Are Japanese TV Interviews with Tourists Staged?

Why are “tourist on the street” interviews so abundant on Japanese TV? One local columnist says it’s because, for TV producers, they’re cheap blank canvases.

Unseen Japan
5 min readSep 16


By Jay Allen

Woman talking with reporters in Asakusa

Tune in to Japanese news and variety programs and you’re likely to see some segment on foreign travelers to Japan. These bits are mostly complimentary fluff pieces, extolling Japan’s virtues as a top tourist destination. But one columnist recently wondered: how many of these pieces are put-ons for the Japanese public’s benefit? And why are there so many of them?

You! Why’d you come to Japan?!

The banner for the show YOUは何しに日本へ (You wa nani shi ni Nihon e), which asks tourists what the hell they’re doing here. (Source: Official program Website)

It seems no one needs arm-twisting to convince them to travel to Japan. (And hey, as a company that offers guided tours of Japan, we don’t object.) Inbound tourism from some countries is already exceeding 2019 levels.

In international surveys, Japan continues to rank high on the list of must-see tourist destinations. For example, the country earned the №2 spot on CNN Traveller’s November 2022 reader’s choice ranking.

International tourists are also discovering — finally! — that there’s more to see in Japan than just Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. Morioka made the NY Times’ list of top 52 cities to visit in 2023, reflecting the city’s growing popularity as a domestic tourist spot as well.

This popularity isn’t lost on local news and variety programs. In a “JAPAN MENTIONED” sort of phenomenon, Japan becoming international news is itself scuttlebutt for local news. And that includes the country’s popularity among foreign tourists.

So it’s no surprise that news & variety programs would have numerous “tourist on the street” interviews asking visitors what brings them to the country. Perhaps the most (in)famous is the show YOUは何しに日本へ (You wa nani shi ni Nihon e), or “Why Did You Come to Japan.” The Monday night TV Tokyo show, hosted by the comedy duo Bananaman (Shitara Osamu and Himura Yuki), loves to jump unsuspecting tourists at…



Unseen Japan