For most Japanese, April Fools' Day still no joke


If you were in Japan in the 1990s, you might remember a pair of TV personalities named Kin-san and Gin-san -- Gold and Silver. Kin Narita and Gin Kanie, identical twin sisters from Nagoya, were born on Aug 1, 1892, which made them perhaps television's sole centenarian entertainers. Spry, cute and sometimes almost funny, their lovably toothless grins were frequently featured on NHK and other networks until the sisters passed away about a year apart.

On April 1, 2001, Tokyo Shimbun startled its readers by announcing that the two old gals were not twins, but actually triplets. Their third sister, whose name was "Do" (Bronze), had been adopted by a relative and taken to Brazil while an infant.

When Tokyo Shimbun's convincingly written article was revealed to be an April Fools' gag, many of the newspaper's readers reacted to the story with irritation bordering on outrage. Fake news stories on the 1st of April is something for foreigners, but Japanese shouldn't go there, they argued. Or as a 59-year-old Tokyo woman told the Asahi Shimbun, "Japanese, whose 'warai no tsubo' (funnybone) is in a different place from foreigners, are better off not getting involved in this custom."

Among Japan's foreign residents, Chicago-born TV personality Dave Spector is certainly most closely associated with the practice.

"The term (word) April Fool has definitely made it into the Japanese vernacular, albeit in the singular katakana form, as 'eepuriru fuuru,'" Spector wrote in an email. "It's even used as a common expression on the day in question, if it can relate to something close to a prank or joke or something that's too unbelievable to fathom.

"About 10 years ago, I might have been the first one to introduce a locally-written April Fools' article (in English, from The Japan Times) on the Fuji TV morning program 'Tokudane.' They have asked me to do it many times since, and I've discussed the subject on other programs as well. Sometimes, the gags are a bit too hard to translate or relate to, depending on the topic, so it doesn’t always make it to air."

Spector pointed out that many Japanese are aware of the rich tradition of April Fools' Day as it relates to television when the BBC started to show phony stories starting with the still-famous “report" in 1957 ("Back when TV was still black and white," he recalled.)

"They reported that spaghetti was growing on trees. Perhaps one could claim it was the beginning of fake news as we know it today."

Thanks to the wide coverage of Donald Trump, Spector has noticed that Japanese have been exposed to a great deal of satire and parody, which is relayed from the U.S. and presented in the media here.

"While there's very little political humor in Japan, they seem to recognize the importance of humor in politics more and more, and I've even seen exchanges as to why the genre isn’t more widely practiced here, despite an overabundance of comedians in this country," he remarked.

In its March 25 Saturday supplement, the Asahi Shimbun showed the results of a survey of 1,595 Japanese adults, which asked "Have you ever been the butt of an April Fools' gag?" Only 17% gave positive replies. It also asked them, "Have you yourself ever played an April Fool's gag on someone?" The positive replies were 20%, with the rest saying no.

The reactions of the targets to the respondents' pranks, in descending order, included "laughed heartily" (114 responses), followed by "made a pained expression" (112); "took it good naturedly" (93); "praised me for my good sense of humor (37); "appeared upset" (26); "became angry" (18); and "appeared embarrassed" (14).

"Perhaps the 80% who said they've never been on the giving or receiving end of an April Fools' gag have no interest in the custom, or else there's no one in their circle of acquaintances who's inclined to make up stories," suggested Mejiro University professor Shozo Shibuya, a social psychologist and author of "The Psychology of Lying," among numerous other works. "This may indicate that their personal relationships may be somewhat on the superficial side."

The Asahi also polled its subjects as to their feelings toward the custom of "Shigatsu Baka" (as April Fool is also called). While only 4% said they'd like to see more, 54% replied they're comfortable with the current situation, and another 24% said they're willing to go along if it's "done in moderation." And 15% would prefer for it to be abolished.

"Perhaps because of the problem with those 'It's me, send money' scams, I get the impression that society has become oversensitized to lying," the aforementioned professor Shibuya was quoted as saying. "So in that sense, the reactions to April Fool gags can be seen as a kind of litmus test.

"How will the person who's the butt of the joke react? Depending on how he or she responds, I suppose it can also serve to enhance personal relationships."

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

And 15% would prefer for it to be abolished.

Right, never gonna happen.

My Mom, God rest her soul, loved playing April Fool's jokes on everyone in the family, and we walked around the house on tip toes never knowing what or when it was going to be sprung upon us!

Personally, if no one get's hurt....I love them, we need more laughter in our lives, and need to take more time enjoying life!

I'll bet the 15% here either were the brunt of a joke gone wrong, or walk around all day with a permanent frown on their face...maybe both!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Think I'll run out and buy a copy of Tokyo Shimbun tomorrow, just in case they try to pull another fast one.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In univ, we used to stay up all night before April 1 setting up all our menace; we had some pretty good ones, lol

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Ugh, Dave Spector. A man who makes a living "reporting" on the gossip of foreign celebrities for Japanese TV... I'd rather be unemployed. Then there's the issue of his hair...

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

April 1st, 1993 some brilliant folks with access to the printing equipment created fake versions of the Japan Times and apparently had them delivered to new stands around Tokyo. I only ever had a faxed copy of the front page.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

If there is money involved they would be interested. Then invent a second fools day so the women can have one too. Buy your gag gifts early!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Thanks for that link, Taj. Had a good chuckle.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Then invent a second fools day so the women can have one too. Buy your gag gifts early!

Like edible/soluble/disappearing underwear

1 ( +1 / -0 )

They were upset because that's a lame April fool's day joke. The deal is to come up with something FUNNY that is somehow believable.

The famous Sidd Finch, for example.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

“Japanese, whose ‘warai no tsubo’ (funnybone) is in a different place from foreigners, are better off not >getting involved in this custom.”

I agree with the old lady who said the above comment.

As a foreigner in Japan, yes, I like seeing things from my respective culture appear here, but, for god's sake Japan, stop.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Thx Taj!! Haha, I was here then but don't remember that, but then it was still a analog world for the most part LOL!!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

My son, who just got married two months ago, announced his pending divorce on April Fools Day. "Is this an April Fool's joke" I asked, but it wasn't. Not so funny huh

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My son, who just got married two months ago, announced his pending divorce on April Fools Day. "Is this an April Fool's joke" I asked, but it wasn't.

Ouch. You'd hope that was a joke.

I guess he doesn't want to throw good money after bad.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Wow Strangerland, is there a softer understanding side you're hiding? Yeah, it turns out she's fond of shoplifting, and had totaled her car twice in those two months. Better to cut and run than to try and raise a family with somebody like that.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

As usual the UK press tried there best, some are toe curling and unfunny.

FAKE NEWS!! The best and worst April Fools' Day stories

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I love the Japan Times annual April Fool's news stories and look forward to spotting them every year. The one about subliminal ads on maglev trains yesterday was fun.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The Japan Times is an April Fool joke year round.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites