Asian News: Johnny’s Embraces Social Media, Galaxy Casino Plan, Takarazuka Revue’s Taiwan Tour

Japanese press reporting on the breakup the boy band SMAP.

Agency Lifts Internet Image Ban

Late last year, Johnny & Associates, one of Japan’s most successful talent agencies and entertainment production companies, partially rescinded its age-old policy of not allowing images of its charges on the Internet. Last week, it expanded this dispensation by announcing that it would launch an official YouTube channel March 21.

 The news came as a shock to Japan’s show biz media, which has always had to contend with Johnny’s strict prohibition of anything Internet-related, including social media. None of the very popular male acts who work for the agency are allowed to have an Social Networking Site account.  

In the announcement, Johnny’s said the channel, at least in the beginning, will host content from its Johnny’s Jr. group of acts, which mainly consists of teen singers and dancers who are in the training process to become full-fledged Johnny’s acts. The content will include original videos and will be available internationally, meaning there will be no geographic restrictions, which tend to be common for J-pop acts, whether they work for Johnny’s or other agencies. None of the acts accounted for the project have released a CD, which is the traditional method for debuting in Japan.  

The Japan Times speculated that this “new approach” may have been prompted by the digital success of three former Johnny’s stars who quit the immensely popular boy band SMAP last year and went out on their own. Because traditional media like television tends to avoid artists who quit their agencies so as not to anger those agencies, the three artists restricted their activities to social media, in particular Instagram and YouTube, and have seen great success so far. 

There is also a feeling that young people are not interested in TV any more, and therefore Johnny’s needs to change its mind about online activities, which traditional Japanese production companies tend to shun because it is so difficult to control. 

Galaxy Entertainment Casino Plan

Japan’s Nihon Keizai Shimbun newspaper has reported that Galaxy Entertainment Group, a Macau casino operator listed in Hong Kong, is proposing a casino resort project in the Philippines that will be part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative of infrastructure projects in Southeast Asia. 

At a press conference where he announced his company’s financial results for 2017, Galaxy Chairman Lui Che Woo said, “Through our Boracay project in the Philippines, we will fully support the central [Chinese] government’s Belt and Road Initiative.” Boracay will be Galaxy’s first casino resort development project outside of China, and the company plans on spending about $500 million on it.

 Deputy Chairman Francis Lui said at the press conference, “As the relationship between China and the Philippines has improved, we see an opportunity in the Philippines’ market.” 

The reason is that more and more Chinese tourists are visiting the Philippines since the country’s president, Rodrigo Duterte, said he wanted closer ties with China. Since then a new airport in Boracay and the launch of direct flights from various parts of China to the island has reduced travel time from six hours to only 90 minutes. 

Galaxy operates three casino resorts in Macau with plans to build another on Hengqin, a nearby island. But competition in the former Portuguese territory has been heating up for years so Galaxy wants to expand overseas as soon as possible. The company is also looking into Japan, which legalized casinos two years ago but has yet to work out a regulatory framework. Lui announced that Galaxy will expand the staff at its Tokyo office sometime this year in preparation for bids by casino operators with its Monaco-based associate, Société des Bain de Mer. Galaxy launched its Tokyo office in 2015 and is visiting potential sites.  

The revenue from Galaxy’s primary casino resort at Cotai in Macau increased by 17 percent in 2017 to HK$44.6 billion. As a result, the company will develop new attractions at the resort, including family-oriented features and a 16,000-seat arena for concerts and other events

Takarazuka Revue’s Taiwan Tour

The all-female Japanese musical theater company Takarazuka Revue has announced it will tour Taiwan later this year with a special production inspired by a Taiwanese puppet show. 

The president of the company, Tomotsugu Ogawa, announced in Taipei that the revue will perform in the capital for a week’s worth of shows in October, and then for four days in the southern city of Kaohsiung, according to Japan’s Kyodo news service.  

Half of the show will be based on Pili, the modern glove-puppet theater based on a traditional Taiwanese puppet presentation called Budaixi. A famed Pili master, who is working with Takarazuka to produce the segment, said he was “honored” by the opportunity since both Pili and Takarazuka are about the same age—100 years. 

Takarazuka Revue, which is headquartered in the western Japan city of the same name, has developed a florid, highly stylized form of Western musical theater where all the roles, including those normally written for males, are played by women. Many Takarazuka graduates become superstars and go on to very successful careers as stage and screen actors in Japan.  

The 2018 tour will be the troupe’s third to Taiwan, where they have thousands of fans. Takarazuka has dedicated theaters in Takarazuka and Tokyo, which are very popular with Taiwanese tourists. The shows in Taiwan are expected to sell out immediately.