In “Johnny’s Journey – Hey! Say! JUMP Takaki Yuya & Chinen Yuri Futarikki France Juudan Kakuekiteisha no Tabi”, Hey! Say! Jump members Takaki Yuya-kun and Chinen Yuri-kun are at the doorstep of Nice – their intended destination after eight days of train travel through France.

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But first, they close out the seventh day at the town of Digne-les-Bains. Well . . . not at Digne, per se. Despite hopes that they had traveled to Digne for some reason – perhaps to do something interesting or to meet people – it turns out that they just wanted to take a very particular route to Nice.

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In particular, they wanted to take this little train:

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But they’re so close to Nice already! Surely heading there on this train is premature? What’s so great about this train anyway? It certainly has a comfy and well-upholstered interior . . .

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. . . but the real attractions seems to be the chance to go up to the conductor’s cab, and to look out on the scenery from there:

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Somehow, Chinen-kun looks the more enthusiastic here than he’s been in the whole show so far. Maybe he’s finally gotten over the jet lag? Or maybe there’s something about this particular experience that he likes. I can’t really say why he lights up the way he does here, but he definitely does.

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Their immediate destination turns out not to be Nice, but the tiny walled town of Entrevaux. Aha! So this is why they went this way! Entrevaux is not unlike Mont St. Michel, except it’s built on a hillside instead of an island, and is therefore not quite as striking in its beauty.

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When they stop there, they pretend not to know what it is, but that’s just silly. They wouldn’t have gone this way at all if not to see this.

And I swear, all of Chinen-kun’s early weariness seems to have transferred to Takaki-kun somehow. As they cross the equivalent of the moat, go between the two gateway towers . . .

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. . . through the tight alleyways that were built for a different era . . .

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. . . and then start climbing up to the fortress heights, Takaki-kun ends up in a dire situation as Chinen-kun dashes forward.

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Ultimately, Chinen-kun takes Takaki-kun’s bag to help the big fellow out, but that seemed to be just for show, since he didn’t hang onto it for very long.

At the top, they do what they’ve dong so often before – take in the scenery.

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Seems like they do this every other episode, doesn’t it?

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I mean, yeah, it’s beautiful and everything, but they just got done with the Alps. It’s tough to be impressed by this landscape after the Mont Blanc , the paragliding, and Mont St-Michel.

Once up there, the focus is on Nice, which is they say is on the other side of the mountains. Really, by running up, they failed to really take in the features of Entrevaux itself. The citadel was actually constructed relatively recently, with major fortifications – including the entry towers – built in the 17th century. That was after the original fortress had fallen to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor – one of the most influential monarchs in European history – in the 16th century. After the residents rebelled against the governor Charles put in charge (slitting his throat) and returned the town to France, they were exempt from taxes.

Oh, and the place was also used in World War I as a prison.

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Don’t worry – they didn’t bother mentioning any of the history – I got it from Wikipedia. I guess pulling the interesting parts of a guide book entry about the place is too boring for them, so they just stared at the hills, looking forward to Nice. Got to say, though – it’s a nice shot.

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Actually, it’s pretty interesting to watch this series and figure out where the cameraman must be standing. Sometimes, it’s downright unbelievable where they get to in order to shoot some video from the right angle. The camera people never get the recognition they deserve, and I really think, more than anyone else in this, they’ve been beyond reproach.

With that said, night falls, and the two travelers are once again in search of a restaurant. Takaki-kun follows his nose.

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Chinen-kun is so impressed by Takaki-kun’s ability to sniff out the direction that he compares Takaki-kun to a police dog.

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They find an expensive-looking place with an expensive name – L’Ambassade. But, as usual, it’s probably not going to be as outrageously priced as it could be.

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Takaki-kun’s French is getting better, I think. As it does, though, Chinen-kun seems to talk less and less to the locals.

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I’m not sure how to describe what they end up getting:

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I really have no idea. Call it a chef specialty, though it certainly doesn’t look like the most expensive thing the chef could have cooked up. No, it looks more like the dish you give to people when you’re not too sure what they can afford. The boys seemed to enjoy it, but with fewer “umai”s this time.

