For its fourth episode, Aiba Manabu (相葉マナブ) returned to the theme of its first – what was born in Japan, and what wasn’t. In this case, it wasn’t just food – they decided to throw in a round with ten miscellaneous items, too, but still managed to sneak food into that segment as a prize.

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There’s enough variation in Aiba-kun’s initial talk with the chief that I don’t think this way of opening the show will get old for a while. Also, they thankfully get through it pretty quickly – just explaining the premise of the episode each time.

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Aiba-kun’s buddies this time were Tsuchida Teruyuki-san and Bibiru Oki-san. So, it looks like Sawabe-san isn’t going to be a constant presence, after all.

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If you didn’t catch the first episode, the first game is guessing which of ten dishes was born in Japan. Of the ten, only three are – one for each of the players. If they guess right, they get to eat the dish. Otherwise, they don’t.

The choices this time include taco rice, pilaf, shrimp chili, roast ham, and risotto.

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Bibiru-san was lacking in confidence, so they let him pick first.

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Aiba-kun shared his own view of which one was likely – taco rice – and to his surprise, Bibiru-san went with it.

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We get a VTR explaining the birth of taco rice. Don’t get me started on the depiction of what they view as an American.

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The currency explanation seemed to me to have a very weak connection to the explanation of how the dish was born, and I wondered about ulterior motives. You see, Japan is undergoing a controversial and deliberate attempt to reinflate its currency. This VTR discussed a period when Japan’s currency increased in value due to development of post-war commerce (as shown by the little shack icons turning into buildings). It’s not hard to see in this a criticism of the current policy – especially since it’s a lot harder to see its connection to taco rice.

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As Aiba-kun surmised, taco rice had its start in Okinawa . . .

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. . . and it’s actually younger than I am.

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Next, the question of Chili Shrimp grabs Tsuchida-san’s interest.

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Hearing them passionately discuss the logic behind their choices sure makes me wish I understood what they were saying.

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I’ll leave out the subsequent results – whether they’re really dishes born in Japan or not – so you can play along when watching.

Aiba-kun surely can’t be thinking of picking the hot dog, can he?

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No, no – of course not. He picks the pilaf.

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After the food round, they turned to an assortment of other items including vinyl umbrellas, calculators, stopwatches, jump ropes, balance balls, pencil sharpeners, and unicycles.

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The food prizes was high-class sushi.

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At first, they don’t seem to know where to start.

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None of the items are obviously foreign to them.

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Were highlighters born in Japan?

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Regarding the calculator, there was some discussion of the origins of the abacus.

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While it seemed like they would have to do janken to establish the selection order, Aiba-kun decided that they should point at their picks first, and only do janken if two of them picked the same item.

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They each chose different things, so there was no janken. Aiba-kun went with the hand-held calculator, after all.

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An expert explained the origins of the items, telling them whether their choices were right or wrong.

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Somehow, they managed to tie vinyl umbrellas to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. This was the first of two times they mentioned the Tokyo Olympics and tied it to Japanese inventiveness, and I wondered whether there was an ulterior motive here, too. After all, there’s a lot of effort to mobilize support to win the 2020 Olympics for Tokyo (the other candidates are Istanbul and Madrid, and the selection is due to be made on September 7th).

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By the way, here’s the succulent prize, which comes at a price of 1600 yen (roughly $16 a piece):

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Will Aiba-kun be right about the hand-held calculator?

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Perhaps you can guess where the unicycle came from? That, at least, no one seemed to think originated in Japan.

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I think it’s safe to say this was a fun episode. As with the first episode, it was easy to play along. However, it improved on the first episode by having more than just food. Because of that, we got some interesting stories about the origins of things – stories that are usually much harder to pin-down with food than with stuff like calculators. As I indicated, I’m a bit skeptical about the explanations of why inventions came about – who and how are usually easy to figure out, but pretty much everything important occurring at the same time could contribute to an explanation of why. Alexander Graham Bell didn’t come up with the telephone for one reason or another, but it was a rich confluence of factors that let to the invention.

Aiba-kun and his friends had excellent chemistry, as in all the episodes so far. Really, I haven’t seen such good flow to a variety show in a long time. I really wonder whether they have to do multiple takes to get it going right, or if it’s as natural as it seems and they get it down in a single take or a couple of takes.

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