James May: Our Man in Japan (2020) s01e06 Episode Script

Pickled Plum

1 (woman singing "Take Me Home, Country Roads" in Japanese) Hello, viewers.
You join us at a very exhausting time on the Shimanami Kaido.
It's a bicycle route that joins the main island of Honshu with the first of the big southern islands, Shikoku.
It's lovely.
I'm on an excellent adventure forensically examining Japan from tip to toe.
- (instrument bellowing) -From the frozen northern wilderness Yes, we are completely naked.
through the pulsating heart of Tokyo - (speaking Japanese) - Yes.
Sumimasen.
and its nether regions - Do you like your penis? - I'm quite fond of it.
down to the warm underbelly of Honshu.
I am Ultraman! And now on the final leg of my journey, I'm joined once again by my faithful guide Yujiro.
(bleep) - As I make my way -(bleep) through Japan's subtropical southern islands.
- (passing gas) -Was that you farting, Yujiro? -I'm so sorry.
- These noodles will taste terrible.
- (laughter) JAMES: We begin with a 70-kilometer bike ride over the largest series of suspension bridges in the you know.
(bicycle bell dings) Apparently, we still have the budget left for cool helicopter shots, but no money for a bloody car.
To my left, somewhere, Yujiro.
- Yes! - To my right, Manhon-chan, - our cycling guide.
- Yeah.
How many times have you done this route? Uh - Are you bored with it yet? - Uh JAMES: This visually stunning but physically knackering opening scene will end here on Shikoku, three hours of furious pedaling later.
It's the smallest of Japan's main landmasses, and it's an extraordinary region, surrounded by hundreds of tiny islands, and it's a surprisingly isolated one.
These islands are extremely pretty, but unfortunately, the population of them is dying out, because it's aging, and literally dying, and the younger people are moving away to places like Tokyo and Osaka.
And as a result of that, if you fancy it, you can buy a house around here very cheaply.
I mean, really, a few thousand pounds.
My legs already feel like overcooked noodles, and they're about to get worse.
The first bridge looms.
- Oh, that's enormous.
- Yeah! JAMES: Right.
I'm going to stay on the right, because I'm scared of heights.
Oh, God.
(panting) This bridge is quite windy and very high over 500 feet so if you don't like that, and I don't like it very much, just don't look aah! like that.
Oh! - I have a fly in my eye.
- Oh, this is scary! - JAMES: What? - YUJIRO: Take a peek! JAMES: Yeah, I've looked.
- BOTH: It's very scary.
- (Manhon-chan laughs) Zen cycling: breathe in.
(inhales deeply) Breathe out.
(exhales) - YUJIRO: There's the border! - JAMES: What? We are entering Ehime Prefecture.
- Say, "Konnichiwa.
" -Now! JAMES: After peddling for several hours in 32-degree heat, we finally arrive on Shikoku, shamefully late.
Shikoku is famous for many things aside from its depopulation a special breed of dog, extensive citrus groves, and we've been told there's a group of dignitaries who represent the local culture waiting to meet us.
-Oh! -(sighs) -Hmm.
(James grunts) (panting) - Ah.
- Ah! - (speaks Japanese) -Sumimasen.
(speaking Japanese) Jeans are bad choice of trouser for this.
Though any concerns that I'm underdressed for the occasion quickly disappear.
- Great.
- Yes.
You want to know their names? - No, but yes.
- Okay.
Kabuchan, the, uh, horseshoe crab.
- Really? Konbanwa, Kabuchan.
- Yes.
-(speaking Japanese) He looks like a chocolate marshmallow with a pubic infection.
Anyway Arun the dog representing the - Dog? - Yes, a dog.
Representing, you know, Japanese, uh, like, lemon citrus fruits.
- Oh, I see.
- Famous one, yeah.
Konbanwa, Arun the dog, possibly a lemon.
Konbanwa.
Shima-Bo! It's a mikan, Japanese oranges.
Shima-Bo.
Konbanwa, Shima-Bo.
- Yes.
- Meanwhile, the bar is shut.
- Yes.
- Your Beetle is gone.
No beer.
(mumbles) Number is 70, 60, 70 kilometers on a bicycle, and I thought that at least at the end, I'll have a beer.
- Yes.
- But I got a giant cuddly toy - Oh -that's supposed to be a lemon, but actually looks like a dog with jaundice.
We call them Yuru-kyara loose characters.
