Joanna Lumley's Japan (2016) s01e01 Episode Script

Sapporo, Fukushima

1 Behind me is Russia and the Okhotsk Sea.
Ahead of me, a journey of 2000 miles from this icy ocean down to the tropical beaches of one of 4000 islands.
Come with me to the land of the rising run.
Japan! To many of us, this is a mysterious and somewhat alien country.
Travelling north to south, I'm going to discover a Japan that's as surprising as it is magical.
Look at that! It's astonishing.
Whoooo! A land of great natural wonder.
Isn't that beautiful? Hello, monk.
A rich culture formed over thousands of years.
- Do wishes come true from here? - Yes.
With a troubled past.
I find this so .
so unbearable.
And a strong belief in the future.
Hello, I'm Joanna Lumley.
I can't believe it.
Believe me, this is going to be a fantastic adventure.
It's the end of winter and I'm as far north as you can get in Japan.
And everyone on this ice breaking ship has come to see the same thing.
This is drift ice.
Of course, it's not sea water.
It's fresh water which comes from one of Russia's east rivers.
And it freezes up there and then drifts its way across the ocean until it hits this most northern island of Japan, Hokkaido.
It's received with great excitement.
It's cause for great celebration in Japan.
Excitement over, we make our way to the small fishing town of Monbetsu and there is a welcome party.
A huge, fat seal, I think.
Isn't that gorgeous? There are thousands of these mascots in Japan representing everything from tourist attractions to electricity companies.
Can I have a hug from a seal? It's ridiculous.
Ridiculous it may be but sales of mascot merchandise generate over £10 billion a year.
Being cute is big business here.
They have a lovely custom in Japan which is when you go to somewhere of interest or stay in a hotel they have stamps so you can remember where you've been.
Press it hard.
How beautiful.
There it is, sailing through the sea.
I was on that, thank you.
This is the most northern point of my journey down the four main islands of Japan.
So here we are on the little fishing town of Monbetsu and our journey is going to take us all the way down here, across to Sapporo, of course.
We're going to catch a ferry across on to the main island here then we go down and down and down and down.
Sorry for the wind.
This is where Tokyo is down here and down and down and down.
We're going to come across here, down into Kyushu and from there, Okinawa which can't fit on the map and right down in the south of Okinawa which is on the same lateral as Miami.
But let me just show you again when we were talking about that that river ice floating.
You can see how close we are to Russia in the north.
Look at that.
No distance at all.
This is fabulous.
This is a fabled land.
This is going to be an extraordinary trip.
OK, let's go.
The first leg of my journey takes me 130 miles south through Hokkaido.
This island makes up a fifth of Japan's land mass but is home to less than 5% of its population.
With vast national parks, Hokkaido is Japan's island of nature and wildlife.
Oh, this is astonishing because I don't know what I thought Japan would be like in the winter but somehow not like this.
It's It's a fairy land.
It's like driving through Narnia.
I'm driving carefully through 'Narnia' -- the roads are packed ice with fresh snow on top.
Not much traffic so I could hit a wall of snow so it's not tragic.
The north of Hokkaido is also the last habitat of a bird that has held mythical status in Japan for thousands of years -- The Red Crowned Crane.
I've been invited to spend the night at the home of Makoto Ando I might just park rather badly like film stars do.
a local guide and wildlife expert.
- Hello, I'm Joanna.
- Hi.
I'm Makoto.
- It's very good to meet you.
- And you.
Thank you so much for having me.
- I'm longing to see the cranes.
Is this? - The beautiful sky.
- Does that mean good weather tomorrow? - Erm, everything OK.
- Is that good for seeing cranes? - Yeah.
At school.
Makoto's nickname was The Hokkaido Bear.
My gosh.
Did you take pictures when you were a little boy? Erm, yeah so I start at elementary school.
- Yeah.
Look at this picture.
- Yeah, it's a red fox.
- Oh, boy.
A night crane in the river.
- But wildlife is not his only passion.
- Sorry, my motorcycle.
I mean, honestly, in case Makoto-san, you think I'm going to make a quick getaway.
Isn't that fantastic? That's the first time in my life I will have slept with a motor motorbike in the room.
Got to get up at four, so goodnight.
It's just me and my motorbike.