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I don’t think they were really blown away by this meal.

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They ended up talking about what their favorite meals in France was, and Chinen-kun, showing that he still hasn’t really gotten his feet wet in France at all, picked the sushi. Takaki-kun was little better – he picked the cheese fondue. Honestly, we’re talking about France here, and they haven’t exactly kept a tight knot on the purse, but it seems they never really opened themselves up to the place.

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There is no element of culture that is easier to grasp than food. If they can’t come up with something new they tasted in France that they couldn’t have tasted in Japan, then they really didn’t partake of France at all. Even Kitayama-kun, with his absurdly tight budget, was able to talk about the different meals he was able to eat in India, and conclude that his favorite thing in India were the mangoes – which Indians are actually quite proud of, by the way (India is the original cultivator of mangos, and the largest producer of mangoes, but consumes nearly all of its stock, so it’s difficult to get Indian mangoes outside of the country).

But once again, I digress. As they put into a hotel for their last evening in France, Takaki-kun takes charge of the last diary entry.

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Takaki-kun’s entry is fairly general in its tone, but I can’t translate it very well. He does include thoughts about the bond between them and how good it was to travel with Chinen-kun.

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With that, the seventh day ends, and it’s not time for the gachapon talk. No – this time, they finally decided to talk about the trip. No silly generic questions from a dispenser. This time, it was about how they thought the trip had changed them (or something in that neighborhood).

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They didn’t really mention anything substantial, though. Takaki-kun said that they talked a lot on the trains. Wished we could have seen some more of that, actually. We didn’t really get as much of a sense of them as I was hoping we would. They continued to keep the audience at arm’s length instead of trying to draw us in.

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Chinen-kun said he liked the atmosphere between them. Well, there’s no question that they looked comfortable around each other.

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The eighth day dawns in the Var valley, and the two travelers set off. Takaki-kun is so ready for the beach (or for home) that he’s already wearing shorts and sandals.

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It’s back to the train station again, but this time for the last time. They marvel at the dawn creeping over the mountains.

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And then we go back to the debriefing room, where Chinen-kun suggests that Yabu-kun and Hikaru-kun should go on a trip, too. Honestly, the two of them are so stable and smooth, it might even move slower than this series did (unless they had to get through somewhere less hospitable than France, of course).

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Yabu-kun points out that Kitayama-kun would be pissed if they had fun, and they all have a laugh at Kitayama-kun’s expense. So mean. And also, not very perceptive. I think, despite the discomfort, Kitayama-kun had more fun on his trip than Takaki and Chinen did on theirs. At least, he had experiences worth remembering and talking about.

I have to say, though, I really like Yabu-kun’s idea here. He actually suggests the Paris-Dakar Rally race course. That’s one hard trip, and would definitely be worth watching. There was a BBC travelogue a few years back where they tried to complete the actual Dakar rally, and it was quite fascinating.

I would love to see Yabu and Hikaru really try to drive the Dakar rally route, though I doubt the producers are interested in putting up the money for that sort of thing. Even if they don’t do it as a race, they’ll need some decent wheels, and that’s going to cost much more than Yamapi’s Route 66 truck.

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I don’t mind Chinen-kun’s idea, either, though Yabu-kun and Hikaru-kun might. He suggested they ride bicycles through Russia in winter. Well, I think Kitayama-kun would like to watch that one.

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And that’s how it ended with one episode left. This episode was a total reversal. For the first time, the talk segment with Yabu-kun and Hikaru-kun was almost more interesting than the trip itself. The Digne-Entrevaux phase didn’t have much to it – not after what we’ve already seen in series. The only decent bit was when they went up to the conductor’s booth on the train. Otherwise, it was just one big yawn.

Meanwhile, as expected, the conversation with Yabu-kun and Hikaru-kun was much better with them staying on-topic. There weren’t any great surprises, but it flowed well with the rest of the episode for the first time, and didn’t seem like filler.

Alright, next one is the last one. Let’s see whether they end strongly or, as recent episodes had suggested, with the programming equivalent of a nap.

Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor