Japan in context: television
The land of the game-show, cartoons and multi-episode Samurai soaps. In the few hotel rooms I’ve stayed in, I’ve had the TV on in the background, and the sound and images emitted were invariably bright, breezy, garrulous, happy and smiling…..the emphasis is nearly always on pure light entertainment…..and everyone is happy and smiling all the time.
One of the channels, however, broadcasts a daily English lesson, with three eminently teachable ‘students’, a knowledgeable teacher and his beautiful (American) assistant, who does all the demonstrating. Midst a lot of fun practice of plosive consonants (p,b,t…), the students were given the word ‘talk’ to pronounce…..now think about this carefully, and you’ll probably second-guess my next observation……American demonstrator? The students all wanted to say ‘talk’ (the proper English way) but the demonstrator corrected them with ‘tawk’ (or should that be ‘tark’). What is the world coming to? Don’t the Americans understand that we Brits speak English as our first language!
For Downtown Abbey fans (and I am not one), this ubiquitous series simply gets everywhere….I mean everywhere. With nothing better to do, I thought I would settle down to watch this episode on Japanese TV, but was disappointed to discover it was not subtitled, but dubbed into Japanese. So there you have it, Downtown Abbey with all the characters speaking Japanese. How did that happen in Edwardian England?
I don’t know who the young lady was, but I watched her writhing in mortal agony on her bed (in Japanese, remember) and dying with prolonged convulsions, as the whole cast looked on with shocked horror on their faces……in Japanese, of course.
And I am absolutely sure the British equal rights lobby would have a field day in Japan. Nothing to do with gender discrimination, but age discrimination. The BBC has had its knuckles rapped a few times for trying to pension off presenters (especially women presenters) in their 50s. Imagine the world without Fiona Bruce gracing our screens! In Japan, however, the vast majority of presenters and newsreaders seem to be in their 20s and, of course, with perfectly manicured features, but seldom with the personable ease that makes you, the viewer, relaxed in their company.
But television can open a little window on the character of a nation for a passing visitor like me…