To say that the Japanese drama Beach Boys transformed my life is an understatement.
The series aired in Japan in 1997 and I recall first watching it on a Singapore TV channel in 1998 with Chinese subtitles. It was the first Japanese drama I had ever watched and it left a deep impression on me.
T-shirt and cargo pants
T-shirt and cargo pants were the fashion trend back in those days. Watching these idols sporting T-shirts and cargo pants in such a cool manner made me follow suit. However, I was unable to keep my hair long due to school rules.
It was almost a decade later before I started wearing anything other than T-shirt and cargo pants. That was when I entered the emo punk phase.
The drama is my gateway drug to Japanese culture. I became fascinated with the people, the place, and the language. This fascination grew and I started to watch anime, read manga, and listen to Japanese music.
I started to pick up Japanese on my own to be able to better understand the pop culture I consume.
Looking back, it was the rise of Japanese culture in Southeast Asia during that period of time that influenced my teenage years, and that of my peers. J-pop and J-rock were aired on TV channels. J-dramas were the rage along with anime. Even the game consoles and the games we played from SEGA, Nintendo, Konami and Square Enix hailed from Japan.
I consume a lot of Japanese media to this day, but I will always remember Beach Boys as the one that opened the doors to the world of Japanese culture. And Japan still remains my favourite travel destination.
Be a beach boy
Growing up in a city, I was going through a phase of yearning for country life. Beach Boys showed me what life could be in the seaside.
I love the beach. Put me at a beach with a cold beer and a good book, and it’s my paradise. Relaxing to the soothing rhythmic crash of the waves. Soaking in the warmth of the sun through skin lathered with sunscreen. Feeling the caress of the sea breeze heavy with the scent of brine.
Back when I was a pharmacist, I found myself on a beach every month, and at times every fortnight!
Web and graphic design
My current business revolves around design and new media industries. This is a culmination of my interest in web and graphic design that begun after I watched Beach Boys.
You might wonder, what does a J-drama have to do with web and graphic design? Well, back in 1998, there was a trend called fan shrine sites or fan sites. It was still the early days of the internet when people were on 56k dialup modems.
My classmates and I were obsessed with Japanese pop culture, so we were gobbling up content about J-dramas and actors, J-pop and J-rock stars, and anime.
We were also having basic HTML lessons in school on how to build a website. My classmate Lianchiu and I discovered Geocities, and eventually Angelfire, and started creating fan shrines for Gundam Wing and Beach Boys respectively.
It came to a point where the basic HTML I learnt in school was insufficient to create the look I wanted. So I borrowed books on HTML and CSS to teach myself more advanced web design.
We didn’t have a computer at home back then, so my access to computer and the internet outside of school was mostly from Internet cafes. Other kids went to the Internet cafes to play Red Alert, Might & Magic VI, Worms 2, or whatever the latest game was available back then. However, I was fiddling with Notepad to key in my web design code.
The Internet cafe charged by the hour back then and I had an hour a week, so I had to try and visualise the design in my head as I wrote down the HTML and CSS code on paper. I would then type it into the computer and discover how the code turned out while I was at the Internet cafe.
I was using images and GIFs I found online for my websites. However, as my web design skills and taste improved, it gradually became apparent that what I found was unable to suit my needs.
My designs required custom graphics and this pushed me to pick up graphic design. When I looked for HTML, CSS, and JS books in the library, I noticed books on Photoshop in the same section.
I started to fiddle with Photoshop and started to teach myself graphic design.
Creating these sites also got me into blogging. I worked several sites before starting this one in 2002. The blogging journey is a long story deserving of its own post another time.
Blogging led to me reading blogs by Danny Choo, Cheesie, Kenny Sia, and other well-known bloggers in the early 2000s. These people have and still inspire me even to this day.
As I wrote, there came a point where photos were becoming more important to tell a story. And this eventually led me to purchasing my first camera in 2009.
I got the camera mainly to document travel and my gunpla hobby, but it has since blossomed into a passion for street photography and a business that provides video and photography services.
When I was in university, I was looking for ways to make some pocket money. I started offering web design services as a freelancer.
I enjoyed web and graphic design. I had also started blogging. Writing for the web was an art form on its own. It was something I wanted to pursue in college. However, my parents were adamant that I pursue a healthcare profession. They reasoned that I could always take up another diploma or degree in the new media design field.
I practiced as a pharmacist for seven years. It was only five years after working as a pharmacist that I thought of allowing myself to do design work.
My plan was to work for two years to give it a try, since I spent four years to study the degree and another year to get my pharmacist license. But the job was too comfortable and I ended up in the industry for seven years.
I was having a quarter-life crisis in 2014 because I was turning 30. I quit my job to pursue design work full time. And this eventually brought me to Shenzhen where I’m based now.
Connecting the dots
Who would have known that watching a J-drama would lead me down such a path in life?
We can only connect the dots when looking backwards.
The power of such scripted scenarios and the writing also attracts me and inspires me to do do likewise when I write stories or video scripts.
I strive to distil what I’ve learnt and share it with people with hopes that they might find some positive impact in their lives, no matter how minuscule it is.
Lessons in life
Beach Boys also taught me a lot about life over the years. Each time I rewatched it at different stages in my life, I gained new insight.
I’ll be sharing the lessons in life I learnt from Japanese drama Beach Boys in the next post.
Have you watched Beach Boys before? If you did, what are do you remember from it? Has any TV shows impacted your life as much?
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