You know? Do you really do this stuff, or are you just putting this on - because this is a travel show about Japan? -No, no, no, no! - We (speaks Japanese) - (speaks Japanese) - It's normal in Japan.
Yeah.
- Yeah, normal in Japan.
Very normal, yeah.
JAMES: Anyway, Manhon, can I say, uh, domo arigato gozaimasu for organizing this wonderful surprise.
(speaking Japanese) Domo arigato gozaimasu.
- Oh.
- It's my pleasure! Oh.
(speaks Japanese) I'll go and have a word with What's his name? The orange one? - Shima-Bo! - Shima-Bo! - YUJIRO: Yeah.
- JAMES: Oh, actually Where's his ear? So, Shima-Bo? Shima-Bo, do you speak English? (male voice): Yeah.
Do you know where there's any beer? (with English accent): I don't know, mate.
I'm just a mascot.
That's Rich from production.
TOM: Well, one of the mascots got tired of waiting and had to go 'cause it took so long to do the journey.
This is supposed to be a reasonably highbrow inquiry into Japanese culture and society.
But I'm gonna have to say "Sumimasen" to the viewers this time, rather than to Japan.
Anyway, if you can put that aside, I have to say, these islands I mean, look at this light now.
This is every earthly paradise that humankind has ever dreamt of, all in one place.
Fab, isn't it? But there's no beer.
There's no beer.
Okay.
Um, thank you for your indulgence, viewers.
Goodbye.
Eventually, I get hold of a car for the breezy three-hour drive to my hotel, where I can finally get a much-deserved beer in.
But impromptu furry conventions aside, Shikoku is starting to feel like a hidden gem, and a chance for me to experience rural Japanese life as a local.
(gong clangs) Konbanwa gozaimasu.
If you're going to come and stay in Japan and you get the chance, check in to a Japanese hotel, rather than an international one, and ask for a Japanese-style room such as this one, because it's a delightful experience.
It begins with the floor, which is tatami mat.
Take your shoes off You will sleep on a futon.
Moving over here to the migi of the room, you will see the built-in wardrobe, sliding beautifully.
I've already hung my shirt up and put my jeans in there.
And then you will have the low table with the special Japanese school chair with no legs.
Very typical.
And on the table, you have this rather wonderful lacquered tea ceremony set.
Look at that.
Complete with the small plate and the refreshing hand wipe.
Not a biscuit.
Don't eat it.
- (beep) - Is it a refreshing? No, it's a biscuit.
(men laugh) Bollocks! (laughs) How are we gonna get around that? (yelling) JAMES: By hastily cutting to this.
- (yells, laughs) - Geez! JAMES: Unfortunately, that was the best thing that happened in that scene, so let's just go here.
Ohayo gozaimasu.
You join me in very, very noisy modern Takamatsu, complete with its own digital cuckoo.
And this is a martial arts center, where I'm going to do some archery Kyudo archery.
It develops your character, as a form of meditation through action, a concept borrowed from Zen Buddhism.
How these people ever found the time to develop the hybrid family saloon car is beyond me, to be honest.
Anyway, let's find out.
Like most things in Japan, Kyudo archery is shrouded in ceremony and ritual.
So, before I'm allowed anywhere near a bow and arrow, I have to learn the basics.
And you don't get any more basic than being shown how to walk.
To help put me at ease, my every move is silently judged by a panel of stony-faced Kyudo experts.
Ichi.
Ni.
San.
And then It's quite difficult.
Have I got to keep my feet on the floor? Mm-hmm.
Uh-huh.
There.
Mm-hmm.
Mm.
There.
Mm.
Mm.
Mm.
Bow to the flag of Japan.
And then it's ichi, ni, san, out.
- No.
- (laughter) - Good? No.
- No.
It's a bit more complicated than it looks, because there are three steps, turn right, stop, turn left, three steps, then some more steps.
And then stop in the middle, and then you go over here.
And your feet must never leave the floor, and you get to here, you must bow at the flag of Japan, but not too much, and then it must be three steps between here, and leaving beyond the line.
But not three and then one, and not two and then one beyond the line.
And actually firing the arrow at the target is just a sort of small inconvenience in the middle of all this.
After the catwalk comes the actual shooty bit.
As a baka gaijin, I've asked them to keep it as simple as possible.
First stage footing.
The second forming the torso.
The third stage readying the bow.
The fourth stage raising the bow.
