Japanese TV: Passing the Savings onto the Top

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Let’s face it: Film is ugly. American mainstays Law and Order and 24 do little more than recall ancient relics of the inferior 20th century. Beta is the future. Japanese television has openly embraced majestic advances in cinematography. The brilliant harsh tones 2-3x the luminescence of real life! The green glow of indoor fluorescent lighting! The ever-present feeling that you are merely watching the output of cameramen filming actors somewhere in Tokyo! Can you even envisage the travesty of celluloid capturing the brilliant exaggerated overacting of Japanese talent?

On a totally unrelated note — video is cheap! Dirt cheap! allowing the Japanese broadcast companies to pass those savings back to… themselves!

For the last month, various business publications have been compiling master rankings of Japanese corporate salaries, and almost all of them agree that the highest paid domestic employees are in the television business. By Weekly Toyo Keizai‘s October 7th figures, a 30 year-old at Asahi Broadcasting should be reaping in more than ¥10 million a year. A Fuji Television employee (#3) has a higher hourly rate than a Mitsubishi Corporation wonk (#4) or Dentsu ad man (#5).

For anyone who has ever wondered why Japanese TV has so many variety shows with a shoestring budget, the answer is now clear: Superior programming would take away from superior salaries. We viewers are delighted with fifteen straight minutes of an overweight cat stumbling around (and then the eventual “quiz” section to kill more time) so that Mr. Tanaka at Nihon TV and his cronies can have that extra hour of entertainment at one of Ginza’s top hostess bars. Just like Latin America and Eastern Europe, there is just no more money in the Japanese system to build the high-quality television programs that other developed nations export to the world. They need that hard-earned ad money to feed their wives and families.

W. David MARX (Marxy)
November 2, 2006

Marxy wrote a lot of essays back on his old site Néomarxisme. This is one of them.

55 Responses

  1. Graham Says:

    For anyone who has ever wondered why Japanese TV has so many variety shows with a shoestring budget, the answer is now clear: superior programming would take away from superior salaries.It’s certainly true that entertainment staffers could take a pay cut to fund more ambitions productions, but it’s worth noting that the trends in U.S. TV are similar—cheaper production and I suspect higher corporate profits and executive pay. Might these variety shows be on TV partially because, like the atrocious reality productions in the United States, people inexplicably really like the stuff?

  2. marxy Says:

    I see, so Americans are now filching the Japanese model.

    Might these variety shows be on TV partially because, like the atrocious reality productions in the United States, people inexplicably really like the stuff?

    My guess is that there is enough consumer demand, but they are useful for TV stations wanting pay off entertainment companies by using lesser talents as a way to get access to the top tier people in dramas.

  3. alin Says:

    I’ve been watching a bit of international TVs recently and I’ve come the conclusion that one of the problems with japanese TV relates to the country not fighting any major wars. With the EU now officially engaged in the “War against global warming” and the americas’ war on terror etc surely interesting media vectors are set in motion while here we don’t even have that pathetic ‘war against smoking’.

  4. marxy Says:

    Japan’s lack of crime or investigative law enforcement also makes it unable to make “Law and Order” or “CSI.”

    Off topic a bit – but would Japan be able to have shows like 24 or the X-files that posit a “dark conspiracy” in the government. America can only talk about it because of Watergate. Japan’s whole gov’t authority rests on the idea that the black curtain is not to be opened up.

  5. Rory P. Wakekrest Says:

    almost all of them agree that the highest paid domestic employees are in the television business
    What about securities/finance?
    Here was a Cop drama shot on film.

  6. marxy Says:

    That was before the glory of video.

    Securities/finance must be higher for international firms, but not for domestic firms, apparently. Maybe execs make more at securities firms, but not 30 year-olds. This is all still very seniority based pay.

  7. saru Says:

    On the bright side, you don’t have Japanese politicians saying their citizens want their law enforcement officers to be above the law like (a hypothetical Japanese equivalent of) 24’s Jack Bauer.
    Murakami Haruki’s fiction is full of characters who get a little too close to the (or “a”) black curtain for very human reasons. I can imagine a really good Japanese Lost/24 type show along those lines.
    atrocious reality productions in the United States
    I think reality shows get picked on too much. Give me reality shows over laugh-track sitcoms, infantile “subversive” animation, and formula law shows.