4am comes quickly as does more snow.
So this is the thing is when you're going out in the cold, is to get yourself prepared because if you're prepared, you don't freeze so I'm going to put on heat patches and you don't put them directly on to your skin but you put them on the bits, to keep your body warm so one I'm going to put just about there on my tummy and one in the small of my back.
That's very good and it's not unattractive.
Of course, I wouldn't get out of bed at this hour for anything else than 1000 cranes.
- Very slippery.
- Take your arm.
Each night, they gather together in the local river to keep warm.
Are they just over there? Then wake as the sun rises.
I can see them.
In the 1920s, these beautiful red crested cranes had almost completely died out.
Hokkaido is now the only place you can see them.
I think what touches me so much is that these are very rare birds.
- They're only here.
They're not in North America.
- Never.
- They're not in Africa.
- Never.
- It's just here.
- With you.
As the sun rises, the light reveals a magnificent scene.
Isn't that beautiful? Fabulous.
These cranes can live for over 30 years and represent longevity in Japan.
They mate for life, dancing for their partner even after many years of being together.
It's so lovely.
They seem to set each other off.
Then they all have a bit of a dance and have a bit of a preen.
I never thought I'd see them as close as this in the flesh.
- Makoto-san, thank you so much for bringing me here.
- You're welcome.
To see them in the wild, a dream of mine, thank you.
- Looks like a Japanese painting.
- It looks exactly like that.
Utterly beautiful.
Leaving Makoto and his beautiful cranes behind, I start my journey towards the capital city of Hokkaido, Sapporo.
But first, a pit stop.
In Japan, they have these lovely little, sort of, comfort stations.
You can get everything.
I'm looking for a coffee.
Things, all kinds of things, corn soup Boss.
Cafe au lait.
There are over five million vending machines in Japan per capita more than anywhere else in the world.
That's hot.
Sensational little can .
of hot cafe au lait.
Just beautiful.
How long did that take? Nothing.
Why don't we do this at home? It says something, I think.
Have to be careful not to erm, go too fast -- it's 70 everywhere.
Look, it's saying really slow down, you're going very fast and it's detected that I'm a British person, I think.
Sticking to the speed limit, the countryside soon turns to urban sprawl and the bright lights of my first Japanese city.
Sapporo is one of Japan's smaller cities with a population of just two million people but for one week that doubles as two million visitors from around the world arrive for the annual snow festival.
It began almost 70 years ago, when a group of students started making sculptures from the snow that was cleared from blocked roads.
It is now one of the biggest events in Japan.
The largest sculptures are made by the Japanese Self Defence Force known as the SDF.
This year, they've used 2000 tonnes of snow to construct the centrepiece of the festival.
My fake fur coat and I are being given an all-access tour.
- Just watch your step.
- Yeah.
By Lieutenant Fumiyoshi Hara of Hokkaido's 11th Brigade.
This is the sculpture we made.
- Hara-san.
That's fantastic.
- Thanks very much.
25 metres tall, this is a replica of the Church of St Paul's which stands in Macau in China.
- I can't believe it.
It's so detailed.
- Yes.
- How long did it take to make this structure? - It takes about one month.
- And how many people? - Erm, it's about erm, 3600 person in total.
I think it's lovely that the SDF, which is an Army, is helping to build something so peaceful - and so beautiful.
It's absolutely lovely.
- I'm proud of it.
You're proud of it.
I bet you are.
I bet you are.
- Today is the last day of the festival I think.
No? - Tomorrow.
- Is it? Tomorrow is the last day.
So what happens? - Break it down.
- Well, and what? They cut it like this? - Fingers in there.
Just like this? Break it down? Oh, don't go, lovely thing.
Look, don't go.
Of course, the Self Defence Force is unusual in another way.
Since their defeat at the end of the Second World War, Japan has renounced military aggression and its soldiers are not allowed to enter into combat.
I think it's actually very wonderful to think of soldiers building snow castles.
In an old hippy dream, you'd think that's what the world would be like.
And it is here.
It is in Sapporo today.
Tomorrow Gone.
As night falls in Sapporo, the one mile stretch of the snow festival fills with thousands of visitors and over 200 snow sculptures are bathed in exuberant light shows.
