Thinking of doing a “This Japanese Life” kinda episode

Lately I’ve been feeling like I’m missing my true calling in life: sharing other peoples’ stories with the rest of the world. (Either that or running a business that does house calls for peoples’ home PC problems. I love helping friends tame their computers.)

I like the formula This American Life has for putting shows together. The mix of voiceovers, mood music and honest, spontaneous-sounding interviews is top notch. Everything except the cadence of Ira Glass’s way of speaking. I can’t put my finger on it, but that’s the only aspect of the best public radio show in existence today that I don’t want to emulate. It’s not as if I have to resist the urge to claw at my ears when I hear him talk, but he has such an idiosyncratic, kind of uppity (but not snarky) tone of voice that I know I have to avoid sounding like I’m imitating him. At the same time, I can’t sound like the barbiturate-addled hosts of NPR programs either.

The topic I want to cover is “Living and Working in Japan as a foreigner.” I want to conduct interviews with people on why they decided to come to Japan, how they found work, their work history, whether or not they feel as if they’re succeeding, and what the experts think are the best ways for people to find the job that’s right for them. And I want to keep my own story out if it, because if I don’t it’ll probably end up sounding like I’m using the microphone as my psychoanalyst.

For those of you who have thought about taking a stab at living in Japan for a while or moving here permanently, what do you want to know from those who are already here? What would you like to hear headhunters and recruiters talk about? I’ve got my list of questions, but I’d like to know if ya’ll can think of a few that might not have crossed my mind.

This is going to be my attempt at getting better at audio production. There’s an entire team of producers, assistant producers, writers, sound engineers, editors and researchers who work together to put out every episode of This American Life, and for a long time I’ve been wondering what I can accomplish on my own, even if it ends up being nowhere near as high quality. As long as the final product is interesting and listenable, I’ll try to be happy with it.

Rich Pav

Richard has been living in Japan since 1990 with his wife and two teenage sons, Tony and Andy.

25 thoughts to “Thinking of doing a “This Japanese Life” kinda episode”

  1. I like this idea. I have wanted to share my story and help anyone thinking about working/living in Japan long-term or short-term for awhile, but I was afraid to tackle it myself. Last year when I came back to Japan I was thinking about trying to get all of you big name foreign podcasters living in Japan to start something. But, it was eaiser for me to do nothing and just listen to you guys. Do you have any thoughts about creating (or being part of) a Japan podcast channel/network and help each other out to create content or join in on each others podcast to create some 2-way (or more) discussions? A group of regulars with guests to keep it interesting. I know everyone is busy doing their one thing…

    You have my e-mail.

  2. Steve: Who’s left in the gaijin podcasting scene? I heard from Garrett de Orio that Scott Lockman is back in the US, and Josh from Josh in Japan also left, don’t know about the Kobe Beef guy. I’d sure like to work with a partner, and I don’t mind sharing the spotlight. In fact, I don’t care for the spotlight much at all, what has always motivated me are the incredibly nice people who come by here and look me up when they visit Japan. To the degree which YouTube seems to be filled with loudmouth knuckle-draggers, for some reason this site attracts really, really decent folk.

    I’m all for working together. Frankly, I live a pretty isolated lifestyle–if I’m not commuting to and from work, I’m at work doing geek stuff all alone–and as far as one’s need for social interaction goes, it ain’t exactly healthy.

  3. – Scott Lo is still here, he just went back to the States for vacation and is having thoughts of moving state-side. He was trying out a group discussion on Talkshoe, but it has stalled. I just sent him an e-mail about your post.
    – Josh from joshinjapan was just in Japan for a vacation, he left today. It was weird, I just missed him as I sent him an e-mail yesterday to see what was up. He is interested in podcasting, but is unsure of a topic or direction.
    – Terrance of Kobe Beef is dabbling in a podcast amout wines. He is still here. He was calling in to Scott’s Talkshoe show while it lasted.
    – Christopher of Finding Japan is kicking out podcasts pretty regularly.

    I am not a fan of YouTube. Some good stuff here and there, but no community. Some people think that the large sites are great becase of the big name and user numbers, but the smaller more fragmented/dedicated sites are where the better people hang out. There are also so many small worthless sites with crap info for foreigners interested in moving to Japan or that are coming here to work for a short time.

    Isolated – I hear you…I am doing the same things. I work, spend time with my family, blog a little, geek out a lot, listen to/watch podcasts, and work some more. I used to be a party animal, now I am working hermit that listens to all of you guys. With thoughts of trying to do something too. As it stands now, I am here for the long haul – forever. Unless something big changes. I am interested in doing something, creating a place to interact with others and help people out with questions about Japan, moving to Japan, or anything that people are interested in.

    As you know there is a pretty large foreign group living in the Kanto area, but we all keep to ourselves. I am one of them. Let’s change it.

  4. I think Next New Networks is a good model to emulate. The individual members do their own thing but they band together for advertising, I reckon. I wonder how they divvy up the profits.

    Somehow, there’s gotta be a way to band together some content producers in Japan to form a community of content consumers and not lose money.

  5. Rich, awesome idea! I am planning to move to Japan in the next 1-2 years, so this would be exactly what I am interested in.

    Great topics would be, How to best find a job as Gaijin? What skills are most needed? What Japanese level is necessary? How to survive in a Japanese company with its unique culture, etc, etc…

    Tell me if you need a bigger list πŸ˜€

    Benedikt’s last blog post..My looney bun is fine Benny Lava!

  6. Sounds like a great idea, if time consuming πŸ™‚ I don’t have immediate plans to move to Japan, but it’s always quite a high possibility since my wife talks about missing ‘home’ virtually every day. it would make for a great podcast, although I encourage you not to work too much on keeping your own story out of it – that’s part of what makes your podcasts so endearing and addictive.

    Alan’s last blog post..Rails, MySQL and ImageMagick on OS X Leopard

  7. Rich, this is a great idea, and I’m also a fan of This American Life. I’ve been listening to you since episode 1, mainly because I’m interested in other peoples stories. I’ve never been to Japan but I lived for a few years in Taiwan so I’m interested in the stories that foreigners have living in Asia.

  8. This is off topic, but I’m curious about Steve’s comment about isolation and that you foreigners keep to yourselves. When I lived in Tokyo I had a wonderful group of close friends from all over the globe. Living in the States – even here in the culturally diverse Bay Area – I miss how I used to meet some chap (from Ireland or Ohio or wherever) in a Tokyo bar and immediately start speaking to him as if we’ve been buds for decades.

    My family and I return to Tokyo each summer, and I’ve convinced my wife to move back there sometime in the next 1-2 years. But like you guys, family commitments make it difficult to party as we did in those salad days of our youth…. so I wonder how I will meet cool people that I want to hang out with on weekends.

    100% of my social life here is with other “mixed” families that we’ve met through the hosuko. We have pot luck parties where the wives laugh about how foolish their husbands are, the husbands drink heavily and listen to music, and the kids play in mixture of Japanese/English (although primarily English as they get older).

    Does this type of subculture exist in Japan? I suppose one could approach gaijin guys on the train who are wearing a wedding band to inquire about their family situation to see if maybe they want to meet for a family brunch at Royal Host. But that seems desperate and impractical, since most gaijin seem to go out of their way to avoid other foreigners.

    Any feedback would be appreciated. Cheers.


  9. Typo above – s/b “hoshuko”, not “hosuko”. It’s an overseas, government sponsored kids Saturday Japanese school, in case someone is wondering.

  10. What a coincidence, my Intro to Mass Comm. professor was just talking about how much loves This American Life. Anyway, I think it’s a great idea Rich! I mean there is so much out there you can do with this. If you were to do this would you be interviewing all non-Japanese people?

    Carl’s last blog post..Rant…ゆき

  11. Dave – you are right. It is pretty easy to interact with other foreigners if you live and work in the right areas. I work near Atsugi and live in Yokohama. I hardly see any foreigners on my commute and when I do say hello most freak out and we don’t get much further than the small b.s. talk. Where you from, how long have you been here? Before, I used to add “lets get a drink sometime”. Now, I also have a child under 3…so it is not easy to do much of anything else. Before marriage and kids, I would always head to a couple of bars in Yokohama and meet other foreigners and Japanese a few nights a week. Lots of good memories, but that was years ago. Once our child is old enough for school I am hoping to have the chance to meet other parents and do more as a family with other families. In the mean time…I feel isolated.

    Back to the post topic.
    Rich – I am interested in helping out any way I can. The next new networks, looks like a start (and they have the Obama girl). I have been creating a growing list of topics that people might find interesting/useful.

  12. (bitchfest>About isolation: I don’t live in Tokyo, I live two hours north and spend four hours a day commuting. If I attend an event or social function in Tokyo after work, I won’t get home until at least midnight, which gives me only 5-6 hours of sleep. Even if I leave work promptly at 6, I get home at roughly 8:30, leaving me with less than an hour to spend with my family, since they’re getting ready for bed then. (My wife sleeps with the kids. It’s a Japanese thing.) On weekends, I’m at home in Koga watching the kids. So my social interaction is limited to at the most one or two nights out a month.</bitchfest)

    About the network: The first step is to figure out how to aggregate multiple RSS feeds into one central website. I know it's possible, and WordPress's dashboard code is a good place to look for ideas on how to get started with the programming. I wish I had the business smarts to know how to set advertising rates, find advertisers, divvy up the profits, etc.

