging information about her if she quits.

Rola is a 27-year-old popular model and television personality (known as tarento in Japan), famous for her ditzy personality and exotic (part Bengali, Russian and Japanese) looks. She has fronted numerous major advertising campaigns in recent years.

In Japan, the management agencies (or jimusho) for entertainers are incredibly powerful and strictly control the lives and careers of the stars on their rosters. Unlike in, say, America, where stars hire agents to represent them, Japanese entertainers are contracted by a secretive network of agencies and receive salaried remuneration as to how much their agency determines their value, with the lucrative appearance fees and advertising contracts generally going direct to the agency. In turn, the agency pampers and protects the stars, arranges suitable accommodation, and ostensibly steers their career towards success. In reality, this may mean the agencies exert a draconian command over stars’ private lives and public image to the extent that many entertainers are unable to get married (see all but one members of the now-defunct group SMAP) or have to hide their relationships. (It is also well known that the talent agencies have connections to the Yakuza.)

rola model japan slave contract conditions tarento

Stars who break these rules may find their careers stymied. Those who quit and attempt to find a better deal elsewhere or run their management independently may be punished by years in the wilderness due to the influence the …continue reading


The Rainbow Bridge

Source: Gaijin Pot
The Rainbow Bridge

With some parts of Japan recently allowing some gay couples to receive partnership certificates entitling them to some of the same rights that male-female married couples enjoy, awareness of LGBTQ issues is becoming an increasingly important part of the public discourse. As a result, there is an increasing need for learners to be familiar with the words that the community itself uses and, more importantly, doesn’t use.

Gay/lesbian/bisexual and the problems with abbreviations

One of the first terms that most learners encounter when they put the word homosexual into an electronic dictionary is the term 同性愛者(どうせいあいしゃ). This word is made up of the words同性(どうせい) (same-sex) and 愛者(あいしゃ) (lover).

So far, so easy, right?

Not really! While 同性愛者 is an accepted word, it, unfortunately, has a very formal sound, so isn’t appropriate for all conversations. As a result, the word ホモセクシャル (taken from the English word homosexual) is becoming increasingly common. This has been joined with other English-origin words including ゲイ (gay), レズビアン (lesbian) and カミングアウト (to come out as homosexual to other people).

Of course, wherever there is a word in Japanese, someone will soon suggest an abbreviation. Unlike most abbreviated words, however, the ones associated with the LGBTQ community run a risk of losing their essence when abbreviated, thus seeming to diminish their meaning. So while ホモセクシャル and バイセクシャル have the short forms ホモ and バイ respectively, many in the community frown on the use of these abbreviations and even consider them discriminatory.

A further problem comes with abbreviating the word レズビアン as it is capable of becoming either レズ or ビアン depending on which part of the word is abbreviated. According to our sources, most lesbians feel that レズ has been stolen from them and is more likely to be seen on the cover of a pornographic magazine than an LGBTQ-friendly …continue reading


Teetotal Tipples: 7 No-Alcohol Drinks in Japan

Source: Gaijin Pot
Teetotal Tipples: 7 No-Alcohol Drinks in Japan

One of the best — and sometimes worst — parts of my job here at GaijinPot involves reading and responding to messages from readers.

Recently, someone sent a message looking for some information regarding no-alcohol beers in Tokyo. I previously wrote about this topic a couple of years ago, when I was on a health kick and trying to go a summer without alcohol.

Much to my dismay, I learned last week that my favorite no-alcohol beer, Asahi Black Zero, has been discontinued. Thankfully, Japan is never short of new ideas when it comes to alcohol-free alternatives to that cold, refreshing summer pint.

So, today for your consideration, here are some beer and cocktail alternatives for you try this summer that contain no alcohol and are readily available in convenience stores and bars across Japan. Some are good, some are bad and some are barely drinkable — but I’ll leave the taste testing up to you.