The fifth stage drawing apart.
Sixth stage full draw.
And the seventh stage release.
The eighth stage remaining straight, or remaining body.
That's all.
Thank you.
You say that's all.
That's quite a lot.
- Oh, here comes your bow.
- Ah.
- Domo arigato.
-Hmm.
Okay, so, three steps, turn right, feet don't leave the floor.
First stage feet placement; second stage form torso; third stage raise bow; fifth to eighth stages draw apart, full draw release and remain in body pose.
The Zen relaxation is palpable.
This could be my last chance to show that I can truly absorb the skills, cultures and traditions of Japan.
A symbol of all that I've learned to this point.
Breathe, and (gong clangs) Out of ten? INSTRUCTOR: Hmm.
Hmm.
JAMES: Hmm.
Right.
Japan update, subject: hunger.
I'm starving.
And I know what that means.
It means I'm going to have something that we haven't really talked about yet even though they've appeared on one of my T-shirts.
Noodles.
Now, there are three basic types.
There is ramen noodle, which is the type you eat in roadside cafés.
They are made with wheat flour and egg.
Then there are soba noodles.
They're made with buckwheat.
They're the ones you eat cold in sauce, often for breakfast.
And there's a third type.
These are the thick white ones made with nothing more than wheat flour and salt, and they are the ones for which Shikoku is famous.
And they're in here.
Spoiler alert.
- (man speaking Japanese) -Konbanwa.
Gozaimasu.
(gong clangs) The Udon House is a kind of hostel-stroke-restaurant that offers visitors a fully interactive noodle experience with a host, Senna, who may just rival Yujiro for enthusiasm.
Are you ready? - Yes.
- Yeah! Okay, let's make it.
First, we're gonna make a big hole.
Flour with a hole in the middle, right.
And then make your hands like this.
And then mix! Mix, mix, mix.
Like you're gonna be, uh, mixing.
- Quick, quick, quick.
- Quick, quick, quick! - Quick, quick.
Just mixing, yeah.
-Quick! - (Senna speaks Japanese) - Do we have to bow at it first? - You normally do.
Bow, bow, bow.
Okay.
-Yes.
JAMES: Udon dough is so firm that it's traditionally kneaded with your feet.
(Yujiro grunts) Step off from the dough, rest and done.
JAMES: Though it sounds like the only thing Yujiro is kneading is a new pair of trousers.
- (passes gas) - YUJIRO: Oh, sorry.
JAMES: Was that you farting, Yujiro? - (all laugh) - YUJIRO: Sorry, sir.
Sorry, sir.
- You do that every bloody time.
- Sorry.
I am so sorry.
You know, this is I was a little nervous today.
- I am a little nervous.
Yeah, sorry.
-Do the end.
- Sorry, yes.
I-I'm terrible.
- (Senna laughs) I didn't mean it.
I'm sorry, sir.
- These noodles will taste terrible.
- (laughter) Oh! Is that the chopping machine? - Yes.
- Oh! I thought you'd do it with a knife.
Is this very, very sharp? - Oh! - ALL: Ooh! Wow.
Wow.
That's proper Japanese sharp.
(singing FamilyMart jingle) (clapping rhythmically) (speaks Japanese) (all singing jingle) - Finish! - One more.
(tempo slows) Oh! - Oh, I just got to the end of the noodle.
-Okay! - Yay! - (Yujiro speaking Japanese) (speaking Japanese) JAMES: After our childish antics, it came as no surprise that our hosts decided the grown-ups should do the cooking.
- Ah, domo arigato gozaimasu.
-(speaking Japanese) JAMES: Although we were allowed to sit at the big table, and here, slurping is encouraged.
(slurping) Mm.
Mm.
(chuckles) YUJIRO: Perfect! And please think of a haiku while I finish this off, okay? - Okay.
- About udon, please, okay? You don't have much time.
(speaks Japanese) (slurping) A bowl of noodles tied up in Japan's history.
Nothing can stop them.
Udon haiku done, we head deep into the heart of Shikoku and the beautiful yet mysterious Iya Valley, home to misty gorges, 1,000-year-old vine bridges and the tiny village of Nagoro.
- YUJIRO: Oh, my gosh.
- Is this it? Might be.
(gong clangs) - YUJIRO: Wow.
- JAMES: Oh, I actually thought that was a real person, but that's not.
Look at them all.
Nagoro has become famous throughout Japan as the village of the scarecrows.
