While James May was in Japan, he came across an interesting group of people in Tokyo called Salarymen. Salarymen are white-collar workers who practice a very specific pattern of behavior. They devote themselves to the company they work at above all else. While they are working, they adopt diplomatic behavior with both their superiors and colleagues. Even if they hated their boss, they had to display absolute loyalty to the company especially if their boss was older than them (senpai). When their shift was over, the Salarymen would go party with their colleagues. Their activities range from drinking, karaoke, and so on. During this time, the Salarymen get to relax and be completely honest about their true feelings about everything even their relationship with their boss. When morning comes, they start the whole thing all over again. During James May’s visit to Tokyo, he got to play karaoke with some Salarymen, who were more than eager to party after a hard day’s work. Among the Salarymen James partied with were two employees from a mergers and acquisitions company and a banker. James May had a surprisingly good karaoke singing voice as well.
I remember another one of James May’s funny antics during his visit to Japan. While he was in Osaka, James got to dress up as Ultraman and drive around in a go-cart. Apparently, this is a common activity in Japan’s metropolitan areas like Osaka and Tokyo. People would dress up as their favorite anime character and drive around in go-carts as though they were in a Nintendo game. At the end of this scene, James made an interesting point. Japan’s obsession with anime characters, superheroes, and monsters is not just something they imagined. It has become a deeply ingrained part of their culture. Due to this, you can find anime characters everywhere in Japan from sign posts, to appliance manuals, bedrooms, stores, you name it. With this in mind, James wondered if this concept can be seen as a modern interpretation of Shintoism, which talks about many gods and everything being inhabited by a spirit. These anime characters, superheroes, and monsters could be representations of these entities.
During James May’s trip to Japan, he made a number of interesting discoveries and encounters. While looking through the stores of Tokyo, he discovered a number of gadgets that were designed to solve problems that no one else thought of. Among those gadgets were self-cleaning toilets. I always knew Japan was a technological superpower, but I never thought their usage of technology would be this diverse.
Then James’s day in Tokyo got even better when he met a couple of otaku or “super geeks”. The interesting thing about otaku is that while geeks would be shunned by Western society, geeks in Japan are welcomed as an essential part of the social fabric. Otaku interests can range from anything from manga to video games. The otaku James met were a special breed of otaku known as train spotters and they knew everything about trains. They could imitate the sounds of trains, they would take photographs of trains in stations, they enjoyed listening to train station music, and they could imitate train station announcements.
As a super geek myself, I could easily relate to these two otaku. The moment I saw their quirky mannerisms and the passion of their interests, I knew they were like me. Since geeks are embraced as part of the social fabric in Japan, I think I would feel right at home there.
I discovered that one of my favorite television hosts, James May, has a new television show where he travels across Japan. While he was in Kyoto, James tested a prototype robot called Robohon, which is equipped with information about all the locations in Japan. To use Robohon, James had to type in a nickname on the robot’s back and that was the name the robot addressed him. He tried to type in “Jim”, but accidentally typed in “Bim.” So for the remainder of the trip, Robohon called James “Bim” and proceeded to malfunction in hilarious fashion, much to James’s amusement. This scene was super funny and it showed just how funny James can be when he is by himself without Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond. James’s interaction with Robohon was just one of countless funny encounters he had when he traversed Japan.