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

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

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  • 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.

  • 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]

  • 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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