Ainori #363

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).


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Ainori’s BT downloads available @ D-Addicts

Streaming videos of Ainori are available on youtube.com.


Ainori #363

WARNING! THIS IS A SPOILER!

CURRENT SITUATION
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Wow, this was a really busy episode. I’ll just summarize what happened in order here. Let’s see: the group tasted iguana, the relationship between Neko and Gurasan came to a full stop due to Neko’s obsession with the National Pension Fund, the group moved to Ainori’s 77th country and met the new male participant – who apparently caught the attention of the girls, Oga (inadvertently) showed interest for Miyanee for the first time, and the group got to the top of the Andes. Gee, it feels like two episodes compressed in one! But as usual, let me start by introducing the new guy.

hiderinko.jpg Kazuhide “Hiderinko” Oobayashi, from Kagawa Prefecture, is a 24-year-old firefighter. Apparently, he had that nickname back home, so he decided to keep it. Although his job is to put out fires, he wrote on his profile that he’d like to set someone’s heart on fire. Not only he’s not bad-looking at all, but as a firefighter (i.e. a civil servant), he’s the only male participant to have a steady job with benefits (a salary with regular raises, a good bonus and retirement fund). Right after he joined the group, the girls had an emergency meeting with Miyanee and Neko really excited about that fact. Indeed, the other boys’ financial situation doesn’t look bright: Moriken is a student working part-time, Oga is trying to make it in show business, and Guransan works in a yakiniku shop. Good looks and financial security? Mmmh, if this guy has a good personality, he might just have a head start over the others. We’ll have to wait and see. I wish him good luck on Ainori.

As one of their last meals in Suriname, the group got to taste iguana. They all thought it was chicken (probably tasted like it) until they were told what it was, and funnily enough, Hiroe showed an appalling lack of common knowledge when she asked if iguanas were birds. Hiroe, not everything that tastes like chicken has wings, you know…

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It was iguana meat


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Finally! After a couple of weeks of obvious mutual attraction, the producers let us hear Gurasan and Neko’s thoughts about each other. Gurasan had written in his diary that he was happy Neko had opened her heart to him by confiding, and that he wanted to be there for her. On the other hand, Neko had written that Gurasan had a nice face when he smiled, and that she liked people like that. I wonder why the producers kept that from us, as it would have built the tension until the fateful conversation they had this week. Yep, based on a slight difference in social values, everything suddenly came crashing down, and real fast at that.

Neko, as a major in Asian Issues, is apparently (and surprisingly, if you consider how the Japanese educational system works, i.e. it’s hell to get admitted, but once you’re in you can practically sleep your way through a degree) well aware of many problems in Asia. So they started talking about the National Pension Fund problem in Japan, which I will talk about rather in length, so please bear with me.

The National Pension Fund in Japan is problematic due to the growing aging population, who upon retirement get their pension, with fewer and fewer people in the work force who can pay for them (see: high dependency ratio). The bottom line is working people now pay more than a 100 000 yen (more than US 800) a year, without even knowing if the system will be able to provide for them upon retirement, not to mention horror stories about people whose payments weren’t recorded properly due to bureaucratic blunders, effectively meaning they lost the right to get their full pension. As a result, there is this vicious circle in which younger people, who don’t trust the system, simply refuse to pay out of fear the money will be lost, and choose to save money on their own for their old days. This means that even less money goes into the system, feeding more insecurity and accelerating its breakdown.

Now, people who have good paying jobs in Japan and can actually afford to pay for the National Pension Fund are mostly older people, who often keep working even after they should have retired, which means there are less steady jobs for the younger generation (mmmh, there’s this oh too familiar boomers VS Xers kind of ring to it, isn’t there?). To counter this problem, people can elect to postpone their National Pension Fund payments until their 30s, at which point the monthly premiums would be higher, but allegedly still affordable. Sounds pretty good on paper, except that in reality, a lot of people simply don’t want to pay even after getting a steady job for the above-mentioned reasons, and they can choose not to pay simply because that money is usually withdrawn from your bank account, IF you fill out the necessary papers for that, rather than being taken directly at the source. That is really incomprehensible, as income tax in Japan is taken from your salary before you get it, which means they could do the same thing with the National Pension Fund to alleviate the problem.

