James May: Our Man in Japan (2020) s01e01 Episode Script


1 Hello, viewers, you join me in an exciting place at a critical time.
It is 5:45 in the morning.
I am in a land that is equally fascinating and baffling; a country that is charming and hospitable, but where we from the West tread in fear and trepidation, believing that the slightest transgression of good etiquette is like slapping somebody's sainted mother in the face.
It's a country I've been to many times before but never really understood.
So join me over six episodes as I explore the enduring mystery that is the land of this Which was supposed to be the rising sun, but it hasn't really worked out, has it? It's a good job it didn't look like that when they named Japan, otherwise it would be the Land of the Gray Overcast.
The flag would be rubbish.
(gong clangs) JAMES: We all know travelogues: beautiful views, tranquil music, exquisite local food, some traditional dress, and the presenter saying something charming and English to a local.
- Are you mad? - (laughs) And we all think we sort of know Japan.
Cherry blossom, very busy crossroads, kei cars, samurai, and seizure-inducing animations.
I've got a part, owing to my excellent Japanese language skills.
I'm a dog.
(indistinct shouting in Japanese) (barking) But dig a little deeper, and from the most tranquil vistas to the most built-up metropoles, there is unearthed a fascinating land of contradictions: the ancient clashing with the new.
The courteous meeting - the furious.
-(shouts) The musical and the karaoke.
Touch me, touch me now.
The microscopic If I clean your ears, the video inside of your ears is displayed on your iPhone.
- Isn't that fantastic? - No.
and the ginormous.
This is the weirdest thing I've ever driven.
James, I'm coming to shoot you.
JAMES: Yes! And Japan's private parts are rather public.
- Today, we have this, uh, penis festival.
So join me as I venture forth in peak physical condition That's very slippery.
traveling by land, sea, air, - and go-kart -(horn honking) as I journey from Japan's icy north all the way to its balmy south.
A British bloke trying to fit in.
I can't, I feel like a pervert.
- Literally risking my life -(grunts) to find out just what makes Japan TRAVEL ROBOT: Traveling is kind of getting me excited.
You can adjust how strong - you want to clean your asshole.
- Yes.
Forwards to Tokyo.
Plus, yes, some beautiful views.
A bit of exquisite local food - Oh, Jesus Christ.
- (laughs) and traditional-ish dress.
In advance.
Right, well, you've seen all the good bits now, so here's me driving down a road.
My actual purpose in coming here, because I'm fascinated by the place, is not to simply look at all the tourist sites and go, "Ooh, isn't that lovely" and "isn't that unusual.
" It's to actually find out what Japan and being Japanese is about, because it is quite possibly the most "abroad" place you can go as a British person.
Everything about it is slightly alien, slightly surprising, and, dare I say it, confusing.
In the interests of that, I've decided not to start at the busy Shibuya Junction, or cooing over Mount Fuji, or even buying ladies' panties from a vending machine in a dark alley.
Instead, I'm starting here.
The icy, northernmost island of Hokkaido.
If somebody mentions Japan, you don't really think of this vast, snowy emptiness.
Now, Hokkaido has only actually been part of Japan for the last 150 years or so.
It's about 20% of the land mass of the whole country, but only has five percent of its population.
A lot of it looks like this and is very, very pretty.
Amazingly, Hokkaido sits at the same latitude as the south of France, which is what I'm telling myself as I leave the heated seat of my car to deliver a long piece to camera with rapidly retreating testicles.
Now bear with me on this one.
In 1957 there was a Japanese expedition to Antarctica using dogs and sleds.
Now, the expedition was a disaster.
It had to be abandoned and the dogs were left behind.
When another expedition went out a year later, they found, amazingly, that two of them were still alive.
Those two dogs became national heroes of Japan.
And as a result of that, it became fashionable in Japan to own a husky-type dog.
And as a result of that, the leisure sport of dogsledding returned to Japan.
I've come here to this, uh, remote part of Hokkaido where they do dogsledding using a descendant of the Russian version of the sleigh dog, known as the Ruski Huskiski.
And let's be honest, what could be better than this? This beautiful scenery, the silence of a sledge.
