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  • Kirk Masden resuscitates debate on TV Asahi show KokoGaHen

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on May 9th, 2009

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
    Hi Blog.  Happy Saturday.  Word from Kirk Masden at The Community, regarding a dead but not forgotten controversial TV show called “Koko Ga Hen Da Yo, Nihonjin”.  Keyboard’s his:


    Hi Community!

    I posted a critique of Koko ga hen da yo (particularly one of the opening sequences they used) on YouTube:

    It’s getting a stronger response than anything I’ve posted to YouTube thus far.  Much of the commentary is negative but the first three ratings it received were five stars.  Since then somebody who hates my  view of the show gave it a low rating so now the average is four  stars.  People seem to either love my critique or hate it — not much middle ground so far.

    At any rate, if you’re interested in this show, please have a look —  and feel free to tell others with an interest in media critique about  it. Kirk



    Thanks Kirk.  I watched the YouTube entry last night and was very intrigued by it, especially given our own experience being on the show, re the Otaru Onsens Lawsuit:

    Transcript of the show at:

    and my positive critique of the show in retrospect:
    (page down to essay 8 )

    I was also impressed with Kirk’s flawless accentless spoken Japanese, as always.  Gnash.



    Hi everyone!

    In regard to the timing of my post . . .

    Actually, I’m posting to YouTube now because I didn’t have the
    technical know-how to do so when I first recorded the show and started
    showing parts of it in my comparative culture class.  I was
    particularly bothered by the opening but lacked the ability to slow it
    down appropriately to give people a chance to think about it.  Since
    then, I’ve learned a bit more about video editing and so when I was
    going through some old VHS tapes and found the Koko ga hen da yo
    video, I could resist the temptation to make that kind of critique I
    had been meaning to make for years.

    What was interesting to me was the immediacy of the response.  There
    must be a significant number of people who periodically search for
    segments of that show on YouTube because my little video was found
    immediately by a significant number of people.  Those who have rated
    my critique on the five-star scale have, for the most part, been quite
    generous but those who first found it and wrote comments were
    decidedly negative.  I guess that had been searching for more videos
    of their favorite show and didn’t appreciate negative comments about it.

    So, in short, the show has been off the air for a long time but there
    still seem to be a lot of people want to watch it on the web.  Kirk


    What do others think?  Debito


    7 Responses to “Kirk Masden resuscitates debate on TV Asahi show KokoGaHen”

    1. Andrew Smallacombe Says:

      Saw Kirk’s analysis of the show, and while I’m not 100% convinced of his interpretations, he’s certainly made some excellent points. Hats off to him.
      I never really watched the show – I didn’t like the notion of “us” and “them”, “100 foreigners vs. ~” etc, and couldn’t stand some of the personalities (particularly that individual who seemed to hate everyone for being someone other than him)
      If Kirk feels up to doing more, I’d love to see them.

    2. Maria Says:

      WOW! I never thought so much about the show but there are some really interesting points…actually I really liked this show and kind of always wanted to go on some time…I’m one of those people that now watches little snippets. Actually I never paid attention to the opening ever…not even one time in all the time that I watched the show and I think if I had I would have found it kind of disturbing for real!

      …however some of the commentary did seem like a stretch (the jack hammer part especially). I think it is interesting that even if the people who developed the opening did have anything in particular in mind then it kind of really shows a subconscious level of bias that might be prevalent.

      on a completely different topic that might be inappropriate to post here but I really want to know: does anyone (debito ha?) know what happened to Children’s Right Network Japan? Is it going to be renewed? It had a lot of articles that I thought were important to human rights issues in Japan

      — I’m afraid I don’t know what happened to CRNJ.

    3. GiantPanda Says:

      I was at the end of a meeting with my real estate agent on the weekend. It has overall been a not unpleasant experience – the guy is quite personable and has avoided making a big deal out of the novelty of dealing with a gaijin (hey – in this economy, he really needs the commission!). But when we had finished up all the serious business he happened to mention that he really used to like watching this show “koko ga hen”. He asked me if there was anything that I thought was really strange about the Japanese.

      The question made me a bit uncomfortable, and I ended up saying that I had been living in Japan too long so I was too used to things here to think that anything much was strange anymore.

