Apply to appear on NHK’s Cool Japan (conditions apply)

Kelvin on Twitter linked to this page on NHK where people can apply to appear on their late night show Cool Japan, about stuff non-Japanese people think is cool about Japan. Here’s an excerpt from introductory spiel and questionnaire for prospective guests:

We are looking for participants who have lived in Japan for less than one year to appear on the television show COOL JAPAN.
Interested parties are requested to fill out the following questionnaire.
Please review the questionnaire carefully and answer each question.

Length of Time in Japan
Unique cultural aspects of your home country you are willing to shareMusic, fashion, arts, etc
Interests in Japanese culture
Aspects of Japanese society you find interesting, unique, odd?

So, is Japan suddenly not cool after you’ve lived in the country for one year? As Durf reminds us by way of WestFearNeon, NHK might be looking to talk to people at that tender stage after arriving in Japan when they tend to feel really positive about Japanese culture. Any longer than one year, and some of the same people who were once raving about might start grumbling about paved-over rivers and overly rigid rules. In WestFearNeon terms, NHK only wants wide-eyed wonderers and eager students.

Too bad, really. As a self-proclaimed “recovered” gaijin I would be happy to talk about all the stuff I like about Japan.

34 thoughts on “Apply to appear on NHK’s Cool Japan (conditions apply)”

  1. “As a self-proclaimed ‘recovered’ gaijin”

    I don’t think that’s something you can self-proclaim. The evidence needs to be assessed by a panel of observers selected from your family, friends and co-workers as well as random gaijin who encounter you while you are (a) commuting (b) drinking in bars and (c) commenting in any way, shape or form about Japan.

  2. Actually the only way of truly proving that deep down inside you are recovered is to be invited on a talk show in some sort of half-guest-half-host role, a-la Dave Spector. You can’t be just be a guest or some dumb old gaijin tarento like Bobby whasisname, either.

    Adamu, you have your work cut out for you.

  3. I categorically deny any involvement with WFN. That was a fantastic blog though; wish it was still live.

  4. The way to figure out if you are recovered, I think, is to look at the “How’s Your Japan Blog?” post on WestFearNeon. If most of your blogging can easily be plugged into one of those categories, you lose.

  5. Yep. “The Seven Stages of Gaijinhood” and “How’s Your Japan Blog? aka
    The Greater Japanese Co-Prosperity Blogosphere”, those two posts were dead on.

  6. “If most of your blogging can easily be plugged into one of those categories, you lose.”

    BTW: Adamu, you’re well in the clear by this measure.

  7. “That was a fantastic blog though”

    Yeah, but I think the author’s reasons for cutting it were pretty wise. “Gaijin satirist” might well slot in somewhere around “semantic gatekeeper.”

    BTW Durf, nice job with the new Japan Echo.

  8. I don’t know. I’m only familiar with the six or seven posts that are up there now. Were there more?

  9. “wide-eyed wonderers”

    I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that this is evidence that you’ve been listening to the soundtrack from “The Lion King” and have possibly misheard the lyric “wide-eyed wanderer”. Zuboshi?

  10. The show,in my opinion,is not about how cool Japan is,but to see foreigners making weird comments on the country.Hence no lived-here-too-long type.

    Didn’t quite get WestFearNeon,but it’s probably because me not being white,thus don’t quite understand the taste on the stuff white people like.

  11. @Fat Tony : Yes, there used to be quite a lot more, some alright and some spot on, but this is lost in the Internet collective memory, now…

  12. I was duped into appearing on this programme a few years back. I always have an aversion to the gaijin zoo type programmes (such as Koko ha hen dayo Nihonjin from a few years ago), given their tendency to focus on ‘those crazy gaijin’ as opposed to any real debate on aspects of Japanese society.

    The topic of the episode I was in was marriage. I had been reassured that this would be a discussion of actual issues facing non-Japanese spouses in Japan and was expecting a real debate about issues such as the lack of eligible females in rural Japan leading to the import of ‘foreign brides’. The director was well informed that 80-90% of marriages in Japan were between a Japanese male and Asian female, predominantly driven by demographic issues, so I look her at face value and agreed to appear; especially given that this was a ‘serious’ NHK production.

    Instead of this, the programme was a low brow, typical third rate effort, consisting of some guy who was taken on a gokon, a couple who were taken to a love hotel etc. The participating foreigners were almost all western, hardly reflecting the actual demographics of Japan’s foreign community.

    Unless anyone feels like being made to act as a gaijin clown for low brow entertainment, I would strongly recommend people avoid having anything to do with this programme. At the end of the day programmes like this only serve to enforce the concept of ‘us and them’, which is not in the interest of the foreign community in Japan.

  13. Interesting story, and sorry you had such a bad experience. The “one year or less” requirement set off warning bells for me that the producers were looking for just that level of shallowness. If they actually told you the show was anything close to highbrow, they really pulled a fast one.

    But let me play devil’s advocate for a minute…

    In general, it’s not a good idea to watch news reports in areas where you have some specialized knowledge. You’re never going to be satisfied (go through the MFT archives to see what I am talking about).

    For instance, I often feel like the other NHK documentaries are really informative and substantial. But probably the interviewees and experts in the field watching see the same program and feel like it’s oversimplified at best.

    In much the same way, the Japanese viewers of Cool Japan probably don’t feel like they’re being talked down to or being subjected to harmful propaganda. For one, it’s just entertainment, capitalizing on a classic topic of conversation in Japan.

    And while on one level, Cool Japan is dumb pandering exploitation, it’s also a chance to see some diverse and new faces and wonder how they got here. That’s a game I’ve found myself playing.

    I totally hear you on most of those criticisms, but all in all I have to give Cool Japan a pass. I’d take a thousand Cool Japans over a Bobby Ologun special.

  14. NHK has done specials on different types of foreigners in Japan (Chinese, Brazilian, Zainichi of various types – I guess they need ” ” around foreigners). There IS a visible and real part of Japan’s foreign community that is transient and wide-eyed. In addition, the number of foreigners visiting Japan for a short period ever year is about 3 times the actual foreign population. They are important to think about as well.

  15. I think that is a key point. In the 1990s, when I was young and full of myself, I once remarked to a taxi driver from Eastern Europe about my preference for traveling around, and staying for a while in a country and really getting to know the place. He told me that this was all well and good, but he would rather have somebody come to his country for a week, spend their money at the tourist traps and local restaurants and then piss off back home.

    If Japan is serious about promoting tourism – and so far I’ve seen more enthusiasm for that than immigration – then it must inform its residents about the things that wide-eyed adventurers like. This program seems to be a good way of doing it. And as for the travelers from China and Korea, as far as I know, they generally travel in packs like the Japanese used to, so I’m not sure it’s helpful for the general public to know of their preferences yet.

    As for immigrants, why should Japanese care what they think is cool or not? You attract people with either the lure of cash or the thrill of living in an “inexplicable” or “cool” nation, and then once they figure out that Japan is not all squirting toilets and wooden flip-flops, if they like it for what it is, they stay. If they don’t they leave, try to improve their situation, or bitch about it to the 50 something housewives in their Thursday afternoon class.

  16. “the travelers from China and Korea, as far as I know, they generally travel in packs like the Japanese used to”

    In the case of Chinese, this is partly for the reasons Koreans do and Japanese did, but also because it’s still difficult for a lone Chinese traveler or family to get a tourist visa, but joining a group tour makes it much, much easier.

  17. “generally travel in packs like the Japanese used to, so I’m not sure it’s helpful for the general public to know of their preferences yet.”

    Since the visa restrictions have been relaxed, the news has been full of stuff about Chinese tourists saving the Japanese economy, the different types of tourists and what they buy, etc. Some department stores have been increasing the number of Chinese staff, putting up more Chinese signs, etc. I’ve read that some of the depato in Tokyo are getting about 10% of their sales from Chinese tourists this year. They could be a savior for department stories – Japanese know where else to look to get the same thing for half the price, this way depato can continue to charge insane prices for electronics and things like that and still make money. Still don’t think that it is going to keep them from crumbling, however (although depa-chika will live for ever).

    In any case, sometimes the best way to promote a positive image of a group is to play up the fact that they like you… even if it shades over lots of things, I still think that images of foreigners like those on Cool Japan are a good thing. Expecting foreigners to be wide-eyed and different also could embed a tolerance for different behavior and lifestyles. In societies with way more immigration but an assimilationist mindset (ie. a foreigner is someone who wears a funny hat but when he’s in America he should speak American…. sorry, couldn’t help it) there can be more grumbling (and things like violent race attacks, I’m thinking more Germany here). The stereotype that foreigners can’t tell tatami from wasabi is mostly a concern for long term whities, I think. Others are more concerned with basic dignity in their life space and in my experience Chinese and Korean Koreans, the two largest foreign communities in Japan, tend to also subscribe to the “we’re like this by nature, they’re like that” idea and get right into it (both have ethnocentric nationalisms).

  18. Yeah! That one also has the nationalist niceness focus that I was alluding to – “Chinese LOVE Japanese products” is a mantra that is bound to make more Japanese feel better about China.

    Also, is it just me or has Sankei (in all its forms) been buying more and more content from Kyodo and Bloomberg and people who aren’t, you know, insane rightwingers? This is the kind of reporting that I’ve come to expect from the Nikkei. It’s nice to see the Sankei running more China stuff that doesn’t involve pretending to care about human rights in Tibet or talking about “threats to our EEZ”.

    There’s another article linked there that describes how depato are not only hiring more Chinese speaking staff, but also providing Chinese speaking GUIDES.

  19. As most of the times when conversation or TV talks about things foreign, I cannot but cringe when I hear 外人 being used to mean solely 白人, and 海外 to mean solely 西洋.

  20. Sankei seems to be the most “progressive” out of all the major Japanese papers these days. They license tons of content from gaishikei media companies. They have the MS relationship. They came out with a lighter tabloid version, Sankei Express, which is a perfect read for people with shorter commutes. They make their whole broadsheet paper available for free on iPhones. I suppose that at some point, they decided this was a more viable strategy than just being blindly nationalistic.

  21. “I suppose that at some point, they decided this was a more viable strategy than just being blindly nationalistic.”

    Their sales fell off by more than a third and they dropped out of a few major markets, running the risk of becoming a regional paper. Some people are interpreting this as a result of their going free on the iPhone, others as a backlash against their ultranationalism. Waiting to see what happens over the next few years.

  22. Just saw a quote from a 102 year old Japanese man in 1955 – “We should put our resources into promoting tourism.”

  23. “Some people are interpreting this as a result of their going free on the iPhone,”
    Anybody who’s tried their free app knows this can’t possibly be true. It’s basically impossible to actually read, because it’s just an image browser for scans of the entire massive broadsheet pages. I thought it was neat for about 30 seconds and then uninstalled the piece of crap.

  24. “Just saw a quote from a 102 year old Japanese man in 1955 – “We should put our resources into promoting tourism.” ”

    That’s clearly the bias of someone who can’t walk anymore.

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