It's gonna be like being Prokofiev, it'll be fabulous.
Right, James, only one in a million people will get that reference to Prokofiev at the end.
Well, they might just think, "There goes James being a bit pompous and intellectual again.
" Am I being pompous and intellectual? Nobody's ever said that about well, they've said pompous, but they haven't said intellectual.
Am I being pompous and intellectual, viewers? Press the red button now.
I am.
Well, all right, shall we just do the end bit again then and I'll say it's gonna be like being It's gonna be like being Raymond Briggs.
SEAN: What about Elsa from Frozen? - What? - (Sean laughing) I decided to let it go.
Helping me learn the ropes is local sled-head Mr.
Not too much brake.
- I can't ski.
- (laughter) As Terada-san releases the hounds, I try desperately to remember the crash course he's given me.
Irony noted.
I stand on here.
If it's going slowly, I can stand like that, but if it's accelerating or going around bends, I've got to crouch, a bit like a pooping dog, - and move my weight like that.
- (dogs barking) And if you come and have a look at this, when you start panicking, there is a brake, which is sort of two paddles that go down into the snow, so I can stamp on that panic and squeal like a girl.
And the words I need to know are "Daru," that's the name of the lead dog.
(shouts) That meant "go.
" Whoa, that's tr (laughs) (barking) That's a lot faster than I expected.
(shouts) SEAN: Oh, whoa.
(laughs) I wasn't expecting that bit.
(dogs barking) Can you go a bit slower? - SEAN: Put the brake on.
- Oh, put the brake on.
Oh, God, there's a bendy bit coming up.
Can't steer! Whoa! (laughs) Whoa! JAMES: Sorry.
Eventually, though, my runnings finally started becoming cool.
(whistles) So, I don't know how these relatively small dogs pull this enormous sled with big fat me on it.
Whoa! This is exhausting.
(exhales) I wish I had more time to appreciate the lovely scenery here, but I'm desperately trying to hang onto this bloody thing.
Hai, hai, hai! Go wide, in Japanese.
I'm using a little bit of braking whoa, whoa, whoa! Stop, stop, stop! (exhales) - Stopped.
- TERADA: Oh, very nice.
(panting) - Okay.
- Change, change.
Here, have Geez, that's the that's the hardest thing I've ever done.
(laughs) (exhales) Cut.
Here come the rest of the crew in the luxury of a Ski-Doo.
Oh, well done, everyone.
They didn't even stop to say congratulations.
It may have escaped your attention, but high-octane physical activity is not my cup of matcha.
Fortunately, though, I have many other thrilling interests that I'm eager to share.
Now I'd like to talk to you for a moment about Japanese poetry.
But don't be alarmed, I'm merely going to talk about the haiku, a very classical ancient Japanese form, a very simple form of poetry.
And each haiku has multiple meanings.
The most widely accepted form is a line of five syllables, a line of seven and then a line of five, such as, "Fleecy little lamb "Leaps and bounds into the spring I see a jumper.
" We're going to head off to a quiet, sort of snowy knoll somewhere, and I'm going to read one to you.
(clears throat) (speaking Japanese) "When I think of it as my snow "How light it is On my bamboo hat.
" Nice, isn't it? Actually, should I try and write a few haiku of my own on this trip? Because that would be quite an interesting challenge.
TOM: You could even write a haiku to sum up the entire trip at the end.
One haiku for the whole thing.
Well, that's actually what haiku are for, because if they're written properly, they're so laden with meaning that they can explain the whole human condition in five, seven and five syllables.
Should be a breeze.
Let's try it.
We'll have a few practice haiku on the way.
(chuckles) Thank you very much.
That's the end of double poetry.
Haiku scene over.
First city of trip beckons, named Obihiro.
I say "city," but by Japanese standards, with a piffling 169,000 people, it's practically a hamlet.
Still, having so far met mainly dogs, I'm rather keen to find the local boozer.
These are yatai.
They're a sort of Japanese friendship concept, if you like.
Most towns have them.
In warmer towns, they're usually just a canopy.
Here, in Hokkaido, because it is cold, they are huts.
