Sesame Street (Japan)
- Disambiguation: There was also a Sesame Street (manga) published from 1990 to 1992 unrelated to this.
The American children's television series Sesame Street (セサミストリート? Sesamisutorīto) has a long history in Japan, airing for three decades as a dubbed program, and recently restarting as a local co-production.
Sesame Street's dubbed original
Sesame Street has been one of NHK's most successful children's programs and one of the first to be imported from overseas. Sesame Street first aired on November 8, 1971, but was taken off the network in the early 1980s. It resumed from 1988 until the end of March 2004, when production on a local adaptation was announced, which NHK refused to be involved in. While Sesame Street is primarily designed for preschool children, teenagers and adults watched the program as a guide to learning English (though much later on, a dubbed version was available).
The original show aired on NHK until April 2004.
Sesame Street's Japanese co-production
The new series began airing in October 2004. The series currently airs Sundays at 9 am on TV Tokyo.
Besides basic literacy skills, this version of Sesame Street focuses on ethics, interacting with friends, and environmental issues. The series is in Japanese, except for regularly included English lesson segments.
At the start of the show, five new Muppet characters were introduced: Teena, a pink monster who likes to sing; Mojabo, a bossy green and purple monster who likes to exercise; Pierre, a blue frog; Arthur, a little yellow bird; and Joe, a large rhino-like muppet whose only trait is jealousy. In 2006, two new Muppets were added—Grorie, an orange Grover-like monster, and Meg, a Japanese girl. A few established Sesame Street characters appear in new segments, most notably Elmo, who in the Japanese series has a propensity to cry and is used heavily to deal with emotional issues.
While Sesame Workshop is generally on the forefront of cultural understanding when creating the co-productions, this is apparently not the case with the Japanese version. One script included a plot line where a child trips during a race at a school sports festival. Sesame Workshop insisted the other characters must help him up, something the local producers insisted was unrealistic in modern Japanese culture.
An article in The Japan Times reported that the show was suffering from low ratings in its early months: "Viewers are complaining about the differences in the characters' voices compared with the NHK-aired version and about the exclusive use of Japanese."
Another scathing article, published in November 2004 in the Yomiuri Shinbun, was titled "A wrong turn on new Sesame Street":
"[The] new and not improved version of Sesame Street...opens with the cast shouting: 'English, Everybody. It's Sesame Street,' but it was 20 minutes later before we heard another English phrase. One of the better decisions NHK made this year was not to get involved with the Japanization of Sesame Street.
"The show... bears very little resemblance to the original.... If anything, the show looks poised to further the scope of Japlish and make the work of the nation's English teachers even more challenging. First, there is the perplexing problem of how to pronounce the names. Since the show is now all in Japanese...bye-bye, Big Bird, and hello, Biggu Bâdo, Bâto, and Kukkî Monsutâ...."Then, at last, came the show's ode to its English-language-education roots—a section called English on Street set in a convenience store. Big Bird wants an umeboshi ika manju...The obliging onî-san...makes him one and we get the English phrase for the day: 'Tastes bad!' No one bothers to add an 'It,' as in 'It tastes bad.' Who needs a complete, correct English sentence in a Japanized version of Sesame Street? 'Tastes bad' is repeated in an assortment of very bad accents and then we are given the appropriate translation: mazui. That is definitely the taste the show left with me—mazui, mazui, mazui.... Yes, all in all, I'd say this show is a giant six-step leap backward for early childhood education in Japan."
- Elmo (エルモ? Erumo): Kenta Matsumoto
- Big Bird (ビックバード? Bikkubādo): Satoshi Tsuruoka
- Cookie Monster (クッキーモンスター? Kukkīmonsutā): Kei Kikuchi
- Teena and Pierre: Rena Mizushiro
- Mojabo: Hideki Tanaka
- Arthur and Grorie: Kaori Takeda
- Meg: Ayako Iguchi
- Yan: Aiko Yamada
- Ari Ota
- Hirotarō Yamada
- Sanae Morisawa
- Nana Koizumi
- Dario Toda
- Director: Hajime Matsuki
- Producer: Yoshikazu Beniya
- Editor: Jonok Viluk
- Scripter: Donny Osmand
- Sound effect crew: Joel Nomi, Kilsa Mijuski, Limno Heisnjo
- Takahara, Kanako (8 December 2004). "'Sesame Street' making waves -- in Japanese". The Japan Times.