Modeling and Acting in Japan: A Tough Sell

February 14, 2008 at 10:07 am 3 comments

It seems like western actors and models are constantly making Japanese commercials or snagging the best Japanese modeling jobs. The other day I saw a post on Craig’s List seeking Caucasian and Caucasian/Asian mixed models, 18-24 years old, to live and work in Japan. On the surface it sounded cushy and exciting, especially because the poster claims to provide round trip airline tickets, housing, a minimum base salary of ¥ 200,000 per month (plus whatever you make modeling) and a six to ten month contract.


However, according to the Japan-based Arts C Models agency, “the hey-day for foreign models occurred from the mid 80’s to very early 90’s” when “the Japanese fascination with the west was at its peak.” Perhaps gaijins are not in such high demand right now after all. Actually booking jobs as a foreigner (even as a no-line extra), isn’t easy, as the blogger at Gaijin Tonic recently attested:

I signed up with an agency hoping to get some work as an extra. I thought it would be a laugh to be on TV in Japan, just once or twice, the token white face in the crowd. I failed even at that humble goal! Someone pointed out to me that extras are supposed to be unobtrusive and inconspicuous, and that as a towering 6’5″ blond oaf, I’d be the worst extra ever.

Even petite, slender model Elyse Sewell, a fan favorite from the inaugural season of America’s Next Top Model who went on to have a successful career in Hong Kong, had difficulty conquering the Japanese market.


Check out this 2004 exchange with her Japanese modeling agents, excerpted from her LiveJournal:

Kumi: Since the last time you here [in February], your who-o-ole image completely change.
Elyse: Oh, um, what do you mean, Kumi? [Assuming they’re about to tell me I look old or have ugly hair]
Kumi: Last time you here, you ve-e-ery kawai. Very, very thin.
Elyse: Have I put on weight?

Akemi makes the universal sign for “fat”: cheeks puffed out, hands gripping an imaginary Santa paunch.

Kumi: Yes, you put on kilos. Your whole body change. You got a big belly, big face…
Akemi: Don’t eat rice! Do exercises.
Kumi: Do walking.

Hmm, maybe if I walked more I could get a sweet modeling gig in Japan!


Sarah S.

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Entry filed under: Japanese Culture, Japanese Entertainment. Tags: , , , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Sydney  |  May 6, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    Cool.But yall know nothing about japan and neither do i.So where do i get info about it?Plz write me back.

  • 2. Sarah S.  |  February 21, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Hi, Randy! Thanks for the note and for adding us to your RSS feed. I hope you continue to enjoy the blog 🙂


  • 3. Randy Nichols  |  February 14, 2008 at 10:11 am

    I found your site on google blog search and read a few of your other posts. Keep up the good work. Just added your RSS feed to my feed reader. Look forward to reading more from you.

    – Randy Nichols.


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February 2008


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