TV Tokyo next month to air Japanese ‘Sesame Street’

by

Fans of Elmo and Big Bird got some good news Tuesday.

A Japanese version of “Sesame Street,” produced mostly by staff in Japan, will debut Oct. 10 on TV Tokyo with four new characters, the broadcaster said.

Unlike the American version of the popular education program, which emphasizes learning the alphabet and basic arithmetic, the Japanese version will focus on morality amid the rising juvenile crime rate, TV Tokyo said.

NHK stopped broadcasting the original U.S. version of “Sesame Street,” dubbed in Japanese, in April. The public broadcaster started airing the show in 1971, but in recent years it reportedly suffered a dropoff in viewers.

Keisuke Iwata, chief of TV Tokyo’s animation production division, said he is concerned whether the new version will win acceptance, as Japanese fans only know the U.S. version.

“We have been trying to create an original version of ‘Sesame Street’ for viewers in Japan,” Iwata told a news conference. ” ‘Sesame Street’s’ competitor is ‘Sesame Street.’ “

The new program will feature four new characters. Teena, a pink monster who likes to sing; Mojabo, a big green monster; Arthur, a little bird who speaks in the Kansai dialect; and a frog named Pierre.

Although the program will be aired in Japanese, it will include a segment in which children will learn easy English terms, TV Tokyo said. The target audience will be 5- and 6-year-olds, whereas the U.S. version is aimed at 3- and 4-year-olds, it said.

“Japanese animation techniques are considered among the best in the world,” said “Sesame Street” director Tsukuru Matsuki. “I want to show that Japan’s ‘Sesame Street’ is superb as well.”

The TV Tokyo network covers roughly 70 percent of Japanese viwers.

More than 20 nations produce and air local versions of “Sesame Street” that reflect the situation surrounding children in their country.