This is the second instalment of my notes from our recent trip to Tokyo.
I know this is primarily a food blog and these notes mostly aren’t about food, but hey, this is where I’ll be able to find them later!
It’s said you can learn a lot about a country from the TV programmes there. Our Airbnb apartment in Tokyo had cable TV so my experience of Japanese television is based only on that.
What I quickly learned is that Japanese TV is just as good and bad as TV everywhere else in the world. We had about 40 channels, which included:
- Several sports channels, always showing either baseball or golf
- Four or five cartoon channels for kids
- Quite a few channels showing imported US drama shows like CSI and NCIS on heavy rotation. Occasionally the programs were shown as originally broadcast with just the addition of Japanese subtitles. Often, though, they had a completely new Japanese soundtrack.
- Music channels showing Japanese music videos, usually involving AKB48 and their many, near-indistinguishable, sister groups.
I learned that girl bands and boy bands are huge in Japan. Like, massive. Like, mobbed in the street massive.
- There was also one music channel that showed a lot of live performances by Japanese rock bands (though sadly not this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYCcJjuGN6k). It was entertaining, although not speaking Japanese I couldn’t understand the songs.
- Interesting note for musicians reading this: Commercial pop music in Japan is just as contrived as commercial pop music in the West. I’m not saying the Japanese music industry watches or copies X-Factor or MTV but there are strong echoes of UK/US pop song structure, the way choruses and bridges are used and repeated, the usage and type of melody, and in the actual music videos themselves.
- I didn’t see any of the usual MTV suspects on cable TV there, not once. No Beyonce, Rihanna, One Direction, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay etc. Might just have been my good fortune in the channels we had available though 🙂
- Shopping channels. Quite a few of these, usually seem to be selling air-conditioning units for your house, fancy Japanese toilet seats that wash your bum and
the usual selection of random kitchen appliances. And yes, there was a QVC channel. Is there anywhere in the world that doesn’t get QVC?
- Late night chat shows and quiz/panel shows. These looked just as unfunny as the ones we have in England.
- News channels. Less of these than I expected and all bar one or two such as CNN were Japanese. Even BBC Worldwide was overdubbed with a Japanese voice track, with the original English narration inaudible.
Coming from a Western country like England, so many things in Japan seem cute, bright, colourful and eye-catching.
Look at these shop hoardings with their striking manga-style images. This is the district of Tokyo called Akihabara, also known as Electric Town. As its name suggests, it’s full of shops selling cheap(ish) PCs and laptops, and dozens of stores and market stalls selling vast selections of electronic components. Akihabara is also famous for being home to a large number of manga shops and maid cafes. I felt like I was walking around inside a giant cartoon.
And what about these posters and railway station notices:
Don’t you wish your local train station made that sort of effort?
Finally, here’s a weird dog/tree/mushroom thing that was outside a shop in the trendy Tokyo suburb of Shimokitazawa:
I didn’t know that vending machines were so popular here in Japan. They’re on every street, sometimes in long rows and stacked three high:
As well as selling the usual fizzy drinks and bottles of water, your local vending machine might also offer children’s toys, badges (buttons, if you’re American), iced tea and iced coffee, and unpleasantly-named energy drinks:
or bread in a can (yes, it’s a real thing) and furry toys as well:
and who could resist buying ice cream in a can:
In Akihabara (the crazy, cartoon-like place – see above), you can get a vast array of different, miniature manga characters and stickers for a couple of quid each from this wall of vending machines:
God, I love Japan.
Peverilblog’s Notes from Tokyo
- Part 1: On being vegan in Japan
- Part 2: Television, Cuteness and Vending Machines (this page)
- Part 3: Essential apps while visiting Japan
- Part 4: Old & New, on speaking English, and Wifi