life in hiroshima and beyond

3 December 2013 @ 3pm

Hiroshima, Japan, Media, Portfolio

My short-lived TV career

Yesterday I spent the day helping out with a shoot for TV travel program. Although I’ll only appear in a small segment of the show, it took a full day to shoot, but that’s the way these things go.

I’m not a big fan of TV and have always had very mixed feelings about being involved in anything TV related in Japan. However, after meeting with the freelance director a couple of weeks ago, it seemed it might be a good opportunity to get across what a special place Hiroshima is to visit to an overseas audience interested in making trips to Japan.

After a full day, as the sun started to set, we moved to the riverbank next to Chuo Park for the final, and most important part of the day’s filming: a talk between myself and an actor playing a travelling American. This was where I expected to be able to talk about how over the 18 years I’ve been in Hiroshima I’ve come to love the place and how it is proving to be a great place to raise a family, as well as the reasoning behind the tourism related work Joy and I do with GetHiroshima.

As we walked along the riverside, the director comes alongside and, after stressing how important this shot is, proceeded to say he wouldn’t be needing me to mention any of the stuff we talked about in our initial meeting.

He wanted to “go deeper”.

He didn’t need me to talk about Hiroshima’s incredible example of largely leaving recrimination behind in an effort move forward with its campaign for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

He didn’t need me to talk about how my children – two clearly non-Japanese kids who are on paper American – have never been on the receiving end of any nasty or even careless comments from their classmates at the public school they attend, even during or after classes about the A-bombing. This was something that had struck me for the first time when talking with the director over drinks. I wondered if this was a result of Hiroshima’s “peace education” program and thought that it perfectly illustrated the fact although western tourists may feel some trepidation coming to Hiroshima, they should not let fears that they will not be welcome stop them from doing visiting.

He also didn’t need me to talk about the message which, alongside Joy, I’ve been working hard to get across for 10 years. About how if visitors extend their stay in Hiroshima, they have time to not only absorb and start to make sense of all that they have learnt, but give themselves the opportunity to make connections with local people around a teppan or at a bar, putting a face on the tragic city. How, by enjoying modern Hiroshima, it’s message of reconciliation and desire for future peace is felt all the more powerfully.

He said that these sentiments would come across as contrived.

But it’s all true, I said.

He said, there’s no point, no one will believe it. He wanted to “go deeper”.

Fucking television, I thought.

I have no idea what he really wanted out of me. I got the feeling that he wanted me to come out with some things that Japanese people would be reluctant to say to about Hiroshima, its past and its message, but his “directions” were so vague, (or too “deep” for my Japanese language level) that I can’t be sure of that.

One thing was for sure though, I felt ambushed and I was angry. I wanted nothing more than to pull out the mic, tell him to stuff his program and storm off diva-like. If it had been earlier in the day, I might have done just that. But, after a long day with the “traveler” and the rest of the crew, it just didn’t feel right to leave them in the lurch. As the “traveler” did his lead in, I could feel my shoulders shaking with anger. I did my best to answer his questions honestly. I don’t know why, but I also tried to “go deeper”, to give them something that they might want.

I’m not even really sure what I said in the end. My feelings and thoughts about the bombing and “peace” in Hiroshima are in a constant state of flux and I may said some things on subjects that I am not qualified to talk about and on which so many other people here are.

I doubt I went deep enough, but after the final shot the director seemed, on the surface, relatively pleased with it. He apologised for making me uncomfortable, saying he needed to push me, to make me look more serious, I look too friendly.

Make me sound negative about the city I love and I will sue you, I said.

I may have nothing to worry about. It may end up looking (possibly) and sounding (unlikely) great. Maybe no one will see it. In the larger scheme of things, who cares? These are big issues and the feelings of a dad who spends some of his free time recommending places for people to get drunk in really don’t matter. And of course, it’s television, so hopefully the show will be shown a few times before disappearing into the ether just like in the 20th century.

But shooting finished 9 hours ago and I’m typing this at 3am because I can’t sleep. I’m still fuming inside. I’m angry at the director. I’m angry at television. And, I’m angry at myself. I feel that trust was betrayed. That I was used. I feel violated.


Posted by
Rick Weber
3 December 2013 @ 8pm

Paul, I’m sure you’re not the first, and you won’t be the last. Kuddos to you all the same. Hope you can sleep tonight.

Posted by
3 December 2013 @ 9pm

Thanks Rick. True indeed. At least it will be the last for me!

Posted by
Chris Chardon
4 December 2013 @ 7am

Yeah, I’ve unfortunately found that TV for profit (ie, shooting a commercial or something, and getting paid to do it) is fine, but anything else is a sort of soul-rape. Won’t do the latter anymore either.

Posted by
5 December 2013 @ 7am

Love your town. Visited there first in the ’80’s (my college tour included meeting and hearing a surviving woman, who plainly told of her years of leukemia, but done with kindness, with no malice of any kind). I came away then, and once again, recently with the same strong feelings you mentioned of a place that is a living testimony to life and the intent of others to move both themselves and the world toward a real and abiding peace. An incredible and favorite place of mine during my years living there. And to leave you with just a thouight: If you were to get inspired to create your own version of a video — who knows, it might do a lot of good!

Posted by
5 December 2013 @ 8am

Chris, thanks for commenting. I am supposed to be paid for the day, but I don’t think I want any of their money now. I wouldn’t like anyone to think that I’d equate my experience as on an equivalent level to that of a rape victim, your description is a very good way of expressing how I have been feeling.

Posted by
5 December 2013 @ 9am

Robert, thanks for taking the time to share your experience. I may have to quote you!

Posted by
5 December 2013 @ 7pm

Well said Paul. I was going to suggest that your blog might get greater exposure than the TV programme but, I think Robert’s idea of your own video (maybe under the auspices of Gethiroshima)could have significant impact. Keep up the good work.

Posted by
Ruth Jarman Shiraishi
17 December 2013 @ 3pm

I very much empathize with your feelings. I find that anything that has to do with TV or mass media needs to be taking one tiny well thought through sip at a time. I do speeches every once in a while and although my book is 100% about good things about Japanese people and Japan, there is always someone trying to get me to point out what I dont like and what I feel is better about somewhere else (not everyone asking me these types of questions is from Japan). It is surprising how desperately people want to establish right/wrong, good/bad and will not settle for the concept that someone is maintaining a focus on the good and that good in one thing does not equate bad in another. Finding the good, loving places and people, believing things can get better and not giving into the negative vibes all around is extremely difficult and taxing. I feel for you not being able to sleep as I have been there too. You are doing so many wonderful things for Hiroshima and Japan, dont let anyone get in the way of your focus on good and your genuine care. Finding what is wrong or uncomfortable is simple…seeking out what is wonderful and fantastic is the real worthy challenge and that matters to everyone so much more in the end.

Posted by
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