Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Over at My Life as a Gaijin Melanie has written about recycling in Japan. As she notes, it is a pain in the nether regions, but on the other hand it also forces you to think about the extra trouble it will cause you if you buy something that will later need special attention to get rid of. (You can fix that sentence if you like. I'm off work for the day.)

But what really got my attention was the video she has posted, about furoshiki. As I noted in comments, the only people I ever see using furoshiki in Japan are gaijin. Furoshiki are a brilliant idea that the locals spurn in favour of plastic bags. This is not what I want to talk about, though. I want to talk about the video itself. It is fascinating.

(If you follow the link above the video, you will be taken to a page where you are shown how to fold a furoshiki. You can also download a pdf file to print out, showing the same thing. This is all good.)

After watching the video I wanted to see where it came from, so I followed the links back to the Japanese Ministry of the Environment. There I learned (because I do not keep up and did not know already) that the Minister of the Environment in April last year was a woman, Ms Yuriko Koike. There is a picture of her holding a furoshiki. The English language version of the video is also available from there.

When you watched the video, what did you notice? I mean, AFTER you noticed that that guy has the worst acting skills you have ever seen in your entire life. Did you notice the totally silent woman sitting beside him, looking terrifically professional but never saying a word except when the sound was turned off?

Who is she, do you think, and why is she there? The man is easy - he is a sort of amalgam of all the gaijin English speaker stereotypes. He is the kind of gaijin all Japanese people are familiar with, because it is how gaijin behave when they have been teaching English for too long to unresponsive students. (If I use lots of body language they'll understand me. And maybe they will stop staring blankly if I wiggle my eyebrows.)

But it's the woman who really gets to me. What is she thinking, as she sits there smiling vacuously into the wrong camera (towards the end)? If I had the video editing skills, I would take that video and put thought bubbles over her head. Right at the beginning, after she and the guy pretend to confer with each other, her thought bubble would say,

I was just pretending. This babbling idiot has nothing to do with me.

Later, when they come back to the fake 'newsdesk', her thought bubble would say,

I am being paid enough to smile A LITTLE BIT but not enough to show my teeth. Teeth are extra.

And towards the end when she is staring at the wrong camera,

I think my eyes are stuck open. Did I forget to blink?

And so on. Just watch the video, and you'll see what I mean. Watch it once because it's a good idea to use furoshiki, but then watch it again, and this time, watch the woman.

What do YOU think she is thinking?


Potentilla said...

She is definitely under the influence of either alcohol or something more illegal. She is concentrating very hard to stay upright and facing in more or less the right direction.

No, wait...she's moving too fast for that at the very beginning part, so perhaps she is multi-tasking by practicing acting being drunk when she doesn't have any thing else to do.

Is she the same person as the very last of the models suggestively slinging a furoshiki over her shoulder?

Badaunt said...

I thought at first she must be on something, too, but for different reasons. I mean, wouldn't you be, if you had to do a job like that?

I also wondered about the model with the furoshiki. I'm still undecided about that one, but there is something spacey about her, too, so maybe it is.

Anonymous said...

She has her hair. The "last" model, that is. I think someone is a ringer; the *real* news-partner fled the set to get away from His Royal Dorkness Commander Newsboy, so the producers grabbed stick-girl from the model pool and told her to play the missing news-partner's role.

And - oh. My. Happy Day! I can't believe what I see for my WV string:

Anonymous said...

Even I had to go back and watch that again after reading your blog! I think she may be one of the Thunderbird puppets! She even does that funny little side-to-side thing with her head.

And what about the model who takes off her scarf? That wasn't a furoshiki and I can't quite see it's relevance in the video.

What really scares me though is, I finally rid myself of that over-gesturing habit the guy does,when I moved back to Australia. Now I'm back in Japan, I wonder how long it's going to take until I do it again.