Breaking news for Japanese learners! An academically remarkable Japanese language educational web series NihonGO NOW! just came out on YouTube for everyone. Today Hiroki Ohsawa, an international award-winning film director with 12 wins and 14 nominations, leads us to the behind-the-scenes of the most cinematic language courseware.
CP: Hi Hiroki. Congratulations for releasing your new work!
HO: Thanks! NihonGO NOW! is a 12-episode Japanese language educational web series which I wrote, produced, and directed. It’s based on a textbook series by the same name.
CP: Interesting! Can you please tell us about NihonGO NOW! textbook series as well?
HO: NihonGO NOW! textbook series is a beginning-level Japanese language textbook series which was authored by Mari Noda (The Ohio State University, Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures), Patricia Wetzel (Portland State University), Ginger Marcus (Washington University in St. Louis), Stephen D. Luft (University of Pittsburgh), Shinsuke Tsuchiya (Brigham Young University), and Masayuki Itomitsu (Linfield College). Level 1 (two volumes) textbooks and Activity Books are expected to be published from Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group in July, 2020.
CP: Even though the web series was made for an educational purpose, it had won several awards in different film festivals, right?
HO: Yes. I personally have never heard of any language educational videos which got an award in film festivals. However, NihonGO NOW! web series earned two awards and two nominations as the best web series in multiple film festivals. Those titles proved that this web series is not only a group of educational videos but also a series of authentic films with a story.
CP: How did you achieve this perfect harmony with course developing and storytelling as a filmmaker?
HO: The story is about three Americans who learn and use Japanese to participate in Japanese culture in Japan and the US, and I needed to make the consistent story structure with character arcs with linguistically simple dialogues from the original textbook series word for word. In order to overcome the limitation, I used the core technique of filmmaking "Show, don't tell." I described characters' emotions nonverbally with acting and scene descriptions, gave the understandable flow and connections between isolated episodes, and made them into one entire story. This process upgraded this web series from being just a set of educational videos to more cinematic episodes.
CP: That already sounds very epoch-making, but what is the most innovative part of this courseware through the academic perspective?
HO: The main characters. The story has three protagonists, an African American woman, a Chinese American man, and a Caucasian American woman. As we see in current Hollywood film industry, this is the era of diversity and so are Japanese learners. The story doesn't focus on one person, one ethnicity, one gender, but different types of people who all audience can relate to.
CP: Can you please give a message to our readers.
OH: You can enjoy “real Japan” in NihonGO NOW! web series. Real Japanese people, real Japanese behaviors, real Japanese conversations, real Japanese situations, real Japanese locations, etc... All real for educational and filmmaking purpose. Even three American protagonists speak perfect Japanese. There might be a Season Two, so stay tuned!
Watch NihonGO NOW! web series from: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLELpHNkYhXHQifNNpTEuoWkX_EmqsJwJL
Buy NihonGO NOW! textbook from:
Hiroki Ohsawa Productions: https://hirokiohsawa.wixsite.com/hirokiohsawa