This series featured Kitayama Hiromitsu-kun of Kis-My-Ft2 backpacking for 8 days across India on a 10000 yen (about $120) budget. The first three episodes were reviewed here. This review covers the episodes which aired on July 23rd, July 30th, and August 13th 2012.

When we last left Kitayama-kun, he had just ridden a camel, and was getting on the train east. His early spending has substantially depleted his resources and, starving and uncomfortable on the train, he’s no longer in as good a mood as he was at the start.

The train ride is twelve hours long with stops at every station. To satisfy his hunger, he tries to grab some food from the platform while the train has pulled into the station.

His first attempt at this fails as he has to scramble back onto the train as it starts pulling out of the station. Getting on in a car other than his own, he has trouble finding his berth.

Before he finds his berth, the train is already into another station and he decides to get out and try his luck again. He manages to grab a quick meal for 40 rupees.

But that meal is . . . well, it isn’t safe.

In the debriefing restaurant, Kitayama-kun reflects on that meal, and the wisdom of giving up on it quickly. He is convinced that, if he had actually finished it, he would have died. Lacking all the support staff around him, I would tend to agree. That was some suspicious curry (and I know how to make curry).

Back on the train, Kitayama-kun expresses his thoughts in calligraphy at the close of the second day. Apparently, he wants India to like him.

The next day, having reached Jaipur, he has stomach issues (after only having the barest taste of that curry). He also decides he needs a bath, having gone without one for three days.

So, he heads for an inn, but finding one for the right price is tricky. The first place he goes to is called “Hotel Maharaja Palace.” The fact that he bothers to try this one suggests that he has a lot to learn. Just the name reeks of expense. Then there were the signs outside, which were all in English and said “budget hotel” and “homely stay.” That’s a dead giveaway that it’s a trap to suck money out of foreigners.

Luckily, Kitayama-kun is getting better at figuring out what constitutes a good prices, so when they ask for 2000 rupees, he turns it down right away. He also turns down a 600 rupee one, finally finding a place that offered a half day stay for 200.

In his first successful attempt at bargaining, he got it down to 150.

Of course, it’s a tiny compartment, but it does have the one thing he needs: a shower. Well . . . let’s just call it running water.

Anyway, it’s better than nothing, and he gets to his first bed in three days, too.

Leaving a few hours later (by the way, how many times is he going to mention that it’s hot?), he has to immediately go in search of medicine, because his stomach is in pain. Frankly, I was worried that the medicine might be worse than the illness. It didn’t exactly come in an identifiable package.

He then discovers why Jaipur is called the “pink city.”

He wants souvenirs, but can’t afford them. Then he spots a real sight – the Palace of Winds.

To close the fourth episode, he tries to find a bus to Agra, aiming to see the Taj Mahal. That’s easier said than done. He gets the ticket, but the buses don’t have signs saying what their destination is, so he has to ask someone in every bus whether the bus is going to Agra.

He finally finds the right one and gets a special seat in the front cab.

At the start of the fifth episode, he reaches Agra that night after a six-hour bus ride. On the road, he encounters Ness-kun, who likes to stand in front of cameras.

Kitayama’s hungry, but doesn’t dare trust the food at all the stands he sees, so he heads straight for a hotel. This one unfortunately costs him 480 rupees, but he looks too weak to hunt for something cheaper or negotiate. He hits the sack after rinsing his clothing and hanging them to dry.

In the debriefing, the main point is how the impact of the trip is most powerful immediately after the person returns.

Recovering enough to write his message for the day in Agra, Kitayama-kun presents it to the camera. He says that he’s been using Tokyo as a crutch to live – realizing that he is unable to survive without the copious resources available to him in that one tiny part of the world.

Kitayama-kun gets out at 11:30 the next day feeling a lot better.

Unfortunately, he still hasn’t learned his lesson about sit-down restaurants and the prices he can expect in one. He heads to a place called “Taj Mahal Restaurant” which . . . well, it’s got to be too expensive for him, right?

Well, I guess it’s better than a stomach ache (or a potential fatality), but 480 rupees is tough on his budget.

What could be worse? How about the 750 rupee admission cost into the Taj Mahal for a foreign tourist. Glancing at the boards, I thought I saw the prices at 20 rupees for an Indian tourist. Well, I guess that’s to be expected.

He had to do it, though. There was no going back to Japan without seeing the Taj Mahal.

