Archive for August, 2007

Ainori #372

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

Ainori is a popular reality show in Japan, aired on Fuji TV on Monday nights at 23:00.

In August 2005, I discovered that Ainori was not only popular in Japan, but also all over the world thanks to Bit Torrent technology. I decided to write a summary of each episode, and do a translation of the weekly photo captions from the official site. What do I get out of this? I get to improve my Japanese, I get more traffic to my blog, but above all, I get the satisfaction of knowing many non-Japanese speakers all over the world can appreciate a truly unique reality show. Enjoy, and don’t hesitate to post any comments or questions you may have.

Ainori’s official homepage (Japanese only).


new.gif righ-red_e0.gif Ex-participants’ blogs
(Japanese only)
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Ainori’s BT downloads available @ D-Addicts

Streaming videos of Ainori are available on youtube.com.


Ainori #372

WARNING! THIS IS A SPOILER!

Well folks, that’s it! Gurasan prematurely rushed into a doomed kokuhaku (love declaration in Japanese), and lost. Kuu turned him down in front of a crowd of more than 500 fans, which must have put incredible pressure on both participants. But let me explain from the beginning…

CURRENT SITUATION
participants20070820.jpg


Kuu

Gurasan

What first transpired from that episode is that although it seemed Gurasan was a loner during his time on Ainori, he actually was most popular with the male participants. Indeed, all the other guys who traveled with him acknowledged the fact that Gurasan was very kind and supportive, the kind of guy who could become friends with anybody, despite his Japanese biker image.

So just before he went for his kokuhaku, he asked his good friend Moriken to give him a final haircut for the challenge (it is not uncommon for Japanese to get a haircut – or simply shave their head – when they want to change their state of mind before doing something testing). He then appropriately dressed in a white sweat suit and white shoes (the second character for kokuhaku indeed means “white”), which is also some kind of gangster fashion here in Japan (actually, since last year there’s been a lot of younger people walking around in sweat suits here in Sendai…).

gurasanreadytokokuhaku.jpg

So he said goodbye to Moriken, and headed to the place where Kuu was waiting for him, i.e. the banks of what is called in Chinese the “Love River”. A new man by his own account, Gurasan met with Kuu, and told her he wanted to tell her something, and that he wanted her to listen quietly. He took a few seconds before he started talking, and after swallowing nervously a few times (yep, even Japanese gangsters get nervous), he finally gathered his thoughts and began his kokuhaku. He told her that in that one country, he saw many of her good sides, like the fact she was cheerful, kind, thoughtful and cute. He then told her that there were many things about him he should change, and that he wanted to do that with her. He finished by saying that he was still a small man, but that he would hang in there, find a better job and become better, and then he gave her the fateful tickets.

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“Let’s go back to Japan together”

He then left, and on his way back was saying out loud how nervous he was. Back at the hotel, a very confident Gurasan told the staff that he was pretty sure Kuu was ready to accept his proposition.

The next morning, the Love Bus arrived at a famous temple, where an amazing number of more than 500 fans had already gathered and were waiting for Gurasan and Kuu’s fate to unfold.

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“Good morning” “Good Morning”

Probably under more pressure than any other participant had ever been before, Gurasan told Kuu again that in that one country he had seen many of her good sides, but that he really liked her cute face the most. He continued by saying he had many flaws, but that he was determined to change and become a better man, and that he’d like her to come with him.
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“I’d like you to come with me”

Kuu replied that since she had joined the group, she had realized many of Gurasan’s qualities. She told him how she liked the thoughtfulness he had towards his friends the most, and the way she was moved by how he was straightforward with her, how he really tried to get to know her, and finally by his kokuhaku the night before. She concluded by saying she had thought it over all night, but that she couldn’t go back to Japan with him. She gave him back the plane ticket, telling him she was thankful he had fallen so much in love with her, under the disappointed screams of the crowd, and made her way back to the Love Bus.

kuuturningdowngurasan.jpg
“I can’t go back to Japan with you”

