Dramatic Fashion

I confess: I love to write academic stuff, but sometimes I just want to share something personal with you such as what I enjoy doing in my free time, except for writing this blog of course (spoiler: watching series and dressing up). In the past, I have written about Japanese drama a few times, here and here. I am still watching it although not very consistently (I have those binge-watching moments, especially during exam periods and in the weekends) but I can enjoy an episode now and then. It’s also a good exercise for brushing up my Japanese now that I am studying something completely different.


Legal High: so funny

It should be said, however, that I am very picky; I prefer detective and crime drama (the Japanese are Mystery Masters) and slice-of-life drama with a strong sense of humor (I can even tolerate some romance). On the other hand, I am more than fed up with (mostly Korean) dramas that are complete misrepresentations of society, reinforce gender roles like it were the 19th century and feature the same storyline over and over again. Please stop showing me another handsome but arrogant chaebol son, a poor but oh so kind orphaned girl with the latest phone or a so-called “ugly” woman who becomes pretty the moment she takes off her glasses and puts on some make-up. I stopped watching stuff dramas like that, although I am sure that there are still some not so mainstream series out there worth watching.

But this is not what I wanted to write about. So, here we go: I have noticed that, personally, my fashion style corresponds with a specific style in Japanese fashion as recently featured on Japanese television. During my one-year stay in Japan, I often  received the comment that I dress “oshare” (おしゃれ, stylish) as opposed to “kawaii” (可愛い, cute), that other, more typical way of dressing Japanese are famous for. It is true that I like certain elements of Japanese clothes and styling: layering, covering shoulders and cleavage, wearing almost always feminine skirts, flower patterns, putting on accessories, high but comfy heels AND always wearing matching socks, especially in sandals (socks are everything – I have them in around 50 different colors and patterns). Besides, I also adore traditional kimono. It really is a egg-or-chicken question: do I like Japanese fashion because I dress similarly or am I being influenced by it? Yet, some of the things about my appearance are not Japanese at all, such as my make-up, and – let’s be honest – the shape of my body. Below are some outfits I approve of from two dramas I like(d) to watch (there are probably more but I can’t remember. So feel free to recommend a drama with some great fashion in it!).

  1.  Jimi ni Sugoi! Kōetsu Garu Kōno Etsuko 地味にスゴイ! 校閲ガール・河野悦子 (Simpleness is Great! Proofreading Girl Kono Etsuko). I recently finished watching this drama and I really liked it. The ambitious and fashionable Etsuko finally gets in the publishing company of her dreams, albeit in the gloomy proofreading section. I identify with Etsuko’s outgoing personality as well as with her wardrobe: I enjoy wearing scarfs (around the neck and in my hair), midi high-waisted skirts, lots of colors, flowers and socks, and I like to try out a new hairstyle now and then. There is also a vintage feeling about these outfits. As a keen vintage collector (I only buy secondhand clothing) I especially appreciate the 70s Bohemian vibe and the 50s silhouette Etsuko incorporates in her fashion style.

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  2. A few years back, I watched Okitegami Kyoko no Biboroku 掟上今日子の備忘録 (The Memorandum of Kyoko Okitegami). I’m not a huge fan of this quirky detective’s silver bob, but I admire the way she effortlessly mixes and matches colors and patterns. Her clothes are not tight-fitted yet timelessly elegant. I especially like the color-blocking. Plus, adding a beret is always a good idea. It also makes me realize I should wear tartan more often. By the way, it’s obvious that glasses make you more stylish (don’t believe Kdrama makeovers, kids). That’s it for today! I will be back soon with a new post (you can expect something academic).

