There’s been a lot of political gossip going around since Sarah Palin was put on the Republican ticket. Even before that though, McCain was comparing Obama’s rampant popularity, especially among the 18-24 generation, with a celebrity status. This, along with the recent live action movies I’ve seen involving j-musicians, got me to thinking about how most Japanese celebrities are very, very secretive. Japanese people seem to be really into privacy in general though. They rarely put names on personal websites, are gung-ho about blurring out faces in photos, and prefer anonymous BBS to member-registration-required forums. Celebrities, particularly musicians, seem to be take it a step further. For one, most j-rock artists operate under stage names and aliases.
Who knows what 雅 -miyavi-‘s real name is? Pata, hide, Yoshiki, Toshi, and Heath of X Japan — at least three out of five names are obviously fake. The real name of Dir en grey‘s 京 (Kyo) has been a topic of much speculation as he signs his name as Tooru Nishimura in his poetry books, but some sources claim his surname to be Niimura instead. ,Magazines and fansites love listing supposed real names, but it’s incredibly difficult to find any sort of reliable documentation. Gackt’s full stage name Gackt Camui, but it’s still a far cry from whatever his real name is. Birthdays are similarly difficult to find. Gackt’s birthday is July 4th, but the year is still a big question mark. hyde did not confirm his birthday to the public until an interview in 2002, more than a decade after L’Arc~en~Ciel‘s debut.
In the United States, it’s unthinkable that celebrities would be able to keep such simple biographical information private after so long. How do the Japanese do it? Is it just because their society values privacy more than ours? J-pop artists and idols don’t hide behind aliases as often, but magazines will sometimes print their names in katakana or romaji rather than the specific kanji, allowing for use of their real name without giving all the details away. That’s a unique level of half-exposure that English doesn’t allow for. Even when celebrities’ names are out in the open though, it’s rare that you hear about scandals in Japan. Or, at the very least, they happen with much less frequency than they do in the States.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie can’t seem to keep their kids out of the tabloid spotlights, not to mention all the attention the aforementioned Palin is getting, but when was the last time you heard anything about hyde and Megumi Oishi’s kid? It is pretty much impossible to find information on him. Name, birthday, any blurry sort of photograph, anything. There are a lot of fans that will forget he even exists, and it isn’t hard to see why. Even high profile mangaka like Naoko Takeuchi and Yoshihiro Togashi live behind a comfortable veil of secrecy. No one knows their son’s name either.
It’s bewildering to me that it’s even possible to achieve that level of security when you’re in the public eye so often (unless you’re in CLAMP and make public appearances once in a blue moon when the planets are in alignment). Overseas, it seems like no one will even take you seriously if you work from behind a mask, much less make you famous, but in Japan, it’s the norm. It really makes you realize how incredibly nosy American society is, how eager we are to devour tabloids and dirty gossip. No wonder the rest of the world thinks we’re offensive and rude.