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The Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge (明石海峡大橋) is the world's longest suspension bridge that you've probably never heard of.
And having traveled 1,000 km across Japan by bicycle for over two weeks now,
I've been excited at the prospect of cycling over it into Shikoku (四国); filming it in 4K with drones,
all the while laughing and wearing Ray Ban sunglasses, pretending to be cool.
It was gonna be magical.
And then when I got to the bridge I discovered you can't actually cycle over it, and therefore I was an idiot.
Seriously, who builds a 3 billion dollar bridge that can't even hold a bicycle?
It's like building a Saturn V rocket without an adequate cup holder.
Anyway, every cloud has a silver lining.
The change of direction would mean we had an excuse to head towards
one of Japan's most stunning landmarks: Himeji Castle (姫路城).
Still, wasn't all happy news;
because for the next two days and 200 km as we explored the shores of Japan's Inland Sea,
amongst the chaos of things going wrong every turn,
we find ourselves lumbered with a travel companion with a talent for making situations at least three times worse.
Here he is, sitting alone.
It is, of course... Ryotaro.
Good morning, everyone.
And now I'm joining the tour!
Haha!
So how are you feeling, Ryotaro? Ready for the 45 km cycle today? - Not sure
- Not sure? You're pretty fit, you're a pretty fit young man.
I'm trying my best - Yeah. Yeah, yeah, I'm trying my best. - You're trying your best? - Yeah
- I must say, I do feel quite envious. We're sitting at the base of the bridge
and there's some sort of party going on at the park and... - Dude, a barbie!
Barbecue. Lucky devil.
I want to have a barbecue. Why can't I have a barbecue?
Well, why don't we have a barbecue? - We'll take a barbecue
Yeah
Let's get a barbecue and strap it to the bike. I'd love to.
Anyway, let's gear up and get out of here
Stretching with Ryotaro
Oh, shit! *people laughing off-camera*
My bike stretching [...]
So for the last couple of weeks, you guys have been telling me that I should have got a road bike
because my bike is, of course, a mountain bike with really thick tires,
which makes it really hard when cycling, or unnecessarily difficult.
But unfortunately, the bike has actually broken, there's something wrong with the chain.
There's a crack somewhere in this region, so we've had to get a replacement bicycle.
I don't know how long it's gonna be before we fix this, so we might have to even write it off.
But for now, we've actually got a road bike!
So finally, I have a bike with thin tires that's going to be a lot easier to cycle
Away we go, let the second half of the journey begin
Let's go! - Let's go.
I'm now midway through my Journey Across Japan from Yamagata (山形県) to Kagoshima (鹿児島市)
And for our trip with Ryotaro, we'll be heading first to Himeji (姫路市) than on to Okayama City (岡山市)
And it's certainly a journey of contrasts, from sprawling cities to endless rice fields.
I'm really excited about this, guys.
See, we have to cycle down the main street leading up to the castle,
and it looks incredible. Look at this.
Yeahhh!
Look at that castle.
I've actually been wanting to come to Himeji Castle for about two decades now.
Not because of its historical importance,
but because it was in my favorite James Bond film, "You Only Live Twice," in 1967.
Yes, in the late 1960s, James Bond himself visited Himeji Castle to attend a top-secret ninja training base.
So you can probably imagine my disappointment to discover
that Himeji Castle definitely isn't a secret ninja training base.
Himeji Castle, as it appears today, has stood for 400 years.
It was one of Japan's first UNESCO World Heritage Sites,
and it's the most visited castle in the country,
with its dazzling white appearance visible from miles away.
Some even say it looks like a heron taking flight.
Which is bollocks, because it's a castle.
But what makes Himeji so special is it's one of the few Japanese castles to have stood the test of time,
when 9 out of 10 castles you find in Japan have been burned to the ground at some point and rebuilt from scratch.
Even in World War II, when Himeji city was all but wiped off the map by over 700 tons of incendiary bombs,
the bomb that struck the castle refused to go off,
leaving the castle one of the last buildings standing in the city.
And then again in 1995, when Hyōgo Prefecture (兵庫県) was decimated by the Great Hanshin earthquake,
the castle itself was left virtually undamaged.
Simply put, Himeji Castle is the castle that refused to die.
To me, that is what makes it the greatest castle in all of Japan.
Ryotaro's face aside, this is one of the nicest views I've had on the trip so far in the morning.
And in the morning sun it just stands out beautifully, like a beacon. A beacon of history.
Bacon of history. - A bacon of history.
What the fuck are you on about?
And I brought the sunshine for us.
He brought the "shunshine"?
