Whither thou goest, 'terebi'?


The arrival of television in Japan was not welcomed by everyone. In the Feb 2, 1957 issue of the long-defunct magazine Shukan Tokyo, a famous journalist and critic named Soichi Oya set off a storm of debate when he wrote, "The most evolved mass media, radio and television, can be said to deploying a campaign to transform Japan's entire 100 million into imbeciles." 

If Oya was correct almost 65 years ago, might Japan's younger generation now be showing signs that they're becoming smarter? Nikkan Gendai (July 15) reported that when NHK released its 2020 survey on how people spend their time, while around 80% of Japanese replied that yes, they watch television on a daily basis, over half of the respondents in their teens and 20s said they had "stopped watching TV." 

NHK's Broadcasting Culture Research Institute conducts the survey every five years. It also incorporates other activities in which people spend their time, and its findings are generally accepted as highly reliable. 

According to a syndicated article in President Online, the percentage of people who say they watch at least some television in the course of their day, which five years ago was 75%, this year showed a drop of 6%. The decline was particularly sharp among respondents in the 10 to 15 year age bracket, among whom only 56% said they watch TV. In the 16 to 19-year bracket, the figure was even lower at 47%. And among those in their 20s, the response was slightly higher at 51%. 

Considering the sharp differences in viewing when compared with older age groups, analysts are pointing to a notable trend toward terebi-banare (quitting TV) among younger Japanese. 

So what are the youngsters doing with their time then? Well, look at these figures: While 45% of Japanese of all ages said they use the internet, including SNSs and viewing video sites, in the 16-19 crowd this figure was 80%; for those in their 20s, 73%; and for those in their 30s, 63%. 

Compared to 95% who watch TV among people age 70 and older, only 20% of that age group use the internet. 

So there is a noticeable gap between the younger age groups who show a clear preference for the internet, and the older groups who were not so old back in the day when Mr Oya slanged them for being boob tubers. 

"Naturally the TV networks are well aware of the trend for younger people to cut down on their TV watching," an executive at one of the commercial networks tells Nikkan Gendai. "So the viewer ratio that is the basis of advertising sales has been shifting away from 'family viewing ratio' to 'individual viewer ratio,' and among this, an even greater emphasis is being placed on the core viewer segment of ages 13 through 49." 

But not all is lost, he continues. 

"While people might cease to watch the TV in the form a 'box,' there's been no appreciable drop in the viewing of moving images. Now we've come to an era where young people watch dramas, cinema and variety shows on their smartphones. So it's not a situation of people saying they 'don't watch TV' -- it's more like they're saying they 'don't look at a TV receiver.'" 

It appears then that formats offering greater options for viewing, including video on demand, free and pay channels on the internet and others, are also attracting greater ad revenues. 

"We are approaching a time when virtually anything you see on the TV airwaves will soon be viewable on the internet," the executive said. 

So while terebi-banare (quitting TV) may be ongoing, there's no sign of any movement toward contents-banare, the writer concludes.

© Japan Today

©2023 GPlusMedia Inc.

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The last four paragraphs are the most relevant of the entire article.

Good luck to those using smart phones to view moving images; small screens give me a splitting headache and strains my eyes. We will see what the long term impact is.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Regular japanese tv is not worth the watch. Talentless talentos, variety shows, people watching other people eat ramen and lots of eeeeehhh and oishiiiii. It makes you want to throw your brain out of the window.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Shouldn’t it be “Whither goest thou…”?

