In Japan, where 99.5 percent of households own a TV set, networks battle hard for ratings. From food to around-the-globe travels, society issues and the latest celebrity scandals, Japanese television shows are always trying to push for bigger viewership. The fallout can often mean poorly constructed, low-budget and downright weird programming. For show producers, it seems to be pretty much a case of “we’ll try anything once.”
Are you a man or a woman?
The weekday evening news program, Kansai Joho Net Ten, aired last Friday night and has since generated a lot of views as well as discussion on social media. But not in a good way.
Things got hella awkward when regular guest, writer and artist Koji Wakaichi, lost his temper after watching a segment hosted by comedy duo the Fujisaki Market.
In the segment, called 迷ってナンボ！(mayotte nanbo, lit. “wandering awesome”) the comedians visited an okonomiyaki restaurant in Osaka’s Juso entertainment district to investigate the “mysterious” gender of a regular customer who looked androgynous.
According to the restaurant’s staff, they’ve always been curious as to whether their customer is a man or a woman. So naturally, they left it to two random comedians to find out because that would surely make for hilarious television LOL and LMAO.
The comedians then located the customer in the mall close to the restaurant and went on to ask a series of super insensitive questions, even going as far as touching their body and checking their driving permit.
It was when we returned back to the studio that guest panelist Wakaichi became a hero for the LGBTQ community, if not every person who has had their basic rights violated simply because of the way they look.
The rage of Wakaichi brought a paralyzing chill to the TV set. Without raising his voice he demolished the segment in what shall become a legendary moment of Japanese television. He said:
“Asking a person whether they’re a man or a woman is clearly an unforgivable lack of basic human rights, isn’t it? You shouldn’t infer someone’s personal sexuality in such a way. It’s really bad. How can you think broadcasting this is ok? Does this make sense as a news program? Think harder!”
The best part
— グレン (@GlennBlog) May 10, 2019
@GlennBlog filmed the moment from his TV and tweeted, “Today’s Kansai Joho Net Ten. Wakaichi lost his temper. But he’s right.”
Embarrassed, and as the other guests kept silent, news anchor Nakatani Shinobu struggled with an answer that would appease Wakaichi’s fury and allow the program to move on.
“Hm, we’re just listening to people’s troubles…” she whispered.
Her attempt failed and Wakaichi angrily concluded:
“Even if he gave his consent to appear on TV, taking such an approach on an individual’s sexuality goes against human rights.”
In Japan, where avoiding confrontation is somewhat a national sport, the scene was so incredibly uncomfortable that the press has since dubbed it a 放送事故 (housou jiko, or “broadcasting incident”).
While the program ended up with every participant smiling for the camera, group harmony restored, on social media the debate is ongoing. While a handful of people have defended what they believe to be Kansai humor, Twitter was predominantly flooded with messages from viewers thanking Wakaichi’s intervention.
— ななな (@nomen_nanana) May 10, 2019
@nomen_nanana tweeted, “When Kansai Joho Net Ten broadcasted the segment ‘Let’s find out the gender of a customer who we can’t tell is a man or a woman,’ their guest in the studio Koji Wakaichi got angry at what he called “inconsiderate spying on people’s sexuality.” I wanted to give him a round of applause!”
— kesera (@abubu287) May 10, 2019
Another Twitter user, @abubu287, also agreed, saying, “Wakaichi did something great. The media shouldn’t expose people’s sexuality to the public. I appreciate that he criticized it immediately and decisively.”
Yomiuri television has apologized for what they now recognize as being inappropriate coverage and has decided to suspend the segment with the duo. Perhaps Wakaichi should get his own segment instead. We’d definitely tune in.