Something I had noticed before when I was an exchange student, but forgotten until the recent addition of a TV to my apartment, is Japan’s annoying trend of showing the same thing over and over and over again on TV. I am not talking about commercials (although some of those are annoying as well), but news stories. Not only do Japanese repeat themselves constantly, but when they have a reaction to something in the news, it is never small.
Now, in general unless you have a dish installed you get the basic six nationwide television networks – no more than 10 channels. This may sound ridiculous to us Americans who are used to our 80+ some channels, but I have to admit that having fewer channels makes it easier for me to figure out and decide what it is I want to watch. While Japanese television is narrowed down to a more user friendly system…when it really matters it is far too narrow and there can be downright no variety.
Allow me to back up to the Olympics this past summer. I had just moved to Japan (see post about my empty apartment) but had managed to get internet installed in my apartment in time for the Olympics. For some unknown reason, all American news sites (CNN…NBC…you name it) had their live video feeds blocked to residents outside the US. So, here I was wanting nothing more than to cheer on my country from overseas, but unable to do so because I had been blocked for living in another country. Talk about unfair! I found hope in my cell phone. My phone gets free Japanese TV as it is included in my 2 year plan. I therefore watched the opening ceremony on my (about) 2 inch by 3 inch screen and was excited to watch some sporting events the next day. What I found was that every channel in Japan was showing the same event and that if Japan was not competing in the event, it was not broadcasted. There went my hopes of watching any soccer games… To make matters worse, the news recaps were of the same events that they had been broadcasting all day. I have no idea how many times I tuned in to see another replay of a judo match. I quickly gave up on watching any of the Olympics and settled for reading news updates.
The most recent story to have taken over Japanese television is about Tsuyoshi Kusanagi of the pop group SMAP being found drunk and naked in a public park in Tokyo in the early hours of the morning while screaming “What is wrong with being naked?!” and things in Korean. Seriously…this is all that the news talks about recently…and it is driving me crazy. There are headlines everywhere saying “Japan aghast over drunk TV star’s naked blunder!” and “Butt Naked SMAP Star Arrested For Indecency – Japan Zone” and as one newspaper put it: The Japanese media world has been plunged into chaos by the humiliating arrest of Tsuyoshi Kusanagi — a member of SMAP, the biggest, best-loved and most successful boy band in Japanese pop history. (you can read the article here: TimesOnline.
Ok, I understand that he is famous and no one would have guess that he would have become so drunk that he would strip down naked in a park, but not remember how he got there or why he became naked, but it is really necessary to show the EXAXT same news footage 24/7? I am not exaggerating that different news programs use the same footage and just about the same commentary making it impossible to get a different opinion or scoop on the situation. My boyfriend and I have settled for turning off the TV every time his face shows up on screen. In the past two days, a one hour news program has had about 30 minutes dedicated to the poor guy. All of Japan is just in HUGE shock at this – my students asked me if I had seen the news recently and some of the girls were almost in tears over it.
Which bring me to my next point, Japanese overreact to things. I do not mean this in a drama queen way, but rather that when Japanese find something amusing or funny, they want to make absolutely sure that everyone around them knows that they think it is amusing or funny. I was talking with a fellow ALT about our self introductions we do at schools and a little about the new 英語ノートthe other day, and we both mentioned how students will use the very Japanese “EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEH” in unison as if it were planned when something surprises them. Really, I wish I had video of my students reaction when I showed them a picture of the famous banana slug of Santa Cruz – HUEG reaction. It’s not just kids that show this kind of behavior either, my teachers show just as much reaction as the students do, and sometimes their reactions are even more over the top that the student’s.
What is Japan such a “big reaction” society? Who knows? But one thing is for sure, it makes it really easy to know when you made a killer lesson at Japanese elementary schools.