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Sunday, Aug. 18, 2002

WHEN EAST MARRIES WEST

What a pair they are


If you are a viewer of Japanese television, you have no doubt seen a pair of celebrities known as the Kano sisters. Single-handedly -- or perhaps double-handedly is more appropriate -- these two have lent new meaning to the term "boob tube."

For older sister Kyoko and younger sister Mika have only one endearing trait (OK, technically two). They don't sing. They don't act. They don't even show the prizes behind curtain No. 1. Their claim to fame is merely this . . .

They have large breasts.

Better than that, in fact. Their breasts are outstanding. A truth to which the TV cameras continually attest.

Breasts that the sisters do not even shake -- for artificial substances can be dangerous when disturbed.

In the wacky world of Japanese TV performers, many of the talentless "talents" -- as they are called -- are born-again creations of previous lives. The endless talk and game shows are replete with ex-athletes, ex-models, ex-wives of famous men, ex-Mormon missionaries and so on, all strutting for their piece of the celebrity pie.

In this crass menagerie, the Kano sisters are ex-B cups. More than offering a pair of pretty faces, these two market closeup vistas of rolling, silicone valleys. And the Japanese media cannot get enough.

Of course, showbiz is full of entertainers -- both male and female -- who profit by peddling the proportions of their flesh. Yet, few are as blatant as the Kano sisters. Britney Spears, for example, at least pretends to sing.

Mika Kano, on the other hand, is on record as saying she doesn't even like to talk! It is clear that she doesn't have to. What is not so clear, however, is what the success of the Kano sisters is saying about modern-day Japan.

The answer that sticks out, naturally (or unnaturally), is the old saw that sex sells. But, incredibly, there may be even more than meets the eye.

Up front, the Kano sisters are further proof-positive that Japan is a man's country, for their bodacious salute to fresh-air bosoms is not directed at the full population.

That viewers don't mind that the Kano girls just stand there and do nothing, and that the camera always seems aimed well below Kyoko and Mika's chins, speaks volumes about which gender is watching -- and which is operating the camera.

By no small coincidence, sponsoring companies -- all of which are run by males -- take close notice, too. This creates a circle that is perhaps more vivacious than vicious, but nevertheless one that Japanese women do not seem to mind.

At least, most don't mind. Dewi Sukarno, former wife of Indonesian President Achmed Sukarno and herself a talk show diva, has called the Kano girls nothing but "monkeys from the mountains," words that have not unleashed a flood of female resentment.

Rather, the mountains have perhaps been inundated with men looking for more such monkeys. Or by other young women looking to learn the Kano sisters' "secrets."

"As a man," my wife says, "you are once again missing the point."
"Oh, I get the point," I say back. "All four of them."
"See! You focus only on their breasts. But Japanese girls look at the Kano sisters and see elegance. They see intelligence. They see independence and strength."
"I focus on their breasts because the TV doesn't give me a choice. Isn't that what Dewi Sukarno means? These girls are nothing but a freak show."
"So? Dewi's talent is that she has a big mouth. What's wrong with a person's talent being big boobs?"

The Kano sisters, my wife goes on to say, are tolerated -- even revered -- by most Japanese women because the two are more than just living Barbie dolls. They speak their minds, dress to the hilt (or rather to the sternum), are dripping with money and have done it all without any male guidance. The sisters, both in their 30s, are unmarried and reportedly have no manager.

While the thought of all that cleavage going unmanaged might make some men sweat, the message going out to Japanese girls is that the Kano sisters are in control. They are using men and not vice versa.

In the end, no one even minds that the two might be nothing but a pair of phonies. They claim to be half sisters, but -- from the neck up, anyway -- the resemblance is debatable.

Then there is the rather weighty question of their endowments. The sisters like to hint that these are real, which is sort of like King Kong hinting that he's just another ape. Not so many people are buying.

In these days of heightened security, one might think the Kano girls would have trouble passing checkpoints. They don't appear natural, and it is easy to imagine guards pulling them aside for a closer look. "I'll get to the bottom of this," I can hear a guard say -- not meaning the bottom at all.

The sisters make a lot of money by selling health products that are supposed to give women "healthier" bosoms. Perhaps such products are packed with silicone.

"What does this say to Japanese girls?" I ask my wife. "That the road to success and happiness is through implants?"
"No," my wife shakes her head. "The message is much more substantial. The Kano sisters are telling today's women to aim straight at what they want and then go after it. They should not hold back."

That's funny, I think.

For it seems to me -- with their breasts on display -- the sisters are telling men the very same thing.



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