Empress Michiko delights Japanese internet users

Japan boasts having the longest existing monarchy in the world. Even though both the Emperor and Empress are very-well respected and they are kind of a taboo topic for the media if they get too critical, the Imperial Family only plays a ceremonial role in Japan. That is, they do not make any government-related decisions. People’s opinion on both the Emperor and Empress are very positive and pretty much whatever they say or do will be spread and commented by the media or forum users. This time, Empress Michiko became a trendy topic in Japan after showing she’s well updated on Japanese pop culture, particularly about the “digital idol” Hatsune Miku.

The beloved Emperor and Empress of Japan

The beloved Emperor and Empress of Japan

While visiting an exhibition called “LOVE exhibition” at the Mori Art Museum in Roppongi Hills, Empress Michiko surprised everyone when she immediately seemed to recognize who Hatsune Miku was. 「これがミクちゃんですか」 Is this Hatsune Miku?, was what the Empress said, as the Asahi Newspaper reports, generating a lot of positive impressions and thoughts on Twitter.

You might be wonder how come this is a big deal, so first let’s talk more about who Hatsune Miku is. Hatsune Miku is a fictional character created for a music synthesizer program (Vocaloid) first released in 2007. She is 16 year old and cute. Youth + kawaiiness is a WIN combination in Japan. What Hatsune Miku’s program does, basically, is have a synthesized robot-like voice sing any song you write or want. Many users of this program started uploading their own Hatsune Miku’s songs to the very popular Japanese video website, ニコニコ動画 Nico Nico Douga, where she quickly became popular. Later, Sega and Crypton Future Media (the creators of Hatsune Miku) would release “Project DIVA”, a music videogame in which players must “support” Hatsune Miku in her singing pressing a sequence of buttons while she dances in beautifully animated videos on the background. This game has been so successful it is a staple of most game centers with a music games area. It also boosted the creation of hundreds of different Hatsune Miku’s merchandise. Hatsune Miku was well received by the Otaku (anime, manga, game lovers culture in Japan) community and she’s the image of many Family Mart products and Domino’s Pizza, for instance. Just google her name and you’ll find thousands of videos, fan art and more.

Copyright of Crypton Future Media Inc.

Copyright of Crypton Future Media Inc.

But it doesn’t stop there, as the number of fans kept exponentially increasing, the Project DIVA series was taken to the next level through all-digital, animated live concerts. That’s right, no actual live singing, just an amazing display of holograms, animations and lights. Believe it or not, the concerts were such a big success, they even toured cities outside Japan. By the way, this summer (Aug 30th) she will perform in a concert to be broadcasted simultaneously in many venues worldwide.

Hatsune Miku's concert. No copyright infringement intended.

Hatsune Miku’s concert. No copyright infringement intended.

Naturally, there is basically no connection between Hatsune Miku and Empress Michiko, right? I mean, Empress Michiko also has an unusual background for an Empress in Japan; she came from a non-royal family, decided to breastfeed her children (something considered too mundane for the Imperial Family to do), visited several countries together with her husband Emperor Akihito and more, while symbolizing 大和撫子Yamato nadeshiko, a woman with the traditional feminine virtues of old Japan. But now, otakus too will remember her, especially because of the way she referred to Hatsune Miku, using the-ちゃん –chan suffix, which pretty much makes everyone think she is treating her as if she were an actual person. Whatever was going through Her Majesty mind, her knowing who Hatsune Miku knows proves that she really does her best to stay updated on Japanese Culture. Hooray for her!

Eduardo H.
Sources:
Netizens Impressed that Japanese Empress Michiko Knowleadgeable about Pop Culture – Japan Daily Press

皇后さま「初音ミクご存知だったのか」 ネットユーザー「お言葉」に感動、歓喜

ANIME NEWS: Hatsune Miku to perform in theaters worldwide Aug. 30 – Asahi Shinbun

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Kumamon

In addition to all the cute, globally famous characters in Japan, like Hello Kitty! Cinnamon Roll and more, each prefecture and even some cities have their own mascot. However, recently one of them has become famous all over the Japanese nation: Kumamon.

Kumamon

Kumamon is the mascot of the Kumamoto prefecture, in the southern region of Kyushu. It was created to promote tourism in the area right after the Kyushu Bullet Train service (one of the fastest in Japan and in the world) started operations.

However, what makes Kumamon different from other mascots is its comicality and its often clumsy movements. Just check this video of Kumamon doing some calisthenics (a physical activity which surprisingly many people in Japan do EVERY morning at work or at a local park) to understand what kind of character he is.

Besides being featured on TV programs and videos, he’s also been a marketing success. I have seen many Kumamon items going on sale every month. From towels to mugs, to toilet paper and tissues.

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On top of that, this weeks TV news surprised me (and I guess many more people as well) with a Kumamoto teddy bear made in Germany that fits the typical image of similar characters overseas. It costs more than 10,000 yen.

teddybear

Image from the Asahi newspaper

And though it is not the first time a Japanese cute character has become famous all over the country (Hatsune Miku and the LINE stickers come to mind). I believe it is the first time they have used a character in so many ridiculous situations. Just take a look at this video of Kumamoto dancing to Carly Rae Jepsen’s 2012 hit, “Call me maybe”.

Eduardo H.