First, NHK is from Japans only public broadcaster. It has shows about literally everything, and broadcasts in 18 different languages. Here is the english webpage. It is awesome to see original Japanese programs translated into English. Often this is done with closed captioning words at the bottom of the screen, and sometimes by a voice over with closed captioning as well.
What makes this so wonderful to watch is three things.
- Quality of reporting. The quality of reporting is just amazing. If the story needs it, it has facts, computer models, 3D animation, whatever it takes. The closest thing would be PBS in the US, but it has never approached this level of information. One of the shows I was watching had a computer animation that was better than anything I had ever seen on US TV just to demonstrate a point the speaker was saying.
- Cultural values. I really like the Japan cultural values. The stories are pro-social, human interest pieces as well as hard-hitting factual ones. It is clear that Japanese are constantly trying to improve everything, and this shows in every aspect of how they deal with the stories and people. Three documentaries I watched made me cry because they were so touching without being manipulative.
- One was Japanese doctors that saved a poor mans sight who couldn’t see anything. He depended on his poor old wife to survive. Once he was able to see, he was finally able to enjoy his life and help his poor wife survive and thrive and help climb out of their poverty. This doctor created a foundation, a hospital, and helped thousands of people.
- One was about the culture surrounding horses in Japan in the farmland, and the touching things they do to care for animals. They honor and support a horse that doesn’t do any job just because its ancestors helped to break the hard ground that supported their ancestors. What a completely different way to value things. Instead of the US way of always looking for a quick buck, they have an enduring appreciation of those who help others and seek to replay that debt of help.
- One was about a doctor who as a young doctor in his 20’s, saw a problem with the situation of poor people dying due to slow transportation to reach the hospital. He found a way to get a helicopter to start flying into poor and under-served areas, created a network, and founded an entire staff to fix this problem. He wasn’t getting paid to do this, but he did it because he valued human life even the old and still continues to help make and save human lives and the under-served.
- Perspective. You can’t help but watch this and see our own US values as lacking in many respects. While Japan has serious social issues such as suicide, low birth rate, huge older population, it has some wonderful things that we all can learn. The concern for life shows through in every documentary I see. For example, one Emergency room doctor worked on a patient and continued to visit her everyday during her recovery. It is rare in the US hospital that an emergency room doctor who isn’t getting paid, will check up on someone everyday to see how they are. It was clear that the doctor was sincerely concerned about the well-being of their patient.
There are many things we can learn from other cultures than the US. If our culture is truly a melting pot, then why not respect and value all of the cultures that have contributed to it? Surprisingly I also find information about the US on the NHK English website that I don’t find on US websites. It is fascinating to see different perspectives isn’t it?