And each one of them is a miniature restaurant and bar, and you can go there with your mates or you can go there as a couple or you can also, as I'm going to, go there on your own because you're lonely, maybe a bit depressed.
The people who are in there will be friendly, you snuggle up to them.
It's very, very intimate.
So I'm going to try, since we've just arrived at it this one.
- PATRONS: Konbanwa.
-May I? - Excellent.
- (indistinct chatter, laughter) As with most social gatherings, my entrance is met with laughter.
I'm now going to use my very formal beginner's Japanese to ask for a beer.
(clears throat) I say ALL: Onegaishimasu! (speaking Japanese) - JAMES: Ah, arigato.
-Thank you.
ALL: Kanpai! Because I've already exhausted my Japanese, I'm going to resort to technology.
Tonight I am very hungry.
(girl over device speaking Japanese) - ALL: Oh! - Okay.
JAMES: The second stick translates back into English.
(speaks Japanese) - Fantastic.
How good is that? - (laughter) Let's see if this works back to front, so Tonight, I am very hungry.
(girl over device speaking Japanese) - "Divorce tonight"? - (laughter) What is it? Technology is rubbish.
(laughter) Oh, forget those.
(girl over device speaking Japanese) - Shut up.
- (laughter) Despite the communication problems, we're getting on rather well.
And this tiny, warm restaurant is a cramped haven, especially as it tragically can't fit most of the crew.
- Oh, is it origami? - WOMAN: Origami.
Oh, origami.
Oh, okay, uh - Origami, origami.
- Okay.
JAMES: I'm five and a half thousand miles from home, a stranger in a strange land.
Which way up is it, that way? No, that way.
(laughter) But here in the yatai, I feel among friends.
- (applause, oohing) - Oh, no, you're too generous.
Obviously, I'm not really alone.
I have my crew and so on.
But if you really were traveling around, and you were completely on your own of an evening, it's so intimate and so close, that you have to, you have to talk to the other people and have a nice time.
It's great.
- This is for you.
- WOMAN: Thank you.
(cheering) (laughter) - Sam, this is for you.
- Oh, great.
Actually, it's James.
I will treasure that.
(laughter) I didn't realize I was so funny until I came to Japan.
(laughter continues) After my state-of-the-art translation tech failed me last night, I've decided to go analog.
- Just great.
- Thank you, thank you.
Please welcome, now accompanying me on my voyage, Masayo.
Good morning, everybody.
This is Masayo-san.
- Konnichiwa.
- Konnichiwa.
And she's my guide.
I can only say And - That's correct? - Yes.
Yes, and And I can say "onegaishimas.
" So I say - (laughs) - That's it, for a beer.
- Fantastic.
- That's the most important thing.
Masayo wants to show me another Japanese take on a traditional winter activity, and she seems like a civilized type, so it's probably something like building a snowman.
(shouting) Oh.
In fact, it's the world's most regulated and violent snowball fight.
Apparently, here in Hokkaido, they've turned snowballs into a fully-fledged team sport, with strictly controlled snowball sizes, contact rules, leagues, uniforms, - stadiums and referees.
-(whistle blows) The rules as I'm sure you'll want to play along at home each seven-player team can use up to 90 regulation snowballs per round to hit the other team or capture their flag.
Oh, I see, the people at the back roll the snowballs to the forwards, we'd probably call them.
- It's best of three, and if you take a hit, you're out.
-(whistle blows) Yukigassen means yuki: snow, gassen: war or fight.
And I'd never heard of it.
Maybe you haven't, either.
But, anyway, can we bring the teams out, please, coach? (whistle blows) Shigo! Shigo.
Shigo? - "Get together.
" - "Get together.
" (coach speaking Japanese) JAMES: But Masayo's surprise doesn't stop there.
- You want me to play? - MASAYO: Yes, please.
Please, please enjoy snow-snowball fighting tonight.
Yeah, I'm sure I'll love it.
(grunts) MASAYO: Oh, James, you look so nice.
- Do I? - You look like a sportsman.
- Thank you very much - You can do that.
Okay? (laughs) Here's a ball from the la the la - It's rea it's very hard.
- Very, very hard.
- Very hard.