  8. marxy Says:

    Murakami Haruki’s fiction is full of characters who get a little too close to the (or “a”) black curtain for very human reasons.

    One of Murakami’s big presuppositions about Japan is that the country has a “dark heart” that only manifests once in a while but is always there.

  9. alin Says:

    I think there are 2 haruki murakami’s , a quasi-dramatic ‘dark heart’ one feeding and created by the western (primarily american) audience/critics/media and a more indigenous one who, if subversive, is rather close to kafka (for a pure kafkaesque murakami take, not ‘umibe no kafuka’ but something like his short story ‘TV poeple’). I believe a good look at some of murakami’s more ‘subversive’, ‘kafkaesque’ prose can throw quite a bit of light on some dynamics of subversion in this country.

  10. marxy Says:

    Except that Murakami himself always talks about the “dark heart” stuff in interviews. I don’t think that’s a “reading” of him as much as a self-processed artistic intention – at least for his post-95 writings.

  11. Momus Says:

    TV execs in Japan get paid highly because the product they make is highly successful and highly lucrative. According to Single Source Japan:

    Average household viewing hours per day……..approx. 8 hours
    Average individual viewing hours per day……..approx. 4 hours
    Number of TV commercials broadcast per day…….approx. 4000
    Average number of TV commercials an individual is exposed to per day…….approx. 100
    Per year…… 36,500 commercials seen on TV by average person

    As a result, ad rates for TV are the highest for any medium. And the execs who make the content that keeps people tuned in for 8 hours a day are… highly paid. It’s not rocket science, Marxy, top blogger.

  12. marxy Says:

    So you are blaming the low-quality on me, the consumer?

  13. alin Says:

    low quality and low quality

    isn’t the formal low-quality you’re describing here more or less the low-quality you find in say a cornelius video – the result of many factors and decisions, so_called poverty being a minor one if one at all ?

    murakami: though not really a fan i don’t buy the portrayal of him as the guy who betrayed the revolution

  14. Your Humble Janitor Says:

    you don’t have Japanese politicians saying their citizens want their law enforcement officers to be above the law

    Japanese cops seem to just fine at acting above the law all on their own. They really dont need any more encouragement.

    Momus,

    In some of your visits here, you must have encountered some “normal” households right? You may have noticed that in many households the TV is just on whether anyone is watching it or not. Because of this I tend to think those numbers are slightly inflated. Also due to the tendancy of repeating the same commercial for reinforcement of message (much more prevalant outside Tokyo) there is no way that anyone could see 100 separate commercials a day. Even if the numbers were 80% correct, you might guess 30 to 40 impressions per individual per day of separate ads. Of course all that is just guesswork.

  15. check Says:

    Ah yes, now I see.

    If TV is viewed regularly, TV has the right to be subpar.

  16. saru Says:

    Momus using statistics to make a point about Japan–priceless. It’s not just a Shinto ritual, then?

  17. alin Says:

    low quality and low quality

    what i mean above is a structural A is to B what C is to D (where C and D would be equivalent american indie-pop/mainstream TV values :-)

  18. Momus Says:

    So you are blaming the low-quality on me, the consumer?

    I simply don’t accept any of your premises here. I don’t think the X Files is better — aesthetically or ethically — than somebody tasting food on a Japanese magazine show, nor do I think it’s in any way subversive that an X Files plot hints at dark conspiracies in the government… just as I don’t think this blog is subversive for doing the same.

    What this blog typically does is scorn the average Japanese television viewer, magazine reader, pop group, pop group fan base, whatever, but then — in an attempt to disguise misanthropy as populism — you attempt to shift the blame to a “hidden hand” imposing things on people from above.

  19. alin Says:

    And this is where it gets really unsexy. Give me Kafka’s Castle.

  20. Your Humble Janitor Says:

    Momus raises a small and old point if we scrape the venom off of his post. X Files, or any network TV show, cant really be subversive just by the nature of being broadcast on mass media. BUT saying that there is no aesthetic difference betten X Files and a wide show of tarento eating, I cant buy that.

  21. Laotree Says:

    Hey I always figured that the money they saved by videotaping dramas was blown on extravagant beckgrounds for variety shows! 趣味悪い!
    I know that when I was fresh off the boat I enjoyed the commercials much more than the shows they sponsored. In the states that dynamic is a little more balanced, but here they make it more obvious that the CMs are the main event, as shown by the much higher production values.

