Conceiving The Japan Show
and the massive stroke of creativity in deciding its name
Gavin and I met around April 2011 in Shibuya, Tokyo – I was waving around my subpar microphone and camera at an anti-nuclear protest where demonstrators marched in milk, cow, vegetable etc costumes. I’d just come off my first weeks-long NPR tour in Iwate-Miyagi-Fukushima post-3.11 as a ride-along fixer, and Gavin had come out of journalist hibernation to work the Sydney Morning Herald angle, wielding this ancient invention called paper and some sort of handheld audio recorder. As the march wound down at the tiny Miyashita Park, the gathered (mostly freelance) journalists were getting photos, interviews, and the like – there was limited coverage from mainstream media, a point I’ll bring up in a bit.
In any case, Gavin and I managed to strike up conversation after things had died down – we were both getting audio from another interview moments before, and for a freelancer’s chance of survival to be more than painfully slim, said freelancer’s urge to network must be strong. And so, we met. A few weeks later, at the Rose and Crown in Akihabara, we came to one inescapable conclusion – that a down-to-earth analysis of serious goings-on in Japan was not effectively provided by foreign-based outlets, especially the big names in the US (note that we think Wall Street Journal’s Real Time Japan does a pretty great job), and most especially when it came to the audio medium.
There are plenty of English-language Japan-based podcasts, but we found the good ones largely fell into a few major…atmospheres (some of these you can mix and match):
- OMG Japan so cuuuuute kawaiiiii desu desu desu.
- OMG Japan so annoying I hate this place why do I live here bitter bitter bitter.
- OMG Japan why so weird Japan is weird and quirky isn’t that funny
- Let’s learn Japanese!*
*Note that we give lots of respect to those who put out free and accessible language learning materials – sorry you get lumped in with the others, it’s just a numbers game.
That no doubt offends a few people, but look deep into your hearts and let us know if you really think that in the April 2011 atmosphere we were wrong. We did enjoy the occasional Japan news coverage by podcasts like The Economist (please don’t hate us for saying that), but it didn’t seem like anyone was willing or able to sit down and really talk out the hard issues facing Japan at the moment – so we took on that challenge, recording the first episode of The Japan Show Podcast in Nakano, Tokyo on July 2, 2011. To this day, we continue to write, record, edit, and produce this show ourselves.
The Early Days – 2011
Going back and listening to the early episodes, it’s…rough, at best. Luckily, I had the benefit of having cool-headed Gavin in the studio, but I can hear the bitterness I’d developed toward both the Japanese culture and the expat community. That, combined with my sluggishness as a struggling (read: lazy) freelancer and a rough, unpracticed showmanship, led to what I’d love to call “The Lost Episodes” (1-6). Gavin will playfully tell you we were both miserable gits at that time – he’ll also tell you that hasn’t really changed much without batting an eyelash (he doesn’t bat his eyelashes anyway, in case you were wondering).
Refinement and Reaching Out – 2012
As with most things, we began to pick up each other’s rhythms, and the show began to take on a warmer, more polished quality. Gavin and I continued to expand our network in Tokyo, meeting and spreading the word of The Japan Show as we interviewed figures in the community, and TJS started to become the project we love today. As a freelancing bum with no time, harassing the ever-busy Gavin for time to record became part of my shtick – a tide that would even out in 2013 and into 2014.
Life Interrupts – 2013 and early 2014
In March of 2013, I finally bit the bullet and took full-time employment while continuing to work my NPR obligations and making appearances on other media – meanwhile, Gavin continues to take on extra consulting responsibilities, making us equally unavailable. The upside? I’ve expanded my web design, photography, and other creative skillset, Gavin makes money and expands his network. The downside? Less time for The Japan Show. Shows become a quarterly affair rather than a monthly (or biweekly in the case of the early days), but they still bring that same enjoyment as they did in days past. We both notice a distinct brightening in the show’s atmosphere – speculate as you will.
Renovations and Rejuvenations – 2014~?
As you might have noticed, we’re beginning to spend quite a bit more time enhancing the back end of the show – we know we can’t bring you the biweekly shows we want (as much as we’re going to try), but we also know that there’s a lot more we can produce for your benefit on the web and visual side. The new thejapanshow.com design (May 2014) is part of that renovation – and there’s a lot more to come. If there’s more you want to see or hear out of us, drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org