- Feel that.
- Yeah, it's kind of a ice ball.
- Throw it at me.
- Yeah, It's quite hard.
- (laughs) It's quite small.
(chuckles) To make this even more schoolyard, we're doing boys against the girls.
Which probably means we fancy them, but we're too shy to say.
- (speaks Japanese) - (whistle blows) - (man shouts) - (Masayo laughs) MASAYO: Be careful, be careful.
Be careful! Come on, James! You can throw ball.
MAN: James, go! James, go for it! Go for it! JAMES: I'm starting to think Masayo might be a bit of a sadist.
What are you doing? It's terrible.
- What are you doing? - (grunts) MASAYO: Don't let me down! - (whistle blows) - (Masayo laughs) JAMES: I'm hit, which means I'm out.
As one of my teammates makes very clear.
MASAYO (chuckling): You're terrible.
- You're terrible.
- (James chuckles) James! Come on! I d I didn't see it coming.
- James, come on.
- Oh, I'm sorry.
- That's your fault.
- I know it's my Because of you, your team lost the first game.
Look, the Japanese way is to elevate the achievements of others while diminishing your own.
- I know, but - That was a bit rubbish - That's your fault.
- It was my fault, yes.
You should not should not be coward.
- Okay? - Not be? Not be coward.
- Covered? - Coward.
(chuckles) Sorry, do you mean "covered" or "coward"? Coward! - Coward! - I mean coward.
You shouldn't be scared.
I wasn't scared, I'm just too big, and they could I stuck out from behind the Don't tell me that excuse.
- Okay.
-The next set you should do the best.
- Okay, next time I will do better.
- Okay.
- Please trust me.
- I do.
- Please don't let me down.
- I won't let you down.
That's like my mother telling me she's disappointed in me.
It's terrible.
(sighs) Right.
Stand by.
My team lost the first set, no small thanks to me.
- So if we lose again, that's it.
- (whistle blows) (grunts) A near miss.
I like to think that the problem is that I'm much taller than the average player, not that I'm a bit fat.
(shouting) - Oh, I got one! - MASAYO: Very nice.
- MAN: James, go, go! - MASAYO: Go, go! Go, go, go, go! Very nice.
Go, go.
JAMES: I fight tooth and nail.
But pinned down and screaming for help Where are they? - MASAYO: James, be careful, be careful! - (James grunts) (chuckles) - (whistle blows) - I'm hit again.
(chuckling): Oh, my.
Oh, my.
(laughing) - (man shouting) - (whistle blows) - Finished, finished.
- Who won? - Did they? - You lost.
Thank you.
Domo arigato.
Well, to be honest, I thought it might be a bit pony, but it's actually really good.
It's quite frightening.
And it does make a hell of a racket when it hits you on the helmet.
(clears throat) But, um, uh, Domo arigato gozaimashita.
- Very, very good game.
- (others speak Japanese) So the red team, the men's team, lost by one hit.
One person out.
That person was knocked out in the first round, the only person knocked out of the men's team in the first round, and it was me.
- Yes, it's your fault.
- Okay? It's my fault, yes.
Uh, so I should say to them, I should say - Sumimasen.
-(laughter) Right, then.
Where to next? Oh.
No, not there.
(gong clangs) It's the next morning, and we're up early, with some big plans for the day.
Unfortunately So, today I've got up at 5:00 to go to some sort of exclusively Hokkaido horse racing event and it's been canceled.
TOM: So, what do you want to do now? Can we go inside? - (laughter) - JAMES: No.
No, you can't.
SEAN: Is breakfast open yet? Breakfast is probably not open for another couple of hours.
- Has anybody seen my hat? - No.
- Does anybody care? - (woman laughs) We have to film something today, or the knife-edge finances of the struggling Amazon empire will tip into the red, so here's my hotel room.
Come in.
I was wanting to talk to you, actually.
Um, I was going to say that hundreds of years ago, when I was a child in the '70s, and everybody was basically a racist, it used to be considered great fun to laugh at slightly wonky Japanese translations in the instruction books that came with, you know, power tools and the early Japanese cars, and all that sort of thing.
