Japan Trip Two: Filming at My House


Last week I told you about how I had gotten an email that would change my life. If you haven't read the first post, I would go and read that so you don't get lost. I also recommend reading my original post about Kamaboko, which is what caught the attention of the television program in the first place. 

All caught up? Good, let us proceed with this crazy tale. 

After the initial emails sent back and forth between myself and the representative of the program, I'll call her Akane-San, we spoke on the phone. I'm not a particularly confident phone speaker, always preferring emails and texts, so calling her was rather nerve-wracking. Thanks to this, when she answered the phone I totally butchered the pronunciation of her name (*face palm and internal groan*). But, I needn't have worried, because Akane-San was, of course, very friendly and polite enough to ignore my fumbles. 

We talked for around a half an hour, during which she asked me questions about my cooking, my interest in Japan, and my background. I in turn cleared up a few questions I had of my own, baring my one big question of "Is this really happening?". By the end of the conversation we had established that the film crew would be coming sometime in the next week. Not a whole lot of time to prepare, especially since I was house sitting that week, and wouldn't have a lot of time at home to practice making kamaboko. Because here is the thing, I hadn't made any kamaboko since the fall before, and I'd only made it a few more times than the initial attempt. I was confident that I had the recipe down, as far as my recipe went, but I wasn't about to make it off the cuff while being filmed. 

Our kitchen before the finishing touches. Not too bad, but in need of a face lift before going on television. 

Our kitchen before the finishing touches. Not too bad, but in need of a face lift before going on television. 

Another problem, we were part way through a renovation of our kitchen, and it wasn't really ready to be filmed. Walls needed to be painted, a sink replaced, curtains had to be purchased, and did I mention the sink? Luckily, my mom busted her butt over the next few days, painting after work, hanging curtain rods, and fighting an epic battle with the old rusted faucet to replace it with one that--gasp-- actually worked. My sister spent the week buying all of those refining items, like new lampshades, and throw pillows. 

By the time that we had nailed down Tuesday as our filming day (only a week and one day after initial contact), the kitchen was looking better than it had since we bought the house twenty years ago. My mother and sister are rock stars.

My co-worker who used to work in television had this to contribute. "You're totally going to be a victim of over preparation. We used to go to people's houses to interview them and it would be obvious that they had spent the whole day getting the house ready. Then we'd only film them standing in one corner." "Actually," I informed him, "they specifically told me they wanted to film in my kitchen, living room, and bedroom." 

The house was ready, but I was not. On Sunday evening, I finally got a chance to practice making kamaboko. It did not go well. Something went wrong with the process, and the finished product was way too moist, and it split down the center like a badly executed cheesecake. I was devastated. 

"Make it again," my mom said. 

"I don't have any more fish," I moaned, "and I have to work tomorrow. They're coming in the afternoon to see the house and talk about the filming!" Luckily, before I had to get the paper bag out for hyperventilating, I was able to get an S.O.S out and get my shift covered. I love my co-workers. Bright and early the next day I went into town and bought fish. When I came home I made two kamaboko loaves and they came out perfect. Phew!

The crew's flight got in around three o'clock, and since the airport is an hour away from my house we expected them at four thirty. At about two thirty I started to feel ill. One of the unfortunate things about me is that whenever I am feeling nervous, it goes straight to my stomach. As the minutes ticked by, and my anticipation and anxiety increased, by stomach began to feel like I was on a roller coaster after eating fried cheesecake. At three thirty Akane-San texted me to tell me that they had left the airport and would be there in an hour. "Okay!" I replied, while my stomach preformed a backflip or two. Ten minutes later I got another text saying that one of the crew wasn't feeling well. Did I mind if they canceled this afternoon and just came for filming the next day. "No problem at all!" My stomach sat back down in it's easy-chair and breathed a sigh of relief. Of course, that meant that in the morning I was thrown directly into filming with no warm up whatsoever.

Meredith was the first to notice. 

Meredith was the first to notice. 

They arrived at nine o'clock the next morning, confusingly, they did so on foot. One moment we were sitting in the dining room waiting for a car to pull up, and the next, we spotted a Japanese gentleman with a camera filming outside of our house. I leapt to my feet, slipped on my shoes, ran to the entryway, and tried to look calm as I opened the door. 

There were three of them, two women and the camera man. I barely had time to take this in, when the taller of the two women started speaking to me in rapid, and very enthusiastic, Japanese. Immediately every word of Japanese I know jumped ship and left me stranded. I mean, I couldn't have even remembered how to say good morning. That's a very easy word to remember because it sounds exactly like "Ohio". At that moment I probably would have said "Oklahoma" by accident. I deiced to stick to English. 

I don't know if you've ever been in a situation like this, dear reader, but I can attest that there's nothing quite like having a camera pointed at you while someone speaks incomprehensibly at you. Thank god Akane-San was there and quickly translated. "Hello Kipp-San," she said. "I have come all the way from Japan to meet you." I don't remember what I said in return, though it was probably something pretty asinine.  I did manage to introduce myself and invite them inside. 

Pictures curtesy of my sister. From left to right, the cameraman, the director, Akane-San, myself, and my mother (Mama-San, as they called her). Doesn't the kitchen look better?  👌🏻👌🏻👌🏻

Pictures curtesy of my sister. From left to right, the cameraman, the director, Akane-San, myself, and my mother (Mama-San, as they called her). Doesn't the kitchen look better? 👌🏻👌🏻👌🏻

Introductions were made all around, though nobody ever mentioned the cameraman's name. The director was Mari-san, a very upbeat woman, wearing a Bangor Maine sweatshirt. They in turn were introduced to my mother and sister Sihaya, who had graciously agreed to be filmed, instead of running for the hills as I would have done in their place. Oh yes, and of course the camera was still rolling. There was no pause, they just catapulted me into the spotlight, asking for a tour of the house. 

Aside from the continuous filming, they really were the perfect guests, politely exclaiming  with admiration at every aspect of the house. Our family farm is very nice, built in the 1770s, disastrously remodeled in the 1970s, and painstakingly bought out of that era's cheesiness over the last twenty years by us. Recently we had repainted it from head to foot and knocked down a few walls, making in more light and welcoming. Actually, it was perfect that they were filming now, and not a year before, when we were renting out the big house and living in a small, cramped, mother-in-law cottage in the backyard. 

I brought them upstairs to my office, which is where I keep all my books on Japan, and most of my other Japanese belongings. This includes my modest manga collection, stack of wooden sake set boxes, and copious amounts of origami paper. Also, my map of Japan, which I have hung on the wall, a pin stuck in it for every place I hope to go one day. I would have thought this was fairly common, but apparently no one else they had ever interviewed had such a display. 

"You must really want to go to Japan," said Mari-San with wide eyes. 

"Oh yes," I assured her. 

Back in the kitchen, we finally got to the point. Kamaboko. Again, if you want to know what Kamaboko is, you'll have to go and read my original post about it, because I don't have time to tell you now. What I can say though, is that Mari-San was very impressed that I made it at home. This is virtually unheard of in Japan, though most people eat kamaboko often. The fact that I was a European-descended-American who had bothered to track down a recipe and refine it was apparently astounding. 

Without further delay, we got down to making kamaboko. Or at least, we would after we had done one tiny little thing. We had to go on a trip to my local grocery store and film me buying the fish. 

And that my dear reader, is a story for another post, which I promise to give you in a few days. 

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Until next time, Oklahoma!