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  • NHK’s “Cool Japan” keeps their guest NJ commentators naive and ignorant

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on June 25th, 2009

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    Hi Blog. Anyone seen an NHK show called “Cool Japan”? It’s a 45-minute show on late Tuesdays and Saturdays. Here’s the writeup from its website, courtesy of JB:

    COOL JAPAN – Discovering what makes Japan cool! COOL JAPAN is a term that describes the growing international interest in Japan. From the worlds of fashion, anime, architecture to cuisine, the cultural aspects of Japanese society that have long been left undiscovered are starting to make a strong impact on global trends. COOL JAPAN is a television show that illustrates the quickly changing Japanese culture and how it is perceived by the international community that have recently made Japan their home.

    http://www.nhk.or.jp/cooljapan/en/index.html

    What gets my goat is:

    We are looking for participants who have lived in Japan for less than one year to appear on the television show COOL JAPAN.
    (「COOL JAPAN」では出演してくれる来日して1年未満の外国人の方を募集しています。)

    And why pray tell is there a limitation on their NJ guests like this? I say they’re getting impressions from people who don’t know their ketsu from a doukutsu yet. Which means their guests about Japan don’t speak much, or any, Japanese. How throughly can you know Japan in less than a year, for crissakes? And their guests are mostly late-teens/early-twenties on top of that — with little to go on to comment about much at all. And they’re acting as cultural emissaries for “their own countries” and giving cross-cultural comparisons running on fumes? Sorry, that’s 3-Blind-Mice Ignorance. And it’s all by design. Through that one-year cap on experiences.

    Why not issue a public call for commentators, who actually have some deeper experience living in Japan, to contribute to the debate? Because “cool” is as deep as we want to go. Great social science, NHK. And I believe it adds to the lore within the Japanese viewership (that is who will mostly be watching this program, natch) that our society is impenetrable to the unfortunate hapless foreigners. But that’s still not their fault — they’re starry-eyed newcomers who’ll say something positive about Japan because they still feel like they’re guests. Feel-good broadcast pap TV funded by Japan’s most entrusted TV network.

    But then again I’m probably being a bit harsh. What do others who have seen the show think?

    Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    53 Responses to “NHK’s “Cool Japan” keeps their guest NJ commentators naive and ignorant”

    1. Gary Says:

      Exactly why limit it to 1 year,
      The amount of navel-gazing television that goes on in japan seems to me, a rather big sign of insecurity.

      to be honest I cant watch Japanese television as I find my IQ dropping by the minute…

    2. Bob Says:

      I have seen the show, and I think you may be a bit harsh, as you say. I interpret the show’s purpose to be, what does Japan look like through various Western eyes? Having people who have lived over a year in Japan on the show does, in my experience, substantively decrease one’s Western-ness and also one’s ability to perceive Japan as an extremely foreign place. I think that the call requires less than 1 year reflects positively on some recognition that being in Japan for a long period of time can transform one into a more Japanese and less ‘Foreign’ individual. I am far more offended when someone who has spent the last 20 years in Japan is called upon to represent the Western world as though they have any idea what it is like at present and as an individual will somehow faithfully represent it and its views.
      However, I of course agree with you that Japan and NHK don’t do much in the way of portraying the negative aspects of living in Japan as a foreigner, and I think those aspects are newsworthy because they can cause foreigners to choose to take their skills elsewhere.

      – Can these people “represent the Western world”?

    3. Tornadoes28 Says:

      You’re missing the point. The point of the show is the interest in Japan in other parts of the world. The point of the show is NOT the opinions of people who “thoroughly” know Japan. Therefore, they want people who are recently arrived from OTHER parts of the world. NOT people who have lived here a fairly long time.

      The show is not a “debate” therefore your suggestion to include people with “deeper experiences living in Japan to contribute to the debate” completely misses the point.

      Your idea for a show sounds like it should be called “Cool and Not so Cool Japan”. And it should include only experienced older foreigners who have lived in Japan a fair amount of time so they can provide their opinions on both the good things and the bad things about Japan.

      – Why the assumption that people here longer with more experiences means Japan becomes “Not So Cool”?

      All we should hope to want in any case in a very public and influential forum like television are people who can offer informed, balanced opinions, no?

      That said, I’m not sure I am missing NHK’s point.