Bits that said, "Cement the driver's arm to the handle," and so on.
But actually the translation of Japanese into English often yields very, very fetching phrases that are actually much nicer than the words we really use.
For example, the first time I came to Japan that was 25, 26 years ago the little sign next to the kettle in the hotel room said "electricity pot," which is a much nicer name for it than kettle.
We often still say that at home, we say, "I'll fill up the electricity pot.
" Here's another one.
Um, this is a pencil I bought recently.
It's Japanese, and it's got all the usual sort of, you know, pencil rubbish written on it, but then if you look at that side, look, it says, "made by elaborate process.
" Now, the original Japanese probably says something completely trite, like "finest quality," but once their version of that is translated, it says "made by elaborate process," and I like things that are made by elaborate process.
And here's another one.
If I just put my, um, what the crew call my children's TV presenter specs on.
There was a, a sign in the bathroom in the last hotel that we were in, and um, it was instructions on how to operate the shower, and it says: "Slip knob into bracket on opposite wall.
" No idea what it means, really, but it's much nicer than just saying whatever it was supposed to say.
I just thought I'd mention oh, look, there's my hat.
Um, I just thought I'd mention that, because we can't go to the racing now, and I'm sorry about that, but as the Japanese proverb says, "Never try to bite your own navel.
" (Japanese music playing) JAMES: Masayo's taken the day off, but as the snow's stopped, and the best budget in the world doesn't cover a Japanese minibar, I've decided to go in search of a simple snack.
The real problem for me is the language, because if I travel to Germany or France, I can't really speak those languages properly, but I can look at the words, and they make a noise in my head.
And often their words are related to our words, and you can work out a few basic things.
But in Japanese, when you look at the signs, there is no noise in your head.
I know a lot of you are thinking, "Oh, James is just being a dork.
It can't really be that difficult," but it is.
Come and see.
Now, this is the food ordering machine, but obviously you can't know what any of it is, 'cause it's all written in kanji.
And, if you're trying to play along at home, know that the numbers and symbols on the picture board don't relate to the numbers and symbols on the machine.
Oh, no, it's different on there, though, isn't it? It's none of those The numbers are different.
So the colors will mean something.
I think the orange things are hot or are they? Television shows are often accused of exaggerating the truth in the name of entertainment.
This machine genuinely took us six full minutes to work out.
(server speaking Japanese) Yes, there you go.
JAMES: Even after that, I've only unlocked door number one.
No? So, just to summarize, I went to a very complicated machine to buy some noodles, when I could have just asked a man, but I got a ticket from the machine, which I then had to give to the man, and he tore it in half immediately and sent me over to the noodle bar, where I offered the ticket to the lady, but she didn't want it.
But three minutes later, it turned out I had hit the jackpot after all.
Ah wow.
Look at that.
And now everything is okay, because I have a bowl of noodles.
Japan is famed for its raw fish, but a bowl of ramen is what gets things done.
In face-shatteringly freezing Hokkaido, it feels like the beans and sausages of the Orient.
Anyway, I'm delighted to say that having been pelted with it and had my face rubbed in it, we're leaving all this snow stuff behind, and we're heading for the broad sunlit uplands of southeastern Hokkaido.
Where the haiku are all about fresh, dry tarmac.
And where, finally, I'm allowed to film a proper scene about people making stuff.
Hidden in this unassuming building in the hills of Hokkaido is a forge run by a very special man.
We've come here to meet Korehira Watanabe-san, and he is one of the last surviving makers of samurai swords.
This is going to be excellent.
(gong clangs) James-san.
Very nice to meet you.
Anyone who's seen Kill Bill knows people will travel the world to find an elusive Japanese master swordsmith so they can hack ninjas to pieces in style.
Korehira Watanabe has been honing his craft for 40 years and is edging ever closer to the perfect blade.
And what an edge it is.
That's spectacular.
- May I? - Okay.
Domo arigato.
Oh, that is achingly gorgeous.
Look at that.
- Oh - No? Okay.
(laughs) That feels fantastic in your hand as well.
That's proper craftsmanship.
There's a lot "Craft" is a fantastically abused word.
