Press conference video has some Japanese online commenters embarrassed for their public broadcaster and country.

This week scientists released the first-ever captured image of a black hole. It’s a major milestone in scientific progress, and it can’t help but make most of us ponder both the vastness of the cosmos and the amazing capabilities of the human species.

However, to one reporter from Japan’s public broadcaster, this momentous milestone was also the perfect opportunity to remind the world that Japan is pretty great too, you know.

The U.S. government’s National Science Foundation, one of dozens of organizations around the globe that contribute to the Event Horizon Telescope project which captured the image, held a press conference to discuss its success and findings. When the floor was opened up to questions, one came from a reporter from NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, whose query, as shown in the video above, was:

“I have a question about the international collaboration. I understand this is the enormous backup collaboration. Could you tell me more about the detail of the each country’s contribution, especially Japan?

After the reporter speaks his home country’s name, there’s a brief pause, followed by a roll of soft laughter from the other journalists in attendance. A handful of Japanese Twitter users, though, have responded in a harsher tone.

“While the journalists from all sorts of other countries were asking questions about science, the NHK reporter was all like ‘Tell me about the contributions of Japan!’”

▼ “The question from the NHK reporter during the NSF press conference was totally embarrassing…”

▼ “That’s all you can expect from a public broadcaster. Does he know why he got laughed at? Is he embarrassed about what he did? It makes me sad to see how shallow Japan is, on an international level, about things like this exposed.”

However, Sheperd Doeleman, Event Horizon Telescope project director and the panelist who fielded the NHK reporter’s question, was willing to at least partially indulge him, responding with:

“I can say something about that. I’ve worked very closely with many people at the national astronomical observatory of Japan and others. Japan has played a very key role, as have a number of countries. Japan, for example, was one of the key members of the project that phased up ALMA. They took all the dishes in the ALMA [radio telescope] array in the high Atacama Desert [in Chile], and they made them essentially one dish that we could record on one set of equipment, and that has been huge. And they’ve been a key partner in the imaging techniques, and pushing that forward too.”

However, Doleman made sure to bring his statement back toward crediting the project’s success to the efforts of all its contributors, wrapping up his answer with:

“But the key is that each country, each region, each group, each institute, brought something in kind, and they brought their expertise, and they brought their work. You know, at the end of the day, you just need the stuff to get done, and everyone came with a full heart, really, and the expertise and the energy, to make this image that we’ve presented to you today.”

The “So anyway, what about Japan?” aspect of the NHK reporter’s question brings to mind the way that Japanese media organizations love to boast about the accomplishments of Japanese athletes on the world stage, sometimes trumpeting their victories as evidence of the greatness of the Japanese spirit. And in the reporter’s defense, it stands to reason that NHK’s audience would be especially interested in, and inspired by, the contributions of Japanese scientists. Still, at least a few critics would have preferred he’d been less concerned with national distinctions while gazing out into the wonders of space.

Source: YouTube/TIME via Jin via Twitter/@hausenjapan
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