    4. Tornadoes28 Says:

      Debito, the show premise is very clearly that of how aspects of Japan such as anime is popular in OTHER parts of the world. Therefore it makes sense to have the opinion of people from OTHER parts of the world. Since they are not going to go all over the world to interview people interested in these aspects, it is natural to interview newly arrived people. People who have resided in Japan for a long period of time would not fit because they were not recently living in OTHER parts of the world. You are clearly missing the premise of the show.

      – Thanks for explaining. What do others think?

    5. Em Says:

      It sounds like you’re flipping out over a website and have not actually watched that much of the show. If you would you’d notice that most of the regulars have been on the show for years. The one year thing is mostly to get freshness in amidst a bunch of people who this stuff is old hat to. Because honestly, what person who has been living in Japan is going to flip out on how cool nabe is, or vending machines?

      The entire cool Japan premise is not really, as other have said, the exploration of what’s cool overseas so much as it is finding cool in what are considered totally mundane and everyday things for Japan. So there’s a lot of topics on the show that anyone who lived in Japan for more than a few years, or are Japanese, are going to find ridiculously boring that they’re hoping a fresh pair of eyes can shed light on. When you watch the show they’ll ask Japanese people what if they think xx is cool and they’ll blink at you like you’re crazy. That’s the exact reaction they don’t want from the foreign panel on the show.

      Lots of the people on Cool Japan are very knowledgeable in Japan and Japanese cultural customs. And there are a lot of writers, artists, wives of embassy officials and the like who would be perfect cultural emissaries for their countries. And yes, there is a bit to complain about that NHK is not interested in further exploring either of those things as a part of a show, but that was never the premise of Cool Japan.

    6. Simon Says:

      Tornadoes28 is right on the mark. Again, Debito, Don Quixote. Read it sometime.

    7. nadrew Says:

      anyone know what it would take to pitch a show to the network? to co-opt the medium…

    8. iago Says:

      “anyone know what it would take to pitch a show to the network? to co-opt the medium…”

      I believe if you have a seat in the Diet, you may have a chance to influence the programming…

    9. nabe Says:

      well, I’ve been here 8 years and I applied for the show saying I lived here 11 months….
      Let the games begin!

    10. Jerry Says:

      I can’t remember the name of the show but there is (or was) a show that had a group of (mostly) Japanese speaking foreigners discussing their countries culture (it focuses on the foreign culture rather than the Japanese one). I’ll have to find the name if I ever get the remote back from my children. It might give you some faith in TV not just pandering to stereotypes.

    11. Peach Says:

      I am an Anthropologist on Japanese Material Culture, and have watched the show many times, and also own the books, and am a Foreigner!

      I think the point here is NOT as Tornado states ” The point of the show is the interest in Japan in other parts of the world”.

      The show is NOT aimed at “newly” interested foreigners. Nor is it a cross-cultural comparative, of what Japan has versus another country.
      (If you watch the show, yes the foreigners say, Japan has this, we don”t have this, etc… but they are never permitted to fully elaborate, there are 6 – 8 of them all from different countries, meaning the show would last hours if they were able to elaborate).
      Additionally almost all of the guest experts are ethnic Japanese (professors, and cultural elites) who give a bit of history and confirm that, yes the newly arrived foreigners view that these sometimes interesting, sometimes mundane Japanese things are definitely Cool

      The majority of the discourse focuses on what is “unique to Japan” that because, this singular Italian, or Canadian says they don’t have that in their country, definitely its “unique to Japan” and therefore Japan is COOL.

      And although this might seem harmless, the whole discourse just perpetuates the ‘myth of Japan’, aimed at a Japanese audience (or those who are clearly fluent in Japanese, as there is no English or any other language subtitles for non Japanese speakers.

      The purpose of the show, is to get new excited foreigners to say “oh yes I have never seen such a weird, wonderful, exciting thing, and wow yes Japanese people you are unique!” therefore we should congratulate ourself because foreigners think we are unique, yes we are unique compared to everyone else.”

      I don’t think Em, Debito is “flipping out over a website”. I think he is simply asking wouldn’t there be more depth to the show, if those foreigners who had been around for a bit and perhaps understood a bit more about the complexities of Japanese society and culture could contribute?

      And besides if we can discuss the uniqueness of Japanese wooden toy on NHK, why can’t we discuss these sorts of issues in a public forum. The media is a very powerful, and we should all be asking, what kinds of messages are they sending. If you chose to question thats up to you, if you chose to act thats up to you too. Discourse is a good thing!

