Think back to 1984, before the Japanese government had recruited armies of foreign-born English instructors to internationalize the countryside and when gaijin commentators on television were all but unheard of.

At that time of cultural homogeneity it raised eyebrows when a certain dark-skinned African man started appearing on the air -- not in some overseas news dispatch but right there in a Japanese studio, in the company of well-known Japanese entertainers. He wore exotic robes, and -- to the great surprise of viewers -- spoke excellent Japanese.

The man was Ousmane Sankhon from the Republic of Guinea, and before long he was showing up on television pretty regularly. From his first broadcast, his quick wit and charming gap-toothed smile helped endear him to the public. Today, some 1,000 television shows, a dozen commercials and three movies later, his face has become among the most recognizable in the country.