It's used by people who, you know, make wooden boxes on a band saw, but that is it's fantastic.
How long does it take to make? How many people can still do this? Do you have an apprentice? Do you want another apprentice? (Watanabe speaking Japanese) May I be an apprentice for one day? - Okay.
Domo arigato.
- Hai.
What do you think? SEAN: You look like a sushi chef.
- I don't look like a sushi chef.
- Yeah, you do.
JAMES: As I join in the forging of a new masterpiece, I'm instructed to follow the rhythm of the hammers.
One, two, three.
(grunts) Luckily, I have a degree in music, so this proves easy.
- Ah - Oh, no.
(chuckles) (speaks Japanese) I'm asked to sit out the rest of the process.
Clearly, I'm too much of a natural at this, and he doesn't want to show up the other apprentice.
Master Watanabe-san has spent decades trying to replicate the ancient Koto samurai swords, considered the finest ever made.
The rhythm of the hammers are instructions to one another.
It's fantastic.
Listen to 'em go ding-ding-chh, ding-ding-chh.
He's telling him with his hammer taps how regularly and how hard to hit the piece of metal.
The metal will be shaped across many months in continual pursuit of this mythical perfection.
The samurai believed that the sword embodied the soul, and there is a spiritual reverence here.
This ancient process of sword-making is actually part of the Shinto religion.
It's a it's a ritual event, as well as a manufacturing event.
Then, hence this.
I don't know their exact meaning, but this is all part of These are all votive things to the gods around the forge.
Where applied, this layer of clay makes the steel cool at a different rate, changing its characteristics, as well as providing that signature curve.
After all these processes, you end up with a blade that has a different quality of steel here, from here, from the very edge.
The edge is very hard and can be made very very sharp.
The middle is slightly more ductile, so the sword won't break.
The edge here is thicker, so that the thing isn't wobbly.
And all the steel that you start with is all still in the blade.
Nothing is ground or cut away.
It's all hammered into that.
It's it's breathtaking, really.
Luckily, Watanabe-san has a work-in-progress sword that's a few months further down the line.
And he lets me take it for a little test drive.
Hai! (all exclaim) How far did I go in there? Two inches? And it's perfectly okay.
It's not even notched.
The blade is absolutely fine.
Domo arigato gozaimashita.
Arigato gozaimashita.
I would quite happily have spent the next ten years being Watanabe-san's apprentice, but I think the crew would have thrown me into the forge.
Plus, his current apprentice was sharpening a blade and looking at me funny.
Time to move on.
After all this wilderness, it's high time to head to Hokkaido's biggest city, Sapporo, named after the beer.
Now, this is Sapporo, and I have to say I'm quite relieved, because my one criticism of Hokkaido is that it does feel a bit deserted.
Everything is a bit empty.
But this is the fifth-biggest city in Japan.
Sapporo, along with Asahi, Kirin and Suntory, makes up the foaming head of Japan's beer industry, and its presence dominates the city.
But my director thought I'd prefer the more intimate setting of the Sun and Moon, one of the growing number of microbreweries setting up in the city.
He was wrong.
The issue I have is that most microbreweries in Britain or America are a bit crap.
Everybody's going on about, "Oh, it's 'craft' beer.
" But there's a reason why Sean, the cameraman, isn't using a "craft" camera.
- So, you call this a bitter? - Bitter, yes.
It's very pale.
It's like a pale ale.
- India pale ale.
- Oh, it is a pa India pale ale? - Yes.
- Yeah.
That's refreshing in so many ways.
It's a beer, which is refreshing.
It's a good microbrewery, which is also refreshing.
Very nice.
- Thank you.
- Very nice.
Moriya-san, the owner of the microbrewery, has agreed to give me a guided tour of the whole operation, which amounts to a closet behind the bar.
(James laughs) It's very steamy in here, obviously, which is a problem with the camera.
This is a genuine microbrewery, even by microbrewery standards.
Sorry, I'll wipe it and then speak.
While our Aussie cameraman steam-proofs his kit, I add some hops.
Hang on a minute.
- Clear? - Yes.
Go, go, go.
Whoa, you can smell it.
(sniffs) The smell of hops.
