ARTS & CULTURE
03/14/2013 04:47 pm ET | Updated Mar 14, 2013

Wao Ryu, Japan's First Subculture Web Channel, Is Not As Freaky As You'd Think

Need to shine up your Harajuku girl wardrobe? A step-by-step tutorial awaits at Wao!Ryu, an online channel that claims to be the first to devote itself to Japanese subcultures. With a goal like that, we expected at least a few NSFW moments, but the clips on Wao!Ryu (translation: "Wow!Trend") all seem pretty SFW so far, with such earnest, informative titles as, "Okaki: Japans' Traditional Snack," and "Escalator," which, yes, is actually about escalators! Moving staircases, our friendly American host explains, hold a mirror up to Japanese society -- they represent both innovation and rules. Duh!

About that friendly American host, he's crucial to the operation. Much of Wao!Ryu is geared to non-Japanese audiences, with programming all in English, according to a press release. And while some titles presume pre-existing interest ("How To Enjoy Anime 100 Times More," for ex.), others are expressly hosted by what the site calls "gaijin," the controversial Japanese term for foreigners. The pitches are couched in pretty stark Orientalist terms, as in the case of "Only In Japan" (the escalator show), a series that promises to show the "quirky, funny & amazing culture in a way only seen through the eyes of a foreigner!"

In our experience, foreigners mostly just want to know why tentacle porn exists. But we'll be staying tuned!

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