ป่าน แฟนคลับ MIYAVI เจ้าของแอคเคานต์ @MIYAVIThailand ขอแชร์เรื่องข้อจำกัดก่อนว่า “บางครั้งก็ทำให้รู้สึกเหนื่อยและท้อใจว่าทำไมต้องยากขนาดนี้ เวลาศิลปินแชร์ลิงก์มาก็ตื่นเต้น พอกดไปดูแล้วเจอ “This content is not available in your country” ก็ทำให้ต้องข้ามบางคอนเทนต์ไปเลย” ส่วนในด้านของเสน่ห์ เธอบอกว่า “เป็นการที่เราต้องพยายามอย่างหนัก แล้วเหมือนมันได้ทุ่มใจลงไป พอตามข่าวได้ก็จะรู้สึกดีมากๆ”
Throughout the pandemic, I’ve had the opportunity to rekindle my connection with beloved Japanese artists such as Teppei (Teppei Koike), Yampi (Tomohisa Yamashita), Fukushi Sota, and even newly emerging groups like FANTASTICS from EXILE TRIBE. What’s interesting is that certain artists are quite accessible to follow due to the presence of fan translation platforms and their active engagement on Twitter, Instagram, and their official websites. These platforms collectively enable international fans to remain well-informed and up-to-date.
Watching variety shows featuring artists with a comparatively lower profile in Thailand can often lead fans into the “lock zone” (restricted content). The scarcity of English subtitles and the limited availability of fan translations are not helping either. This situation raises the question: Why is it still somewhat challenging to follow Japanese artists, even in the era of heightened social media accessibility?
However, upon casually browsing through Twitter, it’s evident that opinions regarding the difficulty of following Japanese artists and idols vary. While some agree that it’s challenging to keep up with them, others argue that it’s not as tough as it might seem. So, what’s the deal here? How exactly do fan clubs manage to keep tabs on their favorite artists, especially in a time when the Japanese wave might not be as pervasive as those from China or Korea?
Why is it more challenging to follow Japanese artists compared to artists from other countries? Drawing from Twitter and various online forums, the prevailing consensus underscores that being a fan of Japanese artists can indeed pose challenges due to the strong sense of cultural identity. Japanese fans exhibit deep dedication, and the local support is substantial. Certain agencies neither produce English content nor make it available for international viewers, and they don’t actively engage in targeting the international market.
Moreover, strong copyright enforcement is a factor. Accessing any kind of content often requires membership subscriptions with fees. It’s rare for videos related to artists to be uploaded on YouTube, and even official websites often lack English versions, only catering to Japanese phone numbers and not accepting credit cards from foreign countries.
Ruj Rujarawi, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in Comparative Literature from the Faculty of Arts at Chulalongkorn University, is an avid fan of the artist Yonezu Kenshi. Having been part of his fan club for over a decade, Rujarawi shares insights into the notion that following Japanese artists can indeed be challenging. “The thing with keeping up with Japanese artists is that they’re big on privacy. No matter where we look, it takes forever for them to give us updates. You hardly see them on TV shows, and most times, we gotta wait for someone to translate news or songs on YouTube just to know about their new stuff,” she says before adding, “Especially with Kenshi Yonezu, it’s almost as if following is not really following. His artistic temperament is quite profound. He exhibits movement mostly during his active work periods, and as for his personal life, we hardly know much about it.”
As for Ploy Petchpitcha, a fan of King & Prince and artists under the Johnny & Associates agency for a solid 8 years, her perspective diverges. “I feel like the groups we follow have adapted to the times, especially in an era where the fan club scene has a decent grasp on the global fandom. International fan clubs can access the majority of the content. For instance, there are live streams on Instagram, they maintain active Twitter accounts for updates, and they even release songs and content on YouTube. There’s very little left that requires relying on fan accounts or translation sources.”
So, at this point, it’s safe to say that whether following Japanese artists is tough or easy depends on the specific artist and their entertainment company. For example, if the company isn’t aiming to reach fans internationally, it might be hard for Thai fans to get to know them or find translations. Fans from other countries face similar challenges.
However, when dealing with a big and well-known company like Johnny & Associates, who actually want to connect with international fans, things get simpler. Whether it’s songs or content from artists in that company, it’s more accessible because there’s English support. At the very least, the content isn’t restricted by region and is often available on global platforms and apps. These factors make it pretty easy for international fans to follow and stay updated on their favorite artists.