  22. Laotree Says:

    Well that shoulda been Backgrounds, but they do look a bit fluxus-influenced…

  23. marxy Says:

    here they make it more obvious that the CMs are the main event, as shown by the much higher production values.

    Yes, yes. Very good point. CMs do use film. Probably because video looks cheap.

  24. Momus Says:

    Video is domestic, and Japanese television is so widely-watched because it feels domestic. People want the sense of an amusing, creative or attractive person making jokes and telling stories in their home, and that’s what they get.

    BUT saying that there is no aesthetic difference betten X Files and a wide show of tarento eating, I cant buy that.

    That’s not at all what I was saying. I said “The X Files is not better, aesthetically or ethically, than someone tasting food on Japanese TV”.

    In fact, someone tasting food and gasping in delight seems to me a much more healthy and beautiful thing to put on TV than dark imaginings about conspiracies. After all, who would you rather hang out with, some conspiracy nut who got police work mixed up with improbable sci-fi or someone who really loved food? Oh, wait, I’m probably asking the wrong group of people. Carry on, er, “agents”.

  25. marxy Says:

    You’ve spelled out exactly the reasons why The X-Files, 24, Sex in the City, etc. cannot find Japanese audiences.

  26. Jrim Says:

    In fact, someone tasting food and gasping in delight seems to me a much more healthy and beautiful thing to put on TV than dark imaginings about conspiracies.

    Yes, but its beauty rather diminishes after you’ve seen the same scene replayed 100s of times. Either way, I don’t believe for a second that you actually watch Japanese TV. Actually, does anyone here? I’ve been watching a fair bit recently, and rather enjoying it. Bollocks to the lot of you.

    You’ve spelled out exactly the reasons why The X-Files, 24, Sex in the City, etc. cannot find Japanese audiences.

    Do you mean TV audiences, or audiences in general? I was under the impression that all three shows had pretty strong followings here, but most people were watching them on DVD/video rather than TV (well, Fox Japan is about 2 seasons behind on 24 at the moment, so you can’t blame them).

  27. check Says:

    Two weekends ago, after dinner, I had the enjoyment? of viewing NHK at a Japanese co-workers’ house.

    Beyond Mariko Takahashi’s retro-tender musical set, the entire night was filled with uninspired jidaigeki and cop-drama – a beautiful orgy of low quality acting, amateurish lighting, jejune camera work, redundant sound-tracking, soporific plot conventions, and clichéd characterization.

    I believe more eventful programming could have been produced by taping a camera to the back of a crippled dog, and sending him into a white-room with no furniture.

    Hey, I can see it now… “Barkley: One Dog’s Journey Through This Fleeting World”

  28. marxy Says:

    Maybe this is unfair – but could NHK make a Monty Python? Is it just the fact that Japanese faces populate Japanese TV shows that makes them unexportable to countries outside of Asia?

  29. dzima Says:

    Yep, mainstream white audiences are way more racist than they will ever acknowledge.

    I’ve got one question though: Marxy, do you realise that when you compare American TV shows to Japanese (or from anywhere else) you are being extremely unfair? American shows are the exception of the exception when it comes to the entertainment world and I haven’t heard of a place that spends as much money and time on them as America does.

    Cheap dramas are the standard (your American cheapos are shown overseas as well, don’t forget) and in fact foreign audiences have been trained to only expect “high quality” films and shows when they are from the US and not from their home countries.

  30. Your Humble Janitor Says:

    So much juicy tomfoolery!

    Momus said Video is domestic…

    Horse apples! Bull Hockey! Road Pies! That line of reasoning is a characature of your normal nihonjinron appologistica. Videotape was not invented in Japan so your premise falls and breaks its leg right out of the gate. Video is cheaper and thats the only reason its the preferred recording media in any professional situation. Let me ask you this, if you had to fund a music release out of pocket, would you record at a digital studio or pay the costs of 2″ tape? Would you choose to press 180 gram vinyl records or CDs? Again, if its all out of your pocket.

    As for the aesthetic arguments of X Files vs eating, well I think check really nailed that one. In fact check really summed up why I have a hard time watching local TV at all. I’m spoiled by good production values even for shitty TV, so when the production values are not there, the shit shines like stars in a mountain night.

    marxy countered Momus with You’ve spelled out exactly the reasons why The X-Files, 24, Sex in the City, etc. cannot find Japanese audiences.

