The topic for this episode of Aiba Manabu (相葉マナブ) was tea, and it basically followed the format of the bamboo shoot episode, with Aiba-kun and his crew going out in search of a tea farmer, learning about tea, and then having a tea-infused meal. There wasn’t much of a competition this time, though.

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Aiba-kun looks serious in the screenshots, but he gives a nice, cheerful “ittekimasu” as he departed headquarters.

His buddies this time were Suzuki Taku-san, Watabe Ken-san, and the almost-ever-present Sawabe Yuu-san. With his involvement in the “Ii Mise Kudoi Mise” segment on Arashi ni Shiyagare, we’ve been seeing a lot of Watabe Ken-san around Arashi recently, too.

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As with the bamboo shoot episode, they had to first find the tea farmer in what otherwise looked like a perfectly normal town. Given the needle-in-haystack situation, the only way they would have any hope would be to ask around.

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They get distracted by practically every green plant they see, and eventually they get the help of their Kanagawa flora instructor Saito-san (who barely got speaking lines in this one because of how loud the other guys were). His job was basically to point out which leaves along the path were edible.

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Aiba-kun said that the aftertaste of the plant that the instructor picked out was creamy. A creamy aftertaste? I guess it’s possible because the plant was a vetch – a family of bean/pea plants (カラスノエンドウ – which is actually 烏野豌豆, so I have no idea why they write it in katakana instead of kanji. It fooled me into thinking it was a name I might recognize). Judging from Wikipedia, most vetch species are used for fodder, and only for human consumption as a last resort. A lot of the species seem to be toxic if eaten in large quantity (primarily because unlike cows or camels, we don’t have the digestive equipment to deal with it properly). I trust the tiny bit they ate was fine, though.

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They eventually hit some proper farms, and even though the first place wasn’t growing tea, they took an interest anyway. The guy there said something about 農業の塾 – nougyou no juku, which I translate as agriculture cram school/private school. What they were looking at was a cash crop plantation (金子農園 – kinsu nouen).

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I can only guess that they teach students how to care for a wide variety of plants at this place. The plant that Aiba’s crew took an interest in was the turnip (get ready for a flurry of “umai” and “amai” – I wish that there was a law requiring them to pay a 100 yen tax (or perhaps give 100 yen to charity) every time they used the words, sort of the way people try to break the habit of saying “umm” or swearing).

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Moving right along, they eventually hit a likely looking field:

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The fellow in charge of this tea farm is Kinoshita-san, and he’s willing to play host to them.

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They spend some time harvesting some tea by hand . . .

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. . . we get a brief look at the way tea is processed . . .

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. . . and then an explanation of were the real difference between green tea (緑茶 – ryoku cha), black tea (紅茶 – kou cha), oolong tea (ウーロン茶), and roasted green tea (ほうじ茶 – houji cha).

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Turns out processing the tea involves spending a lot of time handling by hand.

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They get a bit of a history lesson about the importation of tea from China during the Edo Period. The person credited with this is Nagatani Souen (永谷 宗円 – note that they use a different name for him in the show since Japanese changed their name on every major life event in those days, but this is the name you’ll find him with on the Japanese Wikipedia)

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After sufficiently massaging the tea (I really have no idea what they were doing – couldn’t translate the dialogue) while answering quiz questions about tea . . .

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. . . they started cooking using the fresh leaves, with Aiba-kun handling the fried rice.

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They had a pleasant meal under a tree.

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It was a fun and interesting episode, especially since I’d like to learn more about tea (I’m a coffee drinker, but I think my system would do better if I diversified a bit and the rest of my family is tea-drinking). I really wondered how hard it would be to grow tea leaves in California – I imagine it requires a lot of attention, but have no idea. There’s a barren backyard just waiting for me to do something with it . . . .

On the positive side, I don’t have anything new to say about the episode – everything that has worked for this show so far continues to make it amusing to watch. I do have one problem, though – so far, every episode except for the calorie one has involved food/drink, and even the calorie one was tangentially related to dietary stuff. I really hope they’re going to expand the range of topics a bit more. I don’t think it’ll get boring even if they keep it focused on food, but it could be a much better show if its horizons were as broad as possible, since we wouldn’t know what to expect. That’s what attracted me to the early Arashi shows (C, D, and G no Arashi). My copy of this episode didn’t include a preview of the next one, so I don’t know whether they’ll have something totally different right away or not.

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