    12. Scipio Says:

      I’ve watched the show loads of times, not me, the wife loves to naval gaze and Peach’s post says it all.

      Some people posting on here should watch the show before flaming Debito’s points. The agenda is not that subtle.

    13. Mike Says:

      Im with Debito on this one. [hyperbole deleted]. Im sick of the naive crap that foriegners right off the plane spew like they know whats up over here. You got to do the time first.

    14. phil Says:

      I find the show to be irritatingly shallow, and this impression pretty much jives with what Debito has set out above. The “premise” of the show, to give it an overly congratulatory name, merely replays the silly (and, at base, imperialist) notion that there are “natives” who “embody” their culture, that is, whose “nativeness” pervades their being as long as they remain pure from too long contact with foreign elements. It is an argument against learning and against multi-culturalism of any stripe.

      It reminds me of the professor cited by Debito some time ago who argued that foreign-born language teachers become useless as models of their “native” language after being contaminated by an increased familiarity with Japan. It’s chauvinistic rubbish, and the consequences are sometimes cruel (as in unjustifiable, rigid contract employment systems for foreigners). In the case of the NHK show, at least in the short term, the consequences are not so grave. Just another bad TV show to line up alongside all the others. Somebody pass the remote.

    15. mameha Says:

      Yes, it is self-congratulatory and throw-away but so what?

      The Sun is by far the biggest selling ‘newspaper’ in the UK, though actually it is a tabloid and contains no real news beyond sports. People like junk – junk TV, junk news, junk food. And where there is demand, supply will follow. Same with paparazzi photos – if people didnt buy those kind of magazines then paparazzo wouldnt exist. Its all the audiences fault.

      I guess the one argument you could use would be that NHK is a public broadcaster and has more responsibility than a commercial station.

      – Or that just because a group of people demand something they should be supplied it? That would justify an awful lot of abuse and self-abusive activities. I wouldn’t pursue this line of reasoning.

    16. km Says:

      Agreed with Debito and Peach.

      Japanese media would really do well to move beyond this kind of childish interfacing with other cultures. This society has so much untapped potential, and with so many generally good-natured people here it’s a shame that the powers that be keep on pooping out the notion that we can never really get to understand each other truly and deeply. That’s a shame, and a loss for both sides, in my opinion.

      It’s uncomfortable for those of us who are serious about being here (I’m still fresh under the one year mark myself!) to be constantly redirected into comparing our home country with Japan. One gets the sense of having passed through a big smokescreen, especially as you become able to understand and speak the language. Like a lot of things in Japan, good-natured but misdirected and ultimately willfully inaccurate at worst.

      To move past this involves a venture out of the comfort zone for a lot of people here. That happens on a day to day level with the people we interact with. I’m not putting much faith in TV to move people out of their comfort zone or to express sincerity.

    17. Manule Says:

      Quote:”And why pray tell is there a limitation on their NJ guests like this?”
      That’s pretty simple, after that period it is not cool anymore, everybody knows that even J population, honeymoon time is over after a year or so.

    18. Jamil Says:

      100% agree with Peach, the program is self indulging and mind narcotizing, in times of economic distress people should be asking why the heck we end like this being a world economic power, that would be responsible and constructive.

    19. Chuck N. Says:

      Here we go again! The “holier than thou because I can speak Japanese and therefore am cool” crowd comes out again.

      I saw Cool Japan for the first time on the plane the first time I came to Japan. I found the show interesting and informative about interesting things in Japan through the eyes of other newcomers. I enjoyed it much better than the tedious explanations of long-term residents who think so highly of themselves because of their language skills and cultural knowledge.

      Cool Japan is arguably one of the more interesting shows on NHK (which admittedly, ain’t sayin’ much) so let it alone. Sit back and laugh at the newbies.

      – The newbies bite back! :-)

    20. Mark Says:

      It’s NHK. What do you expect? NHK selects less-than-a-year-here people because these people do not know NHK! To newbies, NHK is the coolest. When those young’us have been in Japan a few years, they will know. Oh yes, they will know.

    21. Andrew Smallacombe Says:

      I remember the keynotes speech given at a training session many years ago. The professor urged us to remember that although “Japan is unique, it is not uniquely unique”, a lesson the self-obsessed media would do to remember.

