Notes from a Japanese TV shoot

I saw a video the other day of a foreign YouTuber who quit Japanese TV and her comments reminded me of the one and thankfully only time I appeared on TV here. I wrote up the experience as Our Man in Abiko back in  March 2012. I repost the episode here for your enjoyment.

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So this is the story of how Our Man met a strange man next to the park toilets on a rainy Monday afternoon a month or so ago.

“Is this Abiko-san?”

Our Man, sitting on a rain-sodden bench where moments before the crew had booted off the hobos of Abiko with jokes that here was a Hollywood star, looks up from tapping away on his laptop that is not connected to the internet and exclaims, “Hello, nice to meet you!”

We shake hands.

We repeat this touching vignette three times, trying to capture the passion and surprise of that unsurprisingly unpassionate first meeting. Our Man gains a new appreciation for the hardworking members of the porn industry.

Then Our Man fake-tweets under the gazebo. And again. And again.

The camera crew re-adjusts and shoots us as we walk up the park path, Naito-san fake-talking to Our Man, Our Man fake-listening.

Of course, it’s Our Man’s fault he was at the park at all. Or he should say, it’s Our Woman’s fault. She, very sensibly, made it quite clear she didn’t want these interlopers interloping into our private lives. So that left the park.

Naito-san had tried his best to get into Our Man’s bunker with the six members of Asahi TV crew — him, the camera man, a sound boom guy, a young man who spoke good English, the interpreter and the driver (whom Our Man mistook for a rough sleeper  having a fag at one point).

“Abiko-san, you must understand it is raining and the park is no good, it would be much easier for all concerned if we just filmed at your house.”

He must have considered this a winning proposition, that any reasonable man would agree with, because that’s all he had.

“Nope, not on your life.”


“I like you, Naito-san, but I don’t sleep with you. I sleep with my wife. If I let you into my house, my wife will never sleep with me again, so no, not going to happen.”


This being Japan, however, Naito-san had thought ahead and booked us all a room. An unheated lobby on the 11th floor of the Chuo-Gakkuin University in Abiko.

So this is where I sat with coat off and hot charcoal packs in my back pockets.

“What pictures did you take on the day of the earthquake?”

Not many, there wasn’t much to see in my neighbourhood.

“What did your friends and family abroad say? Were they worried?”

Only the ones that watch TV. Our Man’s Old Man, who listens to radio, was only concerned when the reports of contaminated water made it back home. I told him we only gave the children bottled water and I try to stick to beer, so he wasn’t so concerned.

“How did you get your news?”

Through Twitter. Our Man did his usual schtick — we are all journalists now, he likes Twitter because you can broadcast your thoughts without having to clear them with a boss. Yadda, yadda, yadda. Naito-san sensibly didn’t pursue the logic of this, that if Twitter represented something honest, democratic and unfiltered, what we were engaged in was, fake, meaningless and just plain dirty.

“Can I see the original tweets from the day?”

If Our Man can find them.

“What about pictures from the day?”

Our Man just took one of kids wearing earthquake protection hats, they looked very cute.

“Let me see.”

Our Man found the picture on his blog in a minute. Then he re-enacted finding the picture on his blog.  Then did it again. Twenty minutes went by as Our Man fake-scrolled around his website looking at a fairly irrelevant picture. None of these kids suffered. None of these kids died or lost parents to the tsunami. Much to the disappointment to the TV folk, no doubt. But that’s the visual Our Man had for the TV.

Our Man wanted to point out the much more interesting posts he’d written, but he realised with dawning comprehension — these relied on words to impart their meaning, not pictures.

And this was TV, duhhh.

“How many followers do you have?”

As of right now, 2,257.

He maybe was accustomed to TV ratings, don’t know, but he was impressed.

“I’m impressed.”

“Don’t be.”

“Why not?”

“Half of those are just trying to sell me pornography.”

Later in the car back to the train station where Our Man had left his bicycle, Naito-san was curious.

“Does your wife really hate journalists? Did she use to work as one?” (because this would self-evidently explain her otherwise irrational hatred).

“No, no. She’s just married to me. But I think she has enough experience to know that too often journalists are alcoholics or divorced, or divorced alcoholics who never care about the people they report about.”


Naito-san was nonplussed. Our Man felt sorry for him, needed to lessen the blow. “Actually, she just likes her privacy and didn’t want strangers traipsing up and down the house.”

“Ah.” A rueful nod of agreement.

Five hours of Our Man’s life, whittled down to 15 seconds of screen time, right here. The day after the segment aired, Our Man was stopped in the street by his neighbour.

“Hey, were you on television? You wrote that book? I must buy it.”

The power of TV.

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