Wednesday, December 13, 2006

News from Japan!

Transitory Nature of Teaching

I got some bad news last night. Every Wednesday, I've been teaching a family. Together. Dad, Mom and daughter. They're taking our lowest level and while they're not exactly English beginners, many of the basics- vocabulary and pronunciation- are new to them.

I've really enjoyed teaching them. As a trio, they're enthusiastic learners and few of our students are as hardworking. They help each other out, compare notes and generally seem to enjoy the lessons. Which means I also enjoy them.

But last night, the father told me that was their last lesson. Next week, they'll take the level test and then we'll part ways.

Such is the life of an English teacher. And life in general. People come into your life, you come to depend on their presence, and then they go away. I still think about my Nova kids, my regular Saturday bunch. They seemed to like me and in the end, I abandoned them. Moved on. It was time, but still...

Transitory Nature of Fame

Speaking of moving on, fallen J-Idol Hirosue Ryoko has separated from her husband, according to some reports. To me, this is infinitely more fascinating than learning against my will that Britney Spears and Paris Hilton have become best friends or that Lindsay Lohan has been sober for 2 weeks.

Eh... not really.

To be honest, celebrity personal lives whether they're Japanese, American or hybrids of Venusian/Martian stock are boring. Well, maybe not that last one. But the others, definitely.

The thing that's interesting is the way the arc is severely shortened here. A meteoric rise, followed by an equally spectacular fall. But instead of playing out over a decade or so, the Japanese version happens in about 3 years.

The pop culture scene here is littered with celebrity casualties. One young actor had some tv hits early on, got busted for pot and poof... no more career. Hard Gay made a big splash a couple of years ago, but if my students are to be believed, he's already worn out his welcome. There are a few who become evergreen- Hamasaki Ayumi has maintained her stratospheric popularity in the notoriously fickle world of J-Pop, as has Amuro Namie.

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Hirosue Ryoko at the beginning
of her career.

Hirosue Ryoko, on the other hand? She's managed to hang on for 10 years or so, but has never fully capitalized on the goodwill she garnered early on in her career. So her story is a cautionary tale of bungling and bad publicity.

She emerged in the mid-90s as a cutesy, tomboyish type, fronting ad campaigns for Clearasil, Nintendo and DoCoMo. Following the Japanese celebrity model, hit singles and tv shows came next, and movie roles. Girls even copied her hairstyle. Then her career peaked with an appearance in the Luc Besson-produced international film Wasabi, starring as Jean Reno's half-Japanese daughter.

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Hirosue Ryoko flashing the weird Fruits-style in Wasabi.

And then the bad times came. Wasabi garnered only middling reviews, and some startlingly negative ones for Ryoko herself (she played one of Besson's trademark crazy-haired girl waifs, sharing hair color with LeeLoo from Fifth Element and the orphan-in-danger characteristics of Natalie Portman in The Professional) and didn't open up higher profile roles for her.

Soon, there were media reports of erratic behavior, attacks on her fluctuating weight, all of it capped with a shotgun marriage to her male model/fashion designer/Shibuya streetfighting boyfriend. And now their alleged separation.

All this before she was 26.

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Hirosue Ryoko today, a
working mom, older and hopefully
much wiser.

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