The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Park Life


While the the world swoons over the vocal talents of Susan Boyle realising too late that you should never judge a book by its cover yet not realising, even as they write and blog and talk endlessly about the surprise they felt when they used their ears to judge her rather than their eyes, how incredibly insulting such an observation still is; the Japanese media and public are picking over the bones of  Tsuyoshi Kusanagi`s arrest for public indecency in a Tokyo park. Now what that would mean in the West is something seriously unsavoury: a rabid scandal of sexual depravity or, at the very least,  inappropriateness, but all Kusanagi San did, it seems, was get very drunk, take his clothes off and sing a bit, something that sake-fueled salarymen do most nights of the week in Japan, not always in the parks and gardens of the city to be true, but sometimes even in the streets.

Granted Kusanagi San is the quietest, politest member of the hugely successful boy-band SMAP and it could be said that such actions are hugely out of character for him but idols and pop-stars are managed to a sickeningly tight degree by faceless management moguls in Japan that it is all but impossible to know exactly what his true character is.  He does seem like a genuinely nice guy however which is why I feel the press conference with him on television, I`ve just sat through, was disgusting. Public embarrassment in Japan is cringingly hard to watch, not because of the foolish act itself but for the greedy morality the media employ to wring every last drop of contrition out of the victim of their gaze. Even after his apology the hoard of unsympathetic reporters still pushed him for more regrets, more and more meekness by asking him pointless and down-right insulting questions about his need for alcohol and his reason for drunkeness; his worries now about his potentially ruined career and his feelings on letting down his fans.

But that`s the irony, his fans, unlike the media and government, have mostly been supportive. Indeed they like the human quality of this lapse of judgement and his momentary escape of the control he lives under and has lived under since his teenage years. One survey found 70% of people thinking this one mistake should not cause him to lose his career and even on the night of his arrest so many people called the police to complain about the searching his apartment, calling in unnecessary and intrusive, that the police had to take the phone off the hook.

In Britain such behavior has often launched a career that was destined for boring obscurity and established stars that, get into similarly self -destructive trouble can generally laugh it off afterwards and use it to change direction and fan base. Personally I wish he would do the same, but he is going to have to look very repentant in public now for god knows how long; he is going to have to sit through more baiting interviews; answering politely the accusations pointed at him and he is going to have to rebuild a career that is now actually much more colourful and interesting than it has ever been before.

All five members of SMAP should realize that they actually have the power: beloved of a majority of the population, they are culture icons, bigger than their management, and with a diverse set of interests and skills that could see them independently successful and employed. It will be interesting to see how the other members react to this event and the treatment of, what we can only assume must be, their friend. Kusanagi San has shown himself fallibly human and I respect him for that (As he was being arrested he asked the police “What`s wrong with being naked?” got to love that haven`t you?), let`s hope the media and fans and other members of SMAP show themselves equally human in their reaction to this and support for him after all it`s not as if he hurt anyone but himself and it`s not as if he is a Finance Minister at a G7 conference is it, he`s just a pop-star enjoying some park life.



One response

  1. Spot on.
    As you said in most other countries this would give a flagging career a serious kick in the butt and make him interesting to a whole new audience.
    But not here….in the Borg you must assimilate or die.

    I feel sorry for the guy, he must be under some serious stress to have done it, knowing that he was f*&king his career….maybe he should move to Korea where I hear he is almost as popular as he is here.

    Good luck Kusanagi san, take it easy on the shochu and realise that by showing your humanity you just gained a whole new respect from those of us that like our stars real and gritty.

    April 25, 2009 at 1:40 pm

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