Japan doesn’t really celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas, so the time between November and the end of the year tends to be a quiet affair marked by a spirit of preparation and expectations of things to come. This was also the case with Tokyo pop culture news this week:

Mr. Children & Doraemon Anniversary Bonanza

Doraemon is the story about a time-traveling robot cat from the 22nd century, and after a description like that, saying that it hails from Japan seems slightly redundant. The story has by now become a Japanese pop culture staple and will in fact celebrate its 50th anniversary next year with the March 6 release of the brand-new movie Doraemon: Nobita’s New Dinosaurs. Much like every other Doraemon story out there, this one too will focus on amazingly creative inventions from the future that will get the main characters into all sorts of wacky shenanigans. But the movie is also worth mentioning because it will coincide with yet another anniversary.

In 2020, Mr. Children, one of the bestselling bands in Japan’s history, will celebrate 30 years of making music. And, who knows, maybe this coinciding jubilee was why they were chosen to provide the theme song for Nobita’s New Dinosaurs? Titled “Birthday,” a 90-second preview of the song will air on TV Asahi sometime this weekend. To hear all of it, make sure to catch the movie when it premieres.


Let the Song Battles Begin

It wouldn’t be New Year’s in Japan without the Kohaku Uta Gassen television special. Literally meaning “the Red and White Song Battle,” the show gathers the most popular musicians of the year and has them sing in opposing teams, after which the nation votes on the group they think performed the best. It’s a huge event each and every time, and this year will be no different based on the performers that have recently been announced for the 70th edition of the program.

Arashi and the supergroup AKB48 (White and Red team, respectively) are not really surprising given how often they appear on Uta Gassen. We will also see a lot of newcomers to the show like the idol group Hinatazaka46, the children choral group Foorin, the anime song sensation LiSA, the piano pop band Official HIGE DANdism and many more. The show airs live on December 31 on NHK.

1 Million People Went to YouTube to Watch a Kiss

Slated for release in 2020, Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku is the story of two geeks (otaku in Japanese), one a gamer, the other obsessed with boys’ love stories, trying to date. On the surface, they seem like the perfect match but as they are about to find out, love is hard for otaku. That’s probably why they named the movie that way.

The trailer for the story dropped recently and has already been seen over 1.2 million times. Perhaps it’s because of the movie’s somewhat original approach to what seems like a pretty cliched story, where, for once, the geek characters are not portrayed as ugly losers. Besides both the main characters being successful professionals who hide their hobbies from everyone around them, they are also played by two very attractive people: Mitsuki Takahata, whom you might remember from her excellent performance in this year’s Our Dearest Sakura, and popular actor and model Kento Yamazaki.

Whatever the reason for the trailer’s popularity, it seems that Japanese fans cannot wait for the movie’s premiere. Fortunately, they only have to wait until February 7, 2020.

An Endangered Food Safari

Zetsumeshi Road will premiere in 2020 on TV Tokyo and tell the story of Tamio Suda (Takayuki Hamatsu, just coming off One Cut of the Dead) who seeks out zetsumeshi: dishes that are in danger of disappearing.

This is a very Japanese phenomenon but one that a lot of people can understand. After all, many of us know at least one small, hole-in-the-wall type of place that simply does something… magical with their food. Unfortunately, in Japan, many of those places are also run by elderly masters, many of whom don’t have anyone they could entrust their restaurants and recipes to. And so, once they’re gone, so will their magical, endangered dishes. Zetsumeshi Road will bring much-needed attention to this phenomenon, which is sure to resonate with plenty of viewers.