June 16, 2017

NPR goes to the electronic toilet in Japan.



Wacky music, pulsating icons, cutesy, burbling reporter... is that supposed to be a way to express Japaneseness? Should NPR be doing that? Faux amateurishness and the appropriation of a trite stereotype of Japanese style — embarrassing.

As for the high-tech toilets, there's nothing really new here. I don't see why an adult reporter is acting like a big, silly baby about them.

38 comments:

David said...

They are very expensive. I would rather spend that kind of money on a toilet that can remember whether the seat should be up or down, and organizes itself accordingly. Family peace.

Bad Lieutenant said...

Wacky music, pulsating icons, cutesy, burbling reporter... is that supposed to be a way to express Japaneseness?

"Kawaii" is the word you seek, Ann. It might help if anybody spoke to, or cared about, Japanese men.

rhhardin said...

Hello Pussy.

Ann Althouse said...

""Kawaii" is the word you seek, Ann."

No, I am actually not seeking that word. I am not interested here explaining Japan from a Japanese point of view. I am criticizing NPR from an American point of view. You are pointing at a stereotype. I am criticizing stereotyping. I am not looking into whether the stereotype is accurate or about things that some Japanese people like.

Ann Althouse said...

The reporter is Elise Hu, NPR's International Correspondent, Seoul, South Korea.

"an award-winning correspondent assigned to NPR's newest international bureau, in Seoul, South Korea. She's responsible for covering geopolitics, business and life in both Koreas and Japan".

From her Wikipedia page: "Hu was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to Chinese-American immigrants, and grew up in suburban Missouri and Texas. She earned a bachelors in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism. She speaks Mandarin Chinese... Her reporting has been honored with a National Edward R. Murrow Award for Video, a Gannett Foundation Award for Innovation in Watchdog Journalism, beat reporting awards from the Texas Associated Press and the Austin Chronicle twice named her "Best of Austin" for reporting and social media work."

Oso Negro said...

Well, then. She has Asian blood, so that qualifies her to burble over things Asian.

Johnathan Birks said...

NPR evidently thinks it can reach millennials with this kind of garbage. They're at least 15 years too late.

Original Mike said...

"Wacky music, pulsating icons, cutesy, burbling reporter... is that supposed to be a way to express Japaneseness?"

That is Japaneseness, though compared to the real thing that piece was pretty subdued.

rhhardin said...

Pee ceremony.

rhhardin said...

The Chrysanthemum Throne.

Ann Althouse said...

"That is Japaneseness..."

No, it's an idea of Japaneseness, and as an idea, it is a stereotype. It's as bad as the way American stories about anything Chinese used to have those few bars of "Chinese music" followed by sound of a gong. That's roundly regarded as an embarrassment now.

Hagar said...

Adult reporter?

It is going downhill. See the Daily Mail Online. MSN.com was bad and have gotten worse. Read your local newspaper lately?
The "Future of Journalism."

rhhardin said...

Is there a Japanese gong show. They can't have passed it up.

Original Mike said...

Have you ever been to Japan, Althouse? I was fascinated by their television. "Over the top" does not begin to describe it.

Chris N said...

Those Asians sure do make good stereotypes.

rhhardin said...

Goffman says people are stance-taking. They need a system to stand with and in tiny ways stand against.

The stereotype is the system. It conveys information to say somebody is Japanese.

You don't know how in particular they stand against the stereotype, but they need the stereotype to be anybody at all.

Oso Negro said...

Ideas of "Jaoaneseness" for 20. I just finished a biography of Yamamoto. Now THERE was an idea of Japaneseness. But really, Althouse, why the buzz-kill? Every culture I have ever encountered enjoys clucking over the perceived excesses of other cultures. I often appear overseas in cowboy hat and boots just to please the locals. Never wear it at home in Galveston. But it makes people happy for a bit. It isn't like I have time to sit them down for a graduate seminar on modern Texas culture.

rhhardin said...

Japanese culture renders Japanese commentators incapable of understanding the first thing about American politics.

I speak as a daily listener to Radio Japan (English Service).

rhhardin said...

The Japanese don't realize that women are insane.

Ann Althouse said...

"But really, Althouse, why the buzz-kill?"

It's NPR!

stlcdr said...

