Welcome to 'World Journeys' (the blog)! Formerly known as 'The Greater World', World Journeys is written by Andrew Boland, a traveller approaching 40 who has visited 69 countries, and counting!
This blog features any travel I am doing, and thoughts, memories and the like from my past trips, not to mention photos. Please come back regularly to read about some of the interesting, and different places I have visited!
Monday, April 14, 2014
How to be on TV in Japan
For two years I lived in Iwate in a small apartment with
just my laptop for entertainment. I could choose what I watched and the like
and the world of Japanese TV was far away, as I didn’t have one. But for the
last two weeks I have been with the in-laws in Yokohama, and although I’ve done
my best to avoid watching TV, during the evening hours it is on when have
dinner and sit and chat and the like and well, I’ve seen ENOUGH!
How can this be explained? I don't want to know!
Japanese TV is a strange beast, to say the least (ooh!
Little rhyme). Dramas exist, but I haven’t got to see many. The dramas here
appear to be shot a little like documentaries, with a sort static use of the
camera. The actors do SEEM to be over acting, quite a bit but that I think
comes from Kabuki Theatre and the style that has been used for centuries on the
stage in Japan.
Come the evening though, it’s a kind of talk show / game
show thing that is hard to describe. Well, no easy to describe, harder to
define. What seems quite common is a story being told, and a group of maybe 15
Japanese celebrities watching and commenting. They stop the story, chat, go
back to it. Usually there’s a little screen in the top right corner of the main
picture showing the celebrities’ reactions.
These stories vary greatly – two nights ago they were
talking and watching a story about a famous actress who threw herself off a
building, last night it was about a guy who ghost-writ a famous song. Other
times they have had stories about mystery illnesses and so forth. The sets are
garish and packed with colour, the sort of thing that would go do well as a
backdrop for a drag show. Sometimes the celebrities answer quiz-like questions.
They had a show all about the top 50 most influential people on the world - interestingly,
half or more were Japanese. They seemed to dumb it down a little. The most
interesting thing about Mozart was apparently that he wrote a song about ‘poo’.
A man conducted the celebrities as they sang this song in Japanese.
Then there's food shows. It's not like My Kitchen Rules, which to me is equally as appalling but in different ways, but they love to eat food, show food and remark on how delicious something is as part of the show. Then there was the show when they had to guess how much each dish cost! This reminded me of a show back in January I saw where celebrities went into rich people's houses and had to guess how much their valuables cost. And these shows go on for like 2-3 HOURS!
Other times it turns into a full-on game show with strange
challenges. For example, on Saturday there was a show where celebrities had a
sort of stick attached around their stomachs with a giant baseball glove on the
end and they had to pass balls along a line and get them into a bucket.
The days starts with typical breakfast shows as you get in
Australia, the US or UK, and when it hits prime time it’s the same kind of show
pumped to the max with speed. The celebrities’ opinions are clearly very
important, despite them just being, you know, celebrities.
So. Imagine you want to be on Japanese TV. What are the
boxes you need to tick to get on?
1/ Don’t be a woman.
This isn’t quite fair, there are women on Japanese TV.
Usually hip youngsters. The number of middle-aged to older women is even less.
You’d better have been a famous actress in the day. I would say 70% or maybe
more of the people on Prime Time talk/game/whatever shows are male. It’s ok to
be an older male, and wear a tie. That seems to help.
2/ If you are a woman, be young, be very cute and don’t have
much to say.
The girls from Sanrio Puroland get asked to host shows from time to time.
Usually in a panel of 15 or so, I’ve noticed one of the
co-hosts will be a cute girl who is less than thirty and is good at laughing.
Then there will maybe another young, cute girl in the panel, who almost never,
ever gets called on to pass a comment. The men are usually pretty loud and over
3/ If you aren’t young and cute, you can be a woman if you
are really a man.
Ummm what can I say? Japanese TV is fertile ground for
career opportunities if you are a transvestite. There really are quite a number
of them on TV here. Last week a show had no less than 3 transvestites on its
panel, and no it was not a panel about transvestites, changing your sex or
anything like that. In Tokyo it’s not that uncommon to be a transvestite, so this
is something society is able to accept. In fact, at one of my schools several
boys dressed up as girls for the school festival and did a number on stage. It’s
not seen as weird or strange as it might be in western society, although being
gay is not nearly as accepted outside Tokyo as in the west.
The most famous transvestite is ‘Matsuko Deluxe’. She is a
little portly, shall we say, and gets her face on every show she can. She seems
to be regarded as an expert on everything and appears in quite a few
commercials as well.
4/ There are two kinds of men on Japanese TV. You are respected
and revered, or you are a clown.
This here is Yuki Himura, half of the Japanese comedy duo ‘Bananaman’.
I don’t know if they’ve heard of the TV show from the UK voiced by ‘The Goodies’
or not. He has a strange haircut as if they used a bowl and acts as dumb as
possible for laughs. Well hey, it worked for Adam Sandler, right? No, I don’t like
There’s always a comedian or two on the shows, and usually
they speak funny and act stupid. Balanced by a straight, sensible and knowledgeable
guy. That’s your other option.
5/Be this guy.
This is Takeshi Kitano. So revered is he my spell check recognises
his name and doesn’t underline with red. He has done it all – acted, directed,
written, he is basically the ultimate heavy-weight in Japanese entertainment.
As such, he appears in so many shows on TV. His views are widely respected and
In Japan, age is respected, regardless of the individual. So
you see a number of elderly (usually) gentleman asked for their opinions on
stuff. I don’t speak Japanese, but I am guessing that they are not experts on
most of the stuff they comment on. But they’ve made it past 60 or 70 and their
opinion is important.
so, if you can push yourself into one of those categories, you have a good
chance of making onto Japanese Prime Time TV to sit on a panel and comment on
stuff you know little to nothing about. I am off to get a bowl hair cut and wander
the city saying ‘wakarimasen’ in a low, slow voice. If that fails, I’m going to
have to see if there’s a shop that sells dresses that fit me. In Japan, that’s
probably unlikely. Wait – where does Matsuko Deluxe shop