NHK Cool Japan is one of the most widely watched programs in English worldwide, broadcast not only in Japan but by satellite to 108 countries, and viewable on YouTube. In late 2017, they did a special on Yamanashi featuring iCLA students doing amazing things in the prefecture. They also filmed almost 50 students in the iCLA Lecture Theater, and invited eight students to NHK headquarters. That program was aired nationally in Japan on the evening of January 1, 2018 in Prime Time, with much of the nation watching!
Jules Brunet, a student at the IESEG School of Management (Paris) on a one-year exchange at iCLA, reminisces about his unique, life-changing appearance on Cool Japan:
“Reed-Sensei, we loved filming students on the iCLA campus, this was amazing. We’re gonna have eight of them coming to our New Year Special edition in December.”
One month later, we met in Shibuya station.
As soon as we arrived in the NHK Studios HQ, we were welcomed by the Cool Japan crew, who directed us to the rest of the group, composed of young adults from all over the world.
The requisite selfie.
Most of them were used to the show and had participated several times, which made us a little nervous as it was a first for us. We all gathered around snacks and talked with complete strangers, who felt like long-time friends by the end of the day.
Showtime was at 3 PM. We sat down. We were about 40 people. After receiving instructions, the filming started.
But first: what is Cool Japan?
It’s a TV show based on a quite original idea: to display videos shot in Japan which amaze people all over the world.
The international audience must express how they feel while watching the videos : “Why is it cool? Why not? What surprised you so much?” It ends up being a discussion amongst all cultures about how Japan is like none of them.
I remember videos showing dodgeball games, children catching cicadas, monkey waiters, cosplayers, ASMR Shots, takoyaki cooks, real-life ninjas, anime choreography, high school customs…
I remember the Americans being shocked, the English agreeing, the Russians laughing, the Germans stating they were better; the Australian claiming that they were cooler; the Chinese disliking; the Korean stating “We have the same”; the Brazilian asking “What is this?”; the Indonesian saying “This is not possible in my country”; the Dutch saying “I don’t care”; the Kenyan saying “Calm down”…and me, the French, just saying “Man, that is amazing. But definitely not happening outside of Japan.”
Each of us being the opposite of the rest, yet everyone feeling like a brotherhood, faced to something as different as Japanese culture.
The iCLA contingent on the Cool Japan set.
We all got to participate actively, and were not aware that five hours had passed, as we were entranced by the atmosphere.
At the end, we took pictures together: film crew, moderators, and participants.
We promised to keep in touch, after all these amazing encounters with Japanese culture, and each other.
So, if one day you check out an NHK program called Cool Japan, try to find two girls from the Philippines and England, and five guys from Norway, France, Burundi, Uzbekistan and Cameroon (respectively)—that’s us! For the moment, try to find us in this photo:
— Jules Brunet