TV show behind rediscovery of Japan's charms

TV show behind rediscovery of Japan's charms
A scene from “Why Did You Come to Japan?” (TV Tokyo) aired on March 23 which introduced a German man who secretly prepared a special wedding ceremony for his wife.

Television shows and publications featuring foreigners and seeking to highlight anew the appeal of Japan have become more prevalent. How should we interpret this boom? Is the trend connected with nationalism?

Tsuda College Prof. Toshihito Kayano and Higashi Nippon International University Prof. Akinaka Senzaki were asked for their views.

Television shows, such as "Rediscover Japan!" (TBS) and "Quiz! Sore Maji!? Nippon" (Fuji TV), are all the rage.

But "Why Did You Come to Japan?" (TV Tokyo) is really behind the boom.

Foreigners are approached immediately when they arrive at the airport and their movements are sometimes covered closely after that, helping viewers to discover what appeals to them.

The programme became popular, so it moved from a special programme slot to a regular late night show, and then to a prime-time slot.

Producer Tetsuo Murakami said the show's format was prompted by the shopping sprees of Chinese visitors. "There are many shows simply praising Japan. But we have no intention of pushing the merits of Japan onto people," he said.

"Instead, we want to look at both the positive and negative aspects of Japan together with people from other countries. From that we make our rediscovery [of Japan's charms]."

In the publishing field, sales of "Nippon no Zukan" (Illustrated encyclopedia of Japan) by Shogakukan Inc. are strong. Released in late February, it is the latest volume in the Pre-NEO series of illustrated encyclopedias for children.

The encyclopedia explains everything about Japanese culture in a single volume. It introduces everything from greetings to dietary life, play, baths, festivals, traditional arts and customs with the help of many illustrations and photos.

Akiko Aoyama, chief editor of the publisher's lifestyle editorial department, looked back on the intentions of the project, saying, "A lot of people were apparently buzzing about the keyword Nippon."

She also felt that adults who grew up after the high-growth period of the Japanese economy in the late 1960s to early 1970s have been unable to pass on the culture of everyday life to the next generation, she said.

By editing the book, she said, she experienced anew the profoundness of Japanese culture.

Among paperbacks, titles praising Japan also stand out.

In Oricon's 2014 sales rankings, the top 100 includes "Sunde mita Doitsu 8 sho 2 hai de Nihon no Kachi" (I tried living in Germany, and Japan won 8-2) by Emi Kawaguchi-Mahn, and "Nihon wa Naze Sekai de Ichiban Ninki ga Aru no ka" (Why is Japan the most popular country in the world?) by

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