Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Why Don't We Have Chickens in Our Newscasts?

I first saw him last September while watching the evening news in our Tokyo hotel. I was stunned into silence. My husband was the first to speak. "That was a chicken on the set," he said.

I saw him again on Monday evening. Different Tokyo hotel, same newscast. A Japanese television network employs a chicken. Not a live one, mind you, but a mascot. It was odd to see him on the set with the other news anchors, standing in front of the desk at the open of the broadcast, especially since the lead story was the damage caused by Typhoon Talas. 

The September 5, 2011, open of News Every.

As we discovered last year, the chicken does the weather.

Sora Jirou in 2010

His name is Sora Jirou, and he's the resident weather chicken for News Every. Since mascots don't actually say anything, weathercaster Kihara-san does all the talking – and Sora Jirou nods in agreement – during their two-minute segment.

Sora Jirou and Kihara

As strange as it is to see a chicken on the news, I love Sora Jirou. How can you not love a chicken who wears a raincoat? Look, there's even a cartoon version of him on the forecast graphics.

Sora Jirou's forecast for the evening

Sora Jirou's forecast for tomorrow

Weather page on News Every's site

Is it silly to have a weather chicken on the news? Yes. Is it unprofessional? Maybe. But in Japan there's a mascot for practically everything, so why not the weather? As we debate this point, let's watch a YouTube video of Sora Jirou wearing a momiji (autumn leaf) skirt.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

From LLWS to NPB

I just arrived in Tokyo to spend the next two weeks sightseeing and taking part in the JapanBall tour. This is my fourth year with JapanBall, a group that takes people on a tour of Japan through five professional baseball games in seven days. It's an imaginative – if not condensed – way to soak in Japan's culture, cuisine, and transportation system while taking in some baseball.

Speaking of baseball, I'm probably the only person from the US who was disappointed that the Japanese Little League team from Hamamatsu City lost the Little League World Series championship game to the boys from Huntington Beach, California. To me the matchup of a team from Japan against a team from the US was the 12- and 13-year-old equivalent to Nadeshiko Japan's victory over the US in the Women's World Cup in July. (But in Little League, the tournament is structured so that a team from the US is always guaranteed a spot in the championship game.)

Alas, it was not to be, as the US clipped Japan 2-1, after an error kept California's bottom of the 6th alive and allowed the winning run to score on a clutch hit by a youngster named Nick Pratto.

While I watched the drama unfold on TV, my friend Dean was on the scene and took some fantastic, up-close-and-personal photos.

While there were tears in the visitors' dugout . . .

. . . the victors posed with the championship banner.

The event was worthy of a blurb in Sports Illustrated, which praised the final game while slamming the television coverage (". . .  the quality of the product overwhelmed its questionable presentation.").

Regardless of your opinion of the televised production, the Little League World Series is great fun, even when your team doesn't win it all. Chin up, Hamamatsu City. Maybe a few years down the line, I'll see one or more of you playing in an NPB game in Japan.