- So, since we arrived here - Yeah.
we haven't actually seen any human activity.
All across the country, the population of these rural villages is plummeting as old people die and young people are lured to the big cities.
So, some of these houses must be abandoned.
YUJIRO: Absolutely.
I mean, it is said that over eight million houses are vacant in Japan.
- Really? - Yeah.
That one looks just like Dan, the sound recordist.
- I am Dan.
- Ooh.
Oh! JAMES: What do you think this place is? I think it's a school.
- Yeah? - That looks That's sort of school stuff, isn't it? The last remaining children left the village in 2012, but the school is far from empty.
Whoa, there's a whole class in here.
Oh, my gosh.
JAMES: That's really terrifying.
- YUJIRO: Are you scared? - Not scared.
I'm disturbed.
Ah, these are people in formal Japanese dress.
YUJIRO: Yes.
Kimono, yukata.
- Hi.
Konnichiwa.
(chuckles) - (screams) Oh, konnichiwa.
- Konnichiwa.
- Konnichiwa.
- Gozaimasu.
-James-san, this is - the super artist who created all the kakashi.
-Oh! - Ayano-san.
- Ah, konnichiwa.
Gozaimasu.
Fantastic work.
Local artist Ayano Tsukimi began creating these handmade scarecrows, known as kakashi, to replace the residents who have either died or left.
Are you the only living person in the village now? Oh, only 27? All people who used to live here? - JAMES: Oh, that's me! - (Ayano chuckles) Oh, actually, it is me.
I've even got - the same shirt on.
- (Yujiro and Ayano laugh) Does that mean I'm dead? This kakashi, James kakashi, will be alive 24-7 in this school gym.
- (speaking Japanese) - With-with James's friends.
- (Ayano laughs) -You know, you have lots of friends here now.
JAMES: I don't I don't know how I feel about that, 'cause wherever I am in the world, I'll know that I'm actually in a gym in a tiny little village in Japan doing a dance at what seems to be a wedding.
As I prepare to leave my kakashi behind in Nagoro, perhaps along with my soul, I realize it's unlikely this village will ever be repopulated with humans again.
Maybe soon, the only people walking these streets will be curious gaijin like me.
It's a sobering thought best summed up by something somebody else wrote.
I found a haiku by Masaoka, 1867 to 1902.
"A sunny spring day, "people are doing nothing in the small village.
" After our melancholy visit to Nagoro, I was determined to leave Shikoku on a high.
This whole area is absolutely stunning.
It's mountainous islands draped with green.
Beautiful blue water.
It's actually quite hard to appreciate it from ground level, so what I thought we'd do admittedly, it is a bit of a #FirstWorldSolution is hire southern Japan's only floatplane and have a look at it from that.
- I'm getting nervous already.
- What about? I've never been on these, uh, little planes.
This is like a minivan.
It's so small, you know? My airplane's only got two seats, - like that one and that one.
- That's all? - Yeah.
- Ooh.
- And you've never crashed? - Yes, I have.
- You have crashed? - Yes.
(chuckles) YUJIRO: Oh, (bleep).
(bleep) - Here we go.
- (bleep) JAMES: There you are.
(bleep) JAMES: Look at this.
I mean, we're at about 800, 900 feet above sea level.
The view is perfect.
How many islands are there in Japan? - 6,852? - Yes, officially.
Wow.
Incredibly, Japan has 29,751 kilometers of coastline, give or take.
That's more than Australia.
But, in typical Japanese fashion, they don't make a fuss about it.
- Do you know what's really strange? - YUJIRO: Yes? This is one of the nicest places I've ever been.
It's very, very beautiful, but it's not rammed.
If this was Italy or Greece, it would be swarming with cafés and tourists and bars, and people would be on the beach, boating, everything.
But not here.
Everybody's very reserved about it.
We, uh, seem to, uh, resent sunshine.
Yeah, you do.
You don't sit outside.
YUJIRO: I think it's ironic.
We are labeled as the Land of the Rising Sun.
- JAMES: Exactly.
- YUJIRO: And we hate the sun.
JAMES: All this empty, unspoiled coastline is beautiful yet baffling.
I mean, apart from the 124 different species of sharks that inhabit these waters and the odd giant jellyfish and the occasional tsunami, I can't understand why the Japanese aren't making more of their beaches.
- Here we go.
