音は商売:新大久保のKPOP屋 Selling Sound: A K-Pop store in Shin-Okubo

The area around Shin-Okubo station in Shinjuku Ward has long been an area associated with resident Koreans in Japan (zainichi kankokujin). Many resident Koreans moved to the district after the Allied Occupation of Japan due to cheap rental prices. The district is filled with Korean supermarkets and restaurants. After the phenomenal success of the Korean Drama "Winter Sonata" in Japan in the mid-2000s, Japan has been in the grip of the "Korean Wave (hallyu)," the consumption of Korean popular cultural artefacts such as Korean dramas and Korean pop (K-Pop). Shin-Okubo has been reborn as the centre for K-Pop culture in Tokyo and is filled with numerous stores selling Korean Wave memorabilia. As part of their marketing strategy, the shops in the area (including the restaurants) blast K-Pop into the street. The following recording was made in front of a store specialising in the sale of Korean male idol memorabilia.

Korean male idol memorabilia on sale in Shin-Okubo

In the recording you can hear the incredibly loud K-Pop music that was being broadcast into the street by a K-Pop store. Interestingly, the recording was linked to a video of a live concert held in Japan by the popular Korean performer G-Dragon. Thus, you can hear not only the artist singing, but also the recorded sounds of the concert audience cheering. This creates a surreal ambience, as if you are participating in the concert itself. You can hear that Shin-Okubo is a noisy place, with pedestrians (many of them women, the primary consumers of the Korean Wave in Japan) excitedly talking about where to go next. The sounds of the stores compete with each other, and the soundscape is dominated by the Korean language (interestingly, this recording predominantly features English, which is a language which plays a considerably important role in both K-Pop and J-Pop). Inside the stores, the music is even louder and numerous video and sound recordings compete with each other to attract the shoppers' gaze. The sounds are less ordered and more "alive" than those found in Tower Records.

Photo and recording credit: Thomas Baudinette

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