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Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Diva and Odd Travels through Japan

Okay, so where am I? 

Yes, I'm back in Tokyo wrapping up filming of my wacky and oddly-popular Japanese television show. Let me be the first to tell you that Japan is a lesson in culture shock. I mean every country has its quirks and eccentricities, but few are on par with this island when it comes to strange and unique activities. So, before I get to the 2:00 AM temperamental actress drama, let me tell you about some of the oddities I discovered.


Click to enlarge.
Forget about permanent ink, the latest rage in the Japanese ad game is to have is an advertisement painted on your thighs. Oh believe it, Anime wannabees are renting out their thigh space to the highest bidders. According to the data, over three thousand women (aged 18 and older with 20+ connections on social media) have already signed up to pimp their legs out.

Some PR consultant named “Atsumi” (sorry this may be inaccurate because news stories fly at you faster than the dirty look your wife gives you when you’re “working late”) says that women’s thighs are the perfect place for a walking billboard. “Guys are eager to look at them and girls are okay with exposing their thighs.” (What a prince of a guy!)

The idea to use the human body as advertising space isn’t new. Some boxers have let their bodies do the speaking in big fights. The Legvertising guerrilla campaign by a New Zealand clothing company caused a big stir a few years ago when they used women’s legs to spread their message. It works though…everyone notices.

Note to self: Find out what the third picture means!

Narita Airport isn’t your standard Asian stopover … they have the best toilets. Never will a better buffet of bathroom choices be presented in a public room of rest. Seat warming, deodorization, massaging, cleansing of the buttocks -- Why are we Americans living in the dark ages of toiletry?


Back in the depths of my terrible 2012 disaster year (buy the book due in 2018 for details), I wrote and produced a TV commercial for culinary giant Lotte, a well-known purveyor of sweets and ice cream. The tasty Zacrich treat is vanilla ice cream wrapped in a crunchy cone and sealed with chocolate puff coating. The on-air talent consisted of seven gorgeous models-turned-actresses that were also known as The Zacrich Girls. (Okay, not the most innovative name, but hey, don’t blame me) and one wore sexy costumes shaped like the Zacrich ice cream. At the end of the commercial, the girls shriek” “Please take a big bite.” I never thought a lot about the work and I had imagined that most of them probably turned to thigh advertising. As it turns out, the thirty second ditty is quite popular and still running a full two years later, which begs the question: Where are my royalty checks?!

The irony of it all.

Back in March, I smirked at the Dolby Theatre during setup days at the 2014 Oscars. I noted on my Flickr account that the Japanese actress on the left did her darnedest to gain attention with a press entourage of 50+. It was quite funny. The irony? She wound up working on my show.


As the last hour of a party is very dangerous, the day before shooting a big scene carries the same peril. After all, that’s when the really dubious choices get made. Sure, have another drink. Take those mystery sugar cubes being offered by a stranger. Go home with an obviously bad idea. Visit your favorite screenwriter at his hotel room at two in the morning when your call time is six. Yes, there’s a small window when everything seems possible, between when the good times arc and when you wake up in a bear trap. The sense of possibility is thrilling, but it’s always a crap shoot how the day following those spontaneous choices will roll out: jubilation, lament, or all of the above?

Take my favorite diva (pictured in from my Instagram post) Izumi. She is a scintillating private actress in Asia. And no no, no that isn't "Hollywood Speak" for "adult actress." She does private one-woman shows for the affluent businessmen there. She is the toast of the aristocratic Asian CEO Party set. When she feared at twenty-nine that her youthful radiance was waning, because she wasn't getting the plum lead roles of Japanese television and cinema, she bullied her way into my show using her connections to elite Western European producers. Turns out that her part had a some juicy bits, including content that FX and AMC might be forced to run the traditional "Due to sexual content, viewer discretion is advised" placard before rolling the scene.

2:00 A.M is no time to pout.
The drama-filled rehearsals moved the dynamic and oft imperious personality of Izumi -- demanding, insisting, daring, improvising, brushing aside protocol, refusing to be dominated for long stretches. She was difficult, but talented.

Filming was set to begin only hours away when a pounding emanated from the thick door of my hotel suite at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. I opened the door without checking and in burst Izumi in her mini-mini skirt that barely covered her toned, long legs. Steam was surging from both of her ears.

She proceeded to park herself on my couch and demand a rewrite on her upcoming scenes because her co-star smelled so bad. It's easy to imagine the pent-up fury she felt when, after waiting years for a role she felt worthy of, she was stuck with this minor part and a co-star whom was scorning her pleas to bathe. I offered to call his people and request that he practice some basic hygiene but she was hell bent on getting the entire part redone, right then, right there. I told her I was going to sleep.