Allure and Difficulties of Being in the J-Fandom Nampen, an avid member of The ARASHI, KAT-TUN, and Hey! Say! JUMP fan clubs, sheds light on the dual nature of following Japanese artists. While there’s an undeniable allure, it’s not without its complexities.
The attraction is clear – following Japanese artists comes with a certain level of mystique, making the journey quite captivating. Nampen finds the charm in the exclusivity that fan club membership brings. It’s like a backstage pass to the artist’s world, a treasure reserved for those who are truly devoted. The flip side is the intricacy of accessibility. While the artist’s impact transcends borders, the majority of content remains rooted in the Japanese language. This poses a unique challenge: to fully appreciate the experience, fluency in the language becomes almost a prerequisite.
Pan, a devoted MIYAVI fan and the owner of the @MIYAVIThailand account, opens up about the limitations she faces: “Sometimes, it can be exhausting and disheartening, wondering why it has to be this challenging. When artists share links, it’s exciting, but clicking on them and encountering ‘This content is not available in your country’ makes you just want to skip the content altogether.”
“But I think it’s about putting in a lot of effort and feeling like it’s worth it. When we manage to keep up with news, it's an incredibly gratifying feeling.”
Better than before Prang: These days, it’s much easier to keep up with artists. If we rewind a few years back, we had to rely on forums and magazines for news. Even with the advent of social media, Japan itself often restricted announcements to the country. Even prominent figures like Yampi (Tomohisa Yamashita) only created an Instagram account about 2-3 years ago. However, now there’s an abundance of social media platforms for both artists and fan clubs, and translation assistance is also more prevalent.
Ploy: Now it’s a breeze to catch the latest scoop, and fan clubs are booming like crazy. We’re in the know way faster than back in the day. Right now, I’m even dipping my toes into the Chinese scene. But still, I kinda feel Japan’s got the upper hand in market game. Over in China, if you wanna keep up with most artists, you’re diving into Chinese apps, which can be a bit of a maze for newbies. On the flip side, newbie Japanese artists tend to be all over social media, which makes it a cakewalk to follow.
Is it true that today Japanese fan clubs are decreasing to the point of almost disappearing?
Pan: I don’t feel that way. As someone who has been a part of the Japanese fan club scene for 5-6 years, I feel that the number of followers hasn’t decreased. It might vary from person to person, though. We aren’t really a tightly knit group, mostly because many of us have been following the Japanese entertainment industry for a long time and have become quite knowledgeable. We can keep ourselves updated on news and then gather when the artists come to Thailand. As for artists like MIYAVI, he values his fans. He communicates in English during various events and on social media platforms. Fan clubs can keep up with news on their own without having to follow the artist’s official accounts. It seems like there are not many, but the Japanese fan club community is still present.
In terms of the Chinese and Korean entertainment industries’ market strategies, how much impact do they have on Japanese fan clubs? Prang: I think it has a significant impact. I once read an interview with a Japanese celebrity who talked about the international distribution of works. They mentioned that Japan produces good content but doesn’t distribute it widely. Take the case of the series “Squid Game,” which follows a survival concept similar to the Japanese film “Battle Royale,” produced long ago. This kind of situation prevents the Japanese entertainment industry from reaching that kind of massive audience. Additionally, the emergence of Chinese celebrities has also taken away attention from Japanese stars, as more Japanese fans start following Chinese celebrities. It’s becoming harder to find people solely devoted to the Japanese fan club scene.
Nampen: I believe the impact is not that significant. People who like Japanese artists often appreciate their unique Japanese characteristics. Whether other nationalities are present or not doesn’t necessarily make fans change their preferences. But now fan clubs might consist of people who follow multiple fan clubs simultaneously.
Any advice for J fandom newbies? Nampen: Even if you don’t know Japanese, you can still follow along. Each Japanese idol has their own unique identity. Watching their live performances can make the language barrier feel less significant due to the enjoyment factor. If you want to understand other content like variety shows, you can choose to follow fan club accounts of others who provide translations.
Pan: I don’t know Japanese and I’m not good in English either, but I’ve started looking for news from fan club accounts first. Once I sneak a peek and start watching, I gradually learn about the artist's updates, like where they’re posting their content and around when. It’s like expanding my knowledge step by step. I believe every fan is ready to spread the love for their favorite artist and gather more followers. If you have any questions, you can just ask, or if you want to follow MIYAVI, feel free to chat with us at @MIYAVIThailand.
Prang: If you really want to follow Japanese artists, it’s not very difficult anymore. Just by following official websites and official social media accounts, you can easily stay updated with a lot of news and information about them.