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Japan Getting Real [ 2006.06.22 ]

Try: Make a list of reality shows that you have heard of.

Survivor. The Amazing Race. Playing It Straight.

Just to name a few.

These TV shows certainly got the rest of the world hot in guessing the next person to be fouled out in heated up competitions, while allowing everyday-people to get a chance to appear on TV doing something extraordinary.

It is unfortunate that Hollywood, being choked up in its own glitz, seem to have lost grip on the meaning of REALITY.

Japanese TVs, on the other hand, seem to be doing remarkably well in the field.

Forget kids playing cupids in getting their daddies dates. Forget 12 eager youths working their vocals to establish singing careers as idols.

Unlike Hollywood, Japanese does not like playing loud. They are happier with subtlety.

Fuji Television throws seven youths into a bright pink van that cruises across the globe, to have the nation witness how the seven win love.

The producing team knows they are moving on the right tracks, especially when the ratings for the show, Ainori, constantly top the list.

What is it that makes Ainori tick? Romance? Or is it even about that at all, and not more?

In Japan, existence turns out to be not a matter of surviving any longer; it is about living – an aspiration to be like how TV portrays life or how life is portrayed on TV.

Be a bag an essential item in today’s world; in Japan, a bag is not a bag unless it in fashion if not branded. No standards under par is accepted.
It is also not a secret as to how Japanese look highly of foreign cultures as the Bubble age left many being too comfortable.

Easy college life provides plenty of opportunities for hard partying, or more appropriately known in Japanese as gokon, thus increase in the chances to approaching the opposite sex.

Yet, it is unfortunate that more than many Japanese youth refuse to get a proper job; preferring to remain unemployed, dependent on the family, pocketing extra allowances by being a freeter (part-time job hopper) and/or by small wins in pachinko.

One does not need to be Einstein to know the participants are a jumble of freeters and students upon the assessment of their resumes.

The fancy pink vehicle is a reflection of today’s Japanese youths. Carefree, keen in making fashion statements, and express little opinion on who runs the country.

The trips they are making accentuate their ardour towards foreign cultures, which also is a perfect camouflage that the trips are like a big gokon party.

In the eyes of the viewers, Ainori is very close to a dream come true. Besides free trips, everyone has a 50% chance of bagging home a boyfriend/girlfriend.

Nobody gets voted off the show. Nobody tells who how to behave and what to do in the bargain. Participants are free to choose when to leave. The main idea is to find love.

After being disillusioned with the provision of accommodation, food, and free rides, it is not difficult to imagine the romantic relationship established during the trip falters once the couple return into reality.

Monetary issues that also deal with other forms of expenditure apart from rides to food to accommodation can hit hard.

The maintenance of the relationship takes more effort than one’s imaginations. The effort to meet. The effort to understand. The effort to make it work out perfectly.

But, no. No matter how close Japanese TVs are to portraying reality through their productions, Ainori does not show these less glamorous bits upon the departure of a participant from the van.

The show still beat other TV shows, reality or not, in ratings.

Perhaps, that is what matters most to the producing team.

But, the show still manages to bring in people with prestigious careers once in a while.

The show still remains very hospitable towards participants with mild physical disability and not-so-fit people.

The show still has the richest sponsors.

Most importantly, the show still manages to breed a number of marriages.

To the viewers, Ainori is a blend between their own lives –that had been scaled down into 7 individuals – and their fantasy to conquer the world.

Well, and maybe their fear of not being able to get married.

By Alexandra Low

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