It takes over 30,000 tonnes of snow to make these sculptures and they're undoubtedly impressive but I'm looking for something a bit smaller.
The best yet.
You know, I travel the world and now all I care about is just getting stamped in my book.
Making an unexpected appearance is Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.
I don't know this play very well anyway, and after this version, I sort of know it even less but it's thrilling.
Tourism is becoming an increasingly important part of the Japanese economy, bringing in £12 billion pounds in 2015.
Over five million visitors came from China which possibly explains why a Chinese church is the centre piece of this year's festival.
This is a time of celebration in Hokkaido but this island has a troubled past.
The name Sapporo isn't Japanese at all but comes from the language of the Ainu, the indigenous people of Hokkaido.
150 years ago, the Japanese feared the Russians would invade the island so they decided to colonise it.
They made everything and everyone here Japanese including the Ainu.
They banned their language and their culture.
The distinctive tattoos that women were given when they came of age were also forbidden.
- Welcome.
- Thank you so much.
- Thank you for coming.
- Chisato Abe and her father Yupo are both part Ainu.
- Hi.
How very good to meet you.
Thank you.
Thank you.
Thank you.
Yupo has strong memories of his grandmother who was born in 1876 and was the last generation to be bought up in the Ainu culture.
The tattoo around the mouth.
Ah, look.
Was it terrible for her when she, as an Ainu person, had to cease being an Ainu person? As an Ainu, Yupo's grandmother struggled to learn Japanese which was now compulsory.
She couldn't even pronounce her own grandson's Japanese name.
She called him Kupsi because she couldn't pronounce the sound.
Then he immediately regret that he said such a .
hurt, hurtful thing.
It didn't hurt her.
Grandmothers always understand.
- Very sad story.
- Sad story.
Little one.
Little one.
I'm so sorry.
Yupo and Chisato are now actively involved in raising awareness of the Ainu people and their culture.
Oh, it's fine.
Seaweed dumplings.
That's beautiful.
We've got forks not chopsticks.
- How is it? - It's delicious.
The Japanese Government finally recognised the Ainu as the indigenous people of Hokkaido in 2008.
But with a population that is 98.
5% ethnically Japanese, and where immigration is barely heard of, racial diversity is still far from the norm in Japan.
And the next morning, visitors from around the world pack their bags as the snow festival comes to an end.
All the JCBs have come in to pull down the great snow structures.
So the party's over, it's time to leave Sapporo, go south.
It's 200 miles from Sapporo to the port on the southern tip of Hokkaido, Hakodate.
I'm just about to leave Hokkaido which I've loved so much with its cranes and its Ainu culture.
But, of course, it's only been part of Japan for about 150 years.
I'm travelling South to here, to Honshu, the main island where the Japanese culture has flourished for thousands of years.
I can't wait to see it.
Well, I mean I can see it but I mean the culture.
I'm going to immerse myself in it.
Just there.
I could virtually row across, you know, but I I won't.
A new bullet train service now connects Hokkaido to the mainland but the only way to get cars across the Tsugaru Strait is by ferry.
But there seems to be something missing.
There's almost nobody here.
I mean, it is actually very lovely but it's practically empty.
It's like being on the Marie Celeste.
Should I be worried? Oh, two pairs of shoes.
Two sleeping people.
Here's a room, I might erm I might lie down here.
That's the thing about Japan.
Sometimes it like to remind you that it does things its own way.
After all, this is the country that for over 200 years locked itself away from the outside world.
Until the mid-19th century, it was forbidden to leave or enter Japan.
It gave the Japanese time to create a unique culture.
And on the main island of Honshu that culture is still very much alive.
This area is Akita and it's known for its rice.
Underneath these great flat white banks of snow are paddy fields.
So although it's all white now, in the spring and the summer it's vivid bright green of rice plants just growing, growing.
Everything depends on rice in Japan.
For the diet and, of course, for the Sake.
Sake is Japan's national drink.
Made from fermented rice and water, it is drunk like wine but is much stronger.
I'm about to try the best Sake you can get.
Hundreds of years ago, a Samurai ruler visited all the breweries in this area and declared the Sake from the Suzuki Hideyoshi Brewery to be the winner.
- Yoko-san.
I'm Joanna.
