Big in Japan
Reality show follows JH native from Japan to Jackson Hole.
Jackson Hole, Wyoming – They typically film with a relatively inconspicuous crew – a shooter, a director, and a producer – so they can maintain a low impact “mitchaku shuzai” style, or close-contact reporting. For their trip to Jackson Hole, they considered adding a fourth person just to keep an eye out for bears.
“I told them that was ridiculous. That they didn’t need a bear protector because I have firearms and bear mace and all kinds of weapons,” said Scooter Anderson. “They got kind of quiet after that. I think they were nervous about the guns, but that’s part of my life and if they are coming here to see my life, that’s part of it.”
Traveling sans bear protector, the reality TV show crew came to Jackson to offer Japanese audiences a look into the exotic life of native Jacksonite Cyrus “Scooter” Anderson.
Something about Anderson fascinated prime-time Japanese viewers. After he was featured on a popular TV Toyko program called YOUは何しに日本へ? which is roughly translated as Why Did You Come to Japan?, Twitter traffic spiked. Anderson was promoted to a “legendary you,” a status reserved for only the most popular of “yous.” In the context of the program, a “you” is a foreigner visiting Japan.
“One out of 10 people watched that episode. I think the Japanese people know who he is,” the field producer said.
The show normally films foreigners visiting Japan, camera-bombing them as they step off the plane, and then following them on their visit to Japan. Anderson’s hitchhiking antics and tales of living in the woods captivated viewers and prompted the television crew to produce a rare follow-up episode in his hometown.
Suddenly, the “reality” of reality television hit him.
“The first episode was fun because I was traveling and it seemed like it was just a funny thing to do in Japan, but when they said they wanted to film in Jackson, it was different,” said Anderson. “My family lives here.”
Anderson’s newfound fame was crossing international borders and spilling into his “real life” – if you could call soaking in hot springs and slacklining at the People’s Market “real life.”
The Trip of the Hitchhiking
The premise of the show is simple. The crew goes to the airport, finds someone who just arrived in Japan and asks to tag along on their Japanese journeys.
What follows is a sort of fish-out-of water foray into the funny foreigner, commentated by two comedians and punctuated by quirky sound effects and low-budget graphics.
When Anderson stepped off the plane, the camera crew liked his answer to their question, “What are you doing in Japan?”
“I would like to find natural hot springs,” he said. “I could try and hitchhike.”
Aptly named The Trip of the Hitchhiking, the show follows Anderson as he manages to hitch his way through Japan, armed with only the most basic of Japanese phrases. He admits having a camera crew with him helped ease communications and persuaded some drivers to pick him up.
For a good portion of the episode, Anderson walks around naked, soaking in hot tubs, censored only with a circular graphic with the word “you” printed on it. He rides his bike on the highway, sleeps in the lobby of a hotel and delights in pushing the limits.
“I know I was a spectacle. They turned me into an object, but I just played along and it was all just fun,” he said.
What you don’t see, according to Anderson, are scenes of him breaking too many rules.
“They said it was illegal to jaywalk and they didn’t want to put it in the show,” he said. “And they didn’t like my prostitution jokes.”
Even without the jaywalking scene, Anderson comes across as a renegade without much concern for societal norms, something he thinks made him attractive to Japanese viewers.
“They told me they had overwhelming feedback about the show. Some people said they wanted to change their lives and be more free,” he said. “I think they were fascinated by me because I don’t really follow the rules and Japan is a very structured culture.”
In his natural habitat
If you know Anderson, you know he is always a little outrageous. The presence of a camera might have altered his antics a little bit, but not much.
Anderson, 37, was born in Jackson. His father was a professional skier who settled here in 1968. Anderson left Jackson for a while to try his hand at finance, but after a few years, he abandoned the corporate culture in favor of what he jokingly calls “freestyle anarchy.”
In his original episode of Why Did You Come to Japan? he told the crew that he lives in the woods, and he was only slightly exaggerating. He owns a swath of land in Alpine, which he plans to build on eventually. For now there’s only a tiny shack that he sometimes crashes in, and not much else but woods.
The filming schedule was loose, but the plan was for the crew to make initial contact with him in his natural habitat by searching for him on his property in the woods. Anderson was nervous about the crew coming to his corner of the world, wavering about how he would handle the situation.
“It’s weird. It feels intrusive. I think I am just going to mess with them,” he said prior to their arrival. He considered having a group of girls dress in loincloths and pop up in the woods, but the plan fell through, mainly due to a lack of eligible women to dress in loincloths.
“My property is in the middle of nowhere, so they are really going to think we are in the wild,” Anderson assumed. “Then I will take them to Jackson and do yoga and get a massage and they will be totally surprised. Or who knows, they might get here and I might just say I don’t want to do it anymore.”
However, as soon as the crew arrived, Anderson turned right back into the ham that the Japanese audience ate up in the first episode.
He rode his old motorcycle to various hot springs, hitchhiked, made explosives and unabashedly wandered all over town. If you saw an open-shirted man followed by a small film crew at the People’s Market or the opening of Jackson Whole Grocer, that was Anderson.
“For the most part it was all spontaneous and natural, but there were some times that felt forced. Like they would ask me to do something again in a certain way,” he said. “Sometimes the camera would make people around me act differently.”
After a yoga session at The White Buffalo Club, Jules Kirby, of High Society fame, a short-lived Manhattan-based reality TV show, saw the camera and wanted to get in front of it. A quick dab of lipstick and a brush of mascara later and Kirby was ready to tick off one of the items on her bucket list – to be on Japanese reality TV.
The pair made a date to soak in a local hot springs, appeasing the film crew’s eagerness to see Anderson soaking in his natural habitat.
“I have cold urticaria and I break out in hives in cold water, so I just feel most comfortable in hot water,” he said. “They are sort of my thing.”
That’s a wrap
“Overall, it was fun. The only thing I requested was that this time they censor me with a much bigger and longer “you” graphic,” Anderson said.
Anderson didn’t receive any compensation for starring in the show. At one point he approached the travel and tourism board to see if there was any interest in the show as a promotional tool.
“I could see that the show could inspire some Japanese to want to travel to Jackson,” he said. The board didn’t bite, but they wished him luck. In the end, he did it for the fun of it.
“Why say no? Why not live?” he said. “It’s just a chapter of life that I will be able to laugh at later.”
The new episode is set to air later in July in Japan. A link to the Anderson’s original episode, The Trip of the Hitchhiking, can be found on YouTube.com.