    Aside from the DVD sales issues, could it be that measuring the viewerships of free broadcast TV with for pay satelite/cable TV represents a bit of a statistical concundrum? The only evidence I can really go by on the fact that FOX shows are popular here is the ammount of office chit chat regarding those shows always goes up to main topic whenever the DVDs are released and I see lots of DVD-R copies being passed around the office around that time as well.

    dzima spewed Yep, mainstream white audiences are way more racist than they will ever acknowledge.

    You sir, are a first rate moron. This has nothing to do with race, its about the low production values. You prove it yourself by referencing the budgets of American TV production (without citing any references).

    Now if one wanted to get to old school neomarxisme style conspiracy theory, we might all ask why none of the the Japanese TV networks or production companies are willing to start the arms race of increasing the production values of their shows? Could it be collusion or simply a gentlemens agreement to not spoil the PNL ratios they currently enjoy? The truth is out there Skully!

  31. dzima Says:

    This has nothing to do with race, its about the low production values.

    How many times haven’t I heard mainstream people small talking slyly complaining about having to read subtitles in non-English films. Quite a few.

    You prove it yourself by referencing the budgets of American TV production (without citing any references).

    I’m glad to hear we have a Wikipedia editor around.

    My references come from living in places outside the axis of evil America-Japan. It’s common knowledge in the world out there you know?

  32. Your Humble Janitor Says:

    sory dzima, your rebuttals failed. Were talking about TV not film, I’m a known detractor of wikipedia. I realize your first written language isnt English. I dont teabag you for your writing but for your flawed reasoning.

  33. dzima Says:

    your rebuttals failed.

    Chris is the new Judge Dredd.

    Thanks for letting me participate in the debate! Hopefully I’ll survive another round.

  34. Your Humble Janitor Says:

    Good one!

  35. Momus Says:

    Videotape was not invented in Japan so your premise falls and breaks its leg right out of the gate. Video is cheaper and thats the only reason its the preferred recording media in any professional situation.

    It doesn’t matter where video was invented, you pig-headed literalist (and janitor-who-would-be-a-judge), it’s domestic because it has an informality, immediacy and fluidity that film cannot match. Let’s say you have an event, a cooking show, a chat show, an unscripted comedy panel. Are you really going to set up film cameras, shoot hi-res, cut between different angles by selecting from hours and hours of shot footage in an editing suite? When you could just sit there in the control room choosing between video feeds and telling the cameramen where to go? Video is domestic because it can wrap itself relatively inconspicuously around events, serving them rather than itself. Its images are simultaneous, immediate. No need for processing.

    Anyone who’s been on a film set knows that preparations for the shoot (in terms of lighting, set-up, etc) take 80% of the time, and the participants have to sit in caravans all day waiting for their three-minute scene. It’s like getting married every day. Tediously formal and slow. Sure, it looks good on the screen later, but it’s hardly the medium for capturing, unobtrusively wrapping around, spontaneous regular events.

  36. Jrim Says:

    Momus: Yes, it makes sense to shoot cooking shows, chat shows and unscripted comedy panels on video. This is why they do that everywhere, not just in Japan. The fact that it’s almost invariably the format of choice on Japanese TV just brings us back to the original debate about the types of programs on offer here as opposed to in the US. I don’t think this is just a question of film vs video, anyway: the fact that Japanese TV dramas tend to look a lot cheaper than their US/UK counterparts (c’mon, let’s at least compare like with like) is more likely because they’ve been put together in a shorter space of time, and subjected to less post-production tomfoolery.

    Now if one wanted to get to old school neomarxisme style conspiracy theory, we might all ask why none of the the Japanese TV networks or production companies are willing to start the arms race of increasing the production values of their shows?

    This is a very interesting point. In my native UK, the TV companies are forever trying to outdo each other in the scale and ambition of their productions (which doesn’t necessarily lead to better TV programming, just more expensive TV programming). Look at the difference between the recent Doctor Who outings and the series’ earlier incarnations: there’s been a quantum leap in production values that I just don’t think you see in Japanese drams (compare the old re-runs they show in the mornings with the primetime stuff and you’ll see what I mean). Of course, people don’t watch programs just because they look nice – a pleasantly dressed piece of crap is still a piece of crap after all. But if TV companies in Japan aren’t vying with each other in terms of production values, then how do they entice viewers to watch their shows? Bigger stars? Better writing? More sensationalism? Schmaltz?