So this is the challenges you guys have sent in, we're now gonna get our challenge of the day
Yesterday the capsule, what are you doing? - Keep the capsule
What's going-- what's going on? Why is he here?
Pfft.
No complaining allowed, what a load of sh~~~~it.
Is Anpanman talking? - He's talking, see
He's telling you as well, he's telling you not to complain. And be optimistic, like he is.
Fabulous day. - Uh, nice.
It's gonna be a fabulous day.
Ryotaro has just mentioned... you have a friend here.
Yes, here in Himeji, a sweet shop
He owns a sweet shop? - Mm.
- Then why didn't you say so earlier?
I did that already, but you're not listening. As usual.
I'm not listening to Ryotaro most of the time when he speaks.
Because it's usually something ridiculous like... - Be optimistic and no complaints.
Oh yeah.
Uh, Ryotaro is a great guy and has lots of great things going for him.
He's so brilliant, yeah.
Really glad I came here, the view of the castle is incredible.
It looks so... wow, just wow.
Hands-down the most impressive castle I've seen in Japan so far.
After getting slightly lost in the back streets of Himeji,
Ryotaro calls ahead to Mr. Mori the sweet shop owner,
who eagerly greets us, business card in hand.
Wagashi, meaning Japanese confectionery,
often straddle the line between being sweets and works of handcrafted art.
So much so that eating them is often accompanied with a sensation of guilt.
Typically enjoyed alongside matcha green tea,
they're made from plant-based ingredients such as mochi rice cake,
anko red bean paste, and various fruits,
making them healthier than their Western confectionery counterparts.
To put it bluntly, you can eat as many as you want and never die.
A lot of these shops are quite well-hidden though.
This shop is like two meters across.
There's a big street, then there's a very tiny little...
It's almost like a speakeasy bar or something, where it's concealed behind this, like, little door.
This isn't gonna do much for my reputation.
I've already eaten Kobe beef, black ramen, and fried chicken galore.
Now I'm stuffing myself with Japanese sweets.
But Japanese sweets are actually a bit more healthy than what we're used to in the west, and there's less sugar.
For example instead of using sugar, we've got red bean paste inside this pancake here.
I want one of each of these, these differen colored ones. - All right.
And uhm
The orange - That orange - Orange in a mochi. - No grape? - Orange
- No grape? - Orange.
And so he's gonna buy me the orange and the grape, and he's paying! Haha!
I'm not.
You're not?
- I can be happy and optimistic, but I didn't need to be generous today.
That wasn't in the challenge, was it?
So Ryotaro's friend of a friend Mori-san, he's over there
His little shop is getting absolutely rammed.
He started-- he was a salary man till he was 34 years old,
and then he decided, "One day, I'm gonna do something fun."
"I'm gonna start a sweet shop," and he did.
I like it when people do that
A lot of people when they reach their mid-thirties, sort of - They just see the enlightenment suddenly
They get enlightened or they give up on their dreams I find, so it's nice that he followed his and made sweets
Like I did
You followed your dream? - Yeah, I did. - To be on the Abroad In Japan channel?
Not really
Our endpoint today is the small port town of Ako and for dinner
we get stuck into a bustling seafood diner, just a few miles down the coastline
So we've just stopped off at a little barbecue spot.
Because we're cycling around the Inland Sea,
There's also a place where you can sit down relax and eat seafood, yeah this place you can have a barbecue. It's wonderful
However, Ryotaro is not a great cook, we figured it wouldn't be a good idea to go to a barbecue because
Ryotaro is such a great cook. He's so wonderful. His cooking skills are second to none
I love it when Ryotaro cooks. - He just remembered the promise he made. - I just thought he cycles so hard today, he shouldn't cook things
He should relax, it's been a nice cycle though, once we got out of Himeji, things started to get a lot more pleasant, I hate
cycling cities, I mean, cycling in cities is really fun, but sometimes it's nice not to cycle in the city
Happy happy. - Oh god, this is
Brilliant - Full of hope and dreams
It's so wonderful, even if it is burning my throat from the inside out
I think I did a pretty good job today being overly optimistic and happy, I think that's because
I know at the end of this cycle today, a very massive pile of Japanese sweets waiting for us at our hotel
Kindly given to us by Mori-san and the chap of the the shop, Ryotaro's friend of a friend of a friend of a
brothers, uncles, mums, friends, cousins
House
Yeah
Don't kill our cameraman
Unbelievable, well that's another day done. - Yep - Off goes the GoPro
Well guys, it's been a long day
I tell you what, being overly optimistic and "happy" all day has taken more energy out of me than the cycle
This is the sweet I've been looking forward to all day
This is mochi rice cake with an orange inside it and it's very gooey and it's exploded everywhere
It's literally just an orange with rice cake around it
That's quite, I was expecting it's just be some sort of flavoring, but it is just an orange in a rice cake
Ii've never seen that before. - First time. - Now, let's finish off this cider
Did I complete this challenge though?
That's the big question guys. The thing is, I did, I keep, it's hard
It's hard. - You keep forgetting. - To manipulate and change your personality
Yeah, he is just so used to being sarcastic all the time
It's true
Do you think I'm different on screen compared to how I am in real life?
Not
Right
Well, I thought you were gonna say; I'm much nicer in real life
Happier
I just have to tell it truth to the viewers. Do you know what I mean?
Bye, guys!
Bye
After cycling for several weeks now, I've been growing accustomed to most small towns looking more or less the same
But turning the corner from our hotel in Ako village, we come across a colorful horde
of 1950s and 1960s memorabilia, every now and then on your travels across Japan
You'll stumble across a Showa era museum, dedicated to goods and items
From a time when Japan's post-war economy was booming
The Japanese society was a golden era, that many people are still keen to remember
So take you back, do you feel nostalgic?
Not really
But look, It says salt in here
They used to, need a special license to sell salt
Really? - It was so important. - James Bond, license to kill, Japanese business license to sell salt
License to salt? Sell salt, all right
Dialing it and
Here is our mission for today
Try to learn 3 Japanese tongue twisters
That's good, at least we got a Japanese guy with us today. We can finally use Ryotaro's main skill, his ability to speak Japanese. - Main skill?
Yeah, we don't really use the fact that you speak Japanese much on this channel, so. - That's true. - We can do that today
So, good news, ladies and gentlemen, the bike is back my beloved mountain bike that has seen us through the first part the journey has returned
The gear system on this bike was screwed 2 days ago
And they've actually rebuilt it and replaced it and now it's as good as ever, ready to get back on the road
So 3 minutes into the cycle and my adulation of the bike being repaired has quickly turned to horror and frustration
So it turns out, I couldn't realize this that the bike now only has like, only has 3 gears
and what this means is Ryotaro has already disappeared from my view ahead, because he can go fast on his bike
Having to pedal like this like a maniac. I can't go fast, Ryotaro
Why not? - Because the bloody gears have been turned into, I think there's only like 2 or 3 gears on this bike now
That's why you keep shooting ahead and I can't catch up
Okay guys, so I've been struggling to cycle all morning, to the point that my so-called friend, Ryotaro
He just sort of disappeared from view gradually and now he's gone, left me here in a field
But I've just pulled over to have a look at the bike, because I've been cycling with just 3 gears this morning
and it's been really hard and it came to my attention that there aren't three gears on the bike
There aren't 3 gears at all
There is in fact 1 gear or indeed no gears. It's just a chain on a
Just a fucking BMX, this is nothing, look at this. What's this?
That's where the gears were
It turns out the charismatic bike repairman, that my team took the bike to
Didn't so much as fix the gear system on the bike
As just cut it off altogether, the cables been severed and it is just now basically a BMX bike, 1-chain 1-gear
Bollocks, I'm fucked
It's important to point out, this isn't some sort of clever narrative set piece
Even I'm not stupid enough to remove a sophisticated gear system on an overpriced bike for entertainment purposes
And it was only a matter of time before my wrath caught up with the man who encouraged me to invest in the unfixable British bike
Several weeks prior to my journey
I'm gonna kill him, he chose that bike he chose a British bike knowing full well
That the gear system couldn't be repaired in Japan. This is where I'm gonna kill Ryotaro, right here
By this waterfall absolute middle of nowhere
Nobody's gonna find him except you, because I've talked about it on camera now and I'm gonna beat him to death with this rock
All right, your lucky I can't get the rock out
Give me a Japanese tongue twister
Tongue twister? - Yup. - of the day, all right, ok
The first one of today by this waterfall
Well, I came up with this one
Okay, it means a bus being exploded by the gas
Basu literally a bus, then gasu as in gasoline, bakuhatsu as in explosion
It is quite sinister, who thought this up? What's the context of this tongue twister? - I don't know, well it's been popular for decades
Everyone knows about it. - What a bus blowing up in Japan? Yeah, bus going by gas
Ok, here we go
All right. - Yes. - You're done, well, for the first one, I just came up with the easy one, the easiest one ever
All right
Save your second one for later, now to get back on the bike of death
Cycling one gear, ladies and gentlemen is is not fun. It's actually, I can feel my legs
Creaking under my own weight now, because it's just taking so much energy to pedal. That's yeah
That's your curse
Yeah, a curse that you instigated by buying a bike that can be fixed in Japan whatsoever
No, the thing is about the timing
You know, I said by the timing like it just suddenly happens like your bike got destroyed. - Yeah
Yeah, notice how the moment Ryotaro turned up it all went to shit
Okay, 2nd tongue twister
That means blue rolled paper, red rolled paper, yellow rolled paper
All right
You've, no, that's not acceptable
See, it's getting harder
It's, I could do it, if I wasn't cycling a 1-gear bicycle across the suspension bridge, i think i could do it
Fuck
Oh my god, guys, my legs have taken one hell of a beating today given I'm cycling on 1 gear, good news is Ryotaro found us lunch
So you've found us a little okonomiyaki restaurant. - Yeah it was so tiny actually, I actually went in there to ask for the where the parking place was
This is very atmospheric. - It is
It's a nice little town by the sea
Feels like we just broke into some woman's house
These Japanese restaurants are quite good though. Where the owners just taking their house
stuff the kitchen in it with some seats and turned into a restaurant. What flavor okonomiyaki did you get, Mr. Ryotaro?