They don’t allow filming inside the Taj Mahal (I guess you would have to get a permit or something), so Kitayama-kun just narrates the pictures they took while inside.

Next up, he decides to try for his second UNESCO World Heritage site of the day – the Fort of Agra. As he walks in, though, he’s stopped by a guard. Turns out he needs a ticket for this one, as well. He decides that the 250 rupee price is too much and that he’ll just enjoy it from outside.

I have to say, though, that the inside of Agra Fort is probably more impressive than the interior of the Taj Mahal. You see, it’s actually a walled city with a number of buildings inside. It’s older than the Taj Mahal, and the interior architecture was added to by a number of emperors, including the one who commissioned the Taj. Between the two, I’d pick the fort, but it’s clear from the admission prices that most people pick the Taj. Oh, well.

On the way out, Kitayama-kun gets an odd offer. A fellow approaches him saying that he can take him to a “nice place” for 20 rupees. Credit to Kitayama-kun, he tries to bargain the price down to 10 without even knowing where the heck he’s going to be taken. That’s the spirit!

I’m impressed by Kitayama’s complete lack of paranoia (or, if you’re the pessimistic type, utter gullibility). In this case, it pays off, as the guy shows him a spot where he has a full view (from the outside, of course) of both the Taj Mahal and the Agra Fort at the same time.

His next destination is Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges. That means another sleeper train, and he’s already dreading it. When he sees how packed the train is, he realizes that it’s even worse than he imagined.

On the platform, he meets a strange fellow who has probably been partying a bit too hard. The guy tries to show Kitayama-kun a dance. Kitayama, obedient as always, imitates. In the process, he gets kissed on the cheek by a mustached man. I guess that’s called making friends.

Inside the train, he’s bunking alongside a family, and feels like he’s intruding.

With that, we move on to the sixth episode, and start in the debriefing restaurant, where they talk about the trains in India, and specifically about how they can be an hour late, and how crowded they are.

Going back to the actual travelogue, we see Kitayama-kun realizing how horrible his money situation really is after the Taj Mahal restaurant and the Taj Mahal itself. He spent 2148 rupees altogether on the fourth day, making it the costliest so far. He’s left with less than 1000 rupees for the remaining four days – half of the trip time.

Fortunately, the plan was always that he was going to spend a couple of days in Varanasi, so at least he won’t have any traveling to do for that time. Also, he packed some canned food in case of emergencies. Feeling that it’s rude for him to eat alone, he awkwardly offers some to the others in the berth, but they just give him angry looks, so he enjoys it on his own.

All that’s left is the final message for the fourth day: “ii jan ii jan” (isn’t it good/okay/nice?).

The train stops at Mughal Sarai, and he needs to find a way to get from there to Varanasi.

Unfortunately, he really doesn’t have money left to get one of the auto rickshaws – they were asking for 300 rupees. So, he asks how far away it is, and finds out (with some difficulty) that it’s 15 km.

He decides to walk it. It ends up being a three-hour walk for him.

Along the way, he reflects on his youth. He mentions playing with mud, an elementary school friend named Hasegawa who ate ants, and the fact that Kitayama himself ate paste in art class in kindergarten because he thought it would make him popular. Started out as an entertainer at a young age, eh?

Returning to the debriefing restaurant, they finally get their food. Sure enough, it’s Indian food – the type that’s safe for people outside of India. It looks absolutely delicious .

After they talk about the food a bit, we’re taken back to Varanasi, where Kitayama-kun is trying to figure out where the Ganges river is. On the way, he encounters a snake charmer . . .

. . . and gets charmed out of another 10 rupees.

By the end of the episode, he finally sees the river. We’ll pick up on his Varanasi adventures in the next episode.

It’s going to be real interesting to see how the other six episodes turn out, since he’s got about a tenth of his original budget left – around sixteen dollars.

The best part of this show is that it doesn’t dwell much on what a conventional travelogue show would – the sites, monuments, and festivals. Instead, it’s much more about how people really live in India, day to day. I’ve never been very interested in buildings, but I’m endlessly fascinated by people.

Beyond that, the fact that Kitayama-kun is so patently naïve – and called that by the announcer – makes this a compelling coming-of-age story (even though he’s a bit too old for that, strictly speaking – better late than never, I guess). With his positive attitude, he won the viewer’s support right from the start, and we’re rooting for him to figure it all out and do Johnny’s proud.

Thanks again to jounetsu-8 at livejournal for the excellent and absolutely essential subtitles.

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