Aaaah, excuse me, but she didn’t give him a very good explanation, now did she? “ I thought about it all night and I can’t go back to Japan with you”!? What kind of a lame ass answer is that? Who knows, maybe she couldn’t see herself with an ex-gang member. But still a little white lie like: “I’ve just joined the group and I feel it’s too early for me”, or “I would have liked to get to know you better” or something would have been much more palatable. I mean, she had all night to think about it and all she could come up with was that. Granted, the pressure of the crowd watching them must have been tremendous, but still…

Anyway, a seemingly imperturbable Gurasan started moving towards the Love Bus to bid farewell to his traveling partners, with the whole crowd following him. The other participants emotionally said goodbye, and even Moriken got off the Bus to hug Gurasan, who kept telling him not to cry. He told him he had a lot of influence on the others, and that he expected him to guide them for the remaining of his trip. He then tried to tell Kuu something, but obviously unable to put into words what was on his mind, just told her: “Thanks to you… Thank you”, probably meaning she had made his trip. He finally shut the door, and the bus left, leaving Gurasan surrounded by crying fans who started cheering him (in Japanese, mind you), telling him to “hang in there!”. At last, Gurasan screamed “It’s over, I have no regrets”, and then one of the fans screamed “You’ll find happiness”, phrase which became the title of the episode. I’ve watched it over and over again, and every time it brought a tear to my eye (I’m an old sentimental, so what?). And so ended Gurasan’s Ainori…

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You’ll find happiness”

I really liked Gurasan, and was hoping he could find a nice girl to go back to Japan with. I guess his apparent lack of seriousness probably prevented him to really attract any girl, but it might have been simply that cool image he was trying to project. Deep down, as the male participants admitted, he wasn’t as shallow as he seemed to be, and I still remember how supportive and philosophical he was when he had conversation with, say, Yankumi. The worst part is that I’m sure he could have won Kuu’s heart if he had given it more time. True, Gurasan proved to be a little hot-headed, falling for girls way too quickly, and not giving them time to get to know him. I’m sure he’ll do fine if only he learned to slow down a bit.

Next week, the group will move to another country (too bad, I would have loved to see a successful kokuhaku with Taiwanese fans going crazy over the new couple), which looks like some sort of tropical island. Kuu will apparently start falling for someone (no doubt Moriken), and Hiroe will continue suffering from her bad case of the blues.

NEXT ON AINORI


Ainori #365 to #371 (No, really)

Friday, August 24th, 2007

Ainori is a popular reality show in Japan, aired on Fuji TV on Monday nights at 23:00.

In August 2005, I discovered that Ainori was not only popular in Japan, but also all over the world thanks to Bit Torrent technology. I decided to write a summary of each episode, and do a translation of the weekly photo captions from the official site. What do I get out of this? I get to improve my Japanese, I get more traffic to my blog, but above all, I get the satisfaction of knowing many non-Japanese speakers all over the world can appreciate a truly unique reality show. Enjoy, and don’t hesitate to post any comments or questions you may have.

Ainori’s official homepage (Japanese only).


new.gif righ-red_e0.gif Ex-participants’ blogs
(Japanese only)
JUST ADDED MIYANEE’S BLOG

(Thanks to lala for the tip :-) )
left-red_e0.gifnew.gif

Ainori’s BT downloads available @ D-Addicts

Streaming videos of Ainori are available on youtube.com.


Ainori #365 to #371

WARNING! THIS IS VERY OLD STUFF!

WTF!? I just finished watching Ainori #365 to #371, and to my great surprise more than half of the group had changed, and completely new relationships had formed. That’ll teach me to miss Ainori for almost two months. Anyway, due to my long period of procrastination, here I am with seven Ainori summaries behind. As it’s been suggested by CM (thanks for your continuous support, I appreciate it), instead of writing about every single little detail like I usually do (which would be extremely time-consuming), I will give a general overview of what happened between participants over the last seven episodes.

