As one who has lived a long time in Japan some of the countries habits and customs still confound me. As shown in my mysteries about Japan some have been cracked but others elude me. Take for example the sheer insanity of ATM machines that follow bank worker hours, shutting down at night, on holidays and on the weekends. I’m assuming this is prevent bank fraud. I imagine when ATMs first emerged in Japan con artists had a field day calling the elderly and getting them to go to their ATMs and sign over a bunch of money at night for an imagined “emergency.”  But I don’t really know and sometimes I’ll playfully tell someone who asks that Japan bank workers unionized their ATMs out of misguided attempt to save jobs and THAT’s why ATMs aren’t open 24/7.

It’s the same for Japan’s infamous “Picture in a Picture” or PiP. You know that floating head of some celebrity that appears in a tiny box in the corner, like this:

Richard Armitage, wondering why a model is floating over his head

I always joke around that the Japanese people like the floating heads because it tells them how to feel when they are watching TV. That they are relieved when someone tells them what to do like worker bees they are. Not only is this a little racist but it as I just found out, correct … kinda.

In this article, Annoying TV pop-ups, the people of Japan Times go to great lengths to explain Japan’s love affair for the PiP or as the Japanese call them waipu. As you can read in the article I was almost correct when rationalizing the reason behind the waipu:

Later someone figured out the reaction could be shown in a frame superimposed on the main screen. This proved very popular with viewers, who liked knowing that their favorite TV personalities laughed at the same things they laughed at and cried at the same things they cried at.

“Until then, television stars existed on a higher plane than their audience, seen and admired at a distance,” Okada explained. “Viewers expected stars to sing or perform for them, or have a beautiful appearance.” But when programs began to show the performers’ reactions more clearly, viewers’ expectations changed. “Now what viewers want is interesting talk from their favorite stars,” Okada told me, “and to share emotions with them.” To meet those demands, the number and duration of waipu have steadily increased.

So with this accidental victory I think its time I started researching how Japanese ATMs have become unionized…

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