“Justin Lee Collins: Turning Japanese”

Five just aired the first part of three in this series where Justin Lee Collins checks out Japan. You can catch the first part here as well as find the promotional material and synopsis. I was always going to be interested in this as I have an uninformed fascination with Japanese culture and have recently taken up learning the language, despite skeptical about what the comedy persona of Justin Lee Collins would bring to it. The blurb starts off well:

Justin arrives in Tokyo on a mission to learn more about the people and customs behind Japan’s often baffling image

However, I think the programme potentially added to the “baffling image” by focussing on what would appear to be quite bizarre aspects of Japanese culture: meeting a man with over 100 sex dolls, costing over £250,000 and sending Justin Lee Collins out to be a host in the city’s Red Light District, where a single night can cost the customer >£1000. I could be totally wrong here and that is pervasive behaviour across Japan but it seems unlikely to me, not least because of how much it costs.

There were some genuinely interesting and troubling moments when the programme visited a sex doll showroom and saw child sex dolls, but this is interesting because it doesn’t need to be presented as “normal” for us to find it shocking and it was spoiled by rest of the programme which seemed to dress up fringe activities as normal.

Frustratingly, I think they skirted around the actual issue they were discussing. The lessons on meeting people, the sex dolls and the host bar were all lazily hung from an interesting point on population decline in Japan that could have been treated in more in-depth way whilst still fitting in some of the kookier aspects which presumably sell the programme.

I would like to see a proper, genuine comparison of both similarities and differences across these cultures, rather than programmes such as this and Beckii: Schoolgirl Superstar at 14 which play into stereotypes rather than challenge them.

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