|LIFE IN JAPAN
BBC' Tokyo Correspondent
Time in Japan:
Where are you from?
What brought you to Japan?
I first came to Japan in 1987, working as a JET in Tatebayashi, Gunma and had two great
years there, although I fear I learned more Japanese than my students learned English.
Then I went back to Britain working for TV Tokyo in their London office, and eventually
that led to work at the BBC, which I joined in 1992, and came back to Japan as a
correspondent in 1996.
What do you do?
We cover the news in Japan for BBC television and radio. The joy of being a correspondent
is that every day is different, and you never know what's going to happen when you get to
the office in the morning. Of course it can also be a frustration. In the last few weeks
we've been extremely busy, with the volcano in Hokkaido, Mr Obuchi's demise and Mr Mori's
rise, and we also had a British Government Minister here, so it's been hectic.
Is Tokyo an easy posting?
No, and there are several reasons why. The first is getting access to people as foreign
media. Sometimes it's to your advantage because some people would rather talk to the
foreign media than to the Japanese media, but as far as official news is concerned, it's
really hard to persuade people to comment. The other challenge is getting news about Japan
onto the news agenda. It hasn't been a challenge the past few weeks, but often it's quite
hard. A lot of people think, "Japan. Economy's not great. We don't care." We
have to balance the serious news with what we call "Wacky Japan News." I think
it's unfair to portray Japan as completely wacky but there are some unusual things that
Well, one of the reports that got a huge response was the report about Nasubi, who was on
NTV's Denpa Shonen and had to spend almost a year alone in a room naked, and win
one million yen worth of prizes to get out. That was really wacky. My rule of thumb is if
Japanese people here think something is wacky, then it's okay to report on it.
What's the weirdest story you've ever done?
The underwater ballet at Yomiuri Land. It was extraordinary. These women, dressed up in
full costume and waterproof makeup, ballet danced underwater, and mouthed the words to the
songs underwater. I never really recovered from seeing that. It was a great attraction,
but they had to close the show in 1996. It took place in a huge tank with a glass side,
which they were afraid wouldn't withstand a big earthquake.
What's your personal weirdest experience here?
I was asked if I was a man or a woman on Sado Island. This old lady came up and asked,
"Are you a man or a woman?" I told her I was a woman and she said, "Oh yes,
I can see your breasts." She didn't really mean anything bad, but it was a bit of a
What's it like being pregnant in Japan?
Wonderful. I think it's a privilege to be pregnant in Japan, partly due to the falling
birthrate. Everyone is very, very nice to you-except on the train where they ignore you.
The medical services are, in my experience, fantastic. It's opened up conversations with
people which I would never have otherwise had. One of the very strange things which now
I've got used to is that people just come over and touch my stomach, uninvited. It's like
a magnet. At first, I was really surprised but I've sort of got used to it now. My only
experience of being pregnant is in Japan, and so far it's been great. Whether it's going
to be a good place to have a baby or not remains to be answered.
What's your recipe for a happy and successful life in Japan?
Have an open mind, a sense of humor and don't get a chip on your shoulder about being a
Juliet Hindell spoke to Maki Nibayashi.
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