This Week in Tokyo Pop Culture | Dec 20: Tests of Endurance

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With the end of the year upon us, it’s time to sit back and take stock of the past. But we’re all busy people so let’s only look back at what happened in Tokyo pop culture during the past week:

Kasumi Arimura Finally Takes a Break

Since 2011, actress Kasumi Arimura has played the lead role in 15 movies and seven TV shows. That is a schedule that would have anyone beat, which might be why her next television project is literally just Arimura relaxing. Kasumi Arimura’s Filming Break, which premieres in March 2020 on WOWOW, will see the actress playing herself during her one-day holidays from filming. Each episode (of which there will be eight total) will feature Arimura relaxing in a different way, and given how busy she’s been since her debut, no part of it will actually be “acting.”

The World’s Longest Marathon

Taiga Drama is the yearly TV show aired on NHK based on an event from Japanese history. With Tokyo hosting the Olympic Games in 2020, the choice of story for 2019 was clear. Idaten, which concluded on December 15, starred kabuki actor Nakamura Kankuro VI as Shiso Kanakuri, who holds the world record for the longest marathon run of 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 5 hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds.

Kanakuri was one of the first Japanese athletes to compete at the Olympics but during the marathon run in 1912 Stockholm, he collapsed and withdrew from the race without notifying the officials. For years, Sweden treated Kanakuri as a missing person until it came to light that he was still alive in Japan. So in 1967, the country invited him to finish the race, resulting in his over-half-a-century-long time. Idaten also focused on swimming coach and one of the fathers of Japanese Olympics: Masaji Tabata (Sadao Abe).

The Yo-kai Watch Comes to a Stop

Yo-kai Watch!, not to be confused with Yo-kai Watch, was an anime series based on Yo-kai Watch. The series with the exclamation mark in the name was a direct continuation of the punctuation-less show (2014–2018), which premiered in April this year and concluded on December 20. Both were based on the popular Yo-kai Watch games about kids fighting each other using yokai: spirits and ghosts based on Japanese folklore.

The new series only lasted for 36 episodes, was occasionally criticized for venturing too much into comedy territory and will soon be replaced by Yo-kai Watch Jam: Yo-kai Academy Y – Encounter with N, with a different concept and additional punctuation.

Junichi Okada’s Generating Buzz

The Shinsengumi was a special police force formed by the military government, which operated in Japan between 1863 and 1869. Despite their short existence, they’ve become an integral part of Japanese pop culture, with countless movies and shows being made about the group, like the upcoming Moeyo Ken.

Premiering in May 2020, this movie tells the story of Toshizo Hijikata (Junichi Okada), vice-commander of the Shinsengumi who fights against the political upheaval of the Meiji Restoration. The trailer for the movie was released recently and generated a lot of buzz thanks to focusing more on the drama rather than the fight scenes. But there are still plenty of those in the film, and thanks to Okada being an accomplished martial artist, they will probably look amazing on the big screen.

Arashi Says Long Goodbye Via Netflix

On December 31, 2020, Arashi, one of the most popular Japanese bands ever, will officially go on hiatus. To leave their fans with a meaningful parting gift, though, the band will star in a Netflix documentary series that kicks off on December 31, 2019: ARASHI’s Diary -Voyage-. With one episode being released each month, Arashi wants to take their supporters on an intimate tour of the final days of their professional lives. With behind-the-scenes videos and archive footage, the series is a can’t-miss for Arashi fans, or “Stormies” as nobody but me calls them.

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