Big in Japan (phrase)

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This article is about the phrase. For other uses, see Big in Japan.
Mr. Big, a notable "Big in Japan" band from the United States.[1] They were one of the two most popular foreign music[2] artists in Japan alongside another "Big in Japan" Bon Jovi,[3] while outside Japan they were generally considered a one-hit wonder with their single "To Be with You".

Big in Japan is an expression historically used to describe western based musical groups who achieve success in Japan but not necessarily in other parts of the world.

Original usage[edit]

The phrase began to appear on several major Japanese foreign-rock magazines, especially the Music Life magazine, in the late 1970s, and in most cases, the "big in Japan" artists became popular in Japan due to being featured by Music Life.[citation needed]

In the late 20th century, notable "big in Japan" artists included several stadium rock bands from the United States, metal artists from Northern European countries such as Norway, Denmark, and especially Sweden and Finland, eurobeat artists from Germany and especially Italy, and UK rock[4] artists.

Some bands have used their popularity in Japan as a springboard to break into other audiences. Notably, the power pop group Cheap Trick, which had been known as the "American Beatles" in Japan for their appeal, achieved widespread success with their multi-platinum live album Cheap Trick at Budokan. The band had previously struggled to break into the mainstream American market with their earlier albums. Furthermore, like Cheap Trick, some bands have lost their "big in Japan" titles after gaining popularity in their respective homelands. The most notable example is Queen, along with Bon Jovi.[1]

For example, Scorpions initially had only mediocre success in Europe and the United States,[citation needed] yet were "Big in Japan", as evidenced by their 1978 tour of the country and the double live album Tokyo Tapes.[5] Another example is The Ventures, a band formed in 1959 and touring Japan each year since 1965, having logged over 2,000 concerts there by 2006.[6] "Being 'Big in Japan' turned into a positive sign of their closeness to the hearts of Japanese people, with the band embedded in national and local rock cultures."[6]

The phrase was used as the name of a UK punk band in 1977-82 (whose name inspired the title of a 1984 hit single by pop band Alphaville) and was the name of the lead track on the Grammy-winning 1999 album Mule Variations by Tom Waits. The mockumentary This is Spinal Tap parodies this phenomenon when the band schedules a Japanese tour after discovering that their single "Sex Farm" is inexplicably selling very well there.

Avril Lavigne has remained immensely popular in Japan, years after her popularity waned in North America, and in April 2014 released her video Hello Kitty (Avril Lavigne song) as a thank you to her Japanese fans.

Other usage[edit]

Some people in other industries besides music, most notably Bob Sapp and Takeshi Kaneshiro, have been described as "big in Japan".[citation needed]

Many Thai kickboxers in K-1, most notably Buakaw Por. Pramuk, who is also the most popular kickboxer among women in Japan,[7] have been considered "big in Japan", as most of them are successful in K-1 but it is widely believed[weasel words] in Japan that their muay thai accomplishments in Thailand are usually not very good and therefore they are not well-recognized in Thailand.[citation needed]

It has also been used in sports, for instance, to describe Major League Baseball players who join Japanese clubs at the end of their careers, such as Daryl Spencer.[8]

"Small in Japan"[edit]

The derivative phrase "small in Japan", originally used for AC/DC,[9] has been used since the early 1980s. In general, a small-in-Japan artist holds significant popularity in the Western world (in most cases the United States), and visits Japan many times to promote himself/herself, yet is almost unknown and unsuccessful in Japan despite being heavily featured by Japanese music media. Notable small-in-Japan individuals in the 2000s included Colbie Caillat, Alicia Keys, Jennifer Lopez, Eminem, The Jonas Brothers, Amy Winehouse, Linkin Park, Lindsay Lohan, 50 Cent, The Libertines, Jessica Simpson, and Connie Talbot.[citation needed]

In Japanese culture, the phrase "small in Japan" is also used to describe Japanese celebrities who are unknown, unsuccessful or "forgotten" in Japan but making their ways outside Japan. The phrase has been used to refer to certain musicians such as Dir En Grey, certain professional wrestlers such as Tajiri and Yoshi Tatsu, certain fashion models such as Ai Tominaga and Tao Okamoto, and all the Miss Universe contestants from Japan, most of whom are former unsuccessful fashion models, including Kurara Chibana and Riyo Mori.[10]

In one exceptional case, Digital Arts magazine has used the phrase to describe the Xbox, a videogame console that was a success all over the world except in Japan.[11]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Featured Artist : MR BIG Ongen.net (USEN) (Japanese)
  2. ^ "Yōgaku" ("Foreign music"), every music from an outer place, more specifically, the Western world
  3. ^ Sankei, Reunited Mr. Big is planning their first Japanese tour in this June (Japanese) February 21, 2009
  4. ^ The term "UK rock" is an only-in-Japan term used for every rock music artist from the United Kingdom.UK rock / BritpopAll About (Japanese)
  5. ^ Peter Buckley, Jonathan Buckley (2003). The Rough Guide to Rock.  Rough Guides. ISBN 1-84353-105-4, ISBN 978-1-84353-105-0. p. 909
  6. ^ a b Shane Homan (2006). Access All Eras: Tribute Bands and Global Pop Culture.  McGraw-Hill International. ISBN 0-335-21690-0, ISBN 978-0-335-21690-1. pp. 152-154
  7. ^ Sadaharu Tanikawa, the head producer of K-1 GBR News July 08, 2008 (Japanese)
  8. ^ Matt Johanson, Wylie Wong, Jon Miller (2007). San Francisco Giants: Where Have You Gone?. Sports Publishing LLC. p. 1. ISBN 1-59670-187-0. , ISBN 978-1-59670-187-8.
  9. ^ Barks : AC/DC visits Japan, after 9 years silence Retrieved 2010-07-14 (Japanese)
  10. ^ Artistic Jam : "Big in Japan" Retrieved 2010-07-14 (Japanese)
  11. ^ Xbox sales 'small in Japan' Retrieved 2007-07-11