TW Pop Culture Weekly: Japan’s Coronavirus Songs Go Viral

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We all could really use some uplifting news right about now. But we also can’t completely ignore what’s happening out there in the world with COVID-19. If only there was a way to combine the two somehow… Oh wait, there totally is.

In a Few Months’ Time, All Songs Will Be About Hand-Washing

We mentioned last week that during the Johnny’s World Happy LIVE with YOU virtual concert, the popular band KAT-TUN changed some of their song lyrics to encourage people to wash their hands. But it looks like they weren’t the only act that sold out to Big Soap. Other big-name bands out there like Arashi actually went a step further and recorded an original song about keeping the virus at bay by keeping your hands clean. They even came up with a cute little hand routine to go along with it.

The popular artist Pikotaro (of the “Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen” song, which is now stuck in your head again) didn’t go as far as to record new material, but he did retune his PPAP track as “PPAP-2020.” This version, which consists almost entirely of the word “wash” being repeated over and over again like an auditory stroboscope, is also meant to encourage people to clean their hands, but also comes off as somewhat aggressively sarcastic. Which, to be fair, has always been the essence of Pikotaro.

The final addition to the coronavirus musical repertoire comes from the rapper Hannya, who balances out Arashi’s and Pika-Taro’s sugary pop songs with hard-hitting, raw rhymes about how we all need to be patient, don’t go outside, and relax with some Netflix. The track is called “In Da House” and the only surprising thing about it is that it took so long for someone to use that phrase in a rap song about self-isolation.

Ayumi Hamasaki Joins TikTok

Ayumi Hamasaki is one of Japan’s best-selling solo artists of all time. Some outlets have even compared her to the country’s Madonna because she is constantly reinventing herself and changing her style. (Though perhaps a better comparison would be Lady Gaga, seeing as Hamasaki’s debut single WAS called “Poker Face.”)

In any case, it makes sense that the artist wouldn’t mind fans reinventing her songs to make their own original art etc. In fact, she encourages it, as long as they use the hashtags #ayu22ndanniversary and #ayusongchallenge and post their videos to TikTok, which Hamasaki joined this week to celebrate the 22ndanniversary of her debut album. She even released a teaser for her move to TikTok because social-media-movie teasers are apparently a thing now. OK. Her TikTok channel can be found here.

‘Kyo no Nekomura-san’ is Televised Relaxation

Mr. Nekomura works as a housekeeper, trying to save some money and one day be reunited with the person he cares most about: his owner. See, Nekomura is actually a cat, and while that doesn’t stop him from cooking the perfect meal or keeping the house spotless, it does occasionally result in him, in typical cat fashion, getting lost in his feline thoughts.

Are you getting an image of this new TV Tokyo show that premiered on April 8? Is it all cutesy and precious and adorable? Good. It’s also wrong, because on the show Nekomura is played by the veteran gruff drama actor Yutaka Matsushige in a cat costume. Combined with the slow pacing of the show, it results in one of the most relaxing pieces of TV that we all really need in these times.

A Novel Virus Requires Novel Solutions

Japanese businesses often try to be as inviting as possible and convey a feeling of openness… which might not be the best thing during a pandemic. So those businesses/services deemed essential are trying to put something between themselves and the customers. It can be as simple as plastic sheets hanged from the ceiling…

Or as elaborate (and creative) as constructing an entire wall with a customer window in it out of cardboard, like this prefectural office in Tottori did:

The world might be scary right now but it’s important to try and find small moments of happiness in it, like perhaps imagining Japanese office workers constructing their own little work-forts out of cardboard.

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