      But afterwards, when I was turning things over in my mind I realised why the question made me uncomfortable and what I should have replied. By asking a quesion like that, he was reminding me all over again (like I need reminding…) of the “us” and “them” dichotomy. With me clearly being one of “them”. And this is why I dislike “koko ga hen”. The constant emphasis on how different Japanese are from foreigners.

      Anyway, what I should have replied was this: Japanese people are the same as people anywhere. Some of the customs in this country are not familiar to foreigners, because they grew up with a different culture and different customs. But Japanese by and large love their children, they work to support their families, and they eat, drink and sleep just like everyone else. There are many more similarities between Japanese and foreigners than there are differences.

      But I guess a show focusing on how similar Japanese are to everyone else in the world is not going to get great ratings is it?

    4. Joeman67 Says:

      Maria – are you looking for ?

    5. Jeremy Says:

      Thanks for putting this up. I enjoy cultural comparison, but this show didn’t seem to do it with any sort of respect. I’d really like an English translation of the voiceover, for those of us whose Japanese isn’t quite up to scratch.

      To pick up on comment #3, I wouldn’t mind a show that (tastefully) compares various cultures against each other, as well as Japan. My intercultural communication class recently had a section on how Polish is more direct than English, and every Japanese person I told was shocked. Even my friends, who I would consider worldly and well-travelled, seem to think everyone else in the world speaks English and is exactly the same. It’s weird, but I also saw lots of similarities when I went back to the Midwest USA for a visit.

    6. Getchan Says:

      Sorry for this drive-by post – couldn’t resist. I was on the show from 1999 to 2003 (Debito can vouch for it – he knows my identity, and we also met on the show). Kirk Marsden
      1) seems to analyze the last bits and pieces of the show. The introduction has been aired during the last months of the show and is by no means representative. Also, the clippings were taken from the last few shows, those about supernatural powers, hypnosis etc., that were aired when the producers had already run out of topics (and those we have always been keen to discuss were off limits – police, immigration etc.) and decided to cancel the show by the end of the quarter.
      2) seems to overlook, that the one participant who poses as very aggressive, was the one and only participant who can rightfully be called a mole – Japanese TV “tarento” Kevin Clone, who – due to his birth on US soil – can pass as a US citizen. His real name is Keito Ochi, born stateside to Japanese parents, and planted to stir up lots of the brown smelly mass. Which is why he was not too popular with the rest of us, to say the least. So he is by no means representative. Even though the producers prodded us for heated arguments, most of us were more interested in getting our points across with the side-effect of having some fun in the process.

      If you expect foreigners to discuss various problems on TV in a calm and academic manner, you’d better watch NHK and look out for participants with proper credentials. The show had been conceived as a “variety show”, i.e. pure entertainment, not as a scientific debate. So I was quite surprised when countless friends, colleagues and customers (not all, but the vast majority!) told me, that they took the contents of the show as constructive criticism of Japanese society, with people telling me “If you guys don’t open your mouths, no one will!”.
      Also, the show wasn’t conceived for a foreign audience, it was conceived for a Japanese audience. And, just like manga-like instructions that come with your new Japanese PC, things for a Japanese audience need to be packed properly to come across as intended. I happen to know many of the producers (including those who had been kicked out in the process), and their intent was definitely not to show us NJ as aggressive monsters, but as people who talk straight and have fun at the same time.
      I recall two instants, when I had discussions with Prof. Masuzoe, now a cabinet member, but then a TV “tarento” as well as a respected academic. We were discussing social welfare in Europe, and the Kosovo War. Both discussions were lengthy, calm and factual – in other words: NHK-like. Which is why they were cut out, even though Takeshi had been listening attentively.
      My point? Being, that I missed wrapping my arguments in a way that made them fit into a “variety show”…
      Every coin has two sides, and I wish Kirk Marsden looked at the other side as well. I’m still getting positive comments for the show, and they are by no means “gomasuri”… 😉
      Back to work… 😉

    7. john s Says:

      I thought the jackhammer comment was particularly on target (and amusing). THere’s no accounting for interpretation, I guess.

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