Home > BlogTech, Focus on Japan 2008 > Things Like That Can Get You Noticed

Things Like That Can Get You Noticed

February 2nd, 2008

I remember back to my days as a model in television commercials. Well, okay, I was in one commercial. But I also did some voice-over work for radio ads, and had a gig as the host for a half-hour TV show. Not an ongoing TV show in a half-hour format, but rather just a show that was on for a single half-hour. Well, okay, it was kind of an infomercial. I think I still have that videotape around here somewhere.

Even still, that all sounds rather impressive, much more so if you’ve ever seen what I look like, or heard what I sound like. My secret: I was almost the only game in town. That helps a lot.

This was back in 1985 to 1987, in my first few years living and working in Japan. I got a job teaching English at the Toyama YMCA. Toyama Prefecture, on the Japan Sea coast halfway down Honshu, had a population of one million; three hundred thousand lived in Toyama City, where I lived and worked. And in the entire prefecture, there were only about thirty non-Asian foreigners around, and I was one of them. So when a local TV station wanted a foreign model for a local car dealership commercial, or a foreign voice for a local radio ad, they didn’t have many alternatives to turn to. So I got the gigs.

This comes to mind because I just finished writing answers to questions for a spot in The Japan Times to be published in a week or two. They have a new “blogroll” feature they’re trying out, and I was asked if I would participate. The feature focuses on Japan bloggers, and I guess I qualify–I told them that Japan is not the main focus of my blog, but being based in Japan is a big part of it, it seems. I doubt that this blog would be getting that kind of attention otherwise; like I said, it helps to be part of a smaller population if you want to get noticed. Not that there is a dearth of blogs in or about Japan, but it is a sub-group of relatively limited population, especially compared to the now-burgeoning blogosphere.

The evolution of this sub-group also brings to mind a comparison with how I have fit into communities in Japan since coming here a few decades ago. Back in 1985, I was one of a very limited sub-group; being outnumbered 10,000 to one in a city where most people look radically different from you is quite the experience. Back then, I used to turn heads every day. A lot of double-takes, a lot of whispered, “Ah, gaijin da!” Groups of teenage kids would dare each other to speak English to me, and once I even scared a little girl silly by smiling at her and saying, “Konnichi wa!

Moving to Tokyo changed that. It was refreshing to not be noticed so much any more, to walk down the street and not cause a stir. To have local residents be bored at the sight of me much more often than startled or amazed. Not being noticed can be a big thing after being the center of attention for a few years.

Not that I was the center of anyone’s attention in the blogosphere, now or back then. I started this blog when blogs were pretty new, and average-Joe blogs were just taking off. I joined a webring called “Japan Bloggers” when there were only a few dozen members. You can still find blogs out there with archives going back before 2003, but not a whole lot. Still, blogs were not exactly rare, and with American politics evolving like it was, a lot of people found a reason to go online with their thoughts.

Nevertheless, it was a lot less crowded of an arena back then. Today, it’s very easy to get lost in the stampede. So being a member of a still relatively-limited corner of the blogosphere can get you noticed.

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  1. Mark
    February 3rd, 2008 at 02:09 | #1

    Congrats on getting into Japan Times. Is it considered a freelance paid entry? I’m tempted to buy a MacBook Air after reading your latest entry. Maybe you should get in on some Apple ad fees. hmmm

  2. Paul
    February 18th, 2008 at 08:51 | #2

    It is something to be extremely different, isn’t it? I had that to a more limited extent when I traveled around China last year- in Beijing, it apparently wasn’t such a big deal to see a pale skinned blonde guy. But in Lijiang, Guilin, or some of the more remote areas around Yangshou?

    I was definitely something weird, and got gawked at a lot.

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