Foreigners on Japanese TV

As many folks know, Japan and other Asian countries are pretty ethnically homogenous. In Japan, 99% of the people there are ethnically Japanese, they speak Japanese language, they eat Japanese food, do things the Japanese way, etc. So, there aren’t a lot of foreigners in Japan, and thus you rarely see them on TV. In the past, you might see foreigners on TV in Japan, but usually they’re minor characters like World War II soldiers. It’s funny, but many of those actors aren’t American either.1 They’re accents sound European or other things. ;p

Also, a few foreigners speak Japanese well and sometimes appear on talk shows, variety shows, etc. Some of these actors and celebrities are kind of arrogant or annoying, so I think they are famous because they’re foreign and speak Japanese well, not because they are good people. In other words, I feel like some of these people wouldn’t succeed in their home country, but are able to find success in a foreign one.

Anyhow, I was quite surprised to see NHK’s latest 朝ドラ (asa dora or “morning miniseries”) called Massan (マッサン). I’ve written about these morning dramas before. The main character is always female, and usually it features a different prefecture in Japan each time. However, what’s interesting is that in this miniseries, the main female character is white, not Japanese. She is an American actor named Charlotte Kate Fox, playing a Scottish character who married a Japanese man. The story takes places in 1920’s Japan2 and they want to start the first Japanese whiskey-distillery.

Interracial dating isn’t something you see much on Japanese TV, especially on popular, high-quality dramas like this. It’s really quite a refreshing change. Also, it’s interesting because most of the time, people assume that white men (or black men) date Asian women, but here things are reversed. Her husband, Masaharu, is very open to her Scottish culture and cooking, and helps defend her from more close-minded Japanese people. Also, the actress speaks almost entirely in Japanese in this drama, and pretty often. My wife was impressed that she had so much Japanese dialogue. I think they make a cute couple on screen. 🙂

Anyhow, it’s cool that interracial dating is now a hot topic, even in a place like Japan. As someone who’s happily married to my wife, and has two bi-racial kids, it makes me hopeful for the future. 🙂

P.S. Thanks to reader “Han” for pointing out that this story is based on a real woman named Rita Taketsuru.

1 The US has the same problem: a lot of movies and TV shows with Asian characters usually have people who aren’t the right ethnicity. You often see Korean actors playing Japanese characters, Japanese actors playing Chinese characters, etc. Most Americans wouldn’t know the difference. 😛

2 Japan still had good relations with the West in the 1920’s, but things got worse in the 1930’s due to the Great Depression (昭和恐慌, shōwa kyōkō, “Showa-Era Great Depression”), and the London Naval Treaty (ロンドン海軍軍縮会議, rondon kaigun gunshuku kaigi).


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

3 thoughts on “Foreigners on Japanese TV”

  1. Excellent post! I live and teach in south korea and I have seen many of the same sentiments towards foreigners over the five years I’ve been here. I am hoping things change for the better, and they are, but not as fast as I’d like them to.


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