Sunday, September 30, 2012

NHK keeps an eye on the typhoon
We saw NHK in its comforting mode yesterday, when a strident typhoon hit Japan in its solar plexus just before dinner. It was predicted that the storm would take most of the night to make its way up the spine of the country and NHK promised to keep us informed. The resulting coverage suggested that Japan thinks of itself as one great extended community watched over by NHK.
As the storm made its way north, NHK crews in towns in the path of the storm were told when they could expect to be on national TV for maybe two minutes, and they should be prepared to feed in a couple dramatic scenes such as trucks wading down highways submerged to the middle of their hubcaps; metal signs clanging in the wind; waving fields of bamboo; a pretty lady holding a bag of emergency groceries in one hand and a clear plastic umbrella trying to turn itself inside out in the other; a fisherman, having tied up his boat, rolling his eyes and softly cursing. A familiar shot was of scheduling boards showing all trains and flights cancelled.
It seemed NHK in its efforts to keep us informed was determined to tell us everything. An 80-year-old woman in Yamanashi slipped and broke her ankle. A Sendai man was blown off his bicycle. A temporary shelter has been opened up in Chiba and everyone is welcome.
NHK's Sunday evening year-long period TV drama ran as usual of course, but across the top streamed storm info. As the evening wore on, we became dull to yet more information about cancelled buses, battered storefronts, washed out bridges. How could we use this information? Was it possible that Auntie NHK was just using the typhoon to briefly flash into the national spotlight faithful communities that otherwise it would have no reason to notice? All in the family, it seemed.
Watching NHK as it took us by the hand to watch the storm move  upcountry seemed like being in the hands of an anxious parent who wants to show us our backyard at a stressful time.
We go to bed around 11. We woke at four to absolute quiet.
- Rick Kennedy