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Japanese Crime Drama



According to Wikipedia, “crime in Japan is lower than in all other industrialized countries”, and it is still decreasing. Apart from some states in the US, Japan is also the only country in the G8 to carry out death penalty executions (in South Korea for example, it is a legal form of punishment, but it has not been carried out for many years). Crime in Japan is therefore mostly white-collar crime on the one hand, and quite atrocious homicide on the other hand. importation of weapons is strictly regulated by law, so most killings are committed with knives



Though the crime rate is low, the Japanese are quite fond of detective stuff. And, you have to admit, they are good in such riddles. The first manga I ever read, was Detective Conan and I was sold immediately. I have always been a fan of detective stories and whodunits. I read all books of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and I swear by Agatha Christie and her (Belgian!) detective Hercule Poirot. I discovered more and more Japanese suspense and mystery writers like Edogawa Rampo, Keigo Higashino  and Ryūnosuke Akutagawa. I also like to watch Japanese suspense and crime drama. These are my favorite ones:

1. Mr Brain mixes detective work with neuroscience and psychology. The cases are thrilling and original (especially the second and fifth in my opinion).

2. Boss is funny and exciting at the same time. Although it’s immediately obvious who’s the culprit at the beginning, it’s still interesting to see how they are going to solve it.

3. Liar Game An expert swindler helps a naive girl to win the Liar Game. A lot of lies, strategic thinking and unexpected twists.

crime-mrbrain,boss,liar game4. Bloody Monday I wrote about this drama in my blog on Aum’s legacy and Japanese pop culture.

5. Death Note A classic masterpiece. In possession of a note-book with killing power, the protagonist decides to kill every criminal in the world. I prefer the anime version over the manga and live action movie. The popularity of Death Note, however, caused a sad incident in Belgium. Four teenagers killed a young man, cut his body in pieces and left a note with “watashi wa kira desu ( I am the killer)” – a direct reference to the manga.

crime-bloodymonday, deathnote6. Orthros no Inu Two men, one with the power to heal, one with the power to kill. Interesting story and plot.

7. Galileo An eccentric physicist solves with the help of a rookie cop several crimes.

8. Kurosagi A drama about fraud (sagi 詐欺). Kurosaki as a fraud cheats the money back from frauds. I mentioned this drama before in a post about economics and drama.

crime-orthrosnoinu, galileo, kurosagi

Dramatic Economics

Japanese drama shows must get their inspiration from somewhere. Domestic economic scandals, for example.

1. Window dressing 

A strategy used by mutual fund and portfolio managers near the year or quarter end to improve the appearance of the portfolio/fund performance before presenting it to clients or shareholders. To window dress, the fund manager will sell stocks with large losses and purchase high-flying stocks near the end of the quarter. These securities are then reported as part of the fund’s holdings. (Investopedia)

Drama case: Hanzawa Naoki



Hanzawa works at the Tokyo Chuo Bank as the head of the Loans Devisions, when he is forced by his manager to give an unsecured loan of 500 million yen to Nishi Osaka Steel. Because he is pressured to hand in the loan documents as soon as the following morning, there is no time to check the company’s accountancy carefully. Three months later, Nishi Osaka Steel goes bankrupt, and the  lent money is gone. The company had been hiding their debts with window dressing. The branch manager, who had promised to take responsibility before, puts now all the blame on Hanzawa.

Actual case: Olympus

On 8 November 2011, camera and copier maker Olympus corp. (オリンパス株式会社 Orinpasu Kabushikigaisha)  admitted having resorted to window dressing in the past. During the 1990s, at least $1.4 billion of losses were covered up using various types of window dressing. Surprising is that it took more than 20 years before it was discovered. In fact, it was brought into the light by a foreigner, the Briton Michael Woodford, who was sacked few days after becoming CEO of the company. Woodford had questioned the chairman about more than a billion dollars used as “advisory fees” to acquire some small-scale companies and firms. Advisory fees should be added up between 1% – and 2%  of the total deal. In the purchase of Gyrus, a British medical equipment firm, Olympus paid $687 million as advisory fees to unknown, firms Axes and Axam, situated on the Cayman Islands, what makes up for a third of the acquisition price. Apparently they used the fees to hide the long-standing losses of the past two centuries.

