Monday, February 18, 2008

On the Sports Scene in the JMSM…

Cosplay rules the Tokyo Marathon, while third-place Miki Andō is the people’s choice in the Four Continents Figure Skating Championships. The bootylicious Ms. Andō (imagine Tonya Harding, albeit more Japanesy, without the crowbar) in jet-black short shorts and fishnet tights from the exhibition skate-offs is prominently featured in the photo accompanying the article, which currently ranks no.1 in popularity on the Sankei website. Plenty of other short shorts/ fishnet tights photos are also plastered on the webpage*. Maio Asada may have won the real event, but she barely rates mention in the article and just one two-shot portrait, with Ms. Andō, naturally. Daisuké Takahashi, the Japanese winner of the men’s program, fares even worse.

Japanese media groups routinely stage sports and other events and promote them through their commercial outlets. The Yomiuri sports pages, for example, reads like a Yomiuri Giants fanzine. The media can be a harsh taskmaster as well. The rapid deterioration of the Yomiuri-to-Kawasaki-to-Tokyo Verdy soccer team is directly traceable to the Yomiuri family’s decision to drop the team when the J-League did not allow them to use it as a promotional vehicle for their commercial interests.

The Fuji-Sankei Group is no exception. In this particular case, Fuji TV, the crown jewels of the Fuji-Sankei multimedia group, held Japanese broadcasting rights to the Four Continents 2008, staged in Seoul, South Korea. Yomiuri did cover the competition itself, but ignored the exhibition altogether as a non-event, which, for them, it was exactly that.

* The (mostly) Andō photos are currently ranked nos.1 through 9 among the most popular images on the Sankei website.

Seriously, I can’t help repeating: Sankei has hands-down the most reader-friendly media website in Japan. In fact, with all the accompanying visual bells and whistles, it’s better than its hardcopy version. I don’t understand how this is driving revenue, though I suppose fourth-place Sankei has less to lose. Still, I’d like to see how Asahi, Yomiuri and Mainichi respond (or not). They’d better hurry up; are they trying to make a Japaneo-con out of me or what?


Durf said...

It was Mao, not her sister Mai, who won the event, no?

I don't follow skating much at all, but I've been sad to see the disappearance of that scion of Nobunaga from the men's side and I was happy to see all those wild fans of Japanese skaters doing their cheering and autograph-seeking in Korea.

Jun Okumura said...

Mao, yes. Yes, you're right. Thanks, Durf. But you do see how little attention I pay to, um... Let's put it this way, who really cares about Nancy Kerrigan? It's the same thing; you have to set priorities.

Oda has done penance; he should be back next season.

And yes, I understand that they went over very well. I think there are several reasons for this. Little Mao's porcelain beauty is a classic Korean look. Miki Andō's broad cheekbones on a broad, expressive face is very Kansai, and thus would look very familiar in a Korean crowd. That their own hometown favorite was not available made it easier for them to watch the Japanese excell. More broadly, the South Korea-Japan coalition that took down the Middle East stranglehold on handball, a South Korean favorite, at the expense of Japanese aspirations for a second Tokyo Olympics, surely has turned South Korean sports sentiment in favor of its neighbor/rival. Add to that a general reduction in bilateral tension since the Abe administration...