Out of Japan: The lowdown on tall tales from the hills

TOKYO - The first rule of faking is: do not get caught. For the over-ambitious Japanese television producer who, it was revealed this week, faked large parts of a documentary on the isolated kingdom of Mustang in the Himalayas, the idea that he would get caught must never have crossed his mind. After all, foreigners rarely get permission to enter the region, and his was the first television crew ever to film in Mustang.

The problem for the 51-year- old producer - who has not been named - was that the other members of his crew quite liked their time last summer with the people of Mustang, an autonomous kingdom in northern Nepal on the Tibetan border, steeped in Tibetan Buddhist culture.

They did not agree with their boss in his attempts to exaggerate the area's poverty, play up the people's superstitions and generally convey a false impression of the place in the documentary. The final straw came when he ordered one of the cameramen to pretend he was suffering from mountain sickness and had the other crew members supply him with oxygen.

When members of the crew finally told a Japanese newspaper last week that there were 60 faked or misleading scenes in the two-part documentary, which was shown last September, it caused a big row in the broadcasting world. Recently, the Minstry of Posts and Telecommunications had threatened to suspend the broadcasting licences of television stations showing faked documentaries after a spate of complaints about scenes staged for camera.

The most renowned was a programme tracking down the 'shocking' sex life of Japanese women with foreign men, shown last July by Asahi Television. It later emerged that the people featured in the 'documentary' were all being paid to act out a script. Earlier, a Tokyo Broadcasting System news crew were caught after they paid money to some German youths to pose for their camera making Nazi-style salutes.

But these complaints were about commercial stations, keen to push up ratings. What made the Mustang pseudo-documentary so shocking was that it was produced by the public broadcasting channel, NHK, Japan's equivalent of the BBC.

The NHK crew realised almost from the start that their boss had his own idea of the kind of programme he wanted to make about Mustang. Early on he set up a shot of the crew arriving in the state, 11,000ft up in the Himalayas, on foot. In fact, the entire crew had been flown in by helicopter.

He also had his Japanese team filmed walking along cliff edges, when a road ran parallel to the cliff, and wading through a river just below a perfectly usable bridge.

The producer then started paying money to local people to get them to act out scenes. In one village he persuaded a Buddhist monk to recite a prayer for rain. Viewers of the programme were told it had not rained for months and then were shown the carcass of a horse that supposedly died of thirst. In fact, it had rained several times since the crew arrived in Mustang.

In another scene the crew were shown to have been caught in a landslide - in fact, some locals had been paid to send small cascades of gravel down the slope. The crew complained to their boss several times that he was going too far, but in the end Japanese deference to authority enabled the producer to force his will on the others.

Once the fake documentary was revealed, responsibility for the programme shot straight to the top. The chairman of NHK, Mikio Kawaguchi, held a press conference to apologise and said he was cutting his own salary 'for some months' as a symbolic act of atonement.

NHK also admitted it had paid 'tens of thousands of dollars' to the Nepalese government to gain permission to be the first crew to film in Mustang. The payment helped it to be picked before documentary teams from other countries which had also applied for permission to film there.

The unfortunate producer, who is likely to spend the rest of his career filming washing powder commercials, said he was engaging 'in deep self-reflection for producing a programme that betrayed the trust of the people'. And the people of Mustang are unlikely to let another television crew into their kingdom in the near future.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown with her mother Whitney Houston in 2011
people
News
The actress Geraldine McEwan was perhaps best known for playing Agatha Christie's detective, Miss Marple (Rex)
peopleShe won a Bafta in 1991 for her role in Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit
News
The guide, since withdrawn, used illustrations and text to help people understand the court process (Getty)
Ministry of Justice gets law 'terribly wrong' in its guide to courts
News
Starting the day with a three-egg omelette could make people more charitable, according to new research
scienceFeed someone a big omelette, and they may give twice as much, thanks to a compound in the eggs
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
newsPatrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
News
Robert Fraser, aka Groovy Bob
peopleA new show honours Robert Fraser, one of the era's forgotten players
Life and Style
Torsten Sherwood's Noook is a simple construction toy for creating mini-architecture
tech
News
Top Gun actor Val Kilmer lost his small claims court battle in Van Nuys with the landlord of his Malibu mansion to get back his deposit after wallpapering over the kitchen cabinets
people
Sport
David Silva celebrates with Sergio Aguero after equalising against Chelsea
footballChelsea 1 Manchester City 1
News
i100
News
peopleHere's what Stephen Fry would say
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Richard Dawkins is known for his outspoken views
people
Life and Style
L’Auberge du pont de Collonges (AFP)
food + drinkFury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Arts and Entertainment
Bourne's New Adventures dance company worked with 27 young Londoners to devise a curtain-raiser staged before New Adventures' performance of Edward Scissorhands
theatreStar choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links