Lovely to meet you.
- Welcome.
- Thank you so much.
Welcome to Akita.
Yoko Suzuki is one of the owners.
How long have they been making Sake here? Oh, erm, this brewery was established in 1689 so we've been making Sake for 327 years.
That's amazing.
And the method for making it has never really changed.
Koji mould which acts like yeast in winemaking, is sprinkled on to cooked rice.
Using a hi-tech wheelbarrow, the rice is taken down to the muro room They just grabbed it and ran.
which is kept at 28 degrees to start the fermenting process.
Now great white cloths.
It's being spread out.
Next the rice enjoys what can only be described as a massage.
And for this, we're being joined by Yoko's husband Nyoki Suzuki.
Oh gosh! I can't tell you what it's like.
It's sort of rubbery.
- He is 19 generation.
- 19? - 19th.
- Always making it like this? - Yeah.
And it's a certain amount of kneading going on so this is what gets it all pushed through.
Well, I'm warming up no end.
I'm rather regretting wearing two layers of cashmere under this.
There we are.
This is the fermentation song.
The rice, with its water, ferments for 25 to 30 days in these huge vats but because heat rises, it gets hotter towards the top so they do this so that they can keep a constant temperature in these great big vats.
40 years ago, there were 4000 Sake breweries but now there are less than half that number as Japan's taste for imported wines increases.
Which seems a shame as Sake is delicious.
- Oh, that is Daiginjo -- super premium Sake.
- Super premium.
That's beautiful.
- Thank you very much.
- That's beautiful.
- Would you like to try another one? - Well, I would, Yoko-san.
- Tell me what is this one? - This is Manju.
- This is traditional Sake.
It's completely different.
It's delicious.
- It's very good but the premium seems better.
- Arigatou.
Thank you so much.
I think just this moment, it's customary on these trips that when I have been drinking obviously, in in just the service of the programme, the crew likes to step forward and sample it just to see that I haven't been lying.
Close to the Sake brewery is the town of Kakunodate in the rural north of Japan.
For thousands of years, people have relied on the rice harvest and every winter in this town, a fire festival is held to protect the crops from bad spirits.
Traditional straw baskets, once used by rice farmers, are set on fire and locals enthusiastically swing them around.
If I was a bad spirit, I'd probably run a mile.
The girls love doing it.
I've noticed the girls are first and foremost in the queue.
It looks sort of utterly medieval -- their scarves, their layers and their coats and strange, lovely gestures.
This is rather a sort of wild a wild one here.
Slightly gay abandon.
I think he's getting instructions.
You know, not quite so insane there.
But very artistic.
Look, how lovely.
It's Phoo.
Yes, obviously sparks coming our way.
But it is fun and you could try this at home.
This is a Shinto festival.
Shinto, being the closest thing Japan has to a national religion.
It translates as 'the way of the spirits'.
And across Japan are Shinto shrines, the homes of the spirits.
South of Kakunodate is one of the most sacred of these sites in Japan.
The entrance is marked by a vast Shinto gate.
But nestled among the snow-capped trees is an even greater treasure.
I've come to Mount Haguro to see the 700-year-old pagoda .
and I hadn't quite anticipated such a challenging beginning.
It's like walking on an iced cake and you never know when you're going to go straight through.
I'm spending so long looking at my feet, I've forgotten to see these awesome trees.
If the shrine is 700 years old, I think some of these are 700 years old.
And I am a mere 70.
Well, not 70 yet, obviously.
I mean, I will be 70 in I don't know decade or so.
Still quite skilful on the feet.
You could say I'm a little late to this rite of passage.
For centuries, making the long journey to Mount Haguro was a pilgrimage for boys from around Japan who were about to enter adulthood.
Glimpsing through the wood.
Look at that.
One, two, three, four, five storeys and underneath the eves it looks like erm, like a mushroom.
Look at that beautiful thing.
Built in 1372, this five-storey pagoda is made entirely of wood.
There are no metal nails holding it together.
It's fantastic.
Despite this, it's survived for over 600 years, in one of the most earthquake-prone areas of the world.
I could happily stay in this magical part of ancient Japan forever .
but it's time to move on to the realities of living in such a geographically unstable country.
I'm driving from the west to the east across Honshu, slightly to the south.