"s. I often appear overseas in cowboy hat and boots just to please the locals. Never wear it at home in Galveston"

Somewhere along the like, stereotypes became equivalent to an -ism (take your pick) rather than a cultural heritage. We all do things which meet the stereotype, but we are smart enough to know it doesn't define us. It's something we can certainly have fun with when interacting with other cultures, and more importantly the interactions with individuals with other cultures. By reinforcing and breaking stereotypes, it lends towards greater understanding and acceptance of the worlds diverse cultures. By taking offence at every perceived slight, barriears are created.

I get annoyed at brits in the US who get annoyed at Americans who play on British stereotypes. Very few do it to be condescending, but more out of an affection for the culture. I've never met an American who doesn't 'love england' even though they have never been there.

stlcdr said...

But yeah, NPR.

It's particularly amusing when Portlandia made fun of NPR style, which this video isn't of course. Wait a minute...when did NPR break into video?

AllenS said...

When I was in Japan in the 1960s, and you had to use the "benjo", this is what you used, the squat toilet.

Eric said...

She's acting like that because Japanese toilets really are amazing.

Original Mike said...

My first day in Japan I was in a park and had to use the toilet. Problem was, I couldn't read the signs that presumably designated "men" and "women". I had to wait the longest time before someone else came along and used one. Almost was at the point of peeing in the bushes.

MadisonMan said...

I don't see why an adult reporter is acting like a big, silly baby about them.

Because that is how she gets paid.

The Cracker Emcee said...

Althouse, that's the way the Japs themselves present their pop, and to some extent, commercial culture. Ever watch NHK? No wonder NPR felt free to do this.

Original Mike said...

I had prepared for my trip by learning the name for the toilet from a Japanese-American friend of mine. He was first generation American, his parents had emigrated from Japan. When it came time and I had to use my word, I asked a middle aged woman where the toilet was. She was silent and looked very uncomfortable. Eventually, she softly said "We don't use that word anymore".

Thanks a lot, Bruce!

Jersey Fled said...

There's something strangely satisfying about the conflagration of NPR and toilet.

richlb said...

My brother lived in Japan for a few years and I spent a week or two there early on in his stay. I LOVED THE TOILETS! One bonus to the toilet: Japanese houses don't tend to have have central air/heat. At night you may have heat in your sleeping room, but the hallways and bathrooms are generally unheated. However, the heated toilet seat does a great job of keeping the tiny bathrooms pleasantly warm.

Jay Elink said...

I used to travel frequently to Japan, and at the time I could read a lot of kanji.

But one day I used one of the new toilets. When I thought I had pressed the button for "Flush", I actually pressed the one for "Wash", the bidet function, and got a big wet surprise.

Feeling myself to be a complete rube as a result, I was reminded of the WW2 Russian soldierss who washed their feet in German toilets, not realizing their actual function.

rcocean said...

"Japanese culture renders Japanese commentators incapable of understanding the first thing about American politics."\

Given that American politics is a weird combination of stupidity/ goofy leftism/propaganda/corporate greed and a complete lack of patriotism - I'm not surprised.

fizzymagic said...

Why is it that female NPR reporters invariably have noticeable uptalk/vocal fry? Do they not care about sounding professional, or is it intentional, to make them sound "relatable?" It's so bad (and ubiquitous) that I can hardly bear to listen to NPR at all.

n.n said...

Is that an allusion to Water Closet?

Deep Plunger, likely deceased, really did a job on them. It's still leaking.

Balfegor said...

I took my parents to a lovely resort in Kyoto recently, and they were astonished and delighted by the $4,000 toilet seat the resort had installed (it had a motion sensor so the cover popped to attention when it detected you approaching). It was somewhat surprising to me because I have actually never liked fancy Japanese toilets. The only function I have ever appreciated is the seat warmer, in winter.

Balfegor said...

Re: rhhardin:

Japanese culture renders Japanese commentators incapable of understanding the first thing about American politics.

Well, a lot of American politics is incomprehensible to outsiders (and us as well). But I don't actually think the Japanese are as bad as all that. There were a fair number of Japanese commentators who either thought Trump would win or thought he had a good chance, and for reasons that weren't entirely off base. The commentator that comes to mind is Miura Ruri (full disclosure: she comes to mind mostly because she is pretty . . . but she also recognised Trump's potential at a time when most commentators were rubbishing his chances). That said, I wouldn't go to a Japanese commentator to understand American politics -- we have plenty of our own.

rhhardin said...

Well I just hear the occasional commentary on NHK radio news, and it's always clueless.

rhhardin said...

Try this every night for NHK news

http://www.nhk.or.jp/rj/podcast/rss/english.xml

It's always interesting in not being in the American news biz at all. Slanted but not for any American audience.