- YUJIRO: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa! - Oh! Oh, whoa, whoa! - JAMES: Oh, oh, oh! Whoa! (James laughs) - (Yujiro sighs) - JAMES: That was very nice.
Well, that's lunch, everybody.
So, after the relative calm of Shikoku, I arrive on the rugged, mountainous island of Kyushu with a certain degree of trepidation, as this place is well-known for its abundance of volcanic activity.
YUJIRO: So, how do you like the Kyushu road? JAMES: It's lovely.
Is it one of those bits of Japan that could blow up at any second? YUJIRO: Um, yes.
JAMES: Kyushu is not only my final island, but today marks my final day with Yujiro.
And he's promised me a unique lunch in the equally unique town of Beppu, built on the largest concentration of hot springs in Japan.
(gong clangs) - So, James-san.
- Mm.
Welcome to the world of Jigoku Mushi.
- Jigoku Mushi.
- Yeah.
The power of hell.
Steam of hell.
JAMES: For years, locals have been steaming their food with the 83,000 liters of piping hot spring water that gush out every minute.
Well, I think, actually, we should have vibrant vegetables.
- What do you think? - Yes.
So, on the machine over there, we've got to look for a man going through a plate glass window, a venetian blind, "L" and a "J," a funny man chatting up a female robot and a pile of park benches.
So, there it is.
There's the plate glass window, the robot woman and the pile of benches, and it's the right price, and it says "vegetables," so I reckon that's it.
This cooking method is said to bring out the natural flavors of the food.
There's just one downside.
- YUJIRO: Here we go.
- It does smell terrible.
Yes.
Like sulfur.
- Whew! - Start the timer.
Hai.
- The timer.
- Lid on? No, no? Okay.
Yes, please.
Right, if you can still see us, 20 minutes we have to wait, then we come back and we get the vegetables out of hell.
- Yes, absolutely.
- Right, let's go and sit down.
So, while our vegetables are steamed by the breath of Old Nick himself, there's just enough time to extinguish the flames of another burning question regarding Japanese culture.
Everybody who visits Japan from the West is terrified of chopstick etiquette and how to use them.
- But what nobody tells you is - (chopsticks clack) the type of chopstick is even more important.
We have identified by which I mean the crew three basic types.
These are beginners' chopsticks.
These are the ones you get in ramen noodle bars.
They're square in section, they're quite rough, and a bit splintery.
These are semiprofessional chopsticks, and they're tapered, but if you look very carefully at the end, you will see that they are still square in section, which helps holding on to things.
And then, finally, you have fully professional chopsticks.
They are lacquered.
They're very shiny and slippery.
They are perfectly circular in section.
We're going to have a competition me versus Yujiro.
Here is a bowl of freshly shelled podded, whatever the word is edamame beans, still slippery and shiny.
You have to eat three edamame beans, one with each type of chopsticks, and the first person to do that is the winner.
So, we're gonna have a chopsticks war? Chopstick-off.
Yes.
- Wait.
- Somebody say "go.
" TOM: Three, two, one, go! Basic chopstick.
(laughs) - Yeah! - Very good.
(both laugh) As he won the chopstick challenge, I've allowed Yujiro the honor of retrieving our food.
Oh.
(speaks Japanese) - So, here you are.
- (speaks Japanese) From the world of hell.
A load of vegetables.
YUJIRO: Yes! JAMES: Quite nice-looking vegetables, I must say.
- I'm gonna have a sprout.
- Yes.
Mmm.
Mmm.
- How is it.
- Mm.
Very sprouty.
But terribly overcooked.
That is that is sprouts that you serve to very old people - that have no teeth left.
- (laughs) But if soft, sulfur-smelling vegetables aren't for you, don't worry.
Because in Beppu, the geothermal possibilities are endless.
So, James-san, welcome to the (speaks Japanese), the famous Japanese sand bath.
We're gonna bury you.
- So I just lie in the sand? - Yes.
- That is hot.
- (woman speaks Japanese) Yes! Yes! - So, lie down - Yes.
Yes.
And then they Ow! And then they put sand on - and put my head on here, yes? - Yes.
YUJIRO: Hai.
They're gonna pour lots of sand on top of your body.
Oh, here it comes.
Oh.
She's making me nervous with that Oh, that's very hot.
Apparently, this is a must for those suffering constipation, chronic hemorrhoids, or anyone interested in recreating the iconic scene from Merry Christmas, Mr.