There's much less snow here and everywhere around I can see mountains and a lot of the mountains, one hundred of them in Japan, are active volcanoes and there are about 1000 earthquakes every year.
Earthquakes have been part of life in Japan throughout its history and on the 11th of March 2011, a huge earthquake created a tsunami that struck Japan's east coast killing 20,000 people.
It also caused the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant to go into meltdown and thousands of local residents had to leave their homes due to radiation.
Five years later, and there's still a 12-mile exclusion zone around the power plant.
- All OK, Mai? - Yeah.
Yeah, OK.
Along with our translator, Mai, we're hoping to visit Tomioka, one of the towns still inside the zone, and meet the one resident who refused to leave.
It must have had a shattering impact particularly on the east coast to have that catastrophic earthquake followed by that devastating tsunami and then the nuclear disaster as well.
- I was in Tokyo that day.
- You felt it in Tokyo? - Yes.
That was the biggest erm, earthquake I've ever felt in my life, really shaky and people on the street, they didn't know what to do.
- I'm just going to check our IDs.
- OK.
We're only a few miles from the power station and radiation levels are still too high for residents to return to their homes.
That's me.
That one.
We're under strict instructions to stay in the zone for only five hours.
And past the security gate, we enter what has become a ghost town.
Before the earthquake, Tomioka was home to 16,000 people and was thriving thanks to the money that the Fukushima Nuclear Plant had invested in the area.
It's incredible how five years of no use and look how quickly it's gone back to rusted rails and overgrown.
I think the earthquake fractured some of the tracks so they can't be used.
I wonder what the read-out is here.
199208 down here.
247 253 58 276 281.
It's been lovely.
The radiation level would need to go over seven for it to pose a risk.
The tannoy announcements on the high street still remind visitors not to hang around.
I think this was the restaurant.
Oh, my gosh.
There's everything still left on the table.
Sauce bottles, chopsticks.
Dry cleaners.
Still clothes waiting in their cellophane packaging on hangers waiting to be collected.
I can just imagine how this was.
I'm standing in the crossroads of a little busy thriving town, agricultural, and the big the workers at the nuclear plant are quite rich, quite well-to-do erm, hairdressing salons, garages, restaurants and now it's just completely empty and maybe people will never come back here.
It's already feeling haunted.
But from this devastation has emerged a story of utterly selfless heroism.
Naoto Matsumura refused to leave Tomioka and risked his life to save hundreds of animals.
Hello, Naoto-san.
Hello, sweet one.
Hello, darling.
Hello, little one.
Sweet dog.
Oh, look at the house at the end, Naoto-san.
Right down.
Because of the earthquake.
It flattened.
Why did people leave their animals behind? Weren't they allowed to take them with them? So what happened? You drove back but it was It was exclusion zone.
Five years on and Naoto is still here having exposed himself to high levels of nuclear radiation.
And he didn't just save cats and dogs.
Watch out for cow pats.
Hello, baby.
Hello, little one.
You're a good man.
Have you been to the doctor? How is your own health? I hope you will live for 60 more years.
Disasters often create heroes and I think I just found one.
I woke up here this morning on this bright sunny day in Iwaki which is just down the coast from the Fukushima Power Plant, which we visited yesterday and today, I'm going to be driving across this extraordinary country to something which is one of the benefits of being a land which is full of earthquakes and volcanoes.
Sure they disrupt things and sure they destroy things but they also bring huge benefits in this case right over here in Nagano -- hot springs.
And I'm leaving you here because you're not up to scratch.
I'm going 80 and it's 70.
I think sometimes, it's quite easy to think Japan is a small country but it's actually big in land mass, bigger than Great Britain.
We never seem to see these vast landscapes and everything seems to be, sort of, manicured.
I don't think I mean that but every view, every vista, every clump of trees looks lovelier than the last as if some great hand has been round fashioning it to look like a garden.
And after a long drive through this immaculate country, I arrive in Nagano and my first Japanese-style hotel.
Isn't that absolutely beautiful? Goodnight.
Obviously, I don't go to bed in all these clothes.
I'm just lying down to show you that this is a gorgeous bed.
And my arm is long enough to pull the light off from here (!) The next morning I wake up in Nagano to discover the snow has returned.
