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TV With Grandpa


My maternal grandfather was born in Japan, in Nagasaki prefecture. In Brazil, he lived in the countryside, very far away from my home in Sao Paulo.

When we travelled to visit him (in the ’80s and ’90s), the planning always included a stop to buy Japanese language newspapers and some VHS tapes.

Before internet and cable TV, watching Japanese shows was not easy. (Photo: Henrique Minatogawa)

At that time, those tapes were the only way to watch Japanese programs in Brazil. There was no internet as we know it today, and cable TV was in its first (slow) steps in the country.

I assume the process was something like this: someone, in Japan, recorded the programs in tapes and sent them to Brazil. Here, copies were made to sell or rent.

My grandfather liked music very much. Therefore, his requests were mainly music shows. In the wishlist, only female enka singers.

Undoubtly, the most antecipated tape was the NHK Kohaku Uta Gassen, traditional end of the year show. So, in the early days of January, we rushed to shops and rental stores searching for a copy to send to my grandfather. When he called us for any reason, he always asked for the tape.

In the times he came to Sao Paulo, it was my task to operate the VCR for him. So, I usually watch the tapes with him. In spite of not understanding anything of Japanese at that time, I ended up enjoying enka. I wanted to listen to the J-pop groups, but my grandfather always asked to fast-forward those parts.

I used to look at him sometimes. He sang most of the songs and, once in a while, laughed at something the announcers said.

However, there was a problem: the tapes didn’t last long. So, my grandfather was forced to watch the same tape over and over again.

Without them, he watched regular Brazilian TV, especially the news. Once, when he saw a headline about the USA, he told me: “We should not have hard feelings towards Americans. They are very intelligent; we must learn with them.”

Another memorable story happened during the final match of the 1994 World Cup, between Brazil and Italy. All the family was in front of the TV, watching the game. My grandfather, though, wanted to watch a Japanese tape. During the 90 minutes, he asked once in a while when the match would end.

My mother asked, ”Please, father, wait a little bit more. This doesn’t happen everyday.” And there were overtime and penalty kicks… After the Word Cup was given to the Brazilian team, my grandfather finally watched his music shows.

Since then, much has changed. Today, it is possible to watch Japanese language programs on cable TV, internet, and DVD/Blu-ray. Today, I wouldn’t miss the chance to watch a music show with my grandfather over a soccer match.

Watching TV with my grandpa was a great time. (Photo: Henrique Minatogawa)


© 2014 Henrique Minatogawa

Brazil communication enka families grandfathers grandparents information theory Kohaku Uta Gassen music parents São Paulo soccer sociology sports telecommunication television VHS tapes videography videos
About the Author

Henrique Minatogawa is a freelance journalist and photographer, Brazilian third generation Japanese descendant. His family origins are Okinawa, Nagasaki and Nara prefectures. In 2007, he was granted a scholarship Kenpi Kenshu in Nara prefecture. In Brazil, has been working in the coverage of events related to Japanese culture. (Photo: Henrique Minatogawa)

Updated July 2020

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