I got the deluxe. - Deluxe okonomiyaki
Pork, the shrimp and oysters, everything together with noodles
And what you've got? - I got pork. - That's it. - Pork and. - Very simple, very peasant. - Very peasant
I loved that on a T-shirt, very peasant
It's time for our 3rd tongue twister, ladies and gentlemen, of the Japanese tongue twister from the master of tongue twisters himself
Tokyo Patent Permission Agency
All of the tongue twisters they have been really weird. The 1st one was a bus being blown up
The 2nd one was about, what was the 2nd one about? It was well like the red rolled paper
Red rolled paper and yellow rolled paper
And the 3rd one is about a patent office in Tokyo
It has nothing to do with the meaning, is it?
Well, it is, like these are pretty weird tongue twisters
Who thought these up, anyway, what was it?
What?
No, that's already wrong
Yeah, you're getting close. - Close, alright, I'm gonna practice
The 3 tongue twisters while I eat my okonomiyaki, and at the end the day when we drop you off at the station, I'm gonna
hammer out all 3 tongue twisters, brilliantly perfectly without a single problem. No errors
Do you like okonomiyaki?
I love okonomiyaki, I really do mainly cuz it's drenched in mayonnaise, mayonnaise makes everything good
Am I right, am I wrong?
Let us know in the comments, such a desperate attempt there audience interaction. Let's get the audience interacting
Interact, okay, sure
Question right? - Pose a philosophical question to the audience so we can look at the comment. - Philosophical questions?
Philosophical question
Should we live or should we be dead? - No, that's horrible, that's very sinister. - Was it philosophical question, isn't it?
That's not a philosophica question, that's a fucking sadistic question
So we're now in the outskirts of Okayama City, guys
And we've really gotta hurry up, because Ryotaro actually got a train to catch
To Hiroshima, where he's gonna fly back to Tokyo and that leaves at 3:50 and it's currently about 3:20
So we're really pushing hard to get through the city, get to the station
How long we got to get to your train?
20 minutes
We more or less made it in the nick of time there's the station. - In front of us, finally
If you miss this train, you miss your plane from Hiroshima to Tokyo, right?
Otherwise I would have had to like stay here a few more days cycling with him, most definitely not
It would've been awful for all involved. - We barely made it
Well, it's been quite the 200km journey, together we've seen the world's largest suspension bridge, the most beautiful castle in all of Japan
We stuffed ourselves with sweets and okonomiyaki and irreparable screwed my legs on a 1-gear bicycle
But for Ryotaro, his journey is very much at an end
Loads of people just look at you in horror there, when you were like that
I genuinely thought that was the end of Risottoro
We made it though. - We made it, well done
All right. - Before you get to the shinkansen, I've got to nail all the three tongue twisters
What was the first one? - The first one was
That's it, and the second one is?
You made it, and the third one is?
Did I do it? - Well kinda, yeah
All right, off you go. - Bye, see you guys, see ya. - You're gonna miss your train, go
And that ladies and gentlemen is the last we see of risottoro
It turns out cycling 1-gear is anything but fun, thankfully now Risottoro is gone, I've got his bike
So that's the upside. Join me back here tomorrow as we cycle from Okayama to somewhere
I'm not sure yet where it is, I think it's Fukuyama (福山市), it'll be just me, you and the road
So I'll see you then guys, no matter where you might be watching from out there on big wide world
Thanks for joining us today and remember
Oh god, I was going to do a really good tongue twister, then I fucked it. I fucked it all up, dammit
Six years, I've traveled Japan far and wide, it's all been building up to this moment
Pizza vending machine