The perfect weather for a hot spa.
But it isn't just humans who enjoy a morning bath.
It's so charming.
They are such charming little people.
These are wild Japanese Macaques.
Native to Japan, no other monkey in the world lives this far north which might explain why they're drawn to this hot spring in the winter.
There's little baby being groomed here.
Sweetest little person.
Food is left out to attract the macaques but they're free to come and go as they please.
He's so sweet.
There's one sitting in the middle which is me.
She's my twin soul.
She's sitting in the middle going occasionally, "Oh.
" And she's just been sitting here in her bathing hat.
Yes, darling.
Yes, darling.
I wonder if they think we're as cute as we think they are.
The Japanese have a word for it.
I love them.
Hello, monk.
Little wet one going past us up the steps.
Onsen are not just for monkeys.
Natural hot springs are as Japanese as it gets.
And for over 1000 years, people have been coming to this area to bathe in its hot waters.
Just a few minutes from the manmade monkey spa, Shibu Onsen's main street is dotted with inns, hotels and, of course, lots of Onsen.
When you stay at an inn in this lovely old town they give you This is your key and attached to it is a little map of all the Onsen that your key can open and here's one which is 'ladies'.
And guess what? I've got my book.
Now I'm going in for my first Onsen.
This is as hot as a bath I've run for myself at home.
It's fantastic and to think it's full of minerals just gushing up naturally from the water.
It's made me think actually of the spa towns we have in England with one difference -- this is a volcanic country so the springs are hot.
You can tell why the Japanese people know a good thing when they find it and these Onsen are .
I've been in here about 3½ hours.
I don't intend to come out yet.
But depart I must and the next morning, the city beckons.
I'm leaving Nagano and going across country to Tokyo and there's only one way to arrive at Tokyo and that's on a bullet train.
Now this may be easy when you know how A non-reserved seat.
but I don't.
I don't want to get off at the airport.
I don't want to go to Atami or Shimoda so suddenly I'm going to return to the feeder screen.
Something I've done wrong here.
It's given up on me.
It's gone back to the beginning again.
Look, I love Nagano.
I don't see why I have to leave.
Tokyo's great but I could just stay at Nagano and just not buy a ticket.
- To Tokyo.
- Tokyo.
You are wonderful.
- 'Thank you very much.
' - Thank you.
Oh, that's great, great.
Oh, damn, missed it.
I've missed the train now.
It's traditional to buy bento boxes to eat on train journeys in Japan but they tend to contain meat or fish.
Oh, look.
This has got delicious vegetarian things.
Thistle, thistle.
Oh Ichi one of those.
- Have a nice day.
- Arigatou.
Thank you very much indeed.
Bullet trains started running in the 1960s and was one of the ways Japan advertised its post-war economic growth and modernity to the rest of the world.
And needless to say, they run on time.
Looks like a great silver worm with glittering eyes.
Rather exciting.
My Shinkansen, as bullet trains are officially called, is speeding me towards Tokyo at 200 miles an hour.
Gosh, they're a bit fatter than I thought.
It's thistle.
I chose it and it's .
that's really lovely.
I could do a commercial.
Eat your thistle dumpling now.
It's lovely.
I've loved spending the last two weeks in the traditions of rural Japan -- its steaming Onsens, fire festivals, lovely Sake.
But now it's time to experience modern, urban Japan.
And as soon as I arrive at Tokyo Station, the change of pace is astonishing.
The Yamanote Line, Shinagawa and Shibuya.
My hotel is situated on the famous Shibuya Crossing in the city centre.
Its bright neon lights, giant TV screens and never-ending crowds of people are an intense but totally fabulous introduction to the capital city of Japan.
Hello, Tokyo.
Next time, I experience life in the biggest city in the world Look at that tower.
walk the legendary Nakasendo Way Gorgeous.
see cherry blossom in Kyoto.
Yay! .
and let my hair down.
I think it's time for more.
If you love me let me go Back to that bar in Tokyo Where the demons from my past - Leave me in peace - Ah, ah, ah-ah, ah, ah, ah-ah I'll be animating every night The grass will be greener on the other side And the vampires and wolves - Won't sink their teeth - Ah, ah, ah-ah, ah, ah, ah-ah