Japan Trip Four: The Biggest Challenge

A Screen Shot From My Episode

A Screen Shot From My Episode

This is the fourth part in a series of posts about my time on a Japanese television show. If you haven't read the first three, please do so! 

When one has committed to being on a television show, one is obviously aware that you will be asked to do things that might be a bit embarrassing. This is expected. Is it eagerly anticipated? It is not. Will you do it anyway? I guess it depends on what you're getting out of it. For me, it was all about potentially getting a chance to go to Japan. So when I was asked to run and smile and pump my fist in the air, all while talking with great enthusiasm and then speaking Japanese...well, I did it. 

I took this picture moments ago to give you an example of how I look when I think I'm smiling. Notice how one side of my lips is higher than the other? Bam, smile. Brrr, is it cold in here?

I took this picture moments ago to give you an example of how I look when I think I'm smiling. Notice how one side of my lips is higher than the other? Bam, smile. Brrr, is it cold in here?

What're you, a robot? you might be thinking. What's so hard about showing a little enthusiasm? Clearly, we've never met. These are things that I may do in the privacy of my own home. If we've known each other for a few years, I might goof around with you. But when I've only just met you, and there's a camera, and it's going to be viewed by thousands? Yeah, it was a hurtle. 

Still, Japan was calling, like a siren that instead of making you steer your boat into jagged rocks, makes you make an ass of yourself in front of a camera. So, when Akane-San asked if there was a place where we could film this scene, I swallowed my inhibitions and recommended a place with nice scenery, where we could record my humiliation. (I may be exaggerating slightly). 

The spot I suggested is on the way to Blue Hill, where Walker's Pond comes right up to the road. There are cattails and lily pads, and some loverly views. A couple houses sit behind some trees, their roofs just visible. Anyone who lives in the area will immediately know what houses you're talking about if you say, "the seagull poop houses", because these roofs serve as the favorite perch/latrine for every gull in the area. That being said, those houses are easy to avoid with a camera. 

We parked our cars on the other side of the road and got out. Akane-San looked out over the scene and took council with Mari-San and the cameraman. She came back and told me that, though it was pretty, it might be hard to film there, since it was so close to the road. On the way to the grocery store, they had noticed a few places that might work, so we decided that I would follow them, and then we could pull over when they spotted a good location.

Before we left I pointed out a small dirty mound in the middle of the pond. "That's a beaver lodge, by the way," I said. "Oh really?" said Akane-San. She turned to Mari-San and translated. I have never seen someone more excited. She and the cameraman sprinted across the road and began taking pictures of the lodge. Akane-San told me that they had all been hoping to see some wildlife ever since they got here. I felt bad as I explained that the lodge was actually abandoned, and that I had never seen a beaver in this pond. 

We left the pond, no beaver in sight, and headed down the road. The spot that they settled on was a long dirt road, which goes down the side of a hill and over looks the ocean. While Mari-San and the cameraman scoped out their shots, Akane-San coached me on what I should say. We settled on "I want to go to Japan to see how kamaboko is actually made, and try all the different types!" It was something I could say pretty quickly, which didn't give too much away about where I might go in Japan, since the itinerary would be decided on only if I were invited. Then she told me to end with "Nippon ni ikitai" which translates to "I want to go to Japan". This is the formula they use in every episode. 

They set the camera up on a tripod and then made a line in the gravel a few feet in front of it. Several yards back they drew another line. "Start here, run up to the other mark. Say your lines, then shout 'Nippon ni ikitai!'," Akane-San translated. Once again, Mari-San demonstrated, putting a fist in the air and filling her whole countenance with more enthusiasm than I could possibly express. They had me do a run through, which went about as well as could be expected.

"Good," said Mari-San, politely. She spoke some to Akane-San, who turned to me. "Make sure you put all the enthusiasm you can into it. Mari-San knows how much you want to go to Japan, She knew it when she saw the map in your room. She wants you to know that this is your big opportunity to show the producers. There's another film crew in Europe right now, filming other candidates, so we have to show them that you really want to go. This is your big appeal."

With this encouragement, I walked back down to the starting line. I steeled myself, dug deep down into my core and mustered all the energy I could. My heart pounding, I ran up the hill looked into the camera with a wide grin and said my lines. "Nippon ni ikitai!" I shouted, putting my fist in the air like John Bender. Mari-San put both thumbs up and grinned at me. Nailed it. 

While they put away the camera equipment I sat in my car and texted my family, who had been receiving updates from Sihaya on a group chat. Here is a screenshot of what I wrote. 

Screen Shot 2017-08-25 at 12.03.25 PM.png

Of course, now I've seen the finished product, and it's not nearly as horrific as I was picturing. It's always important to remember, that no matter how ridiculous you feel, it's probably not all that bad. That being said, I hope I never have to do that again. 

The next post will be the last before we head to Japan, and it might be a little longer. I'll tell you all about making the kamaboko, the "kamaboko Rainbow", our tasting party and the friends I roped into being filmed, as well as the invitation. As always, please remember to like, share, and tell your peeps about my adventure! 

Until next time, remember nippon ni ikitai!

P.S. My exploits have made it onto the front page of the local newspaper. You can read the article here, and get a little preview of some topics these posts will be covering!