Thursday, October 21, 2010

Korea: Big in Japan

The title maybe somewhat misleading for a blog about Japan, but there is a good reason for this.

Since the 2004/2005 period, the Korean pop culture has been on a roll in Japan. It was in this period that Japanese TV stations began screening Korean TV drama shows subtitled in Japanese. The first big Korean hit was Fuyu no Sonata (Winter Sonata). The show had already been a success in Korea and its popularity in Japan caused an explosion of Korean actors, singers and culture to burst onto the Japanese scene. The Japanese have named this the “Hanryu boom” (Korean culture boom).

During the height of the boom there was a rush on all things Korean. Japanese people flocked to Korean restaurants, traveled to Korea in greater numbers and idolized Korean TV personalities and singers. The most popular being the actor Bae Yong-Jun who is affectionately known in Japan as “Yon sama.” Yon sama can still be seen on billboards and magazine covers throughout Japan. It would be fair to say that a large number of Korean actors and singers earn a significant portion of their income in Japan.

The Hanryu boom may have peaked but it is still big business. TV and music aside, there are tons of great Korean restaurants and shops in Japan. Japan’s Korean population, both immigrant and Japanese-born, is sizable. This makes for communities of Koreans throughout the country. The largest and most famous Korean community in Japan is Shin Okubo in Tokyo. Only a short distance away from Shinjuku, the town is packed with Korean shops and restaurants. Signs written in Hangul almost outnumber signs written in Japanese. If you enjoy Korean food, Shin Okubo is a must visit. Other areas in Tokyo like Akasaka also have small Korean towns. The Korean community in and around Osaka is also a large well-established community.

So if you don’t have time in your schedule to hop over to Korea while you’re in Japan, there’s no need to worry. The popularity of Korean TV, music and food in Japan means that a small taste of Korea is not hard to come across.

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