This series featured Kitayama Hiromitsu-kun of Kis-My-Ft2 backpacking for 8 days across India on a 10000 yen (about $120) budget. Episodes 1-3 were reviewed here, 4-6 here, and 7-9 here. This review covers the episodes which aired on September 10th, September 17th, and September 24th 2012, the last three of the series.

In these three episodes, Kitayama-kun has to get from Varanasi to Calcutta with virtually no budget. This leaves him with only one option – hitchhike.

In the debriefing restaurant, Kitayama-kun reflects on how his budgeting ended up so flawed.

On the road outside Varanasi, it’s tough enough to get anyone to stop . . .

. . . but even when they do, he gets no luck, as they spurn him for one reason or another.

After two hours, he starts to lose hope.

Then suddenly, he has success:

He tries to talk to the others in the van, but they apparently didn’t understand English (his pronunciation was fine).

That leaves him with four uncomfortable hours on the road to Bodh Gaya to reflect on his journey.

He arrives at Bodh Gaya unsure of where he is and how to spend the night.

Finding a hotel within his budget proves tricky.

He ends up at an establishment with a better exterior than interior – a guest house with minimal amenities in dubious repair that charged 150 rupees for the night.

In this wrap-up for the day, he gives himself full marks for conserving his remaining cash, then tries to get excited about canned food because he can’t deal with the quiet.

Finally, he writes down his closing thoughts, basing them on Kumiko-san’s parting words to him.

The next morning was the start of his seventh day in India, and  before he could get out of the hotel courtyard, he bumped into a couple of kids.

Well, that’s one thing we can be sure of: Kitayama-kun has no trouble with kids. There’s a bit of a hitch when they ask for money, but he quickly dodges that and stumbles on people trying to cut apart a huge tree. Kitayama-kun expresses concern for a 62 year-old on one side of the saw.

Then he tries to chip in, but finds out it’s not easy at all, and that the old man must be amazingly tough. He persists for a while, but ends up leaving in disgrace.

With that, he heads through Bodh Gaya to the Mahabodhi Temple – the Great Awakening Temple – commemorating the place where Buddha attained enlightenment.

We pick up his approach to the Mahabodhi Temple in the September 17th episode, and since it’s holy ground, he has to take off his shoes.

But because the path to the temple is fully exposed to the sun, it’s extremely hot, and Kitayama-kun ends up gingerly waddling up to the temple building. All the way, he shouts “atsui!” (it’s hot!) in what has to be the most awkward and hilarious approach to the Mahabodhi temple ever filmed.

Inside, there’s the requisite statue, and Kitayama-kun says the sorts of things you’re supposed to say when you visit a place like this.

Behind the temple is the Bodhi tree. It’s a direct descendent of the original sacred fig tree that gave its shade to Buddha’s meditations, and was planted in 288 B.C.

Calling it a healing spot, Kitayama-kun decides to try meditating there, but it doesn’t look like he spends much time there. He doesn’t strike me as the type of person who can sit still for very long.

Wandering around a bit, he discovers a monk engaged in prostration prayer and, making me totally cringe, actually interrupted the man. I don’t think I could have brought myself to do that.

Anyway, the monk, being compassionate, teaches Kitayama-kun how he prays.

The monk also mentions the fact that he does it from five in the morning to eight or nine in the evening, and the prescribed number of times is 100,000 (no, that’s not a typo or a mistranslation).

Kitayama-kun’s reactions to this are unbelievably funny. I mean, it was total tourist talk.

He then leaves the Mahabodhi Temple with soles on fire and soul set on one thing – eating a mango. The vendor offers one for 10 rupees, and Kitayama-kun actually tries to talk the price down to 3. Showing that he’s getting better at this, he gets it for 5.

Then he gets to enjoy his mango.

After that, he realizes that he needs to eat something more substantial. Doing his accounts in his head, he figures the train ticket to Calcutta will cost 300 rupees, leaving him 110 rupees for a meal.

Since Bodh Gaya is a pilgrimage destination for all Buddhists, he’s able to find a place that boasts “Indian, South Indian, Chinese, Tibetan, Japanese, Italian, Continental Dishes Available Here.” Well, that’s sure covering all the most likely customers.

In the menu, Kitayama-kun sees “Goiza.” He then orders goiza (gyoza, of course) along with what looks like a pretty substantial meal for the price.

Fortified, it’s time for him to make his final train trip in India. But first, he needs to get to the station. Asking a guy in a car, he finds out that it’s ten kilometers away. There’s no point even thinking about paying for a ride or hitchhiking – he just walks the distance and enjoys the scenery.

With that, we come to the last episode of the series, which begins (after a brief recap) with Kitayama-kun arriving at the train station.

On the train, he’s approached by a boy with glasses (メガネ少年 – megane shounen) who must have detected that Kitayama-kun was friendly to young people and, more importantly, bored.

Kitayama-kun then tries hard to entertain the kid, starting with “voice percussion”, then demonstrating kana, and finally getting the kid to draw his face.

Kitayama-kun then added portrait of the boy, and this is how it turned out:

It was then time for him to write his encapsulating thought for the day in his sketchbook. He looked back through the thoughts he wrote for the earlier days, and they showed highlights, before he got down to adding the final contribution.

He arrives at Calcutta with 80 rupees left, and only one thing left to buy – another mango. The quoted price this time is way out-of-bounds – 60 rupees! What’s up with that?

Well, apparently it’s best quality, according to the sticker on it (which actually appears to read “BFST QUALITY”. Since it’s all he wants to do with the money, anyway, he buys it without arguing the price, and also gets a lassi to use up the 20 rupees.

His goal in Calcutta is Babughat, which is sort of an ultimate terminal point for all modes of transportation – an open-air Grand Central Station, if you will – in Calcutta. There, he dunked himself in the mouth of the Ganges.

And that’s that. He has successfully completed a journey across India with 10000 yen. おめでとう, 北山君!

At the debriefing restaurant, he gets a chance to express his final thoughts about the journey.

For what it’s worth, I think it was a truly great series. It was great because Kitayama-kun clearly needed the experience, but more importantly because he was open to the experience. It was also important that he was challenged by the limitation of 10000 yen, forcing him to make tough decisions at every turn. Many people go on vacation and learn nothing from the experience because they have all the stock experiences that are generic everywhere – navigate the airport, check into a comfy hotel, visit the sights, see some museums, go to some temples, eat the local food at restaurants that make it palatable to foreigners, and that’s it. The best thing about this series was that Kitayama-kun was effectively prevented from taking it easy and treating it like a vacation.

It is impossible, then, not to contrast it a bit with what his successors in the Johnny’s Journey series – Takaki-kun and Chinen-kun – are doing in France. So far, they really look like they’re on vacation. The biggest struggles they’ve faced are being unable to communicate with locals, and getting lost – two stock experiences that won’t really help them grow out of their naiveté.

I don’t think Kitayama-kun came away from this thinking of it as a vacation, or even as work. Oh, I think he thought it was both of those things on the first day, judging from that beer he had, but by the second day he must have realized that he was on nothing less than a mission to get to Calcutta. The way he kept track of his money after that first day proved the point.

Did Kitayama-kun really end up a better person after this? I guess we’ll have to watch and find out.

 

 

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