Keeping it Corona

I’d rather be alive and broke than dead and still in a functioning economy. In recent days as this whole new reality, this bizarre world of social distancing and quarantines and complete and total lockdowns, this thought has become a light sort of mantra, the general idea being that the economic sacrifice of shutting down restaurants, offices, and retail outlets to quell the spread of this new deadly virus (the result, I always finding myself thinking, of some dude somewhere in China deciding eating undercooked bat meat was a good idea) would be worth it in the sheer number of lives saved. Japan, it turns out, seems to operating under the complete opposite doctrine.

Dumb people DO exist in Japan.

Really I’d compare living in current bizzaro state-of-emergency-in-name-only Japan after watching things unfold (badly, it should be said) around the world to watching Jaws and knowing that there’s a giant rabid shark (can sharks get rabies?) swimming in the water where those teenagers are gonna try to get it on. Since Prime Minister Abe declared a State of “Emergency” earlier this week, it’s become abundantly clear that what he had in mind lies somewhere between an “Emergency” in name only and some oddball reinforcement of the tried-and-true nihonjinron concept of Japan being safe from the worst of the coronavirus outbreak simply by being Japan. Yes, it is the 21st century and, yes, just like the rest of the world, Japan is still being run by morons.

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You’re a Minor Netflix Celebrity, So Now What?

One minute you’re a broke dude who occasionally performs on stage and does menial tasks for money (aside from the whole having to hide the fact that you filmed an entire “documentary thing), the next minute your sweaty face is being shared all around the world by multiple Japanese news services, Netflix official social media outlets, and, on rare occasion, random people on the internet.  And through it all, you’re still broke.

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What’s Manzai?!!!, a documentary (using the term incredibly liberally here) meant to help introduce the west to the Japanese form of comedy largely resembling the legendary vaudeville acts of old (but don’t tell people here that), came out on Friday morning as part of Yoshimoto Kogyo’s, Japanese largest comedy conglomerate, push to internationalize for the twenty-first century.

For whatever reason, dumb luck, or somewhere in between, I somehow wound up being the star, being thrust into a project for which I was and still am completely unprepared.  Were this an actual documentary, I’d imagine that things would have gone a lot smoother and easier, but, as you can probably pick up in spots in the film, it wasn’t really that.  I’d imagine that actual documentaries don’t have scripts and countless rewrites until after the fact.  I’d imagine if they did, they wouldn’t be written completely by (very talented) Japanese screenwriters with no English skills and then dissected and re-assembled by a crew of dozens of people, none of whom have actually really worked on an English project before.

So yes, there were challenges.  Lots of challenges.  And to be completely honest, I probably could have handled a lot of the situation better.  Being tasked with, in the minds of the people in charge of this project, the introduction and explanation of an entire form of comedy to the English speaking world (and many other countries through the magic of subtitles), there were times where I simply crumbled to the pressure.  There were and still are other times where the things I was being asked to do or say completely clashed with the idea of this program being a documentary and I wound up having to play a version of myself that frankly isn’t me (unless you think that I wander around the streets of Tokyo at maximum velocity shouting about “the Japanese dream”).  This being a Japanese company, there were times where my American creative voice and ideas simply clashed with what the other people had in mind for the program.  There were compromises and, me being the hardheaded bastard I am, I didn’t necessarily take things completely in stride.

But overall, it was a great learning experience, not just in my own development as an on-screen presence but in terms of my understanding of the Japanese entertainment industry, which I’ve come to learn takes the whole getting things done perfectly and as written in the script seriously.

Which brings me to the actual release of the program.  We had actually finished filming (and dubbing) of this project two months ago but I was never actually told when the thing would drop.  Lo and behold, while I was hard at work on another undiscloseable project, the program essential dropped without my knowing with me actually finding out when I came across my own face staring back at me on my Twitter feed, a Japanese media blitz resulting in dozens of articles spewing the same rhetoric about my quest to become a manzai star.

International media?  Not so much.  Makes sense right?  Yoshimoto’s a Japanese company with a strong hold on Japanese media outlets.  America news media?  Probably not.  Any non-Japanese attention I’ve gotten in the few days since the documentary went live has largely been from friends and family and random Japanese people living in the states who apparently have nothing better to do with their lives than watch questionable documentaries about Japan.  It looks like a Tonight Show appearance isn’t in the cards.  Which is cool.  I’m not sure I’m all that ready for international attention.  Not after this.

I just wish I weren’t broke.

Follow Stephen on twitter @STEPHEN_TETSU for updates on showtimes, weird things he sees in Japan, and angry basketball rants for some reason.

I Think I’m Turning JapaNEWS 3.31.14 Edition

Hiho there folks!  Sorry for the recent lack of updates.  I was in Tokyo for most of last week for work stuff and then, when I got back, I was sicker than a slug.  Couple that with the insanely beautiful weather right now and it’s really any wonder that I’m writing something at all!

Anyways, since I am doing my best to keep the JapaNEWS as a weekly-ish show, I pumped out a March 31st edition of the thing, no matter how unprepared or sick I was.

 

On this week’s/ last week’s show, I discuss:

A dude is released from Japanese Death Row after 40 years.

A Fukushima cleanup worker dies but not from what you think.

The Japanese tax hike and its fallout.

And finally, the big Tokyo Youtube Hanami thing happening on the 5th.  Also promoted here

 

As always, if you have any comments or suggestions, please feel free to leave them either here or on the youtube channel OR on twitter (@STEPHEN_TETSU).

 

And with that, expect this week’s installment to drop in a few days.

-STEPHEN

PS Sorry for the total lack of updates.  I have been really busy with work and sicker than fish.  I promise to be better going forward and if I’m not, you can shoot me.

 

 

 

 

I Think I’m Turning JapaNEWS

So in my every expending quest to never sleep again, I decided to go the news anchor route and bring some of the news from Japan to you, the beloved reader/viewer/stalker on a new endeavor I am calling I Think I’m Turning JapaNEWS or just JapaNEWS for short.

A little bit of background:  Way back in the day, I used to do a podcast with my friend called The Mark and Stephen Show, a show in which Mark did most of the work while I sat around in the back of the room and did the typical goofy sidekick shtick.  While our numbers weren’t ever mind-blowing or anything, they started to get on a bit of an up-tick thanks to a bit of radio exposure (it’s a long story but Mark has a tendency to make friends with people in convenient places).  And then, things sorta fell apart, burnout ensued, and the Mark and Stephen Show vanished into the ether, never to be heard from again.

That was something like three or four years ago at this point and I seem to remember enjoying the whole semi-organized show thingy far more than I probably did at the time.  So I’ve been looking for any excuse to do a show of some sort and the move to Japan finally provided me with enough fodder for one.  For the past couple of months, I’ve been mulling over the precise format of what it is that I want to do.  Last week, I put out a test podcast on my Soundcloud account (FOUND HERE) but honestly, the end result was a little more bloated than I wanted and, honestly, not that good (which isn’t to say that this new attempt is good either).

Living in Japan, I’ve come to notice how bad most international media is at providing news stories about the country aside from the occasional “FUKUSHIMA IS GOING TO MELT ALL OUR FACES OFF!”, “No one in Japan is having sex!!!!!”, or “Look at how weird Japan is! ROFL” stories.  This of course does nothing to account for the other 99% of things going on in the country at any given time.  I Think I’m Turning JapaNEWS is my sad little attempt at showing off some of these other events (along with the occasional “Japan is into some weird stuff” story).

This show is obviously a work in progress and it will probably be several more weeks before I even begin to feel comfortable reading the news and then subsequently ad-libbing on camera/mic.  As I’m obviously the guy compiling/translating/writing/reading the news stories on this show, the content is going to be a bit smarmier and edgier than a straight forward news show.  (Disclaimer:  I am a huge fan of SNL’s Weekend Update and the Daily Show so that is consequently how I like my news.)

Now, as for how to find my show…

As of right now, I plan on ultimately offering the JapaNEWS via two main channels: a visual newsdesk-style show via my Youtube channel and an audio podcast feed via an as yet unestablished RSS Feed/ Podcast hosting service.  Those of you expecting or wanting a written version of my show will either be sadly disappointed or have to transcribe the show yourself (even if I do have a copy of the script containing the bare bones version of the show itself).  Those of you looking for a Braille version of my show are probably better served just doing something else or listening to the audio feed.

When it comes to the frequency of the show, I am going to try to maintain a weekly schedule, which is of course dependent on how busy I am at work and whether or not I’m sick.  If something major happens, you can probably expect me to issue some special edition episodes to talk about stuff in a timely manner.

If you would like to contact me about the show and/or are an expert in some Japan news related field, please feel free to do so either through my twitter account or the comments section here or via another yet unestablished email address.  Also if an awesome person wants to come up with a cool looking logo for the show, I would love you forever and totally sell you my kidney.

Until next time.

-STEPHEN