And here is where this social problem got in the way. Neko firmly believes that it is a social duty to pay for the National Pension Fund. You can imagine her surprise when Gurasan told her he had no intention to pay for it when the time comes. So they argued about it for a few minutes, and obviously their disagreement put something between them. That night, Neko went to visit the staff’s room, and told them how sensitive she thought the problem of the National Pension Fund was, and how she evaluated someone’s sense of values based on their opinion about it. She then explained how she felt uneasy about a man who thought like that, whether he could do his best when the time came to raise a family. She ended by saying she could never be with such an unreliable person.

I agree that a difference in values can be enough to break a relationship. but I think Neko shouldn’t have judged Gurasan so harshly without even trying to convince him. Everything was going so well between them, it’s just too bad that it ended on such a technicality. But hey, it’s not necessarily over yet. I’m sure they’ll have more conversations about that.

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Does the person important to you
pay for the National Pension Fund?


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So the group left Suriname and flew to Venezuela, Ainori’s 77th country. One of Venezuela’s major exportation being petroleum, fuel is dirt cheap at 5 yen (US 0.04) a litre, compared to 130~135 yen (a bit over US 1.00) in Japan. The day right after Hiderinko joined the group, Neko invited him for a talk, with the obvious goal of “testing” him. She started by saying she had a stiff and old mentality, that she thought a lot about the future, for example. When Hiderinko replied that it was natural, she suddenly told him how she thought the National Pension Fund was important, and how she couldn’t imagine someone actually not paying for it. He then explained that of course, he was paying for it, not only because as a civil servant he would get fired if he didn’t, but because he felt it was his responsibility as a Japanese citizen. Neko, exalted, immediately told him “That’s it, that’s it, you understand”. That night, she went to see the staff and giggling like a high school girl, she told them how she thought it was great they had similar views, especially about the National Pension Fund. I really wonder if she’s really an idealist with high social awareness, or just a witch after highly paid handsome men.

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Neko was about to go straight for Hiderinko,
the man who paid for the National Pension Fund


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Oga

That night, as the bus was driving around Mérida, Miyanee and Oga were sitting next to one another. Miyanee asked Oga what kind of personality he thought she had, but before he could answer, Miyanee got pulled into a conversation with the others (actually, it was more like they were bombarding her with questions), about airfare in various countries and how many / which languages one should ideally speak to become well-traveled. Indeed, as she is older than all the others, it seems they kind of look up to her and take her opinion very seriously. As Miyanee was trying her best to answer, Oga suddenly started laughing, and when Miyanee asked him what was up he replied that he thought she was kind.

The next day, the group was visiting a market place, and as they were taking a break, Miyanee started putting a misanga on Moriken’s wrist. Oga, who was sitting with Neko just behind them, couldn’t help but glance constantly, until he cut his conversation with Neko asking her if she’d like to go somewhere else.

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“Peek”

Obviously, Oga had plenty of time to think about him and Miyanee while they were having their cold spell, and I’m sure he suddenly got jealous when he saw her tying that misanga around Moriken’s wrist. At that moment, he probably realized that what he felt towards her was simply more than just friendship.

The next day, the group took the longest cable car ride in the world, all the way to the top of the Andes (bastards! I’m sooooo jealous ;-) ). Shortly after getting to the top, however, Miyanee started feeling dizzy, no doubt from the altitude. When she told Oga she felt sick, he took her aside and helped her sit down so she could rest. As she was trying to say something about the view, Oga told her she didn’t have to talk just for his benefit. Miyanee subsequently wrote in her diary that she felt she was in the hands of people who were kind to her when she was weak. After a few minutes, a sobbing Miyanee was telling Oga how moved she was by the beauty of nature. Oga later wrote in his diary how lovely he thought Miyanee was, being mature and kind.

