When the weather is shown on Japanese television, there are often random shots of people walking on hot city streets. To people online in Japan, one person, however, doesn't look so random.
Previously, Kotaku reported how some Japanese people on the internet believe there is a mainstream media conspiracy that results in interviewing phoney people over and over again. Some believe that these individuals are paid performers.
Earlier this month, Japanese net users pointed to a clip of a random woman on a Fukushima street wiping herself with a towel during NHK's weather report. On the screen, the high temperatures for various cities were shown.
As evident in the above GIF, the woman's expression is, well, rather odd. She stops and makes eye contact with the camera a few times. But that may be because she realized she was being filmed. On 2ch, Japan's largest web forum, commenters thought it was because she was playing to the camera—i.e., she was a plant.
In the minds of conspiracy theorists, this was confirmed with a clip of what appears to be the same random woman in Fukushima doing the same thing last year.
Here is a still from that 2013 weather report.
Online, some thought the woman was a paid model or part of the NHK camera crew and that she stepped in to fill out the footage—like, the crew didn't get enough good shots of random pedestrians.
Okay, so a camera crew might have been filming in the same place at the same time a year later and they happened to catch the same person? Or someone who looks like the same person? It could happen! Conspiracy theorists in Japan, however, are dubbing this as "yarase" (ヤラセ) or "staged."
And yesterday, another thread appeared on 2ch, saying that the same woman seemed to be on another weather report again, but this time with her hair pulled back and in... Hokkaido. Her hair and her hand are strategically placed, they say, to make her look different, yet her fingers are parted so she can see through her hands. Down the rabbit hole, we go!
The eyebrows and mouth do look similar to the other woman—and 2ch commenters sure seem convinced these are all the same person. Honestly, I'm not sure.
"Wow, you have a good eye," wrote one 2ch commenter. "This is totally staged," chimed in another. Others wondered why it appeared as the same woman was being used. Maybe she's part of the camera crew. Maybe she's involved with someone in the local camera crew. Maybe these are all different people. And maybe this is just a crazy internet conspiracy.
Granted, Japan has strict privacy laws, but news stations like to film random people on the street for weather segments that show how regular people are coping with the heat, rain, or whatever. Having a staffer walk on screen could help procure footage in a pinch, if they couldn't get people to sign release forms.
What is fascinating isn't necessarily that these could be the same person, because really, big whoop. Rather, this shows a distrust of the established television media. A distrust that, it seems, is universal.
To contact the author of this post, write to bashcraftATkotaku.com or find him on Twitter @Brian_Ashcraft.