Lawrence.
JAMES: Is there a safe word if you decide you don't like being buried alive? - You mean like "help"? - Yeah.
Tasukete.
- JAMES: What does that mean? - That means, "Oh, help me.
" Don't put any more on my plums, please.
Whilst we're immobile, a moment of honne.
- (grunts) - I just wanted to say, uh, it's been a pleasure being shown around Japan by you and learning some new words and being buried alive, so I'd like to say: Domo arigato gozaimashita.
It's been a big honor guiding you around the Land of the Rising Sun.
Thank you, uh, Mr.
James, - and please come back again.
- I will.
Okay, now let's have a little sleep and think about the wonders of Japan.
(chatter, laughing in distance) Goodbye, Yujiro.
It's what he would have wanted: buried in the sand.
Or should I say, "buried in Japan"? (chuckles): That would be better.
- I think he's fine, I think he's fine.
-Yeah.
Although I was sad to see Yujiro go, I was glad to see the back of sweaty plums and over-steamed veg.
I don't want to sound mardy about this, but I've sort of had enough of dressing up in strange costumes and funny footwear I'd really like to go and do something that I understand, like, I don't know work a shift in a motorcycle factory.
Well, as luck would have it, the largest Honda factory in Japan is right here in Kyushu.
However, super efficient Japanese manufacturers are notoriously anxious about foreign TV crews coming in and slowing down production by throwing gaijin-shaped spanners into the works.
So, when we arrived, we were told there were strict conditions to our filming.
First, we mustn't contaminate anything.
I'm being de-dusted.
(whooshing) And, for reasons we didn't quite understand, I had to wear a white crash helmet at all times.
Dust-free.
However, I was prepared to put up with a lot to work on the assembly line.
The only problem was, we were told that filming me working on the assembly line was completely out of the question.
So we filmed something else instead.
This exercise routine is common in many Japanese factories.
Feels quite nice, actually.
But it doesn't really justify me spending half a day here.
(bell rings) Ah, that's the end of break time.
After some pleading from the director, the team eventually agreed to let me complete the assembly of one bike under their strict supervision.
No, that's the wrong way around.
Yes, yeah, yeah.
Uh that way.
No, that way.
Yeah.
- (object clatters to floor) - Ah-da-da-da-da-da.
I don't think it's going to work from that side, is it? - (object clatters to ground) - Ugh.
Torque.
I've left the spanner on there like a gaijin.
(chuckles) Ah, we've done it the wrong side.
If you buy a Honda CB1100 and you're just going to wring it out to 12,000 RPM and you're suffused with doubt, don't worry, because this one isn't going to be sold to you or, indeed, anybody.
You're safe.
This will probably go in the bin after I've gone.
(starts engine) After overstaying our welcome, the Honda team were only too happy to loan us a bike so we could film some drone shots presumably as it got the whole lot of us out of their factory.
Still, we got a nice transition into our next scene.
I've got an itchy nose.
I always get an itchy nose in a crash helmet.
Throughout my journey, I've touched upon the subject of Shintoism but never truly understood it.
So I've come to the sacred and holy site of Takachiho Gorge to meet my spiritual guide, Shiho, who's promised me a who's who crash course in Shinto gods.
(gong clangs) These two, Izanami and Izanagi.
And then they made many children.
This is, uh, one of the very important ones.
Ama Terasu I soon realized Shintoism isn't as straightforward as these pretty pictures suggest.
Actually, this Ninigi he's the one came to Takachiho.
Then the cloud got clear, and he was able to see, - and he landed safely.
- Right.
By the end of my course, I've learned that Izanagi and Izanami gave birth to some islands, ginger gods are naughty, the sun god hid in a cave, making the world dark, so other gods did a sex dance to get her out, another god gave rice to everyone, and I can't for the life of me remember what Ninigi, Hoderi, Amaterasu or Iwanagahime did or why they're gods.
Do all Japanese people understand this quite well? Do you all learn this in school? Because it's actually quite complicated.
- And this is only a very small bit, isn't it? -Well not exactly, but the people in Takachiho, they know a lot of this.
I'll tell you what, for the British tourists - Mm-hmm.
- do it as a tea towel.
We decided to sum up my newly acquired knowledge of Shintoism with a monologue from me by a mystic waterfall.
A well-known Shinto legend is said to have originated at this tranquil, beautiful spot.
JAMES: There's some people behind us.
- Yes.