They didn't smile for long. - Telegraph.co.uk

They didn’t smile for long. – Telegraph.co.uk

Olympus’ scandal, though good for “the largest accounting fraud in Japan’s corporate history”, reminds us of the common accounting practice (tobashi 跳ばし) at the end of the bubble economy in 1990. Companies in debt transferred their bad assets or loans to dummy companies, so losses didn’t show up in the bookkeeping.

"Well yeah, we're kinda sorry for two decades of fraud..." The guardian.com

“Well yeah, we’re kinda sorry for two decades of fraud…” – theguardian.com

Interesting as well is the suggestion of newspaper Sankei that Olympus gave the yakuza, the Japanese mafia, some pocket-money, a tidy amount of $1.5 billion. Not much is written about that on the Internet, but I suspect it revolves around sōkaiya 総会屋, what means hiring yakuza to a) disrupt the shareholder meeting or b) prevent disruption of the shareholder meeting. Companies invite the yakuza to their own meetings for option b. For example, if a shareholder questions a certain policy of the company, he is threatened by the yakuza. Or they start making trouble in order to close the meeting and avoid further questions.

2. Insider Trading and Pump and Dump

Insider trading occurs when a trade has been influenced by the privileged possession of corporate information that has not yet been made public. Because the information is not available to other investors, a person using such knowledge is trying to gain an unfair advantage over the rest of the market. (Investopedia)

Pump and dump is a form of stock manipulation that involves artificially inflating the price of an owned stock through false and misleading positive statements, in order to sell the cheaply purchased stock at a higher price. Once the operators of the scheme “dump” their overvalued shares, the price falls and investors lose their money. Stocks that are the subject of pump and dump schemes are sometimes called “chop stocks”. (Wikipedia)

Drama case: Kurosagi



The swindler-who-swindles-other-swindlers Kurosaki poses as Yamashita, and tells Shiraishi, the swindler, that he wants to buy out Skybio Industry, a small company with a lot of potential. He asks Shiraishi to sell stocks in their new company. Shiraishi hears that a lot of great companies want to buy Skybio as well, so he sees an opportunity to con Yamashita. He suggests stock manipulation by insider trading. First, when Skybio enters the market, you have to buy as much stock as possible. Next, you spread the news about the purchase. Reputation of both companies will grow, and the stock value will increase. Then, you sell the stock you bought at a high profit range. If you have made a large sum of money, you spread the rumor that  the company is not to be sold. Stock prices will immediately drop, and you can buy shares again at a cheap price.

Actual case: Recruit

The Recruit scandal is connected with insider trading and corruption. It is quite famous because it forced a cabinet to resign. Hiromasa Ezoe, chairman of Recruit, offered stocks of the subsidiary Cosmos to many politicians before the company entered the public market. When it did in 1986, share prices skyrocketed and a lot of money disappeared in the pocket of Diet members. Two years later, about 47 politicians were found guilty of insider trading or receiving special favors, among them prime minister Takeshita Noboru and former PM Nakasone Yasuhiro. Not only did the cabinet resign, it was also the end of the LDP’s continuous reign since 1955, as Hosokawa Morihiro won the elections in 1993.



Facts for Fun

– If you are more fond of Korean drama, I can recommend Midas, a drama about money and how to earn it in a most effective (and most illegal) way.


– Wikipedia and Investopedia
Skinner, Douglas J. “Japan’s ‘Window Dressing’ Hid Olympus Fraud: Douglas J. Skinner.” Bloomberg, n.d. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-01/japan-s-window-dressing-hid-olympus-fraud-commentary-by-douglas-skinner.html.
– “Camera-maker Olympus admits to window-dressing books.” Domain-b, n.d. http://www.domain-b.com/management/m_a/20111108_olympus_corp.html.
Facts and details
– Inagaki, Kana, and Phred Dvorak. “Olympus Admits to Hiding Losses.” Wall Street Journal, November 8, 2011, sec. Business. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204190704577024680506345936.html.
Miyazaki Manabu