Almost Lost in Translation

By Anna Piszczkiewicz

Konnichiwa!

This past summer, I had the pleasure of working with a Japanese crew for Kansai TV’s “Nijiiro Jean – (Literally, “Rainbow Jean.”). The popular Saturday morning program contains a few segments and during one of these, Jean, the show’s tiny plush mascot, gives viewers an insider’s guide to a city.

I got to be Miss Jean’s (yes, Jean is a she, a female canine to be exact) local Toronto guide. And just in case you’re wondering “Nijiiro Jean” is not a children’s program. It’s a variety show for everyone.

Cradled in my arm, I introduced Jean to the must-do, must-see and must-eat places, from an early morning peameal bacon sandwich at the St. Lawrence Market to eating the most delicious bison steak at Parkdale’s Keriwa Cafe —yes, we sampled a lot of food.

I had a blast playing tourist in my own city.

It may sound a bit silly, sure, but there is something inviting and sweet about chatting up an inanimate object. Folks on the street smile and go along with it because there’s nothing unnerving about a mascot. (Okay, I’ll admit I got a few odd stares when people couldn’t see the camera operator but it was fun to watch their reactions). It wasn’t until Jean was recognized by a local Japanese-Canadian fan that I realized how high the stakes of hosting were.

We began filming with a side trip west of the city. I thought I had fallen out of love with Niagara Falls but my new Japanese friend changed that. I saw the Canadian wonder from below, above and the river.

Highlights included: a jet boat ride with Jean duct taped to the inside of my waterproof gear (I was drenched but Jean didn’t have a drop on her), checking out one-of-a-kind pieces made from reclaimed fabrics at Preloved and playing ping pong at Umbra.

Naturally, I lost to Jean because she is “so strong!” Yes, I said those exact words on screen.

A big thank you to the amazing crew I worked with. They were some of the warmest, kindest people and although they were behind-the-scenes, when I watch the episode, I think of everyone on the other side of the camera.

We snapped a group shot on our last day while at the Distillery District.

From left: Masaru (director), Ania (that’s me!) Kiyohito (camera operator), Eriko (filming manager), Mana (assistant) and, of course, Jean. Not pictured: Mickey (local coordinator).

BONUS! You can watch what approximately seven million Japanese viewers saw this summer.

The videos are without subtitles. You’ve been warned.

Nijiiro Jean in Toronto (Part 1)

Nijiiro Jean in Toronto (Part 2)

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