- Ahead of us, I mean.
- Behind me.
- Yes, clumsy.
(laughs) Rowing boat traffic jams were probably not a feature of ancient Shinto legends.
Hello, viewers.
You join us at a, uh, very awkward moment.
Luckily, our tough Aussie cameraman was used to filming in difficult terrain without ever complaining.
And then we encountered Japan's Olympic synchronized rowing team.
Let's just get away from this bloke going backwards.
Don't worry, there isn't gonna be a crash.
Wow, we are very close to the waterfall.
Okay.
I'm going back and starting again.
Just a little bit.
Waterfall up and by coming up.
Here we come.
(groans) Despite the whole scene descending into an aquatic game of dodgems, I was determined to maneuver myself into a position to deliver my peaceful and learned monologue.
Well, he's in the way now.
Hang on.
Hang on, Nick.
(boats thud) Massive crash.
Eventually, we realized that whichever deity is the Shinto god of online streamed travelogues had decreed that this scene was over.
Sumimasen.
So, although I'm now a bit clearer on Shintoism, I still don't understand how a nation made up of 6,852 islands, give or take, seems to be populated by people who don't know how to use a boat.
Historically, the Americans have been very, very worried about the Japanese Navy rearming, but if the activities on this boating lake are anything to go by, we can relax.
Still, the scenery was nice, and there were ducks.
- Did you bring any duck food? - No, I didn't.
JAMES: Hello, ducky.
- They've got all the ducks.
- Mm-hmm.
That was a mess.
But the gods willed it.
The end of the journey was fast approaching, and there were still a few remaining Japanese arts that I hadn't tried.
That's at least five "James is walking in Japan" shots to get me into this place.
Miles up the hill.
Japanese porcelain has been highly sought after since Dutch sailors first brought it back home over 300 years ago.
15th-generation master craftsman Mr.
Chin personally oversees production at his Kagoshima workshop.
The vases here take years of know-how to create.
Mine took me less than 30 minutes.
Amateurs.
If you were to put this in your shop, glazed and fired, how much would it sell for? (snorting laugh) After that reaction, we cut this scene short.
So we went off to film some more walking shots, this time including a critical door shut.
CREWMAN: Okay.
- How was that? - That was good.
And I had a crack at some floral artistry.
In flower arranging terms, this is freestyle modern jazz.
So, it's We're It's coming to us in the artistry of the moment.
What do you think? Well, I thought it was pretty good, but the crew said it was all a bit "horti" and "cultural.
" So they persuaded me to have a go at something altogether more entertaining instead.
This wasn't my idea, but it was awarded, by UNESCO, the status of Intangible Cultural Heritage art form.
And it is you've almost certainly guessed by now Bunraku puppetry.
And I've no idea what happens next, except that I'm gonna have my arm inside a samurai.
(laughter) (percussive clacking) Bunraku puppetry involves black-clad performers operating different sections of a half-sized doll as it acts out a chanted narrative, often on serious themes involving social obligation and human emotions.
(man narrating in Japanese) The plan was for me to do something really easy, like operate the left toe of a minor character while looking all solemn and serious and then wax lyrical about the importance of preserving Japanese ancient tradition.
(man narrating in Japanese) (shouts) (continues narrating) However, that memo got lost in translation.
So, when I arrived, the theater company were expecting me to perform something I'd written myself.
Cue some very hasty writing.
I ought to explain that I've written a very, very short, mercifully simple play.
Not play.
It's a it's a soliloquy, really, about my journey across Japan, which we are going to act out in the traditional way.
But not only have I been promoted from bit player to author; I also discover I'm now the chief puppeteer.
Where am I, hidari? - No.
You - Oh, I'm the head? H-Head and right hand, uh, right hand.
Head.
Oh, I'm the head and the migi.
Oh, this is gonna be just ridiculous.
In case you're thinking this wasn't a very good idea, I'd like to remind you it wasn't mine.
That's the mouth.
Yes? - Mm.
Eye.
- No, that's the eyebrows.
Hi.
- That's the mouth.
- Uh-uh.
- No? - Eyes close.
I've lost the control over his face.
We will have the hang of this in no time at all.
Eyebrows up.
- Down.
- Down.
- Ha-ha.
- This is going to be terrible.
Ha-ha-ha-ha.
Astonishingly, close to 100 people have turned up to see the premiere of my hastily written Bunraku opus.
We'll count them again at the end.
