Boy Band, K-Style

Walking through the gigantic Sunshine City shopping mall in Ikebukuro, I thought I heard the perfectly-engineered chorusing of a Japanese boy band performing. I was wrong. When I craned my neck over the swooning fangirls crushed against the balcony railing, it was clearly a Korean boy band whipping the crowd into a frenzy.

Korean singers and actors have become so popular in Japan that there’s been a surge in demand for Korean language lessons, and package tours to Seoul are selling like hot dogs at the ballpark. Walking down the street in Shin Okubo recently (a traditionally Korean Tokyo neighborhood), I noticed that every other storefront was hawking merchandise from winsome entertainers with bright eyes, clear skin and hair to die for. I wondered if serving in the music industry is mandatory for all 15-18 year old boys before they do their military hitch.

When they tour Japan, Korean bands usually sing in Japanese, execute their choreography with scary precision, and dress in identical lounge-lizardy outfits just like their Japanese counterparts. But you can tell right away they’re Korean: their haircuts give them away. Instead of razored waxed do’s, Korean boy bands favor the side-parted swoop. And although they might be allowed to bleach it slightly, it’s a rare Korean pop star whose hair could be described as anything more shocking than brown.

Read a novel set in Tokyo

In the wake of a deadly earthquake, fans erupt in a frenzy of mourning when it’s discovered that their favorite pop star is among the dead. But when Detective Kenji Nakamura is sent to investigate a death at a local shrine, he finds evidence that suggests the impossible: How could the head priest have been murdered by…read more