Despite birthing such bizarre popular phenomena as anime, the Japanese are generally considered to be a rather serious people. Their modern economy is built around stoic salary-men working long days and nights. Their students study more for Japan’s infamous college entrance examinations than most American students study in the entirety of their college career. Finally, Japanese housewives, or ‘shufu,’ are up before the sun preparing breakfast and boxing lunches. The shufu perform household chores, cook dinner and tutor students without rest. The seriousness and rigor of this society cannot be underestimated.
One might expect, then, that they would shun away from April Fool’s Day as an unserious holiday, a waste of time. The truth, as is often the case with the Japanese, is not as expected.
In Japan, April Fool’s Day is sometimes directly translated to ‘shigatsu baka,’ but it is more commonly referred to by the name ‘eipuriru fuuru,’ a nippon- ized approximation of the English phrase ‘April fool.’ The holiday itself is not significantly different than its American counterpart: websites change layouts, companies release fake products and friends and family trick each other. Just as the Japanese approach their everyday lives and their confusing culture with an air of seriousness and commitment, their creativity and dedication to their tricks and hoaxes cannot be beat.
Americans have become all too familiar with Google HQ’s April Fool’s Day antics over the years. Google of Japan has also run a number of interesting announcements for fake products and services. A theme of working around Japan’s complex Kanji system provides a number of gags. The first is a newly designed Japanese keyboard featuring no fewer than 2,000 keys for the standard Kanji system used throughout Japan. Don’t worry, the system came equipped with two drumstick-like styluses used to type away at the multitude of keys. The drumsticks get incorporated into another faux Google typing product where the user’s Morse-code-like rhythm instructs the computer to type the necessary characters. Another website, ‘Binjin Tokei’ or ‘Beautiful girl clock,’ which usually features pretty women holding up signs with the current time, changes its theme to feature poorly cross-dressed men doing the same thing on April Fool’s.
Other fake products are just as ridiculous. Domino’s has released advertisements for fully prepared canned pizzas, although it was never made clear how one returns the delicious treat to a pielike state. Red Bull released a collection of 48 new flavors called ARB 48 (April Red Bull 48), inspired by the massive, 48 member Japanese Pop Group AKB 48 (Akihabra 48). The 48 different flavors in newly designed cans were to be released across Japan with questionable flavoring choices such as tofu, ginkgo leaf and natto, which translates to “Don’t eat this. Ever.”
Another questionable product was released from the makers of the famous instant cup ramen: an instant pudding cup requiring only the addition of hot water. Why would this product be released when pudding cups have existed for a number of years? The world may never know. Lastly, a new level of “questionable product” was achieved when movie posters and advertisements for a Japan-exclusive “Back to the Future IV” started showing up in subways and on billboards. The reader is left to their own thoughts on the terrors that this particular film would present.
Even the serious, big time Japanese newspapers have gotten in on the fun in recent years. Stories have been run featuring a giant new penguin species found and adopted into the Tokyo Ueno Zoo, complete with a photograph of what is obviously a man in a penguin suit standing in the penguin exhibit. Hoax stories have included Astroboy-style repair robots sent to fix war damages in Iraq and ranged from the discovery of massive, politically destabilizing oil reserves beneath Japan to the replacement of government retirement pensions with lottery tickets, all of which lead to hilarious consequences. So if you’re in Japan’s Tokyo Shibuya station and you see construction for a new Final Fantasy style save point, don’t be surprised. Just laugh it off and remember that the Japanese take their hoaxes and tricks just as seriously as their everyday lives.
Shinichi, despite the name, is an American citizen, not a foreign exchange student. His parents disowned him 3 years ago when he received a ‘B’ in Professor Butler’s MATH 122, but he’s pretty sure they still love him.