(soft chatter) These are my fingers.
That's the head.
That makes it tip and turn.
And one of those is the mouth and one of them is the eyebrows and one of them swivels the eyes, but I can't quite remember which order they're in.
So, um, anyway, let's find out.
I'll say in advance, because this is an insult to the Japanese and cultural misappropriation, sumimasen, as usual.
Thank you.
(percussive clacking) (applause) Unsurprisingly, my performance was met with stunned silence.
(percussive clacking) The ornate curtain, however, was a huge hit.
(applause) (quietly): Was it terrible? (laughs) Right, but it wasn't a complete disaster.
So I've contributed to the preservation of important Japanese traditions.
Thank you very much for your time.
So, after an 11-week odyssey beginning in northern Hokkaido, crossing the islands of Honshu and Shikoku, I now make my way to the southern tip of Kyushu for what will be my final scene.
Japan update, subject: the end.
I have covered a total of 7,223 kilometers in this car.
I have just eight to go.
And I wondered if, at this point, you would like to see a little montage of all the things we've been up to.
No? Oh, you do? Okay, here it is.
Shall we go? (laughing) I got off to a shaky start Hai.
(shouting) - MASAYO: James, be careful, be careful! - (groans, chuckles) Okay? It's my fault, yes.
I feel like a pervert.
(laughs) but soon made a lasting impression on the locals.
(laughing) (humming jingle) - Are you mad? - (laughs) I've gone toe-to-toe with Japanese technology (screams, laughs) Maki just shot me in the robo plums.
Crikey.
If this actually makes it into the program (laughs): I'll know we were really desperate.
commented on some curious customs And this used to be a cat? with upmost respect, of course.
(laughs): Why is his penis out to one side? impressed some masters of haiku with my poetry Can I send that to you? And then you can give me an honest critique and send it back.
Oh, sure.
JAMES: We never heard back.
And I've learned the most valuable word in my Japanese vocabulary.
- Sumimasen.
- Sumimasen.
- Sumimasen.
-Sumimasen.
- Sumimasen.
- Sumimasen.
- Sumimasen.
Sumimasen.
Sumimasen.
And there are a few other things that we've done that haven't made it into the main body of the film, such as this.
We began here, in Sake-Sake-Sake What's it called? In Japan, you can, of course, buy sweets from a corner shop.
Some of them are excellent.
I particularly like Meltykiss and Collon bar.
But here's a shop that's been making sweets for 210 years to the traditional wagashi method, out of beans.
I wonder how they do that.
Let's find out.
(laughter) (chuckles): Yes! Oh, and there was this.
Were you riding horse number eight in race number six? Oh, yeah, I'd forgotten about this.
This is James May-san beer-u kudasai.
Could you send beer to Osaka? - Yes.
- Okay.
Perfect.
He shipped it to the hotel we were in yesterday.
Our own beer pursues us across Japan to the old imperial court of Osaka.
I didn't bring a bottle opener.
What?! And so, just as my journey began, on a beach in Japan's icy north it now ends on a beach in the balmy south, at Kagoshima.
Earlier in this journey, I vowed that, at its end, I would sum up my entire experience in Japan in a single haiku.
Now, just to recap, the haiku is an ancient Japanese poetry form that relies on brevity and imagery, and it consists of just 17 syllables in three lines of five, seven and five.
"The peasant hoes on.
"The stranger who asked the way Is long out of sight.
" But here we arrive at a problem, because the great haiku masters of olden times, Basho and Issa, they were generally talking about quite small things, like a frog sitting on a leaf or some cherry blossom or a bamboo hat or a hoeing peasant.
It's not really a very good form for describing a whole country.
But, unfortunately, I'm bound by honor to fulfill my vow.
So, here goes.
A shrine bell sounding.
Shinkansen and shamisen.
A petal falling.
But then I thought to myself, "Hey, Bim," I thought, "That's pretentious crap.
" And indeed it is.
And if you put "haiku" into the Internet, you will get so many of them out that if you printed them all, you could make a solid papier-mâché Mount Fuji.
So I had a bit of a walk on the beach, and I had another think.
And this is my final effort.
Japan, your meaning May be in Matsushima Or a pickled plum.
Mmm.
See ya.
I don't I don't know how I feel about that, 'cause wherever I am in the world, I'll know that I'm actually in a tiny little village in Japan.
(James and Yujiro laugh) (birds chirping)