Name: Dean Newcombe
Occupation: Model, actor, TV presenter, producer
Likes: Adventures, ethical fashion, DIY
Dislikes: Sharks, takuwan (pickled daikon), untidiness
1. What first brought you to Japan?
I was working as a model in Germany in 2008. I’d met interesting Japanese people on my travels, which only spiked my curiosity for the language and culture.
2. What’s kept you here?
Maybe the most significant thing was March 11, 2011, when the earthquake rattled Tohoku. I had actually left Japan about five months prior to the earthquake with dreams of acting in Hollywood. After the disaster, I found a way to return here and volunteer.
3. In your career, what has been the most unusual thing you’ve ever had to do?
In my very first audition they asked me to curl up in a ball and pretend to be a hedgehog. I knew then I was in for an “experience” here in Japan!
4. You’ve worked with some famous people. Who was the most interesting?
The most interesting was a commercial with “Beat” Takeshi Kitano and Musashimaru Koyo. Kitano served me fish in Tsukiji fish market, and I paired off against the huge Musashimaru in a mawashi sumo belt in his training stable.
5. What would you say to people who imagine being a model and TV personality in Japan is an easy gig that pays well?
Think again! Admittedly, if you’re a foreigner here the competition might be a lot less fierce than you would expect back home, so you may get some extra chances, but the pool of jobs is smaller and it’s hard to survive solely on modeling or acting.
6. Could you tell us about “Catch Japan,” your NHK World travel show?
I’ve been making travel content with NHK World since 2014. I decided it was time for me to give production and direction a whirl. The concept is traveling around Japan in a really adventurous and authentic way — a typical travel show meets reality TV meets “The Amazing Race.”
7. What do you think is the next up-and-coming tourism spot in Japan?
So far, most people know very little about national parks in Japan, and yet for other countries they might be the highlight of a trip. I think visiting national parks could be a big part of future travel to Japan.
8. You’re very involved in the sustainability movement #TrashTag. What is it?
The idea is you clean up an area deserving of our attention, like a beach, park or even the side of a road, and try to take before and after shots, or even a video if you can. You upload the video or photos using #TrashTag, and you can even call out some friends to take on the challenge next. It’s really social media at its best, encouraging and promoting sustainable activity .
9. How did you introduce it to Japan?
I reached out to super YouTubers Rachel and Jun. When they expressed interest in trying to bring #TrashTag to Japan, I flew down to Fukuoka Prefecture, where they are based, and we cleaned a beach there.
10. What’s the current state of #TrashTag in Japan?
Rachel and Jun have partnered with a sustainable magazine called Ciclo. They cleaned the same beach where we began in Fukuoka several times with big groups of volunteers. There is now a really strong community of like-minded sustainable people down there!
11. How can other people get involved?
While it isn’t possible for us to host events right now, hopefully when it’s safe to create meetups again, we will have loads of people ready and eager to get out into nature and help our environment. Anyone will be able to participate.
12. What does Japan need to work on?
Japan is known for overpackaging. One thing I like about the United Kingdom is that we were quick to eliminate all caged eggs from supermarkets and are the leading buyers of fair trade by far. We need sustainability to be a key factor for consumers.
13. What is your dream travel destination?
The Pan-American Highway. That would take me through a lot of South America, which I have yet to see at all.
14. If you could have dinner with anyone from history, who would you choose?
Gandhi perhaps. The conversation would hopefully inspire me and give me hope in mankind.
15. What do you always have in your fridge?
Almond milk. I love making hearty, healthy bowls of granola or porridge in the morning for the family.
16. What’s a surprising thing about you?
I was an architectural engineer after I left school.
17. Any favorite Japanese phrases?
Otsukaresama desu (Thanks for your efforts). It’s simple, but when I am with non-Japanese speakers, I am at a loss as to how I should express this emotion.
18. What do you miss most about home?
My mom and dad. Trading cultures was never difficult, but being away from my parents for so much of my life has been much harder.
19. What’s your go-to karaoke song?
I’d probably pick a Disney song!
20. What do you wish you’d known when you were 21?
That you can’t do everything. Sometimes less is more. I’m still learning this lesson in life!
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