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Sunday, June 11, 2006

CHANNEL SURF

Nihon TV's "Antenna 22" digs in to Shibuya's Center-gai culture and more

For 20 years the crucible of teen girl fashion and attitude has been Shibuya's Center-gai street in Tokyo.

Gyaru (gal) culture mainly revolves around tribes whose distinctions are probably only recognizable to the girls themselves.

This week, Nihon TV's documentary program "Antenna 22" (Monday, 10 p.m.) tries to explain in detail what these girls do and think. What most people see when they encounter them is makeup, which tends to be gaudy and liberally applied. It's not uncommon to find groups of teens squatting in the middle of Center-gai all adjusting their mascara.

Camera crews follow members of the girl group Circle, which has usurped Chima as the dominant tribe. Circle will break out into spontaneous para-para dancing (a stylized group dance routine popular with gyaru) on Center-gai, but most of their "activities" involve nothing more than hanging out in game centers and in front of convenience stores. The program attempts to get a look at the "naked face" of these girls.

Shiho Fujita is one of the few gals who made a successful career out of her experience on Center-gai. Some years ago, when she was still a teenager and had done some modeling, Fujita founded a publishing firm called Charisma Gal.

On the late-night talk show "Gout Temps Nouveau" (Fuji, Wednesday, 11 p.m.), Fujita has dinner with host Yuka and actress Yu Kashii.

She discusses the evolution of her now-successful company and her experiences as a teen entrepreneur. Right now she is developing a project called Gal Revolution, whose purpose is to improve the negative image that gals have in the general media.

She also talks about her work in encouraging young women to make goals and do something interesting and worthwhile with their lives other than hanging out in Shibuya.

Kashii, whose image is of the proper young lady, confesses that when she was a teen she wanted to be a gyaru. The three women discuss how to handle boyfriends who cheat.

Not a gyaru herself, but certainly an idol on Center-gai, singer Hikaru Utada this week releases her first album of new material in four years. Since Utada is now 23, it means it's her first collection of songs since she was a teen.

On June 18, Utada is the subject of NHK's "Top Runner" interview series (NHK-E, 7 p.m.).

In the past, Utada has often shied away from the press, but now that she's older and has some perspective she opens up about her career and talks about the difficulties she faced as a teenager who effectively lived a double life -- a superstar pop singer by night and a normal high-school student by day. She also talks about her upbringing in New York and her famous parents, who are also in the music business.



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