  37. Momus Says:

    The fact that [video is] almost invariably the format of choice on Japanese TV just brings us back to the original debate about the types of programs on offer here as opposed to in the US.

    Yes, and again I’d say the word “domestic” is key. Japanese TV viewers want domestic programming. Basically the model is the local izakaya, where, after a hard day’s work, you gather with a small, familiar group of people who loosen up with nama biru and a succession of dishes served by a cheerful hostess. As the beer takes hold, the conversation becomes increasingly hilarious. Japanese TV is a “virtual izakya”. You don’t want your izakaya to do a repaint, or install flashy new tables and chairs, or suddenly turn into a Royal Host.

  38. Momus Says:

    The story so far (according to Marxy): Japanese TV is cheap and bad, mostly consisting of uninteresting (to Marxy) variety shows shot on video. Blame for this must be directed to the “hidden hand” of TV execs who want to keep production values cheap so that their own salaries can be kept expensive. To say that the shows are massively popular, and bring in lots of ad money, because ordinary Japanese people like them is inadmissible, because this entry would then become an attack on the tastes of ordinary Japanese people. A foreigner would then effectively be saying: “You’re wrong to like the kind of thing you like. You should like the kind of thing I like instead.”

    A visit to Qooqle Clippers, the popular Japanese YouTube clip selection site, reveals that the things Japanese people want to share, remember and clip from Japanese TV — the highlights chosen by ordinary viewers — are mostly the cat stories Marxy mocks in his piece, or the funniest exchanges between Hama-chan and Ma-chan off “Downtown”.

  39. Your Humble Janitor Is The Law Says:

    Momus: of course film takes more resources and time. You ever watch the year end kimono shows historical dramas on Fuji or NHK? These are supposed to be high production value epics. Why is it they suffer from the same color saturation problems, framing errors and often camera work which looks exactly like a wide show instead of like “Japanese” cinema of which they are supposedly decendant? These are often shot on film with relatively lavish post production budgets but often end up looking like they were shot on video.

    Bear in mind I’m not talking content (set design, makup, performances, scripting). These retain the “classic” elements of visual performance inherant in the local theatrical/cinematic tradition. The problem continues to be production values. The “tradition” of precise craftsmanship is essentially lost.

    You are talking content, and your izakaya analogy is apt. Do you have some way to justify low production values as well?

  40. alin Says:

    Maybe this is unfair – but could NHK make a Monty Python? Is it just the fact that Japanese faces populate Japanese TV shows that makes them unexportable to countries outside of Asia?

    this is not unfair, it’s , i’m sorry to say it, forget racist etc, this is plain stupid. whichever way i’m trying to look at it it falls into nonsense every three words. (to start with if a japanese show was to be succesful in 3 ‘asian’ countries that success and relevance would pretty much equals monty python’s – eastern, even central, europeans for example basically don’t ‘get’ monty python.)

    chris. you obviously have this idea that american TV is correct TV. have a comparative look at television from whichever 10+ countries of choice any continent and you’ll see which is the freak-out exception – anyway, no repeat of dzima’s run.

  41. alin Says:

    The “tradition” of precise craftsmanship is essentially lost.

    this one made me laugh so hard i spilled my coffee.
    still laughing imagining the unbearable possibility of every jidai drama being crafted like an akira kurosawa spielberg/coppola funded epic masterpiece.

  42. dzima Says:

    Japanese TV dramas tend to look a lot cheaper than their US/UK counterparts (c’mon, let’s at least compare like with like)

    Marxy himself has compared Japan’s TV to Eastern Europe and Latin America in the opening paragraph.

    The difference in expectations here is that Japanese TV strikes me as “not bad”, with the expected amount of silliness and crap shows but at least one can counterbalance that by finding art debates/reports on NHK or WOWOW. That show Dare demo Picasso is also interesting.

    Here’s an on-topic article by Monty DiPietro:

    http://www.assemblylanguage.com/text/Tv.html

  43. Laotree Says:

    Japanese TV strikes me as “not bad”, with the expected amount of silliness and crap shows…

    Even the silliness and crap is tolerable to a certain extent. The standard “going to restaurants and trying to look spontaneous while saying ‘おいしい'” is a little tiresome, (who wants to watch that while they’re eating their own dinner, “wow that looks a lot better than what I’m eating”) but I’ll take some of that Japanese silly garbage like エンターの神様 over American counterparts like Saturday Night Live anytime.

