On February 3, Japan celebrated Setsubun, which according to Japan’s lunar calendar is the day preceding the official beginning of spring. Setsubun is a joyous time when people pray for good luck in the coming seasons. This year, some people, such as actress Erika Sawajiri, could use luck more than others.

Erika Sawajiri Handed Suspended Sentence

After pleading guilty to the possession of MDMA and LSD, Sawajiri was facing up to 18 months in prison. But this week, the judge decided that she apparently showed enough remorse (which goes a LONG way in the criminal justice system in Japan) and suspended her sentence for three years. It’s not all good news, though, seeing as the two-time Japan Academy Film Prize winner announced at the onset of her trial that she is retiring from acting. The best we can hope for right now is that she one day changes her mind and, despite the drug controversy, returns to the spotlight. Hey, it worked for Robert Downey Jr.

Perfume Wants to Be Part of Your World

Japan doesn’t have the Disney+ streaming service. It has Disney Deluxe which is mostly the same thing, only with a delayed release schedule and no Simpsons. So it’s not really the same thing at all. But they’re making up for it with original programming like My Music Story, which focuses on the members of the popular pop girl group Perfume.

To promote the program, Disney Deluxe released Perfume’s Japanese cover of “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid, a touching song about looking for a place where one feels like they truly belong. Disney failed to return our calls when we asked if another group is planning to cover the song “Hellfire” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the only official Disney song about sexual assault.

Goblin Slayer Hits the Theaters (Plus Some Goblins)

Since we’re on the topic of sexual assault… Goblin Slayer, a story about a fantasy adventurer who hates goblins and slays them, hence the title. It’s hardly the most adult thing that Japan has ever produced, but when the Goblin Slayer anime came out, it felt like the entire internet was talking about its brutal (though not completely explicit) rape scene from Episode 1. And it was probably that controversy that helped make it one of the most popular streamed anime in the US. So it was really just a matter of time before Goblin Slayer got its own motion picture. Goblin Slayer: Goblin’s Crown was released in Japanese cinemas on February 1.


Yuya Yagira Goes from Psychopath to Cram School Director

In the past, some Japanese cram schools (juku) used to be so popular that they routinely ran out of tables for the students, forcing them to sit on the floor. Those days are gone and Japan seems to be rethinking their approach to after-school activities. And while the country is in this transitional period, it seems like the perfect time to analyze the entire cram school world on the small screen.

Starting from July, NTV will air the show Nigatsu no Shosha: Zettai Gokaku no Kyoshitsu, based on a manga by Shiho Takase, about a teacher from a prestigious juku becoming the director of a failing school. The main role has recently gone to actor Yuya Yagira just as he’s coming off his performance in The Fable (2019) where he played the psychopathic gangster Kojima. Will he be bringing some of that maniac energy to this TV role? Probably not but, hey, we can dream.


Not Taking Any Chances in 2020

A big part of Setsubun is the tradition of eating ehomaki, i.e. lucky sushi rolls with seven ingredients representing the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan. The rub is that they must be eaten in one go while the roll faces a “lucky” direction, which changes every year. In 2020, it was west-southwest, but most people tend to guestimate that when chowing down on ehomaki. Not Twitter user @DVtaiyou. In a post that has been liked nearly 150,000 times, @DVtaiyou revealed that by angling two mirrors, you can eat the sushi roll while it faces ALL the directions. We do not know what @DVtaiyou went through in 2019, but perhaps Erika Sawajira should have used the same trick.