Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Riding The K-Wave

Kara encourage you to buy chocolate for Valentine's Day.
I recently spent five days in Nagasaki. It was my first time back in Japan since the recent Korean wave took over. Seeing as I live in Korea, I was pretty in tune to all the Korean stuff that was floating around. Here's a few of the things I noticed.

I first became aware of how much the Korean thing has taken over Japan when I was watching TV in the middle of the day in my hotel (yes, exciting vacation). There were Korean dramas on not one but two stations, and one of them was a period drama. Japanese people are interested in the Jeoseon Dynasty? Modern Korean soap operas are full of attractive people being petty to each other and who doesn't like that? But period dramas are pretty culturally specific.

I popped into my local Family Mart and spied makgeolli in cans. Makgeolli is a kind of unfiltered rice wine that's recently outgrown its farmer roots and become popular all over Korea. It's also become popular in Japan. I noticed makgeolli in plastic bottles (how it's usually sold in Korea) in Japanese grocery stores too.

Do you want delicious makgeolli or Seoul makgeolli?
The same convenient mart also had a big display out for Valentine's Day, with Kara as the advertising centerpiece (see above). As in Korea, Japanese Valentine's Day is a day for women to buy candy for men. So the use of Kara here is interesting. Kara are telling women to buy chocolate, not men. K-pop is much more popular in Japan with women than with men, who still prefer their idols teenage and peppy (AKB48 *ahem*).

K-pop in general has gotten really popular in Japan, with most big groups releasing Japanese-language albums. The local Tower Records had an entire wall devoted to K-pop CDs. While taking a small, local line out to see a castle I spied this Kara poster in the window of a tiny countryside train station. Just out of sight are posters for Shinee and Beast.

I think the station master's daughter forced him to put up this Kara poster.
Lastly, it seems like Korean food is getting more popular too. I saw a commercial for a kimchi sauce to use in casseroles. The commercial showed a family with two young children all super excited about this sauce, which they were liberally pouring into nabe (hot pot) and other dishes. They even used it in tteukbokki, a spicy rice cake dish popular with teenagers in Korea, which I don't recall ever having seen before in Japan.

Of course, nothing compares to the real thing. When I arrived at Busan airport I was greeted by this sign featuring K-pop group Secret and their legs, exhorting me to drink this brand of soju "everyday."

The name of this soju is Good Day. It is now.

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