Five Things 'Big In Japan' Director Learnt While Chasing Fame

14 December 2017 | 5:39 pm | David Elliot Jones

"Perhaps fame is one way for us to find a sense of purpose and meaning."

What is fame? Why do we want it? And what does it take for an ordinary person to get it? These are the questions that three Aussie filmmakers set out to answer in their documentary, Big In Japan.

Star and co-director, David Elliot-Jones, moved to Tokyo to find out, and with the film’s release slated for January, he tells us what he learnt from the four-year ride.

Japan is a zany alternate reality for fame-seeking foreigners

Lost in Translation is real! Just ask Bob “The Beast” Sapp, the 6”5, 160KG American fighter turned Japanese TV sweetheart who was once named ‘The Most Famous Foreigner’ in Japanese showbiz history by TIME magazine, despite being relatively unknown in his home country. In Tokyo, there are dozens of foreign talent agencies dedicated to placing foreigners from all walks of life in ads and TV shows. There’s even a category of celebrity known as gaijin tarento (foreign talent) reserved for foreigners.

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Typecast yourself to “jump-start” fame

Despite being hopelessly untalented, I could play the ‘awkward nerd’ well because that’s who I am already. In my early days as the fame guinea pig, I found myself cast in dorky roles on Japanese recreation dramas. We amplified my nerdish qualities by buying crazy nerd costumes and getting professional photos to add to my portfolio. Soon enough I became the go-to foreign nerd in Tokyo.

The pursuit of fame is an extension of something that exists in all of us

Exploring the nature of fame through the journeys of foreign celebrities in Japan, we discovered that there was something innately human about chasing fame. Who doesn’t want to be loved, appreciated, valued or remembered? As a self-aware species, it’s tricky for humans to live in the moment and experience life for what it is. Perhaps fame is one way for us to find a sense of purpose and meaning.

Fame can make you happy, but it isn’t for everyone

Western culture tells us that fame is something to lust over, with reality shows like American Idol and Masterchef that celebrate triumphs of ordinary people. But fame isn’t what it used to be. You might get millions of views for cementing your head in a microwave, but there are serious questions about whether the perks outweigh the price. In our two-year investigation, we discovered that fame could deliver genuine happiness and a sense of belonging, but also involved seriously hard work, sacrifice and, ironically, isolation.

Wandering the streets in nothing but a loincloth never gets any easier

From Shibuya Crossing to Comiket, and meandering through Tokyo’s famous parks, Onigiri Man’s public appearances were never easy. No matter how many people got a giggle from seeing an almost naked foreigner wandering the streets as a popular lunch food, it was always excruciatingly difficult! Just between you and me, it took a bit of dutch courage!

Click here for info on special Q&A screenings around the country.