  44. Jrim Says:

    Laotree: I’ll second that. Anyway, I think even the “おいしい!” shows can be entertaining in their own right – I watched one where, just for the hell of it, they unwound an entire cow’s intestine down the street. Genius. Those shows with Hidehiko Ishizuka et al normally focus more on the process that goes into making a particular meal than on the eating itself – can be surprisngly interesting if you don’t just think “this is shit” and click over to another channel, knee-jerk stylee.

    still laughing imagining the unbearable possibility of every jidai drama being crafted like an akira kurosawa spielberg/coppola funded epic masterpiece.

    Okay, and that nearly made me choke on my scrambled eggs.

  45. marxy Says:

    I find the izakaya/Royal Host analogy funny because this is a nation keen to tear down any sort of old izakaya, temple, architecture etc. to build as many Royal Hosts as possible.

    Also – aren’t there high-def video formats that look more “cinematic” than the Japanese TV norm but are nowhere near as pricy as film?

  46. marxy Says:

    Actually thinking it about it more: seems like the structure of the industry is what prevents upgrades in video technology. Networks hire independent production companies to make (I would guess) a majority of their programs, and these companies are generally small and underfunded. (Employees make nothing compared to the network suits.) Capital to invest in better equipment may not flow so free, and to make matters worse, organized crime is behind a lot of these production companies – surprise, surprise. They are never pioneers of innovation.

  47. Mulboyne Says:

    Japanese television has actually been extremely good at producing television on low budgets. It is striking that, as the number of channels has exploded across the globe, many production companies are facing the same challenges to create low-cost programming and are coming up with the same solutions as Japan.

    Take reality television. Big Brother, Survivor etc have been wildly popular franchises but anyone watching Japanese TV would have seen countless hours of ordinary people filmed around the clock or set challenges. Dempa Shonen is a famous recent example but all the channels have tucked such segments into their schedules for years.

    As the reality shows began running out of juice in the West, they began to spice up the format by choosing contestants from celebrity “D” lists. Since viewers already had formed some idea of who these people were, it seemed to be easier for them to engage with the programmes. This is exactly the principle behind the preponderance of TV tarento in Japan.

    “Pop Idol” and it’s numerous counterparts around the world are nationwide competitions to find new singing talent. Japan has been making these for decades and actually has a better track record in generating recording sales from the winners. Asayan was a recent example and, famously, Morning Musume was formed from the losers of one of these competitions.

    I remember first arriving in Japan and being told that I would be amazed by the number of golf and cooking programmes on television. If anyone thinks that it is still anomalous then they haven’t noticed the explosion of such shows on US and European channels. In their desperate need for programming, Western media groups began to invest in sports franchises in order to get some leverage on broadcating rights. The Yomiuri group established the Giants for much the same reason.

    What Japanese TV has been poor at is generating revenue from their ideas and protecting their formats. There has been a distinct lack of ambition in Japanese media. Take the example of “Ringu”. Domestically, this was released as manga, book, TV series and film i.e. just about every last drop of revenue was squeezed out and only then were movie remake rights sold to Dreamworks. The box office takings from the remake dwarfed all the profit that Japanese media companies had made through all the other formats. This was a harsh lesson but the penny has dropped to some degree. However, media groups don’t have much experience of investing heavily for a big payday and big budgets are usually associated with vanity projects in Japan.

    The lack of ambition is apparent at an individual level. When Ron Howard cast Chinese actors in Memoirs of a Geisha, there wasn’t much analysis of why he hadn’t found suitable Japanese actors and yet most of the explanation comes down to the fact that few Japanese actors invest the time to make an impact overseas. They don’t even engage a competent local agent. For many, moving overseas to learn the language and network would mean the death of their local career and that is a risk they aren’t willing to take.

    There is some evidence of change. Japan’s music market is second only to the US but companies have recently begun to explore overseas markets, in particular, Asia, rather than just rely on the old model. Professional sport has also been a domestic concern but the internationalization – and decline – of sumo, the exodus of baseball players to the US and the increased interest in the fortunes of the nation’s football team are changing that focus.

