Tuesday, July 30, 2013

12:00PM 8/10 on Channel UX21 NUM's instructor makes debut as an actor

Timothy Finney, a part-time English conversation instructor at my university, recently made his debut as an “actor.” A variety show produced by TV Osaka called “Made in Japan” needed two local foreigners to assist them in a production about the history of a local business, Maruto Hasegawa Kosakujo Inc., sometimes called “Keiba.”

“Keiba” produces professional manicure products such as nail clippers and tools such as wrenches and wire cutters. The TV show wanted to dramatize how the company was able to start producing products which met the strict quality standards of the European market. In order to do this, the producers wanted to hire two local foreigners to play German businessmen and they asked Ken Umeda, who works at China Network, a local company that provides foreign language translation and instruction services, to help them out.

“Because the TV producers had scheduled the film shoot to take place on a Monday afternoon, Ken was having a hard time finding someone who was free,” Tim said, “but, since I had helped them out with some classes and the like in the past, they called me and, as luck would have it, I was free that afternoon.”

Tim helped Ken find a second foreigner, Peter Carter, to participate and, dressed in suits and ties on a hot and humid July 1 afternoon, they met the director and his crew at Keiba’s offices. After introductions, the TV crew passed out a Japanese script that told the story of how, 30 years ago, two German businessmen visiting the company were highly unimpressed with the quality of the company’s goods and even physically manhandled the owner to get him to understand that he needed to greatly improve his products in order to sell them outside Japan. The script then had the businessmen give the owner, who was played by another actor, a measuring tool that would allow him to produce a higher quality product.

“I had two lines that I said in English,” Tim noted. “The first one is where, after inspecting their products for the first time, I inform the owner that the quality is terrible and would never sell well in Germany. The second line is where, after inspecting their improved product line, I tell the owner the quality of his product has been greatly improved and that we will be able to work out a deal. In both cases, my dialogue will be dubbed in Japanese by another actor when it is shown for broadcast.”

This is the second time Mr. Finney will have appeared on a Japanese TV show. The first time was when he appeared on a panel that discussed Japanese fans of American comic book characters for a talk show that was broadcast on one of Nippon Broadcasting Network’s (NHK’S) satellite channels. “Well,” said Tim, “I’ve been living in Japan for 23 years now and this is the kind of thing that can happen to foreigners if they live in this country long enough.”

Thursday, July 4, 2013

A "Hachijurigoe" Path is in the Spotlight

A “hachijurigoe” path is along National Route 289 that runs from Niigata City on the Sea of Japan to Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture. It once played an important role as one of the main horse and buggy routes from the Pacific Ocean to the Sea of the Japan, however, about a century ago, railroads and, later, newer roads for automobiles, made this path obsolete.

“Hachijurigoe” means that, though it is only about 20 kilometers long, it was such a rough and tumble route, people felt that they were actually traveling 300 kilometers. As it grew abandoned by normal traffic, the area became even more overgrown. However, because of this, it became a popular nature trail for hikers, campers and mountain climbers.

I was told as a child that a new highway along this route had long been planned as it was the shortest route between the two prefectures. In fact, going back 50 years, there have been many plans to pave the “hachijurigoe” path, but because of many factors, especially Japan’s economic ups and downs, these plans never came to fruition. However, recently, there has been a new push by the City of Sanjo to finally complete the project.

Though it is still under construction in some areas, a limited number of bus tours began driving on the road on June 30 and will continue until November 9. However, it is too late to try and reserve a seat as, surprisingly, all the tours were fully booked in a short amount of time.

For now, only a limited amount of traffic is allowed on the road, however, the long-awaited opening is well within sight. Many people in my hometown of Shitada Village believe that, thanks to this new highway, the local economy will prosper.