It's the beginnings of beer.
It is remarkably hot in here.
I hope my beer's still cold.
It's weird, this, isn't it? If you went to a-a restaurant, and they said, "Yeah, of course you can have egg and chips, but you've got to help us cook it," you'd be really annoyed.
But if you have to help make the beer, you don't mind, somehow.
(clears throat) Excellent.
That has gone down since I left it.
Um (chuckles): All right.
This obviously isn't the beer I've just helped to make, but I am brewing a plan for that.
Um, when will this beer be ready? - One month.
- One month? Where will we be in a month? - TOM: Uh, Osaka.
- Osaka? I should point out that one of the problems we've had with Japanese hotels is they only have small bars, and they often close really early.
Often before we've arrived.
I wonder, could you send it if We will pay, of course.
Could you send beer to Osaka? - Yes.
(laughs) - Yeah? In-in bottles, you know, is fine.
- Yes.
- Yeah.
I'd love that, if our own beer followed us across Japan.
I bloody love beer.
(gong clangs) (seagulls squawking) I'm nearing the end of the first leg of my trip, but before I cross to the mainland, I thought I'd experience fishing Hokkaido's bountiful coastal waters, hence the low-end, copyright-free sea shanty music.
Good morning, viewers.
Today, we are in Otaru, and for lunch we are having tako octopus very, very popular.
Japan eats two-thirds of the world's octopus catch.
But this being television, before I can eat it, I have to catch it, so we are here to meet Narita-san, who is the skipper of this fishing boat.
How are you? I have this is very correct Japanese etiquette I have my business cards ready.
And using two hands, face towards the recipient, - I present it.
- Ah.
Make a point of looking at it even though you don't understand it.
Now, there's a bit of a story behind my business card because I wrote it as a haiku, and it says, or I believed it said: "My name is James May.
My business card is before you, as indeed am I.
" And then we turned it into kanji so it looks proper Japanese haiku and so on, but then we gave it to one of our Japanese fixers and said, "Can you just translate that back for us to make sure it's okay," and it actually says: "My name is James May.
Please bear this in mind.
Thank you in advance.
" Shall we go? (laughs) Yes.
- Okay, okay, okay.
- Yes.
(both chuckle) JAMES: Yet again, I'm accidentally hilarious.
A couple of things you might not know about the octopus: it has eight legs you probably did know that but you might not know that it has three hearts, and also that it has more intelligence in its arms than in its head.
So it's excellent at multitasking, it can be using its arms to get some food out of rocks while its head is thinking what to watch on television that night.
The only thing that could go against us here is that the skipper's a bit worried about the sea.
They normally go out at 5:00 in the morning because that's when it's very calm.
It's now gone 9:30, so it could get a little bit choppy, but let's see.
I'm very confident and this is a great way of earning your lunch.
Or a great way to revisit it.
Unfortunately, once we leave the enclosed harbor, things get choppier than a karate tournament.
Half a mile out of the harbor, it's as choppy as hell.
The cameraman can hard well, he's not standing up, to be honest, he's kneeling in front of me.
(coughs) I might rephrase that.
(laughter) Um, I've never been seasick, I'm very grateful for that, but some of our crew (coughs) do it quite a lot.
Bet they're regretting nicking my beer in the last scene.
Japan update.
Subject: octopus fishing.
The news is we're about halfway to where the octopus pots are.
They're dropped in advance the day before, but it's too rough, says Narita-san, to stop and winch them up.
The risk is that you break the ropes and then you lose your precious octopus pots forever.
I think I've understood that correctly.
Well, if we were certain other unmentionable TV programs, we would fake that and just find an octopus and put it in the pot, and then pretend, "Hey, look at the octopus we've caught.
" But we can't really do that, can we? 'Cause that's not true.
- No.
Uh - So what do we do? Well, I've heard that some people have actually managed to catch an octopus this morning, so we might be able to buy an octopus or borrow an octopus from somebody else? JAMES: You know, as long as we can get to the restaurant and do the, - "Here's how you prepare an octopus.
" -Yeah.
If somebody here's caught one, we could do we can just revert to the 1970s and say, "Here's one we caught earlier.