      How many times have we seen those “mini documentary” segments during the news in which a young Japanese person has gone overseas to learn [insert cultural activity here]. We hear all about the difficulties they’ve had to overcome, the sacrifices they’ve made and how great they are at whatever.
      On those rare occasions when it’s about someone from another country coming here to learn a cultural activity, the focus shifts from the person to the “unique” cultural activity.

      I’ve noticed over the last few years what seems to be an increase in programming focussing on Japanese “traditions”, “cultural uniqueness”, “100 great Japanese people, so you are great by association” or just “how Japanese are you?”
      Mind numbing stuff.

    22. Tornadoes28 Says:

      Let’s narrow it down to specifically what is the issue of this post by Debito. The issue or point of the post and what it is that gets Debito’s “goat” is this:

      “We are looking for participants who have lived in Japan for less than one year to appear on the television show COOL JAPAN.”

      Clearly the show want’s to incorporate fresh ideas from people with NEW and FRESH ideas about Japan. Noting wrong with wanting people who have been in Japan a year or less. No reason to get you goat about that.

      Ignorant = “fresh”? Well, that’s one way to look at it.

      If this style weren’t systematic of how NJ are generally portrayed by the media, I wouldn’t be quite so “goatish” about it…

    23. Chuck N. Says:

      Maybe this is a more interesting TV program. All of you oldies could show off your skills.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFNrX0E5tIA

      – Yes, they are well trained, aren’t they? Give them a pat on the head for “measuring up to the standard” of “nihon rashii”. Whatever that means.

    24. Jcek Says:

      I think the use the fresh people is so they precisly get first impression responses. It is the whole point of the program. They want people to say Japan is cool, not dysfunctional or 20 years backwards. Basically I think the show isn’t targeted towards adults probably more geared toward students/young people possibly educators who aren’t looking for a discussion on politics and murders. The show is obviously not a launch pad for deep cultural discussions…Try Sunday Japan? [unwarranted swipe deleted]

    25. Massimo Says:

      Nhk should be much above the “trash” zone.
      Unfortunately it lowered its standard, adapting to the “market”
      and copying the other tv channels policy… = huge fail

      My ideal national tv channel doesn’t “adapt” to the “market” but is there to educate people,
      is impartial and free from commercial, political, religious agendas.
      It should promote culture, humanism, reasoning but it shouldn’t have to be “boring” at all costs.
      On foreign channels I see fantastic documentaries (on nature, history etc.)
      without the completely “out of place” idols that dot these same programs here in Japan…

      The problem is not only Cool Japan, the problem is tv itself.

      I’m not watching tv anymore, a book is much better.

    26. Ryugakusei Says:

      You should see the program more, Debito – it has serious problems, but not the ones you point out.

      The “newbieness” requirement is not that strongly followed – if at all. Most participants have way more than 1 year in japan, and they will hang around the program if the audience likes them. Also, they always get a few participants that speak badly about the japanese topic being covered (afterall, it is not so japanese if there isn’t a foreigner who doesn’t “get it”) – check out the “japanese men” program.

      The program, on the other hand, is totally fake – many of the participants actually speak good japanese – sometimes better japanese than english, and still are forced to speak english all the time (pay attention at some participants immediately reacting to the comments from the announcers in japanese and then replying with halting english). The reactions are usually scripted before hand, so the “naive foreign” look will be there – no matter if the foreign is naive or not (OMG, I never knew that I could use my PASMO in a combini!). And there are almost never korean or chinese in the program (an rarely southeastern asians, with the exception of the singaporean girl).

      Feel free to mail me if you want to know more about the insides of the program (I’ll probably not be looking at the comments for reply, though).

      Cheers.

    27. Jeff K Says:

      > Hi Blog. Anyone seen an NHK show called “Cool Japan”? It’s a 45-minute show on late Tuesdays and Saturdays.
      >

      Yes, I watch the show every week.

