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Japan doesn't bash Morris: The Japanese know Morris County well - from their TVS

Michele Kriegman
1992, 'Japan doesn't bash Morris: The Japanese know Morris County well-from their TVs', Daily Record, 2/21: endpage, A11.

The Daily Record has been reporting on the instances of America-bashing by Japanese high-government officials. But few Americans realized the good press that Morris County generates in Japan.

There have been about a dozen positive stories about events here that have been telecast nationwide in Japan. (It doesn’t hurt that the New York producer for the highest-rated commercial morning show in Japan – that’s me – lives in Morristown.)

Most stories showed typical American life: a Boonton family and what they ate for breakfast on a weekday (no dried fish and no rice); a chimney sweep in Maplewood who still wore top hat and tails; or, a New York City cycling club that peddled out to Washington’s Headquarters and the Ford Mansion one spring weekend afternoon.

One year the MacCrae family of Oxford Terrace in Boonton staged a “typical” family backyard 4th of July barbecue for us – on June 30th (they had to do it in advance of the real Independence Day because Japan’s clocks are a day ahead of ours).

But because the United States and Japan share so many of the same social problems, many of our stories introduced programs from this region to serve as inspirations for the Japanese.

A piece we did about the Summit Adult Day Care Program for Senior Citizens attracted Japanese viewers’ praise because they, too, live in a society that is aging but that has few public resources for seniors.

For a TV special on childbirth, St. Barnabas Medical Center gave us permission to film a Lamaze class. Lamaze is starting to be taught in Japan, but few expectant fathers there bother to accompany their pregnant wives to class.

Three years ago, as Japanese society faced a labor shortage, we produced a video story for a Japanese talk show, explaining how American immigration  law allows foreigners with special skills, such as nurses, to enter this country helping to prevent labor shortages. Our research, again, brought us to Morristown, the headquarters of the Phillipine Nurse’s Association of America.

“Morristown” came to be an office joke. We talked about moving from backwater Manhattan to the real center of action, Morris County, New Jersey. But Morristown got the last laugh.

One day our Tokyo studio sent us a fax informing us that the Royal Princess Noriko, daughter of the Japanese emperor, was making her first trip to the United States and we were to cover the trip.

She would make a brief stop in Los Angeles before arriving in New York City. After seeing the Statue of Liberty, she and her entourage were bypassing Broadway, Japanese-owned Rockefeller Center and other tourist sights to go straight to, you guessed it, Morristown.

All she wanted to do in America was visit the Seeing Eye School and walk a seeing eye dog here in Morristown. Ever since she was little, the bespectacled princess was fascinated with guide dogs for the blind and their training.

We reported the story, filmed her walking blindfolded with a seeing eye dog down Maple Street justa block from the Green. Dutifully, we reported that the Seeing Eye School had just named a puppy after her, but our reporter wondered sardonically whether giving the Royal Princess’ name to a dog was really a compliment or a disguised form of Japan-bashing.

We have gone on to do many holiday stories about people in this area: Christmas carolers from the Methodist Church in Towaco; a group of Montville fathers who gather in early December to dress as Santa Claus and make pre-Christmas visits to the children of Lake Valhalla; and, about the Lipskier family of Sussex Avenue, Morristown, and how their eight children celebrate Hanukkah.

But I knew Morris County was really on the Japanese map when a Japanese friend, newly arrived in America, came to stay with us. Riding on the bus back from New York City, she started telling me about Jockey Hollow. She is from Eifuku-cho in Tokyo; how does she know Jockey Hollow?

She pulled out a paperback book from her knapsack and I read the Japanese title: “An Insider’s Guide to Suburban America.”

MICHELE KRIEGMAN-CHIN of Morristown is a freelance television producer.

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