Times have changed.  Kids in Japan today aren’t interested in the safe jobs of yesteryear of the doctor-accountant-and-lawyer set, they are hankering after the ‘star factor’. So much so, acting and singing schools for kids are now thriving enterprises.

Local talent variety shows and ‘Glee’, the American drama, are the most watched shows on TV in Japan. Acting, singing and dancing skills and abilities are considered far cooler things to have under their belt than stellar grades in math or science. Most high schools have dance and drama afterschool clubs, many of them call themselves the Glee Club. Even the middle and high schools that my son and daughter attend have terrific hiphop and other performance arts clubs, and their teen club groups out on heartstopping shows for their school Open Day concerts. Last time I attended my son’s school event, I saw a packed gym of girls screaming their hearts out as a group of ikemen (good-looking) boys gyrated and sang on stage.

Proof of the popularity of all things showbiz and theatre and performing arts among the young, is the burgeoning growth of acting, singing and dance classes for kids, especially those at the Teaturo Akademi or Theatre Academy. It now has seven branches around the nation.

Watch this incredible clip (or the Youtube clip at the top of the page) which starts of showing the young talent-wars between China, Korea and Japan (in which Japan wins), and then it goes on to show the interviews with the young prodigies of Japan, how they prep for a part memorizing lines in one minute, and the classes of Teaturo Akademi at work.

Another school said to be possibly the most successful performing arts schools in Japan is the Okinawa Actors School. The school which has around 500 registered students has produced 30 pop stars.  “Namie Amuro, the super-idol whose fashion look caught on wildly among middle- and high-school girls in 1996, and who inspires religious adoration among teens. . . Speed, a group of four girls aged 14 to 17 that reigns supreme in the hearts of young people. . . Rina Chinen, who sings, acts, and appears in commercials. . . and Max, another four-girl group, whose wild dancing and singing captivates fans” — “What’s cool in Japan –The Okinawa Actors School

A placement at the school is harder to get than an Ivy League college … almost, in the summer of 1998, by popular demand, the school held nationwide auditions. Some 53,000 boys and girls aged 8 to 20 from around the nation applied; after the final selection, held at the Budokan (one of the largest concert halls in Tokyo) in August, only nine remained and were accepted at the school.

The Okinawa Actors School was founded in 1983 by Masayuki Makino and is focused on practical performing arts. The students range in age from elementary school kids through to high school age. The kids attend regular school for general education and The Actors School for dance, music, acting and English. The philosophy of the school is quite unique in that it concentrates on emotion and freedom rather than just technique although of course this important… Read more about it at ‘The Spill’| The Okinawa Actors School and see also The Okinawa Actors School – Looking to the future of education (by Kenny Ehman).

And actually, it isn’t just kids who are dazzled by the star factor, parents too. They call it an oyako-boom (a parent-and-child boom).