      > What gets my goat is:
      >
      >
      >
      > We are looking for participants who have lived in Japan for less than one year to appear on the television show COOL JAPAN.
      >
      > (「COOL JAPAN」では出演してくれる来日して1年未満の外国人の方を募集しています。)
      >
      >
      >
      > And why pray tell is there a limitation on their NJ guests like this? I say they’re getting impressions from people who don’t know their ketsu from a doukutsu yet. Which means their guests about Japan don’t speak much, or any, Japanese. How throughly can you know Japan in less than a year, for crissakes? And their guests are mostly late-teens/early-twenties on top of that — with little to go on to comment about much at all. And they’re acting as cultural emissaries for “their own countries” and giving cross-cultural comparisons running on fumes? Sorry, that’s 3-Blind-Mice Ignorance. And it’s all by design. Through that one-year cap on experiences.
      >
      >
      >
      > Why not issue a public call for commentators, who actually have some deeper experience living in Japan, to contribute to the debate? Because “cool” is as deep as we want to go. Great social science, NHK. And I believe it adds to the lore within the Japanese viewership (that is who will mostly be watching this program, natch) that our society is impenetrable to the unfortunate hapless foreigners. But that’s still not their fault — they’re starry-eyed newcomers who’ll say something positive about Japan because they still feel like they’re guests. Feel-good broadcast pap TV funded by Japan’s most entrusted TV network.
      >
      >
      >
      > But then again I’m probably being a bit harsh. What do others who have seen the show think?
      >
      I think the show’s approach is to solicit feedback / reactions / impressions on various topics from an audience composed of FOB foreigners rather than from long-term / permanent residents or naturalized citizens.

      That being said, I’d like to see long-term / permanent residents an/or a naturalized citizen sit in as a 専門家 form time to time.

      BTW, I think your assessment was a bit harsh.

    28. The Shark Says:

      How Japanese are the Japanese actually? What makes them think they might be ‘unique’ and other cultures are just so different?
      They wear Western clothes (not kimono), they sleep in beds (not always the futon), they allow more foreign words into the world of katakana than the French would ever dare, they enjoy weddings in churches (even as non-Christians), they eat more cake on Christmas eve than o-mochi on New Year’s day. I could go on and on.
      My point is that the Japanese may need to realize they are not so different from other people in the world. Then they will also realize others are not so different from them. And then one day they might stop asking foreigners ‘Where are you from?’ as if it were part of a greeting.

      – Conclusion is fine. But I don’t want this to get into airy-fairy territory of “gosh, look how much they are or are not like us” inconclusiveness and neophyte discussion. Let’s stay on track. We aren’t NHK. :)

    29. Behan Says:

      I wonder if that’s why the JET program used to have (still has?) a limit on how many years a candiate may have lived in Japan. I think it was three years. I thought maybe it was to get people more naieve and wide eyed.

      – Perhaps. I think it was also to keep them disposable in a revolving-door labor market, before they were here long enough to expect pay raises and seniority positions. Keep the workforce young and fresh and they’re powerless. This is a digression, but technically not much of one.

    30. E.P. Lowe Says:

      The on the JET Programme it is now possible to extend up to 5 years, but authorization seems to be needed to pass the 3-year mark.

      The JET Programme is pretty instructive in the level of self-obsessed navel-gazing in Japan – to the exclusion of all other cultures. Now JET It stands for “Japan Exchange and Teaching”, but in my 3 years on it I found the exchange was all only one way – unique Japan this, unique Japan that. Nothing I mentioned about my family, my country and its customs was ever remembered – ofttimes even by the English teachers!

      P.S. There’s an interesting letter to this point over at Japan Times now: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/rc20090625a3.html

    31. Behan Says:

      Sorry, Debito and E.P. Lowe, I didn’t say that very clearly. I meant to say I thought there was a limit on how long you could live in Japan before you even applied for the program. If memory serves, I think if you had lived in Japan for over three years you were not allowed to apply for it.

      – Anyone want to dig that up?

    32. JP Says:

      Totally off topic, Sunday Japon: the best lame variety show on, I watch weekly. I need to see what lame shirt Dave’s wearing this week and how big Nishikawa-sensei’s head has grown proportionally to her body this week!

      As far as what goes on on Japanese TV in reference to persons of foreign nationality, its always going to be about what is different and what is better about japan. There will never be a real debate until we comprise a larger percentage of the jumin. TV is garbage, and newbies will never contribute to the needs of long-term residents being on TV saying that Japan stuff is cool and avoiding real discourse!

      The only solution is to keep fighting for something better.

