Tonight I just had to check out the new reality TV show, “Okusan wa Gaikokujin” (“The Wife is a Foreigner”). Of course it was superficial, but it turned out to be much more subdued than I expected. The wives on tonight’s segments were Kate, a British woman, and Irina, from Uzbekistan. The commentators made much of the fact that Kate doesn’t allow her kids and husband to slurp noodles, because she doesn’t want them to make noise while eating ramen when they visit England. They kept going on about that, but c’mon, wasn’t there anything more interesting about the couple? It felt like the show’s producers were desperately fishing for cultural differences to highlight. There were scenes of men cooking, and even taking care of children, but I find it difficult to believe that modern Japanese viewers would find men in the kitchen all that unusual.
Irina’s family was a bit unusual because her Japanese husband was quite a bit older than her and unemployed, and Irina had a son from a previous marriage. I wondered if they agreed to be on the show because they were desperate for money. (He has a job now.) Hey, at the moment we are so broke that I’d be willing to do it! Then again, maybe not.
My good friend Wendy once appeared on Japanese TV with her husband and kids. She wrote about it in her essay, “Filming the Family.” She had a few regrets.