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(The warm light of the Andes) was enveloping their hearts

That’s it, people, Oga is finally starting to give in. I don’t think he decided to lower his personal standards, but during the couple of days Miyanee and him were apart, I’m sure he reconsidered his opinion of her, i.e. that she was only human after all. When they finally started talking again, he probably realized how they went well together, and when he saw her giving the misanga to Moriken, his own feelings probably made him see what Miyanee meant to him. And Miyanee being so moved by the grandeur of nature might just have been the last straw… I really hope he’s coming around because I think they’d make a great couple.

Next week, it looks like Miyanee won’t be able to hide her being nervous towards Oga, Hiderinko will apparently fall in love (talk about quickly as spreading fire!), and a Japanese-speaking Venezuelan babe will join the group, to Gurasan’s very, very pleasant surprise.

NEXT ON AINORI


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6 Responses to “Ainori #363”

  1. Enchanted Says:

    Yay! I was really looking forward to this post since I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around the whole nenkin business. You did a great job of explaining it =]

    Before I read this post, I didn’t know what to think of Neko. While I could understand how strongly she would feel for something like that, I didn’t quite get how she only started her obsession with it right then and there. Now I feel like she’s a bit more justified in her belief, but I still find it odd at how she was all lovey-dovey with Gura-san right before this. It feels so abrupt. And when you look at it, you can barely find any hard feelings. I mean, except for that last bit with Gura-san once again alone on the mountain, they seem to be moving along quickly and painlessly.

    And I can’t help but think that the casting crew are doing an awesome job at recruiting new members as of late. I mean, it’s not necessarily personal preference, but somehow they’ve managed to get a “tarento” who is portrayed as a white knight-ish figure, a super haken Miyanee, and now a financially stable firefighter. Hms, it could be their efforts to create more role models for the viewers or maybe they are taking the love thing more seriously now after all the San-chans and ex-bikers/gang members. Just a thought.

    Two random thoughts: when are we ever going to see some Hiroe action, I mean, I’m half-wishing that she IS the one Hiderinko falls for since she seems likeable enough. The only thing is, she doesn’t seem like she’s making an effort at this at all. The second thing is….what’s up with Hiderinko’s nickname? I’ve seen mention of it, but I don’t quite get it myself…like it’s possible meanings…or connections…

    and to conclude my awfully long reply [I seem to be leaving these as of late, I apologize]

    go Miyanee and Oga! x]

  2. Alex Says:

    Thanks a lot for the great explanation of nenkin!

    I can’t help but think they are pushing the Oga-Miyanee thing a bit more than it really is. There could be another reason for Oga looking in Miyanees direction, maybe he was just wondering what the hell they were doing, or maybe Neko was boring him or lecturing him on nenkin! Anyway we should find out this week!

    Seems a bit too fast for Hideringo to be lighting fires. He’s come all the way to Venezuela, he might as well stay awhile.
    Would be more fun in my opinion to just keep travelling instead of looking for love, but I guess that would make a less interesting show.

  3. nu york jihen Says:

    The new slang word “dondake” was used in this episode so I can finally ask about it here. I’ve seen it used before, and have tried to translate Japanese explanations of the word but still don’t really get it. They were talking about Wentz Eji’s shirt which had lots of hearts on it. Imada Koji said, “Dondake [hearts] tsui tennen.” Would someone fluent please translate this for me?

  4. Ayumi Says:

    The new guy seems nice and genki, let’s see how his relationship with Neko develops. I’m sad Neko doesn’t like Gurasan anymore, I would have never thought that Gurasan’s decision about not paying the National Pension Fund could break a nice relationship. Gurasan was always alone until Neko arrived. I feel sorry for him and I think Neko is a bit strict on that matter.

  5. Aya Says:

    “dondake tsui tennen” means “how many hearts are on that thing?”. “dondake”=”dore dake”. I don’t think it’s new slang. I lived in Japan until I was 6 (I came to Canada in 1994) and I heard that used before while I was still there.

  6. new york jihen Says:

    Thank you Aya!