1. Asahi Dry Zero

Pretty much the go-to drink for anyone looking for an alternative to a can of lager in Japan. Of course, the taste isn’t exactly the same as its 5.5 percent alcohol sibling, but Dry Zero is a pretty good facsimile.

Clean, crisp, and lacking any of that stale, yeasty aftertaste that is so often the deal-breaker when it comes to zero alcohol beers, Dry Zero is also noticeably less fizzy than other alternatives available in Japan. This is another point in its favor — cutting out alcohol negates a hangover, it doesn’t necessarily prevent flatulence!

2. Asahi Style Balance

Another, more recent, addition to the Asahi stable of alcohol-free beverages. For those who aren’t used to the sometimes harsh or bitter taste of beer — which Dry Zero very accurately replicates — Asahi Style Balance is noticeably lighter, sweeter and easier to …continue reading


287m tall high-rise planned for Nihonbashi

Details on the Nihonbashi 1 Chome Central District Redevelopment have been announced. The project will include a 287m tall high-rise with office, hotel and serviced apartments, as well as several low-rise retail, office and residential buildings.

The high-rise tower will be taller than Tokyo Midtown (248m), Toranomon Hills (247m) and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (242m), but shorter than the 390m tall tower planned for the Tokiwabashi Redevelopment Project located 300 meters to the west of the Nihonbashi site.

The project will also aim to utilize the Nihonbashi river with a promenade, as the overhead highway is expected to be shifted underground in the coming years.

The town planning decision is expected to be granted in January 2018. Construction will start in 2021 with completion sometime around 2025.

The major landholders in the project are Mitsui Fudosan and Nomura Real Estate. COREDO Nihonbashi (Nihonbashi 1 Chome Mitsui Building) will be updated as part of the development.

The project covers a 3.9 hectare site on the southern side of the Nihonbashi river. The site will be divided into four blocks:

  • Block A (1,370 sqm): 5-storey, 38m tall retail and office.
  • Block B (2,030 sqm): 7-storey, 28m tall retail and residential.
  • Block C (15,600 sqm): 51-storey, 287m tall mixed-use building with office, retail, hotel and serviced apartments.
  • Block D(5,600 sqm): Existing COREDO Nihonbashi building to be refurbished.

Block A includes the historic Nihonbashi Nomura Building (c1930) which will be preserved, while the boat dock will be extended.

This is the first of five redevelopment projects planned in the vicinity. Other redevelopment projects planned for the area near the Nihonbashi river include the Yaesu 1 Chome North District, Nihonbashi Muromachi 1 Chome District, Nihonbashi 1 Chome 1-2 …continue reading


Ukiyo-e Come to Life in New Animated GIFs by Atsuki Segawa

Doc and Marty travel back to 1885 Japan’s Tokaido in their DeLorean. Original print: “Fujikawa” by Utagawa Hiroshige, from the series Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido.

Atsuki Segawa is a Japanese filmmaker and animator who takes traditional Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints and sets them into motion through digital animation. He began his collection of “moving ukiyo-e” in 2015 and has been slowly adding to his collection.

A time-lapse of cars speeding down Japan’s Tokaido. Original print: “Minakuchi” by Utagawa Hiroshige, from the series Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido.

Ukiyo-e, or “pictures of floating worlds” were woodblock prints that became wildly popular in 17th -19th century Japan. Emerging as a spontaneous artistic development, they remain, to this day, as some of the most well-known imagery and, by extension, some of the most readily available glimpses into what life was like in Japan.

But this was before the age of computers, or even hand-drawn animation, so of course each represents a moment, frozen in time. But Segawa thaws those images and brings them to life, more often than not adding surreal elements from today.

If anyone has ever eaten oden you’ll know how this man feels. Original print: “Nakamura Konozo and Nakajima Wadayemon” by Toshusai Sharaku

This marketplace in Osaka sells all the latest gadgets. Original print: “Fish Market at Zakoba” by Utagawa Hiroshige

we hope these fisherman have their sea legs. Original print: “Under the Wave off Kanagawa” by Katsushika Hokusai