    33. Charles T Says:

      I think that’s the whole point about the government agenda since the Meiji era, keep the population thinking that they are so unique and so special that they wouldn’t dare question or changellenge the government policies, whatever the government does must be correct because we are so special and everything here is better, it’s the only way for the LDP, no need to question the statu quo when everything is so marvelous, and that’s why a real inmigration policy is not desired in here.

    34. Andrew Smallacombe Says:

      My biggest gripes with this type of navel-gazing programming are:

      1) The reinforcement of “Japan is unique, so no other culture is unique” type logic.

      2) The assumption that “unique” and “superior” go hand-in-hand.

      3) That longevity, use of certain technologies, dietary habits and certain socio-linguistic concepts also constitute “superiority”

      4) The “clever by association” syndrome. “2 Japanese won a Nobel Prize. Aren’t the other 123 million of us clever?”

      5) The portrayal of certain aspects of other cultures as being “quaint”, “amsuing” or just silly while the [sometimes equivelant] Japanese ones are “traditional”.

      Japan IS unique. Good. Let’s move on.

    35. carl Says:

      “they’re starry-eyed newcomers who’ll say something positive about Japan because they still feel like they’re guests”

      Exactly. They’re looking for “mush-n-gush” testimonials about how cool Japan is so they pick only the people who are still in the honeymoon phase.

    36. let`s talk Says:

      Less than one year in Japan? They are still tourists. Tourism means holidays.Holidays mean you are happy.Happy people do not want to spoil their holidays.They will never say anything bad or critical about Japan.If NHK invites NJs who know the reality here, the image of that Japan will vanish.The show will be closed.

    37. Behan Says:

      Hi Debito

      If this is getting off topic then please don’t post it. I just wanted to follow up on the JET program requirement that you haven’t lived in Japan too long. On the web site for US applicants it says this(http://www.us.emb-japan.go.jp/JET/application.html):

      You must:
      ….
      in principle, be less than 40 years of age as of April 1, 2009;
      not have lived in Japan for 3 or more years in the past 8 years (since 2001);
      not have been a former JET participant in the last 10 years;

    38. Scipio Says:

      However!!!

      Just watching ‘Kodomo News’ on NHK 1 and today’s program is excellent about the problems and numbers of refugees who come to Japan.

      Swings and roundabouts. Kodomo News is consistently an informative and non-naval gazing program. It’s a pity that this program is not publicized for the general Japanese public.

      Thumps down to NHK for ‘Cool Japan’, thumps up to NHK for Kodomo News.

    39. Massimo Says:

      I just recalled something that can be related to this argument.

      Some people from a tv channel (which one I don’t remember…) wanted badly to interview me
      while I was walking around in Shinjuku about a year ago.
      They told me that this interview was for a program that was about some foreigners’ experiences
      in Japan. The interviewer asked me how long I had been here and if I could speak Japanese (I had been here for around 12 years and I can speak fluently).
      Well, they interviewed me for about 30 minutes !! in Japanese (they had told me that
      the interview would have been short…huh). They made me talk about so many things…
      At the end they told me the date/channel of the program.

      I was very disappointed after watching that program in discovering that the only interviews shown were of people (tourist-like) talking in English plus some Japanese kata koto.
      It seemed to me that they wanted only “just-off-the-plane” people opinions.

      As some people already said I guess that, maybe…, people that lived here for too long
      and can talk almost on the same terms with the locals are considered “too Japanese”
      and therefore not very “interesting” or “funny”….?

      Or it could be that a “just arrived” foreigner’s opinions can be dismissed with a simple “he/she just doesn’t know/understand” while they have more problems to deal with
      ideas/opinions of foreigners been here for long. Could it be just a matter of
      emotive “security/insecurity” ? Of “ease/unease” ?

      Very unfortunately, a tv program is not made (in general) to make people think.
      It is made to have people laugh and have fun without thinking too much…
      It just need to have people say the usual “eeeehhhhh” “eeeeehhhhh” “sugoiiii”.

      ps the best tv programs I have ever seen in Japan are usually on the bs (sorry do not
      remember the exact channel). They were some well done documentaries, like one that I’ve
      seen a week ago about an American soldier (now deceased) who did his best to divulge
      the terrible pictures that he had taken in secret after Nagasaki’s nuclear bombing.

