In early 2004, when I had just commenced a new research project on country girlhood, I was in Japan attending a conference on media audiences.1 I was presenting a paper on girls as not only ‘active’ audiences of media culture but also already thinking about fieldwork on the image and experience of Australian country girlhood that lay ahead of me. I was thus especially struck by the accessibility, for me, of certain kinds of Japanese and Korean television drama. Japanese language and culture are not completely inaccessible to me, and some popular Japanese forms are easier for an English speaker with limited Japanese than others. But unlike sho¯jo manga (girls comics) and sho¯jo zasshi (girls magazines), where the wide use of hiragana and katakana (the phonetic Japanese character sets) and practice of phonetically glossing kanji make them easier for me to read, on television it is usually transnational generic forms which allow me access to Japanese popular culture. For example, while generic distinctions between game shows and talk shows are far less clear in
Japan than in Australia, I can still recognize many key conventions and translate those programmes into my own television experience. But television soap opera (terebi dorama) conveys its forms to me far more clearly, whether ‘primetime’ or daytime versions. Visual, production and narrative style all contribute to this accessibility. The recognizable genre cues of mainstream pop music, for example whether J-Pop, K-Pop, Canto-pop or Anglo pop music help demarcate for me which dramas are meant to appeal directly to girls and which are not. But among the narrative cues orienting me within Japanese drama at this time one trope stood out, hailing me as a person who knew this story across various genres and, it seemed, different cultural boundaries. This was the figure of the country girl.