" And here's one we caught earlier.
What a weird-looking thing.
So I think the deal is, I'll walk round to the restaurant, which is only about 100 meters that way, and I'll prepare lunch for the crew.
I was gonna say cook lunch for the crew; it won't all be cooked.
Obviously some of it will be raw.
Does that sound like a deal? He's quite a sweet fellow really.
I think I'll call him Bob.
Moments later, Bob is dismembered by the staff of Narita-san's restaurant and readied for the deep fryer.
We're going to do sashimi, tempura, and a sort of stew, which isn't called a stew shabu-shabu, that's it.
I bet that's nothing like as easy as it looks.
This knife is absolutely phenomenally sharp.
It's all happening in a very Zen-like, peaceful way.
It's not like Jamie Oliver and-and Gordon Ramsay where they run around shouting at everybody.
No, this is, this is calm.
It's James, I'm so hungry.
- Hurry up, please.
- JAMES: Yes, all right.
(laughs) It'll be better because you've waited for it.
Who needs MasterChef? Octopus sashimi, tempura, and shabu-shabu, a broth into which you dip raw ingredients.
A feast to mollify even the harshest critic.
- Very good.
Very delicious.
- Very good.
The trouble is, the Japanese are so polite that if it tasted like shabu-shabu wellington boot, they'd still say, "Oh, yes, it's very nice.
" Is it really very nice? - Really very nice.
Mm, mm, mm.
- Really very nice, okay.
(seagulls squawking) - So - (chuckles) Yes? So I have two sorts of ice creams, - so which would you like, James? - Yes.
Well, I'm guessing from your body language you want me to take the black, gray-colored one.
- Yes, this is for you.
- Thank you.
I thought so.
- Thank you very much.
- Do you know what's in it? - Coal? - Huh? No, I'm gonna guess something some sort of chocolate or - tea, actually, maybe it's tea.
- No, no, no, no.
- I'll try it.
- No.
You try? Actually tastes slightly fishy.
- Really? - Yeah.
It's squid ink.
- Is it? - Yes.
Is that vanilla? - It's sea urchin.
- Is it? I love it.
It's very creamy.
I love it.
JAMES: I had hoped for a sweeter end to my trip through Hokkaido, but I'll settle for this.
Now where do I get a crab stick flake? - Mm-hmm.
- It's 90% ice cream.
- Mm.
- Ten percent fish fingers.
So far on my Japanese journey, I've brought great shame to the world of dogsledding (shouts) - shame to my snowballing team - (grunts) shame to an ancient sword master - (shouts) - Whoa! and worn a mask in a scene we didn't end up using.
That was actually quite painful to start with, but by the end, I was perfectly happy.
And while still undeniably feeling like an outsider, the warmth and patience here is so genuine - This is for you.
-Oh, great.
Actually, it's James.
- (laughter) -Domo arigato.
that I feel the Japanese mask of rules and protocols is slowly slipping.
And as my ferry gets ready to cast off for the mainland, there's just time for Masayo and me to have one last Konbanwa.
- I have a gift for you.
- Really? - Yes.
- Thank you very much, James.
I have a gift for you.
- Thank you.
- I hope you like it.
- Please open it.
- Okay.
Be careful, it's-it's quite fragile.
Just put it on my MASAYO: I'll do this first.
JAMES: This went on for a good five minutes, so we ended up replacing it with something that just unfolded.
- Please open it.
- Okay.
Very beautiful.
- Ah, yes! - (chuckles) Fantastic.
It's a traditional Japanese happi jacket, and I'm very happy indeed.
It's great, isn't it? I like it a lot.
- It's been a pleasure.
Thank you.
- Thank you very much.
Thank you very much.
JAMES: Now I'm departing, I've written a small haiku to commemorate the occasion.
"Springless Hokkaido.
I'm off to Honshu to pop my blossom cherry.
" See you next time.
I'll do this first.
(both chuckle) Oh Sorry.
JAMES: Hold it by the edge.
Hold it by the side - Uh-huh.
-and shake it, and it will come down.
Somebody pull it off it.
(laughter) Pull it off it.
JAMES: It was a teapot.