3 July, Japan – ‘All Over The Place – Asia’
Woke up surprisingly well rested from my night on the floor of a Japanese hotel room, and had quite a surprise when I headed upstairs for breakfast. The manager and a number of staff were lined up waiting for us and bowing as we arrived at our own private breakfast room with a ‘Welcome BBC sign’ and slippers by the door as a gentle reminder to take our shoes off. Along a long table was the strangest and most intricate breakfast I had ever seen. We each had two mini BBQs at our place, with a fish gently cooking on each one, and a number of bowls of varying sizes. I couldn’t even tell you what was in most of them. Seemed rude not to eat what was on offer, but I’ve never been a big seafood fan and it took me a good 10 minutes to work out what I was supposed to do with any of it. I was glad I persevered though, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.
By the time we got down to the river in the centre of town for today’s event our craft was already waiting for us – giant wooden wash tubs. As part of Ito’s weekend festival they race them 400m downstream in all manner of fancy dress. There was a team of Super Mario Brothers, Where’s Wallies and lots of traditional Japanese folk characters. Vic and I were wearing kimonos, and my initial fears about the race proved unfounded. I’d raced metal bath tubs once in the Isle of Man and only got 1 metre before sinking. During our practice though the wooden tubs proved far more buoyant and we both had to be rescued by organisers after drifting too far down the river.
Once it was our turn to race Vic took the lead, but ended up getting stuck briefly on the bank. I hit a current and with very little effort on my part ended up reaching the finish line first. Then after a few little extra bits of filming we were back on the bus to Tokyo, which was basically several hours of traffic jam as everyone drives back from their weekends away. Good to know that, although the Japanese have superseded us in my ways, they haven’t got everything right.