Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Eating on Japanese TV

I know I am back in Japan when all there is to watch on the telly is shows about eating. Cooking shows are popular all around the world, but in Japan, eating on TV is an art form in itself.

On today’s show, two women are off to a place on the Sea of Japan called Niigata. Niigata has a multitude of due to the currents that flow past the coast bringing the fish close to the fishermen’s nets.

There is usually not so much to see when one goes into the countryside, so they fill up the air time with people eating.

To the untrained eye, this morning’s show looks a bit like something out of “The Fear Factor”. They have been down to the local fish market and put all manner of raw slimy things in their mouths, swallowed and then made “The Face”.
“The Face”, is one of the ways the announcers express exactly how wonderful the food tastes, so it looks kind of like the person is having an orgasm in their mouth. This is most often accompanied by a drawn out exclamation of “Oooiiiishiiiiii” and sometimes rolling around on the floor or doing a dance on the spot. Then they give a description of how it tastes and just as important – how it feels in the mouth. Did you know that slimy is a good “feeling”?– along with gluey. Can you remember the last time you ate something “slimy” deliberately?

One of my favourite eating shows was the “Dochi no Ryori Show” or “Which Dish Show”, where they bring in two chefs who make the same kind of dish but in their own way. All of the ingredients are top class costing hundreds of dollars. There is an audience of TV talent that watches, drools, groans and moans with ecstasy just watching these chefs work their magic. At the end the TV talent people vote for which one they want to eat. The people who vote for the dish that gets the most votes get to eat it…the other suckers have to stand around and watch – queue moans of pain, while the others eat- queue “The face” and more orgasmic type groaning.
Anyone who still hasn’t adjusted to Japanese food would wonder why food generates such excitement – you would think they haven’t eaten for a week. But now I completely get this excitement and when my husband and I watch these shows we regularly moan and groan along with the presenters – mostly because we know we will never be able to afford to eat any of it.

Monday, 23 March 2009

No Escape From Back Ground Music

Now that I am back in Japan, still unemployed, car-less and stuck in the countryside at the mercy of public transport, with no internet (could it be any worse?) – oh and did I mention I have very few friends here – the TV is now officially my best friend – Which is why my first blog deals with the intricacies of Japan’s fascination with BGM.

In Japan, Back Ground Music (BGM) is considered a must, rarely a minute of TV goes by without some kind of BGM. Sound effects are also popular, punctuating every movement – cute, but I am forever checking my cell phone thinking it’s ringing when it is just the TV.
I am a fan of Japanese BGM and the sound effects I enjoy too. However, last week on a trip to a local shopping mall I was surprised to hear a particular song being played. The song was in English, so most shoppers would have missed the lyrics. But for me, walking around to the tunes of “I’m in love with a stripper” - was slightly alarming to say the least. This song’s lyrics include: …she rollin, she climbin that pole’n…, then one of the singers declares: “I love all the strippers, because they show me love, they know I never pay, it’s free whenever I hit the club”…
Not only does this guy love all the strippers he doesn’t have to pay – which surely is the point of stripping in the first place – to get paid.

The other day I was watching a TV show about New Zealand, and I was again surprised, this time when Sarah Briteman singing “Time to say goodbye” was used as BGM. They weren’t saying goodbye at all, in fact, they had just arrived. This leads me to believe that when it comes to choosing a BGM, often the lyrics are not as important as the rhythm. I do have to admit “I’m in love with a stripper” has quite a catchy beat.

Some scholars say that the mind is subconsciously influenced by song lyrics and warn against listening to lyrics that are degrading to women. But in Japan, where the majority of the population is unable to understand the lyrics, is it acceptable for songs with objectionable lyrics to be played in inappropriate places? I suppose this is just the musical version of the Granny I saw wearing a “Playboy” t-shirt and my friend who saw a kid wearing a t-shirt with a Japanese character on it which turned out to be haemorrhoid.