In mid 2008 Namie Amuro and Double got together to shoot a music video- Black Diamond, and I was one of the extras on the shoot. I didn’t get to meet them, nor take a photo with them, this is the story of my experience on the shoot. The photo is me with one of the other extras.
On Monday I got an email from Maiko, one of my students, saying- “Can I call you with my friend tonight?” It seemed a little mysterious- but she’s a friend as well as a student, so of I course I said yes.
That night she called, we had a little chit-chat, then she handed me off to the friend. The friend turned out to be Yaco, a fluent-in-English casting agent who was urgently looking for background extras to take part in an all-night music video shoot on Wednesday with 2 mega famous J-pop starlets.
Well, I was a bit blown away, but figured I could fit it into my schedule.
Yaco told me it was a casino-scene shoot way out in Minami-Machida (South CityField) near where I used to live, from 6pm Wednesday til 4am Thursday morning. The J-pop stars would be Namie Amuro and Double. I’d need to wear a suit and tie, and would be paid.
I confirmed on the spot, she confirmed back, and I got onto Wikipedia immediately to find out who the J-pop girls were.
Namie Amuro it turns out is enormously famous, and influential. She got started in the big-time around 1995 with her hit single- Try Me (on YouTube) with the Super Monkeys. Following that she had a bunch of Number 1 hits, made a ton of money, and sparked off the Ganguro (cancer-black) fashion trend that we can still see around Tokyo today. It involves super-dark tans, strong black eyeliner, white lipstick and eyeshadow, bleached hair, mini-skirts, a Hawaiian theme, and lots of supplementary plastic jewellry and stuffed toys.
Double, real name Takako, is one of the biggest R&B stars in Japan. From around 1996 she was part of a sister-act (‘Double’) with her sister Sachiko until Sachiko died in 1999 of a blood disease. The two got their start with regular shows at the US air-base in Yokota, the first Japanese musicians to do so in 27 years. After her sisters death, Takako took some time off, then went solo, keeping the old duo’s name ‘Double’ for herself.
At the moment she’s making a compilation disc of collaborations between her and other J-pop stars- one of which will be the track she worked on with Amuro. The release date is 5/28, so probably the video will be out around then.
You can see Double’s website here.
So- onto the shoot.
I met Yaco at the Grandberry Mall entrance at Minami-Machida station, on Wednesday at 6pm. She was super friendly and glamorous-looking herself. She took me to meet a bunch of other extras, 3 big black guys- Chris, John, and Paris, 3 big black or Hispanic girls- I didn’t get their names, a big J-guy called Teddy, a Dominican called Julio, a J-lady called Sheri (holla Sheri!), a young J-girl called Haruka, and various others.
We all went to a ware-house kind of area, and were shepherded into a CAST room, where they plied us with rice-balls, Aquarius, Coke, and various sembe and chocolate-type nibbles.
So, we hung out. After about an hour they brought out croupier uniforms for 3 of us. The big black guys and Teddy could no way fit in them, so it fell to me, Julio, and one other guy whose name I didn’t get. Here’s a picture of me in my croupier’s outfit- along with one of the extras we later met- Yuui:
Around 8 they called us into the casino-set for the first time. I’ve got pictures, they’re bad (stealth camera phone), and I feel like I shouldn’t post them because I assume we weren’t supposed to take any shots. Actually I posted them at first, but I felt like I was breaking unwritten rules, so I’ve taken them down now.
They had three tables- BlackJack, a big Wheel of Fortune, and a Roulette table. Which did I choose? Of course, Roulette. Come on!
They had hired in a little old pro croupier guy, who nipped between the tables and taught we 3 croupiers how to run them. Now I can spin a Roulette table, take bets, fire off the ball, and pay out chips. Though several times, during shoots, I managed to fire the ball completely out of the table and across the floor somewhere. Happily this never caused a cut or a re-shoot. Phew!
In the first shoot, which lasted til about 10, we were dancing, while the back-dancers did their routine in front of us, and the 2 female stars did their thing at the front. Which reminds me, when anyone of importance came onto the set we all gave them a big applause and cheer. It was just generally understood that this was done, I guess. I enjoyed taking part. It’s nice to put people on a pedestal and treat them as if they’re special. I don’t know why.
I met a few guys at the table, who were doing the shoot as a favor (ie- unpaid!). One, Robert, was from Swindon, about my age, and running his own Talent Management company bringing Chinese talent into Japan. Very impressive. He actually knew Namie Amuro, which kind of befuddled me. Between takes he’d go over, sit in the directors area, and chat with her. I was awed. And he probably had less Japanese than me. He’s also a writer for Metropolis- he wrote this article about the porn star Sola Aoi, meaning he’d met her, which also awed me. We had some interesting chats when he wasn’t chatting up the starlets.
After that we had a break for a few hours, ate a few rice-balls, some kara-age chicken. I chatted to Sheri and Teddy a bunch, met a French-Japanese kid called Snooky who was a big Amuro fan, hung out with Paris and Julio, and had a laugh.
For the next round of shoots they’d moved the tables around. I still presided over the Roulette table, but now the camera was right behind me, and the starlets were to walk around the front of my table, then round behind me, with the camera on them at all times. So there should be a few shots of my back, and the back of my head! I have a double-ponytail, just so you know.
Later they took off my vest and bow-tie and put me at the top of the steps chatting with Yui, directly behind Double. We chatted about Yui’s job as a Hip-hop dance teacher while they filmed Double in front of us, so look out for that.
One point about both Amuro and Double- they were tiny. Amuro most of all, just tiny, small and very thin, super delicate. It’s strange, but also kind of nice to put something so small and delicate on this pedestal. She may be tiny but I suppose she must work very hard, to get where she is, and to stay there.
After that long session, until around 2am, we hung out in the CAST room for a while, everyone tired and sleepy. I chatted to Sheri about ‘the Life of Pi’ book, which we both enjoyed.
They took some final footage of me and my crew on the Roulette table around 4am, then it was all over. 5am rolled by and we sat around waiting for the van that would drive us back to Shinjuku. Haruka surprised us all by being only 17! I felt for sure she was closer to my age.
All in all, a great experience. I got paid to hang around with cool and interesting people, be near to famous and successful people, and have a good time. Let’s do it again!
Alright- here it is!
You can see me at:
0:09 – at the roulette table
0:43 – you can see my profile as the girls walk by me
0:50 – you can see my back as the girls walk by
0:53 – you can see me at the railing in a white shirt behind Double- but the railing is blocking my face!!
0:59 – another shot of my back
Double is the taller one, with darker skin and tighter curly hair.
The two bodyguard guys are Teddy- the big guy, and I forget the other guy’s name. They had to stay the latest to shoot that bit, like 6am, and were not happy!
The English lyrics go like this:
When you meet a guy who’s fly always call him Black Diamond,
Its hard to find the one but girls try to search for him,
We’re gonna fight for him but I know who will win,
I am a winner (?) so I’ll get Black Diamond!
My favorite part is when the girls are in a circle and Black Diamonds are floating around them and the girls are singing-
Black, Diamond, Black, Diamond.
Well, that’s my dalliance with the stars done with.
If you like this post- check out other ancient/modern slices of the Japanese cultural pie in the culture/events gallery.
Also, why not click one of the bookmarking links below, to let other people know about this great little post? Thanks!