The OGA – MIYANEE story arc


Miyanee

Oga

In Ainori #365, Oga revealed to Miyanee that among the 8 romantic relationships he had in the past, none of them had lasted more than 6 months, and he had been the one breaking them up because he realized he didn’t love the girls he was going out with. In Ainori #366, Miyanee, perplexed by Oga’s story and unwilling to get involved with him suspecting a lack of commitment, she confronted him with the problem. Oga explained that the girls liked him, and that he thought he would come to love them if he went out with them, but his failures prompted Miyanee to accuse him of not making enough efforts to keep his relationships going. Oga finally admitted he couldn’t trust women because he had been traumatized by the fact he was cheated on by his first girlfriend and had money (\500 000 – about US $4400) stolen from him by another. In Ainori #367, Miyanee decided to ask Oga, who finally had revealed his “weakness”, to go back to Japan with her. She told him she had seen his many good sides and his bad sides, how she thought he was wise and stupid at the same time, and how he was the coolest wearing his kimono and doing karate. She told him she had loved him all along, and that she was confident she could make him forget the bad experiences he had with other girls. The next morning, Oga turned her down, explaining he had joined Ainori to find that special girl, and that he thought Miyanee was the one. However glad that she had been the first one to confront him with his romantic shortcomings, she had enabled him to think about his own feelings profoundly, and had to turn her down realizing his feelings weren’t as strong as he thought, i.e. he couldn’t to lie to himself and get involved with her. After Miyanee left the group, Gurasan tried to comfort an obviously very upset Oga, but he finally announced to the group that he’d drop out, on account that he felt guilty for being unable to reciprocate to Bambi and Miyanee’s feelings, and for hurting them by turning them down. His leaving the group revealed the deep friendship that had grown between him and Gurasan, who never thought he could become friends with a guy like Oga, who was his complete opposite.

The HIDERINKO – NEKO story arc


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In Ainori #365, Hiderinko was determined to show his masculinity to Neko, and they had a great time dancing together. However, in Ainori #367, when he saw how Miyanee’s feelings were serious towards Oga, he realized his feelings weren’t strong enough towards Neko, and in view of his already decided short term on Ainori, decided to drop out. In Ainori #368, the morning after Miyanee had left, he was ready to tell the group about his decision upon finishing breakfast, but Oga beat him to it. Feeling he couldn’t announce to the group that he was leaving too, he decided to wait for a better timing. During that episode, it was revealed that Neko was determined to go back to Japan with Hiderinko, but that she had decided to wait until their relationship got better. Unfortunately for her, while the group was gathered in the boys’ room to play a game, Hiderinko jumped on the occasion to tell the group he had decided to drop out, too. He explained that although he had indeed fallen for someone, he wasn’t ready to declare his love as passionately as Miyanee did, and that his short stay on Ainori didn’t give him enough time to do so anyway.

A NEW BEGINNING

With only four participants left, Hiroe got a bad case of the blues, and told the staff she was thinking about dropping out, too, disappointed by her trip so far and unable to see anything significant happening ahead. In a display of support rarely seen on Ainori, and most probably due to a moment of panic realizing the group might drop to an all time low of three participants, the staff managed to convince her to stay a little longer, on account that dropping out without having been involved at all was meaningless.

In episode #369, the group moved to Taiwan, Ainori’s 78th country. The Taiwanese are apparently very fond of all things Japanese, on account that Japan helped modernize their country and bring it up to speed with the rest of the industrialized world in the first half of the 20th century. Ainori is also broadcasted and very popular in Taiwan, and I actually started putting links to my summaries on Taiwanese Ainori billboards after realizing once that I got a sudden increase in traffic from Taiwan. Anyway, this explains why the participants are treated like stars in Taiwan, with crowds gathering around the Love Bus and people taking pictures of the participants all the time.

THREE NEW PARTICIPANTS

TeppeiTeppei “Teppei” Maeda, 28, from Saitama prefecture. Working for an IT joint venture, he wrote on his profile that he was looking for a love “provider”. Apparently a heavy drinker (but then again, that is a cultural biased ;-) ), he got into a drinking contest with Gurasan, which resulted in a draw when the other new male(?) participant couldn’t hold his own alcohol.

