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Sat, Dec. 29th, 2007 02:03 am
From milk to eternity

Milk is the fluid produced by female mammals to nurture their offspring: this much we know. It's also the name of a French magazine about children's fashion. This spring MilK (the mix of lower case and caps is part of the magazine's logo, as it is in FRUiTS) launched a sister edition in Japan. MilK Japon published its fourth issue earlier this month. The cover is rather lovely; a photograph by Koomi Kim of idol-turned-actress-turned-mother Isshiki Sae, heavily pregnant.



"Maternity is eternity" is MilK Japon 4's theme. To understand the symbolism of the cover, you have to know that Isshiki Sae, now 30, shot to fame in 1992 at the age of just 15 when she became "that girl in the Pocari Sweat commercials".

I remember that summer well. For me, too, Japan in 1992 tastes of Pocari Sweat. In June I flew there with my band (Douglas, Damian, Neill and Tour Manager Tammy) for the first time. My immediate impression was of the intensely humid Pacific heat, the tropical sun beating down on the Narita tarmac. Toshi from Creative Man Productions led us straight to a vending machine and bought all five of us cans of Pocari Sweat. We'd never heard of it before; I remember we laughed at the name. Toshi told us it was a beverage launched with the idea that it should be "a drip feed you can drink". We opened the slim blue cans with their Coke swoosh-like logos, swigged the fluid inside. Not bad. Refreshing, anyway, and not too sweet. The semi-translucent fluid had a faint zing of distant grapefruit suspended in a chalky, alkaline body. "My life water," Isshiki Sae calls it in the 1992 commercial:



Half way through the commercial Sae tweaks her swimsuit open a chink and looks down at her flat breasts as if to say either "Nope, nothing there yet" or perhaps "Something stirring". Perhaps there's a memory of that forlorn, hopeful gesture in Koomi Kim's image for MilK. Here, the 30 year-old Sae has milk-ready breasts and her belly bulges with new life. Twice the age (and twice the size) she was in her 1992 commercial, Sae is a grown woman. She's replaced the cute anxiety of that chest-glimpse with an expression of Mona Lisa-like serenity, a quiet belly-pride. Clearly, she's discovered a different kind of "life water" -- one that connects her body, through sweat and pleasure, milk and maternity, to eternity.

It's a beautiful image of fertility, and -- in the life cycle of Japan -- it comes not a moment too soon (and perhaps a moment or two too late). Because in 2005 Japanese deaths per thousand overtook Japanese births per thousand. More people are dying now in Japan than being born. Sae is keeping ahead of the replacement rate (the new baby is her third child or possibly even her fourth), but Japan isn't doing quite as well. And, while maternity may be one route to eternity, death is forever too.

33CommentReply

som_o
som_o
som_o
Sat, Dec. 29th, 2007 02:32 am (UTC)

I really like your last sentence in this post... and i'm so much more for death as eternity than maternity as eternity... especially in the context of state sexual and population politics...

but i think the interesting thing about the milk image is that sae precisely seems *not* to have gone through the 'development' that you suggest. she looks as young as before, her body as slim and youthful, her breasts small... it seems as though, once she's given birth she'll be able seamlessly to go back to climbing palm trees, cartwheeling, etc. .. to be as supremely 'mobile' as she was with 'pocari sweat' ...

the only thing that seems different is the ring...


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funazushi
funazushi
funazushi
Sat, Dec. 29th, 2007 02:38 am (UTC)

I wonder is the low birth rate in Japan has something to do with the amount of Japanese women who are now living outside the country and choosing to raise their children there. If the amount of Japanese women who are having children in Toronto is any indication then this may be the case. So much so in fact, that friends have started a publication(Mamma Magazine) here to meet that demographic. www.mammamag.ca
Though not featuring the fecundity of Japanese idol, it does, I can say with some pride, feature my daughter, Sophia on the debut issue


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stretchling
stretchling
Stretchling
Sat, Dec. 29th, 2007 04:53 am (UTC)

Pretty sentences this time, sir :)


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pay_option07
pay_option07
Sat, Dec. 29th, 2007 05:26 am (UTC)
maternity may be one route to eternity, death is forever too.

Under all the cultural and intellectual blankets that keep us warm and cozy is it not the cycle of life that like children kicking and screaming in what ever manner we express the job your doing, or have I had too much eggnog!
Post Modern Nihon aesthetics have reproduction on the zero setting. Examples being movies like Dragonhead, Battle Royale, that questions genetic programing. TV soaps I've seen and liked left the the hot to trot on the line with the wash.
It is all MOEEEE to me!


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microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Sat, Dec. 29th, 2007 08:06 am (UTC)

Weren't you supposed to (or did you) write an article for MilK on children's fashion? Or am I off my rocker?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Dec. 29th, 2007 08:20 am (UTC)

I've never written for MilK, but there's a (very good) German kids' fashion mag called Kidswear that I wrote a short story for a couple of years back. Here's the Mike Meire spread from the current issue:



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(Anonymous)
Sat, Dec. 29th, 2007 10:40 am (UTC)

The symbolism of the cover? Do you think they might have put her on the cover because she is pregnant, a model/actress, and they needed someone who was pregnant and a model/actress? No offence, but I doubt anyone but you was thinking about pokari sweat. They all moved on.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Dec. 29th, 2007 10:49 am (UTC)

Yeah, right. Not clutching a can of pokari sweat, not talking about your 1992 tour. She may be thinking of something else.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Dec. 29th, 2007 11:00 am (UTC)

Tsk, willful misreading. Where do I say she's thinking of my first Japanese Tour? My point is that Japanese viewers of this photo may very well complete its meaning by relating it to their own first sighting of Miss Isshiki in that Pokari Sweat commercial back in 1992, and particularly the wistful peek she takes down the front of her swimsuit in that commercial. Her maternity, so proudly displayed here, is the banishment of that wistfulness. Milk is the connection.

Pay attention at the back!


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Dec. 29th, 2007 11:29 am (UTC)

I get it! You are saying she looked down at her small breasts and felt sadness that she was not pregnant at 15.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Dec. 29th, 2007 11:33 am (UTC)

No.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand


electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Sat, Dec. 29th, 2007 01:55 pm (UTC)

D-, needs moar pictures of you drooling milk.


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microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Sat, Dec. 29th, 2007 08:48 pm (UTC)

YES PLZ I CONCUR


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Dec. 29th, 2007 04:54 pm (UTC)

why you look always very tired momus?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Dec. 29th, 2007 06:34 pm (UTC)

me too muchy bloggin' for you, masa-non!

too little thanky, too little pay, day out, day in, slaving, just big big joke for you, masa, of course me get tired! worn to a shrinp, worn to a sliver slipper, masa.


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klasensjo
klasensjo
klasensjo
Sat, Dec. 29th, 2007 06:59 pm (UTC)

it comes not a moment too soon (and perhaps a moment or two too late)

and this begs the all so familiar question...never mind.


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spacecat2
spacecat2
Sat, Dec. 29th, 2007 07:40 pm (UTC)

I'm still not clear on why the population of Japan (or any other country) decreasing is a bad thing. And if it really is such a problem, then why don't they just relax adoption laws and encourage people to adopt children from overseas? I ask that rhetorically because I already know the answer is xenophobia.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, Dec. 30th, 2007 10:18 pm (UTC)
Milk

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yv8itNc7cb4


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