The Irony of Music Station’s List of 100 Songs Japan Would Be Proud to Show the World

Two weeks ago, Music Station aired its 30th anniversary special, Music Station Ultra Fes. The show was your standard Japanese music special with all the usual characters (Arashi, AKB48, EXILE, and so on), and some older acts that they dug up (like REBECCA, Yamazaki Masayoshi, and Okuda Tamio), as is common with these shows. The centerpiece of the show was a countdown of 100 songs that Japan would be proud to show the world. There is a problem here though.

No, this piece is not going to be about the content of the list (even though it was confusing at times). It’s about the whole concept of the list. As everyone knows, Japan is playing a game right now. A game of will they or won’t they try to spread their pop culture to the world. Sometimes Japan extends a hand to us international fans, and other times they don’t. This time was a weird mixture of the two.

Music Station viewers voted on songs they thought would be good to show people overseas, songs that truly represent Japan. The thing is though is how is anyone overseas supposed to see it? Yes, Music Station is shown on some niche channels outside of Japan, but is this really impactful? Wouldn’t it be better to had actually made this show available via the internet, on YouTube perhaps?

No, it wouldn’t be, according to them. Instead, we were stuck watching the live version of the show on some crappy stream. I’m very thankful for the streams, but I can’t help but find it ironic that Music Station was listing songs that they would like to show us, but then not having a means to show them to us. Instead, we had to rely on laggy streams, and eventually, uploads on random Russian / Chinese / Korean video streaming sites.

As the people who were in the TinyChat with me during the live stream know, I found this whole situation to be very disappointing. Why was Music Station seemingly making an effort to reach out to the world, but then not going all the way, leaving us to rely on other fans for streams / uploads? They were basically pushing us to support illegal activity since there is no other way to see this content, even though it’s supposedly aimed at us.

But was Music Station really reaching out to the world? Or was this, in essence, masturbation? Was this really for foreigners, or a self-congratulatory pat on the back? There is a line of thinking that when a country purposely tries to push its pop culture, that they are doing so in part as a means of saying “Look at how great we are! Even people from other countries like our stuff! They don’t even speak our language! Our stuff is that good! Therefore, we are amazing!” Was this list that? Was this list really just a means of pumping up the Japanese ego?

Japan is a great country, but they’re not perfect. No country is. The Japanese pop culture industry is obviously feeling the sting of no longer being the coolest kid on the block in Asia due to the rise of South Korea’s Hallyu. It’s very obvious that the revival of Cool Japan and this semi-push abroad is the result of that sting. But half-assed Hallyu is not the answer. Japan wants to reap the same benefits as Hallyu, but they don’t want to put in the work. If Music Station Ultra Fes was a Korean show, there would most likely be a stream for it provided by Music Station. If not, the show would be on Music Station’s YouTube channel in full within 24 hours. Why is this not a thing in Japan?

Do they want to spread their pop culture or not? That’s up to them. I’m fine with whatever decision they make. I know where to get what I need and I will make sure that the readers of this site are taken care of in that regard. But this half-assed Hallyu is a mess and needs to stop. I hope that in 5 years, when Music Station celebrates its 35th anniversary, that this indecision will be a thing of the past.