Wouldn't you know it? She started singing some K-Pop song and promised to keep going until the morning call time. The agony of listening to this madness drove me to call the show's producer. When I connected, he was none too happy and wanted an "immediate 20-word explanation." I explained and he said to call Izumi over and put her on the speakerphone. His terse thirty-second lecture sounded something like this:

When he was done with her, she picked up the phone's receiver and handed it to me. He informed me that she would not be bothering me anymore and wished be a good rest of the evening, assuring me I did the right thing, and hung up. The follow-up conversation went something like this:
ME: What did he tell you?
IZUMI: He said that if I bothered you again you would kill me.
ME: Kill you? You mean for real?
IZUMI: No. He said you would kill my character after I did the scene with the smelly guy.
EPILOGUE...The smelly guy wound up having to bathe and his character was killed by the end of the season.


Bowing in Japan may be used as a greeting, introduction, show of respect or apology. There are several types of Japanese bow that are useful to know. But, let’s just say you want to avoid doing the Larry David S**T Bow:

I found this handy guide to bowing (note that the last five are apology bows because apparently you say sorry a whole lot if you live in Japan).
  1. Greetings: It's common to give a little 10° nod of the head and shoulders to greet a friend. A similar gesture can be used to say goodbye. 
  2. Introductions: In both formal and casual introductions it's expected to bow 30° with your upper body. It's important to keep your head and shoulders straight and hands to the side.  After exchanging meishi do a bow and hold for 1 second or so. There's no reason to keep eye contact during a bow (in fact it's considered bad form). Keep a distance to avoid bumping heads (it happens). If the person you're meeting is very important bow 45°. Never bow and shake hands at the same time. 
  3. Bows of Respect: A bow is an expression of humility. It always indicates respect. 
  4. Sports Bow: Another bow of respect is the bow between opponents before a sports match. This is often a shallow bow of 20°. 
  5. Religious Bow: It's also common to bow to the gods at a Shinto shrine. This is often a shallow bow of the upper body. 
  6. Martial Arts Bows: Japanese martial arts have their own conventions of bowing. Great respect is paid to your sensei (teacher). It's also important to show respect to your opponent. 
  7. Bowing to Customers: In Japan, customers are considered gods (of sorts). It's common for staff to bow to customers. This is usually a bow of the upper body of around 20°. 
  8. Bows of Thanks: If someone lets you ahead of them in line it's common to give a shallow bow of the head in thanks. It's even common for automobile drivers to bow to each other for small courtesies. 
  9. Performance Bow: As in the West, it's common for performers to bow in response to applause. This is usually a shallow bow. Here Geisha perform a very deep bow. 
  10. Mild Apology: A mild apology involves a bow with the head of 10°. This can be used if you bump into a stranger or cause a minor inconvenience to someone. For example, if someone holds the elevator doors for you. Say sumimasen (excuse me or I'm sorry). 
  11. Regular Apology: If your boss is mad at you — a 45° bow of the upper body is in order. Hold the bow for 5 seconds. Say sumimasen deshita (I'm sorry for what I did). 
  12. Serious Apology: Let's say you're a company CEO and your company releases a defective product. At the press conference you may apologize with a long 45° bow of the upper body. It may be appropriate to hold the bowing position for 15 or 20 seconds. Say moushiwake gozaimasen deshita (I'm very sorry for what I did). 
  13. Panic Apology: Let's say you're a waiter and you spill hot coffee all over a customer. You may do a 45° bow over and over again to indicate how sorry you are. Repeat moushiwake gozaimasen (I'm very sorry) with each bow. 
  14. Very Serious Apology: Let's say you've committed a serious crime and you're apologizing to the victims. You would bow from a kneeling position. Say makoto ni moushiwake gozaimasen deshita (I sincerely apologize for what I did).
Faux surgical masks are standard faire for plan rides and public transportation.
Lloyd's brand microphones are still the rage for many press conferences.
The Zacrich Girls take a big bite!
Apparently Tommy Lee Jones doesn't smile in Japan either...

...whatever you do, don't miss highlights from the previous season...

...people sit behind ice blocks at Icebar Tokyo and after paying an entrance fee of 3500 Yen (which includes one drink), customers can borrow a coat upon entry. Everything in the bar including the counter, the wall, table, glasses, chairs are made from blocks of ice cut from Sweden's Torne river...

Note: Some pictures were contributed.