Student’s love for Japanese convenience stores goes viral

By Marshall Schmidt

University Daily Kansan, U. Kansas via UWIRE

Becoming a Japanese pop icon was not what Noah Oskow, a U. Kansas senior from Minneapolis, Minn., expected when he decided to study abroad in Japan for two years.

However, Oskow, with the help of fellow students at Sophia U. in Tokyo, developed a music video about Japanese convenience stores that went viral. Even spending time as Yahoo! Japan’s most-viewed music video, Oskow’s video gained him notoriety not just in Japan, but worldwide.

“The stores are special, because unlike American convenience stores, they tend to stock a wide range of fresh, quality, food and drinks,” Oskow said. “It’s a more useful and enjoyable atmosphere than in the U.S.”

The idea for the music video stemmed from a project assigned to some of Oskow’s dorm-mates, coupled with an original song composed by another dorm-mate. With the help of 15 others, Oskow filmed for a few days and, after 15 hours of editing, the 3 minute 23 second video was complete. In it, the characters convey their deepest affections for Japanese convenience stores — Konbini in Japanese — and Oskow at one point even expresses his desire to marry them.

“The Japanese students loved it,” said Oskow. “We decided the Japanese public might enjoy it, despite its silliness, so I uploaded it to YouTube.”

Soon enough, the video spread to other popular Japanese media sites and started getting 30,000 hits a day.

“I believe it went viral — at least in Japan — due to an outsider’s perspective on something so normal, a convenience store,” said Ed Stahl, a student from U. North Carolina who starred in the video while on exchange with Oskow.

Stahl can be seen wearing a green, long-sleeved shirt in the video.

“A common theme in the lyrics and video is a strong sense of irony,” said John Stowell, Oskow’s collaborator from U. Melbourne in Australia. “It’s a sense of humor that’s appreciated across Japanese and Western culture.”

The video received hundreds of comments that praised it for embracing good aspects of Japanese culture and for its love of something that, while commonplace, is also a cultural icon in Japan, Oskow said.

Some Japanese viewers, however, had trouble deciding whether the video was intended to be a joke, Oskow said.

The video currently has more than 300,000 hits on Japanese media and still has bursts of popularity. Even as the stars of the video became recognizable by the masses of Tokyo, Oskow said the project had become a personal symbol for his dorm-mates.

“Even though the video is silly, it’s come to mean something to us that is more than the sum of its satirical parts,” Oskow said.

The video is available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Wwysw6TCyI&feature=youtu.be.

Read more here: http://www.kansan.com/news/2012/mar/13/students-love-japanese-convenience-stores-goes-vir/
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