PochiTatsuya “Pochi” Okada, 20, from Osaka. He works as a pet shop manager and wrote on his profile: “Take the lead and take me for a walk”. The first kanji for his given name means “dragon”, which is paradoxical since the guy is the most effeminate male participant to join Ainori yet. Pressed by Hiroe to reveal his sexual orientation, he strongly denied being gay. With his “Take me for a walk” statement and his personality, I can’t help but picture him wearing a dog collar…

KuuKumi “Kuu” Atsuda, 21, from Chiba prefecture. An ex-airline employee, she wrote on her profile that “she would play (as in playing a musical instrument) the fruit flute (thanks to anonymous for pointing out my mistake)of love”, whatever that means. With that statement and seeing her blowing, eeeerrr, playing the flute, I can’t help but picture her… oh, never mind. Although she said she always gets dumped by the guys she likes, she immediately proved to be very popular among the senior male participants.

The HIROE-MORIKEN-KUU-GURASAN love rectangle

Hiroeyellowarrowright.gifMorikenKuuyellowarrowleft.gif

When the group had the welcome party for the newcomers, Moriken noticed Hiroe was kind of down, and told her he never had a chance to think about her. She acknowledged that they never really got together and that they never confided to each other. He told her that although he found her annoying sometimes, he thought she had a charming personality, comments which Hiroe appreciated.

When the group visited the Japanese-like maid café, the girls tried on maid uniforms and Gurasan suddenly fell for Kuu, telling the staff later on that she looked like a porn actress, which he thought was really charming (keep your pants on people, this is just another cultural bias – at least they weren’t wearing high school uniforms!).

In Ainori #370, when the group visited a shopping area, Hiroe decided to take Moriken shopping for a wallet, as he was the group’s treasurer. They had a great time shopping, and Hiroe obviously started to like him. That night she put a string on the wallet and the next morning put it around Moriken’s neck, who noticed she was wearing make-up.

That night, Gurasan invited Kuu for a talk, and told her he’d like to get to know her better. The next day, while they were on the bus, they talked about what they wanted to do with their lives, agreeing with each other about their respective goals.

The next day, Hiroe and Moriken got together again, and when he asked her about her work as a designer, she replied that it wasn’t design, but “creation”. So he tried to confirm that she was indeed a designer, and she replied fuzzily that she wasn’t really sure. He asked her if that subtle that difference was something she really thought about, and she told him that she’d think about it from then on, that it was her way of life. Moriken. understandably puzzled by her answers, later told the staff Hiroe was always replying incomprehensibly.

The next day, Moriken and Kuu got together for the first time in a park, and under the worried eyes of Gurasan, realized they had very similar opinions about romantic relationships, namely that freedom was important. They both agreed that there were a lot of things they wanted to do, and that a relationship shouldn’t be constraining and should allow for plenty of private time.

In Ainori #371 while riding on the Love Bus, Moriken didn’t seem to feel very well, and Kuu, who was sitting next to him, started giving him a seemingly very enjoyable hand massage (acupressure).

The next day, they sat together again on the Love Bus and during lunch, and seemed to be really hitting it off. All that obviously fun interaction didn’t go unnoticed by Gurasan and Hiroe.

A couple of days later, Hiroe invited Moriken again for a talk, but couldn’t get the conversation going. When Moriken pointed out that she wasn’t very talkative, she replied that she’d rather “feel the atmosphere” of the situation. Moriken asked her whether she had some questions on her mind, and again, Hiroe told him she relied on her sixth sense instead. Moriken told her he couldn’t make sense of what she was saying, and that she was too deep into her own world. He then excused himself, telling her he had something to talk about with Neko. While Hiroe returned to the Love Bus to cry by herself, Moriken went to see Neko, and they both agreed that Hiroe was weird and hard to follow.

The next day, the group went to relax at a hot spring, and stimulated by Kuu’s bikini, Gurasan suddenly went up to her and offered to give her a massage. That night, Gurasan who somehow was able to requisition the Love Bus, took Kuu on a date at a very nice and romantic spot where they had a pretty good time, joking about going back to Japan together..

Two days later, the group had decided to climb a famous mountain to watch the sun rise, and Gurasan made sure he’d climb with Kuu. Against all odds, due to bad weather, a beautiful sunrise appeared, and Kuu was very happy as it was the first time she witnessed the sun rising. On that day, Gurasan wrote in his diary that he was definitely in love with Kuu, and that night went to the Love Bus to get the faithful plane tickets.