Just in the interests of authenticity.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Oya-sama was clearly a Prophet, not only for Japan but for the World. 'Television' gave whole new horizons to our political propagandizers and, as effective as Radio was for the likes of Roosevelt and Hitler, adding visual deceptions upped the game greatly. And the entertainment, much like newspapers, pandered(s) to a 4th grade mentality while portraying, subtly or not, whatever the desired behaviors or reinforcing the desired beliefs of those who control the programming, that is, the 'message'. Then there is the in-your-face lies of the advertisers where the obfuscation used in the programming is reversed and the naked lies we are so used to go into our brains unedited and betray us in the store... e.g. where would trump be without Television? And is it any better on the Internet? Well, no CMs but no end of obvious lies either, certainly, just more variety. A good example might be the massive amounts of money the liquor industry pours into 'drama' for product placement where in almost every scene someone is sucking down the equivalent of industrial waste and intimate conversations can only be had while sitting at a bar..."Here! Have a drink!" must be the most common line in these productions. [throat constricts].

On another note, "Whither thou goest..." aka "Quo Vadis" by Henryk Sienkiewicz (1896 - Polska) is one of the BEST books you will EVER read! It's a stunner, the book, not necessarily its offshoots in other media. He received the Nobel Prize in 1905, largely upon this work. If you read, this book has to be on your list...

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Thanks, William! The book is available for free at Gutenberg:

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I find some of the tv detective dramas etc. excellent learning tools for understanding Japanese old and new culture.

I like the food shows as long as people are civilized about trying new things and people are not screaming and yelling at them thinking they are funny.

TV programs with the likes of Beat Takeshi are cruel and mean besides being demeaning.

Some fabulous travel shows and train shows as well.

Shows like YOU, why did you come to Japan give you insight into how Japan is initially seen by foreigners.

There are some great shows, and there are definitely some bad ones with fake talents, etc.

I am thumbs up for Japanese TV.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

a famous journalist and critic named Soichi Oya set off a storm of debate when he wrote, "The most evolved mass media, radio and television, can be said to deploying a campaign to transform Japan's entire 100 million into imbeciles." 

Personally, I have to agree with that statement and it is why my family and I do not watch TV and I don't allow NHK to be viewed in my house. We watch Netflix and Youtube. My kids constantly watch both in English which has helped them be bilingual.

Japanese TV has zero educational value. Just a bunch of gennojin going to Onsen and eating a bite of a local dish and commenting on how delicious it is. So Oya is right in saying that. And I believe that this was done by design. To keep people dumbed down and distracted while allowing the elites to exert as much control as they want over the masses.

And mass media, mainly TV, is responsible for this.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

While Japanese TV is awful, this is a worldwide phenomenon. However, it has more to do with choice, from YouTube to Netflix and more. There are more alternatives and they can watch what they want, not what a TV executive wants.

For many Japanese, TV is nothing more than colourful, moving wallpaper.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Shouldn’t it be “Whither goest thou…”?

Precisely. "Whither thou goest, I will follow" is from the Old Testament Book of Ruth and was not a question. This misquote comes from a lack of cultural knowledge, perhaps caused by too much television and not enough reading.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I stopped watching tv in Australia in the year 2000 when Big Brother started. That was the start of the death of tv as an entertainment outlet for me.

Looking at 5 minutes of tv here is like throwing your brain out the window, as was so eloquently put previously.

My theory is that it is used as a kind of ‘soma’ (remember that drug from Brave New World, that kept the Delta class dumb and submissive?). That’s what I think tv is.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Years ago my family and I watched television daily. In the morning there was the NHK 15-minute drama, and in the evening there was often Ginga-terebi-shousetsu--along with various quiz shows. On the commercial networks, there were, of course, other programs to choose from...My wife and I are old enough to remember, with nostalgia, the "hoomu-dorama," which, at their best, were quite well done. (I wonder how many readers here would recognize the name of Takewaki Muga or Morishige Hisaya. Ah, those were the day!) And, of course, "everybody" watched 紅白...

No more...We are now in our seventies, and my rather media-addicted spouse sticks to her iPad, watching podcasts that reinforce the politically and culturally conservative views that, to varying degrees, we both espouse. My wife in particular views NHK with great suspicion.

Is there greater "diversity," greater freedom? Or is it all a matter of cultural fragmentation?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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