    40. john k Says:

      Andrew Smallacombe

      I fully concur with your statements.
      I had a similar discussion with a friend just yesterday. She is Japanese and we were both bemoaning about the cost of these so-called “traditions” and “uniqueness”. I had to pay a fortune for a priest to bless my house when built…why? My wife didn’t want it, I certainly didn’t, but it pleased her mother. My friend doesn’t want all the expenses of the priest for funerals and celebrations, which sparked our debate. (Sadly just returned from a relatives death).

      “Traditions”/”culture” changes. These are signs of a progressive society. Japan is anything but progressive. However she asked what did i mean?

      So, go back 600 years to olde-England. Ask a neighbour around for a cup of tea…tea..what’s that?..oh ok, have a smoke of this tobacco, tobacco, what’s that?…bugger..ok, how about having a plate of fish ands chips…chips, what are those?

      All these “cultural” references to the Brits came about from their Empire building.

      Go back 30~40 years and ask anyone what their impression of an Englishman is, I’m sure you’d get similar replies the world over. These “traditions” of politeness etc, such as opening and holding a door open for a woman, which was very prevalent when i was young, are no longer found. Why, because woman have rightly pointed out this is patronising and just reinforces the notion that men control the women and are superior and women are hence obsequious and ‘need’ men. Ergo this “tradition/custom” is no longer prevalent.

      Everything is time relative…ie progression.

      Japan refuses to progress, which is why it needs these “blind” NJs on TV to reinforce the “unique” “culture” of Japan to Japanese, and the ‘outside’ world. The more and longer it does this, the easier it is to maintain social control and not allow “traditions/cultural ” aspect to change owing to no longer being relevant in the modern world.

      I do not know of any young Japanese that is “religious/spiritual” like their parents. Hence the reason why my wife said we must ahve a house blessing, to please her mother, not us!

      Religion was once very strong in the UK, but now it is a mere topic of interesting conversation. Why, because what was “traditional/cultural” is no longer believed nor relevant in today’s society. These countries, such as UK, have moved forward and progressed. This is a measure of the democracy and freedoms within the society.

      To do this in Japan, means the those in power will no longer be in power and their dynastic strangle hold will be lost….can’t have that can we, whatever next, NJs having equal rights and voting having power….can’t have that! Lets keep it “unique”. Lets have shows on TV that celebrate and reinforce this unqiness…keeps the masses down what, baaaahhhhhh!

    41. S. Berman Says:

      Evidently the entire premise of the Cool Japan show is to present a shallow, touristy version of Japan. I happen to find the program entertaining for what it is. I don’t see why the shows’ triumphalism or their perpetuation of the myth of the “inscrutible Japanese” should be surprising. Most mass media, especially TV, in most countries is just as dumbed-down as this anyway.

    42. A Man In Japan Says:

      Sometimes when we used to turn the TV on, this show would come on and my wife would keep it on the station “for me” I have to agree with everything you said about the show.

      – Lots of voices here. “You” referring to…?

    43. M Says:

      Isn’t this just a manifestation of a culture-wide, deep-seated and wide-spread inferiority complex? The incessant need to find approval from “outside” just reeks of desperation. [unreferenced assertion deleted]

    44. Frodis Says:

      I wasn’t really bothered by this program. I looked at it as a cheap attempt at being MTV on NHK. When I want real in-depth coverage of anything, included music journalism, I don’t look to MTV. This program is just a piece of fluff programming that I feel is aimed at getting the teenage MTV-viewer audience to tune in to NHK.

    45. freedomwv Says:

      Well, its all just marketing over at NHK. They don`t want anyone expressing their view on Japan who have lived here for an extended amount of time. That would be very bad for business. NHK is not the kind of `news` network that has a focus on deep reflection.

    46. A Man In Japan Says:

      I meant to say that I was agreeing with you, Debito. Just look at what these people say about American music http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jikww35XKcc I just have to say that they are very wrong about they said.

    47. Shiraishi Says:

      I think it is an outrage to long-term residents for a different reason that Debito-san. It’s not just the casting… It’s the staging.

      If a long-term resident were on the show, would NHK let them speak in Japanese? You can’t help but noticing that some Cool Japan panelists can speak Japanese. But the show’s directors seem to require them to speak English.

      For example, this week a Singaporean woman tried “KonKatsu” and conversed in Japanese with several potential marriage partners. However, she only spoke in English for her studio and on location appearances. Weirdly, she was required to ask interview questions in English to a Japanese woman who seemed only allowed to reply in Japanese about her Konkatsu and career as a stewardess.

      Such encoding helps viewers read the deeper message as “The Japanese race speaks Japanese and lives in Japan. Those not of the race, don’t do either.”

      So what shall we do about Cool Japan going out of their way to enforce the perception of the GAIKOKUJIN as a tourist/visitor, and thus not a resident/citizen of Japan? Can we charge them with “anti-multiculturalism”?

      – We can write them a letter under the newly-established (as in now registered as an Ippan Shadan Houjin with the GOJ) FRANCA and make some suggestions about “do”s and “don’t”s.

    48. M Says:

      By the by, here’s an write-up of Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture book/exhibit that went up at the Japan Society in NYC in 2005. This is what I referenced in my original comment.

      http://www.japansociety.org/little_boy_the_arts_of_japans_exploding_subculture
      http://www.asianart.com/exhibitions/littleboy/intro.html

    49. Brian Says:

      I was actually on this show in 2007, along with several friends of mine. They filmed the episode at the Mita campus of Keio, where we were all doing study abroad. My friends and I found it exploitative and obnoxious in the extreme. Though most of us were there for under the full year, many of us (like myself) have studied various aspects of Japanese history and society, etc, and as such were pretty well prepared to have a thorough discussion about Japan. As I remember it, all of the more thought provoking discussion was edited out of the final broadcast, leaving in the usual culture-vulture nonsense. Many of us spoke fluent Japanese, I don’t recall if that made it into the broadcast. I do remember being hounded endlessly during filming as to my opinion on whether or not various things were “cool” or not. The whole thing felt incredibly insecure, like talking to someone with terrible self-esteem. At least it felt that way during the filming anyway. The broadcast managed to cut out some of the more craven “please dear god tell us we’re cool!” behavior.

      One of my friends was interviewed extensively in the selection process due to her interest in the origins of Japanese law. They talked law with her for a couple of hours in the cafeteria, and then had her on the show for a segment about Keio’s train enthusiast club. Ah well. I got a free sandwich and a bottle of green tea out of the deal (much appreciated as I was pretty good and broke at the time).

      – You mean NHK doesn’t even pay you a stipend for all your time and effort? Now THAT’s cheap!

    50. Brian Says:

      To clarify, I was part of a larger panel made up of Keio’s foreign students, and not one of the people featured in a segment. If I remember correctly, my friend who WAS featured received travel expenses and meals for the two day’s worth of on site filming they did. I can’t remember if she was paid any actual money or not. I’ll ask her next time we talk. But yeah, I spent four hours under TV lights, being asked highly neurotic questions for a ramen and egg sandwich and an ice cold green tea.

    51. Gaijin Jen Says:

      The first time I saw the “American” representative on this show I wept for the already sullied reputation of those of us carrying a US passport.

      Vapid. Arrogant. And probably high.

      The worst part of it is that these individuals were chosen out of what I would hope was more than one applicant. So you WANT the most desprate for attention strung-out foreigner you can find. Gawd.

      We have running jokes about this show, but they all just got too easy. We learn stuff, sure. . .a whole lot about how stupid NHK producers want gaigin to look.

    52. Gaijin Jen Says:

      Gaijin Jen, back again.

      I saw another episode of this last night and I want to figure out who the American guy was on the “sleep” episode.

      He said Americans slept so much because we’re so fat.

      Well, I am going for my next super-sized fry, because buddy I wanna show you just what fat is all about, you vapid cup of natto. Obese people actually sleep less, you dolt, and obviously you haven’t lost much sleep with researching what you say before you say it. It’s standard for you, I’m confident, and absolutely standard for NHK.

      And the graphic about us having well-formed bottoms was hilarious. Well, yeah, and I don’t feel in the slightest bit insecure about what my European ancestors gave me. [invective deleted]

    53. Drew Says:

      You raise some fair points here. I appeared on the show and can verify a few points:

      1) You are specifically told not to use ANY Japanese at all.
      2) You are also not allowed to display tattoos, interestingly.
      3) You are paid an average of 2 Man Yen per studio appearance, and about 1 Man for site visit filming, which is pretty good financial incentive to play the “clueless gaijin”, eh?

      In all, I found the staff friendly and helpful enough, but there is a pretty clear playbook to be followed if one participates. The show is basically a means for global PR for Japan, to encourage greater tourism while promoting Japan’s image abroad in a positive light.

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