That’s it, folks, 7 episodes of Ainori compressed in less than 2000 words. Hell, I’ve had longer summaries just for one episode before! I think it’s just too bad that Oga turned down Miyanee, as she was the one girl he could have put his faith in, and through her regain trust towards women in general. I think the fact that he dropped out was quite revealing that it was a mistake to let her go. But the fact that Mr. Perfect finally showed everybody he was only human after all was an important step for him. Hiderinko shouldn’t have let himself be influenced by Miyanee’s passion. We’re all different, and his feelings towards Neko seemed genuine, and he should have acted upon them. He missed an excellent chance, as she was ready to leave with him, and I’m sure he banged his head on the wall when he saw Ainori on TV afterwards. Too bad! The new participants seem interesting, and I wonder if Pochi is not gay without realizing it. If he’s not, I’m worried he’ll have a hard time finding a girl who actually likes his effeminate side. I can’t wait to hear about his past romances. I had noticed Hiroe’s unintelligible conversations before, like when she was talking with Sanchan, for example. I think she put too much hope in Moriken’s innocent remarks, which were only meant to be friendly. Moriken and Kuu, however, really seem to be compatible. Gurasan rushing into a kokuhaku is definitely a mistake. He’s concentrating too much on his own feelings, without getting any vibes from Kuu at all. It’s way too early to declare his love to her, and I’m pretty sure she’s going to turn him down next week. Then again, we’ve seen seemingly “doomed” couples form before, which is exactly why Ainori is so fun to watch.

CURRENT SITUATION
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Next week, Gurasan will declare his love to Kuu, and get her reply in front of a crowd of fans, a unique and most unusual event in the history of Ainori. Now THAT should be fun!

NEXT ON AINORI


MIA…

Monday, August 20th, 2007

mia.jpg
Well, well, I’m back after almost two months of silence, and ready to answer the legitimate question: “Dude, what the fuck happened to you?”. I appreciate the concern some of you have shown, I really do. The short answer is, I just didn’t feel like blogging. Wanna know more?

This long period of procrastination can be traced to a single factor: my school building is undergoing major structural modifications to make it more resistant to earthquakes, since here in Miyagi prefecture we are long overdue for “The Big Miyagi Earthquake”, which occurs every 25 years or so. The work had to be made during the summer vacation, and being too short to allow for completion of the work, it was extended to September 3rd, instead of sometime this week. As such, my school’s cultural festival, which usually takes place during the first weekend of September, had to be moved to the beginning of July, coinciding with the National Step by Step English Test, for which I coach students every night after school the week previous to the test. Preparing the school festival while coaching the students kept me pretty busy and the week right after the school festival, we had to start cleaning up and moving stuff from parts of the school where the construction work was to be made, in a more or less confused manner, while all the regular school activities going on, of course.

The first week of construction implied the removing of asbestos (the school was meeting asbestos level requirements, until this year when the standards got even more strict than ever), which meant I had an extra free week of vacation, for a rare total of a whole month, yeah! Now usually, the weather in Miyagi is unbelievably bad during the summer holidays, and I’ve seen years with no more than two or three sunny days during my vacation. This year, however, it was the opposite: it rained only two days for the past month, which meant we were either at the beach, at barbecues/parties or at festivals every day, so much so that (I can’t believe I’m saying this) we were actually glad when it rained because we could actually just rest. I simply wasn’t in the mood to sit in front of my computer and type while I could be outside enjoying my summer.

So there it is. I had the most wonderful summer vacation since I came to Japan, culminating with our climbing Mount Fuji yesterday. But all good things have to come to an end, and this morning, it was time to take off the earring, shave a bit and go to work. The good thing is classes won’t start until September, so I have the luxury to wear shorts and a t-shirt at school, not to mention plenty of time to write. I’m what, five or six Ainori summaries behind? Well, I got to watch them first (I’m not kidding, I even skipped watching Ainori for more than a month!), and then get to work…