    Production quality is an interesting issue. Korean cinema currently has a higher international profile than Japanese cinema and their action films, which have also found success in Japan, have superior production values. Korean dramas, however, are even more popular in Japan and their production quality is nothing to write home about. This has just reinforced the common belief among TV company executives that a successful drama depends on a good writer and stars. It is telling that scriptwriters still find it easier to get backing for a film project than directors.

    (I’ve raised some of these points on other forums so apologies for the repetition)

  48. alin Says:

    this is a nation keen to tear down any sort of old izakaya, temple, architecture etc.

    yet in spite of the fact that virtually zero buildings remain (they’ve been all torn down) Tokyo still resembles Edo far more then it does say Paris and NYC.

    Also on a purely (pre-1950s) logical level if, as Momus suggested and no one seriously disputed it, TV did serve the function of the izakaya obviously the actual izakaya would not be as needed so it would make perfect sense for it to be torn down.

    are facing the same challenges to create low-cost programming and are coming up with the same solutions as Japan.

    i agree with this, not to the same degree but a quite similar situation to transport and architecture.

  49. marxy Says:

    Tokyo still resembles Edo far more then it does say Paris and NYC.

    This is like saying Robocop resembles the actor Paul Weller more than Ghandi or Snagglepuss.

    TV did serve the function of the izakaya obviously the actual izakaya would not be as needed so it would make perfect sense for it to be torn down.

    This is a good point.

    i agree with this, not to the same degree but a quite similar situation to transport and architecture.

    Thanks, Mulboyne for a good perspective. Japan has not thought about being a content exporter in the past, but it is one of the new buzz concepts at the moment. The problem is that the markets are not arranged around competition in a way that made them sharp and lean and ready to make exportable content.

    As for architecture, if Japan wants to really go “mottainai,” they need to stop building crappy, throwaway, instantly-ugly houses and start investing in permanent nice things. That’s better for the environment, no? But again, a totally non-competitive industry with total market control is not going to voluntarily charge towards innovation.

    The transporation system, on the other hand, seems to have started out perfect and only needed minor adjustments over time.

  50. Jrim Says:

    This is like saying Robocop resembles the actor Paul Weller more than Ghandi or Snagglepuss.

    Dude, it was Peter Weller.

  51. alin Says:

    crappy, throwaway, instantly-ugly

    speaking architecture for the future the extreme poles would have to be permanent nice things (WTC??, the palace planned in berlin?) vs. kinokunya carpark on aoyama douri. you know, the super-central (non)-site where things like nakata cafe pop up and dissapear. which one is the sensible choice ? well, obviously somewhere in between.

  52. marxy Says:

    Robocop looks nothing like Paul Weller.

  53. Your Humble Janitor Says:

    Mulboyne, thanks for something to chew on.

    Marxy wondered Also – aren’t there high-def video formats that look more “cinematic” than the Japanese TV norm but are nowhere near as pricy as film?

    Do you mean NHK’s old HiVision system? AFAIK, all three HiVision compatible TV owners were very happy with it. If you mean the new Digital Terestrial service (some of which is “HD”) Its the same exact content shot with more clarity. Now you can actually see the skin blemishes created by overuse of stage makeup and the stress induced rashes with peeling skin on the hands of the tarento. As a bonus, in an OL drama, you can now see the flicker of the fleurescent lighting. Or so I’m told. My TV has a TD tuner, but my neighborhood does not recieve TD signal yet. NB that TD may or may not be “HD” depending on which definition of HD you are using.

  54. oye Says:

    hey pendejos, what about telenovelas?

  55. alin Says:

    Tokyo still resembles Edo far more then it does say Paris and NYC.

    This is like saying Robocop resembles the actor Paul Weller more than Ghandi or Snagglepuss.

    you’re being superficial and over-defensive and kind of shoot yourself in the foot thereby. i’m basically saying the same thing you’re saying here just on a different level (i mean damn, all those ‘archaic’ social patterns you’d like to see changed do have their physical and psychological counterparts etc)

    My anti stand here is not against the fact that you’re criticizing japan but because you don’t criticize it enough; often criticize (what i believe to be) wrong things for the wrong reason (excuse the liberal use of ‘wrong’ here); limit your critique to hysteric/paranoid stuff we all know from those terrible 80s books etc etc. self-satisfied singular points under the bizarre umbrella of japan’s TD.