JLC: Turning Japanese

Thursday 10 February, 9:00pm on Five

This hilarious three-part documentary series follows Justin Lee Collins as he heads east and attempts to get to grips with Japanese culture. As Justin’s three weeks in the country draw to a close, he samples the day-to-day life of a typical Tokyoite, enjoys a less than relaxing break on Hokkaido and visits one of Japan’s eeriest places. On the last leg of his trip to Japan, Justin is back in Tokyo with the intention of spending a few days living like a native. The sprawling city is the most densely populated metropolitan area on Earth, with 35 million individuals jostling for space. Justin’s week begins just before eight in the morning on the subway, which many Japanese salarymen and women squeeze onto at some point during the average 60-hour working week. Justin finds the journey hot, stressful and bewildering. At every stop, more and more people squeeze wordlessly on, but few get off. Justin’s painful journey leads him to a viewing at one of the city’s famously tiny flats. “It would ultimately drive me crazy,” he says, shaking his head as he looks around the miniature two-room apartment. After grabbing a meal of hotdog and fries from a nearby vending machine, Justin heads to a capsule hotel, where �25 buys customers the chance to sleep in a space little bigger than a coffin for the night. “It’s not really the city of choice for the claustrophobe,” Justin remarks as he attempts to squeeze into his cubbyhole. With all the stress going to his head, Justin decides to cut loose and take a break away from the city for a few days. “I’m out of sync with Tokyo,” he complains. “I’ve not fallen in love with it – so far.” Justin’s destination is the city of Hakodate on the country’s northernmost island, a popular holiday retreat for Tokyo’s busy workers. Justin and translator Mai check into a traditional Japanese inn, where they promptly settle down for a ninecourse meal. Squeamish Justin picks gingerly at each course, but he reaches the boundaries of his comfort zone when a large, hairy crab arrives on the table. The next morning has more fishy surprises in store for Justin. Squid sashimi is a famous local delicacy, and at the market delighted customers fish for their own specimens in a giant tank. However, Justin remains resolutely unconvinced that he will enjoy this culinary experience. “Don’t look at me,” he yelps as he reels in his dinner. “He’s got a big face,” Justin explains to a mystified Mai.

Thursday 3 February, 9:00pm on Five

This hilarious three-part documentary series follows Justin Lee Collins as he heads east and attempts to get to grips with Japanese culture. In this week’s instalment, Justin finds out how the famously hard-working Japanese spend their leisure time. From Japan’s comedy capital, Justin tries to launch a stand-up career, sharpens his samurai skills and befriends a monkey waitress. After a week in Tokyo, Justin heads south to Osaka, Japan’s funky capital of comedy. Osaka is the home of manzai, a traditional form of stand-up comedy. Comedians pair up and perform dizzying routines that combine broad slapstick with rapid-fire delivery. Determined to master the art of manzai, Justin joins local actor and fellow novice Yujiro. Justin and Yujiro attend a comedy night in which several duos perform short sketches and the audience members vote for their favourite acts. After the show, Justin and Yujiro meet the winning pair, who reveal some champion manzai secrets. “You should shave,” one of them tells Justin. “Japanese audiences prefer clean people.” In dire need of mentorship, Justin and Yujiro turn to Zenjiro, master of manzai. Despite his reservations, the comedy veteran helps the new double act take shape. Justin learns some essential Osaka slang and the pair get a crash course in slapstick violence. They settle on Fish and Chips as a stage name for their international act and are soon ready to hit the streets. At a bustling shopping centre, Justin and Yujiro round up a small crowd to show off their new-found manzai prowess. One stranger criticises their timing, while another brands Justin ‘scary’. Undeterred, the pair head to a novelty costume shop to buy Justin a charming outfit involving a gold lam� thong… Taking a break from rehearsal, Justin visits the Edo Wonderland theme park. Translator Mai explains that the Edo period was noted for its tranquillity and peace, and Edo Wonderland recreates that experience. Unlike the noise and excitement of British theme parks, this small patch of 17thcentury Japan is a calm haven. But there is still plenty to see and do. After watching a ninja display, Justin dons a samurai costume and sharpens his skills as a swordsman and horse rider.

Thursday 27 January, 9:00pm on Five

This hilarious three-part documentary series follows Justin Lee Collins as he heads east and attempts to get to grips with Japanese culture. In the opening instalment, Justin takes a look at love and relationships. On a quest to find out what makes Japanese men and women tick, he visits a ‘love doll’ emporium, attends a dating college and spends an evening as an escort. Justin arrives in Tokyo on a mission to learn more about the people and customs behind Japan’s often baffling image. Tokyo, Japan’s hectic capital city, is home to 13million people, but Justin readily admits that his perception of their culture is entirely caught up in clich�s. “I don’t like robots, I don’t have an MP3 player and I hate manga,” he confesses. “So I hope there is more to Japan than that.” The Bristolian adventurer’s first port of call is one of Tokyo’s most fashionable hangouts, the bustling Harajuku district. Every Sunday, young people dressed in a range of outlandish, theatrical costumes congregate in the area to promenade and socialise. To Justin, Harajuku appears to be the perfect meeting ground for lovers. But translator Mai explains that the sexes often remain separate because increasing numbers of strong, ambitious Japanese women have begun to view the male of the species as too foppish and effeminate. Justin’s next stop is a shop beloved by many of these men, to whom the women disdainfully refer as ‘herbivores’. The store specialises in women’s underwear made especially for male proportions. Justin’s portly physique causes much merriment among Mai and the manager, who take it in turns to grope his chest. “They feel nice, like a girl’s,” the proprietor giggles, before offering Justin a pink polka dot bra. “The frills and the pink suit you,” he informs his baffled visitor. “They match your face.” After this strange experience, Justin is determined to find out how Japanese singles go about attracting a partner. The intrepid host soon finds himself in a college that specialises in dating classes. Each lesson starts with a series of facial exercises designed to make the smile more attractive, and Justin quickly becomes the star pupil. “Justin, you’ve been working very hard,” the teacher exclaims. “Your face is red.” Buoyed by the praise, Justin heads to the front of the class to demonstrate his pulling technique. “These people need to see British charm and sophistication in action,” he declares.

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