I missed this when it came out last year, but James May’s adventures around Japan are an absolute must watch. Apparently this show was pitched to the BBC originally but they never made it, leaving Amazon to pick up the tab for a six-episode stint around the many islands of Japan.
James May makes a brilliant host for this show, the premise being that he loves Japan but has never quite been able to explain why and wants to find out what it is that makes this country tick. He’s joined in each episode by a local guide, and rather than the usual situation where they just translate and point out local landmarks, these guides get fully involved and really give James a hard time. Particularly in the first episode where James’ lack of skills in a competitive snowball fight are very quickly pounced upon by his guide, but also in the giant robot fight, and in every activity that he and Yujiro participate in.
One of the things I love about James’ presenting style is the relaxed and unassuming nature, thinking nothing of showing us the fights he has with producers and incorporating behind the scenes moments in a completely natural and often hilarious way. There are childish moments, of course, but the Grand Tour trio are always a bit better on that front when they’re apart. As he travels from one end of the country to the other, he experiences all the mysticism, history, and quirkiness that the country has to offer, and we get to enjoy it with him. He investigates some of the stereotypes associated with Japan, but also shows us a side to the country that is probably less known.
The absolute best episode is the one where James entrusts his sightseeing to a handheld robot, which has unfortunately recognised his name as Bim rather than Jim. The following sequence and references in other episodes to Bim are absolutely perfect. “Hey Bim, guess what?” Watch this show and try not to spend the rest of the day calling your friends Bim.