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YouTube Watching – Naomi Osaka and More

Japanese-immersion students, Wellers Hill State School, Australia. Image: YouTube.

By David Yamaguchi, The North American Post

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka Image wikipedia

A new instant celebrity is Japan-born Naomi Osaka. On the off chance that you have been living on a deserted island, this twenty-year-old won the Sept. 2018 US Open tennis tournament by defeating aging superstar Serena Williams in the women’s final. While there is a lot on the internet these days about the young, rising star, perhaps the funniest is her Nissin instant-ramen TV commercial.

The commercial opens on a women’s locker room, where a young, gaijin [foreigner] tennis player, apparently just off the court, is ranting in front of her locker. Her tirade goes something like

“Aahh, Oosaka hanpa naitte, Mou, aitsu hanpa naitte, Tama hayasugite, Oto okurete kikoete kuru mon. Sonnan dekihen yan futsuu… shitte tan nara yuttoite ya.”

The amusing 31-second clip doubles as a good test of one’s second-language Japanese. See if you recognize the double joke that runs through it.

PS. This video is on Vimeo, not YouTube.

Also amusing is a two-minute, 47 second YouTube video of a young Naomi playing a chopsticks game with her sister, Mari, in 2008. Today, Mari is also a ranked tennis professional.


Bilingual Elementary Education, Australia
Japanese immersion students Wellers Hill State School Australia Image YouTube

A useful feature about watching streaming video is that when one does so, links to related videos appear on the bottom of the screen. One such YouTube link I clicked on highlights Japanese-English bilingual education at Wellers Hill State School in Queensland, Australia. What is striking is that when the elementary-school children there are playing among themselves, they are chatting in Japanese. Also notable is how the kids are being taught rapid addition by abacus, which supposedly helps later in life because one can visualize the beads.

Hotaru no Haka, live action TV drama (2005, IMBD rating 7.7, based on 315 votes).
Hotaru no Haka Image asianwikicom

Longtime film fans will recognize this title as a newer version of the 1988 anime film, ‘Grave of the Fireflies,’ which is a retelling of the semi-autobiographical life story of writer
Akiyuki Nosaka. The tale traces the sad lives of an orphaned young boy and his little sister who survive the fire-bombing of Kobe, only to perish in the hunger that stalked the land late in the war and after it.

The live-action version was made to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. Perhaps owing to my age, I find this latest version a better telling. In part, this comes from the comfortable familiarity of cast family members from other films and dramas. These include Nanako Matsubara (The Ring), Mao Inouye (Eien no Zero), and Tsuyoshi Ihara (13 Assassins). For Japanese Americans, the drama’s telling of the war from Japanese civilians’ perspectives complements that of the JA-centered “Kyuju-Kyunen no Ai” [99 Years of love].

In researching the background to Hotaru no Haka, I learned two facts new to me that may be new to readers as well. The first is that American military planners knew they were inducing hunger among the Japanese populace through destroying civilian infrastructure late in the war. It was a deliberate strategy termed “Operation Starvation.”

Readers already know of the widespread aerial bombings. This followed a US submarine program to destroy Japanese wartime shipping. What I did not know is that the silent and overhead attacks included an aggressive naval mining campaign. The mines were broadcast into harbors and shipping lanes from B-29s. They were accordingly difficult to find postwar.

The second finding is that the tale, Hotaru no Haka, is from a generation of Japanese writers known as the Yakeato Sedai [Generation of the Ashes]. The most famous of these is Kenzaburo Oe, whose words I have not read. Perhaps we can explore them in a later column.