From: Peter Rivard
Date: Wed Feb 26, 2003 2:01:39 PM Japan
To: Newsletter

Subject: Game show

      I have to say that the Japanese sense of humor has developed considerably over the last 61 years.

Feb 23 1942

The first Japanese attack on the U.S. mainland occurs when an I-17 submarine fires 13 shells at an oil refinery near Goleta, Southern California. $500 damage was inflicted. It was not clear why this target was chosen until much later, when it was found that the commander of this particular submarine had visited the site in the 1930's and stumbled into a field of prickly pear cactus. Captain Nishino never forgave the ridicule he received from his American hosts that day.

"Developed into what?" you might ask. Well, a normal sense of humor, for the most part. But then again.... Today, in a doctor's waiting room (I am experiencing a traditional Japanese pneumonia) I saw a great game show on TV. The show had lured two American tourists off the street to star in it. The point of the game was that they couldn't understand Japanese. The Japanese contestants would kneel on a mat between two large pictures and then say something about one of the pictures in Japanese. They weren't allowed to give any kind of visual clues. If the Americans guessed which picture the person was speaking about, relying only on tone and emotion, the contestant advanced to the next level. The best part for me was just trying to imagine what was going on in those Americans' heads. They seemed like normal, reasonably bright people who'd gotten off the elevator on the wrong planet. I make fun of my experience as life on Mars, but not only did I have a little more preparation and a bit of the language, I also landed among relatively normal Japanese. The Japanese they put on TV are not like any you'll ever meet. They have all of the cultural tics and attitudes that make Japanese so interesting, but they're like Japanese on speed, or some drug that combines the stimulation of a fistful of bennies with the blissed-out giggliness of pot. These people are going to go home thinking that the Japanese have come down from some weird insect planet, and their tapes will give all their friends the same impression. I promise to start watching and taping Japanese game shows at home for your eventual viewing pleasure.

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