  13. These are great ideas! This and the Japlish podcast are just genius! I’ve recently changed jobs as well. The old web programming job paid too little and worked me too hard. The new one pays twice as much but isn’t challenging at all. I need some kind of outlet to geek-out on. I’d be glad to help however I can. I’m not in Japan, but I’ve been making plans to return ever since I spent March of ’05 in Tokyo.
    By the way, I’m one of those long-time-listener-first-time-commenter types. I’ve subscribed off and on to a few Japan-related podcasts, but yours has always been there since I found it. I think your show works so well because it’s not a User’s Guide to Japan. Instead of saying, “This is how to live in Japan.” You say, “This is how I live (I just happen to live) in Japan.” I could be completely wrong, but that’s why I keep coming back here anyway.

  14. Chris: I like the Japlish Podcast too, but I don’t seem to be doing a good enough job promoting it. Fewer than 50 visits a day, even after Adam Curry played the promo. Which is interesting to me–makes me wonder if A) in general, advertising on podcasts isn’t very effective or B) for advertising on podcasts to be effective, you need more repetition.

    Also, I tried to do a podcast last night in Shibuya but nothing came out. I’ll throw it in the chumbucket.

  15. Rich,

    I love This American Life too, and a show like that would be great.

    I’m not sure if you’d rather do it on your own or if it’s even crossed your mind, but you could contact TAL and see about what’s involved in doing a guest segment for them. They seem to have different people on the show doing them pretty often. It would definitely be a way to get your name out there and bring people to your site, maybe if you did a longer version and just gave them one segment of it or something.

  16. I think This American Life is the gold standard for long form radio broadcasts. They always find that deeper story angle, which I think is incredibly hard to do.

    I’m sure it’s somewhere within many gaijin experiences though. Gambatte!

    Joseph’s last blog

  17. I should clarify (and as I’ve seen in the thread here) – as far as I know, Lockman is still here. Josh of Josh in Japan left Japan, but, as I know neither one personally, I know only what I glean from occasional, infrequent peaks at their sites (quite a long time ago in the case of Josh in Japan.)

  18. I always thought it would be cool if two, three or more of the Tokyo based podcasters coordinated to the extent of producing a walking-the-town audio or video podcast simultaneously. The magic would occur when they stumbled into one another while recording. It’d be sort of like, “Hey, what are you doing in my podcast?”

    Or maybe more like, “Hey, you got peanut butter on my chocolate.”

    I think Rich Pav’s idea is even cooler.

    Time is tight, but I’m willing to do what I can to contribute – if such contribution is desired, obviously.

  19. I like the idea, Scott. As far as TPR goes, I’d have to accuse you and Rich of fibbing on your political fund reports to avoid jarring our listeners with a complete non-sequitir.

    Now that I think if it, I have an idea. . .

    Rich, I don’t want to hijack your thread with “shop talk,” but I’ve been wondering lately how much overlap there is. I know, for instance, that TPR listeners and readers tend to read Observing Japan, Shisaku, GlobalTalk 21, and because they tell us so and because we so often cover the same issues (and TPR brings them on), but it’s much, much harder to guess at podcast overlap, especially when the points of familiarity are simply that we all produce podcasts in Japan and are American.

    A little over a year ago, when TPR was in its infancy, I know that mentions in Tokyo Calling and HFJ brought us the gift of a nice bump in traffic, but I have no way of knowing how many of them stuck around or how many TPR listeners have found HFJ and Tokyo Calling.

    Maybe we should make a giant LARP in which our respective listeners. . . No, nevermind.

  20. Garrett, I don’t think the overlap is a problem. My current theory on podcast advertising is that the more an ad is repeated, the better. I got my promo played on the Daily Source Code once, and it didn’t do dick for my hit stats. Probably 150,000+ people heard it but my visits increased by about 10. But I bet if I produced a weekly spot for him to play, my stats would go through the roof.

    Synchronizing our marketing would also be a good thing.

    If I can just figure out how to set up a site that looks like a blog but displays content from multiple RSS feeds rolled into one, we’re in business.

  21. I agree with Rich. I also, think overlap is a good thing. As long as everyone plugs everyone to beat the other shows into the listeners’ heads. Look at the TWiT network of podcasts. They overlap the heck out of each other, but almost all of their listeners listen to multiple podcasts from them. I think that if a band of Japanese related podcasts were closely knit that they could/would share listeners from each other. If people are interested in news or topics about Japan than they will listen to other podcasts that are related (if they know about them). There are also some blogs that are being brought together to create a mega-blog with separate channels, like (funny thing is that the site is down right now-21:30 JST on Friday, Nov. 23)…it is a daddy blog made up of multiple daddy bloggers. I feel that if people are interested in a topic they seem to want more.

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