For the first time, Aiba Manabu (相葉マナブ) did not start with the normal classroom scene. And there’s no mystery why they didn’t – there was too much stuff in this episode to waste any time with preliminaries. The topic was to learn about the wisdom and industriousness of the Japanese people from shopping districts, but more specifically the small 100 yen shops and the like rather than the big department stores or supermarkets.

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The guests this time were Watabe-san and Sawabe-san. We’ve been seeing a lot of these two lately, haven’t we? At least Sawabe-san is occasionally funny – I’m not sure what Watabe-san contributes, though I’m sure Aiba-kun will be fine working with him.

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There’s been a decline in the number of stores in shopping districts since 1985, as the tendency has been towards large-scale stores that handle a wide range of goods instead of the small specific shops that this episode will focus on. I have to once again point out, though, that the statistics on this show suck. Yes, at least they got an up-to-date number this time, but you can’t just give two data points over a twenty-seven year period. For all we know, the drop hit bottom in the late 90s and has been slowly recovering since.

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The team heads to Satake shopping district, which a sign revealed was the second oldest in Japan.

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They first stop into a nice little produce market, where they accost a shopper to see what she was buying – it was zucchini for soup.

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Actually, they had entered an annex of the mini-supermarket – the main store was on the other side of the walkway. There was no point sticking around the place, though. Like I said there’s a lot to do in this episode.

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For instance, there’s the shop of this delightful lady – Yoshima Tsuyako-san.

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At 84 years of age, she looks ideally suited to provide them with tea that might increase their longevity.

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Aiba-kun’s excitement level continues to increase . . .

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. . . as they head into a clothes store, stocked with a wide variety including kimonos. The store’s been around for 76 years, and Aiba-kun wonders what the secret to continuing for so long is.

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Apparently, the secret is to match the changes of the times. The contents of the store certainly seemed completely contemporary – even including tee-shirts – and didn’t feel out-of-place in this decade despite the age of the store.

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It did have some old touches though – the rulers were in an old scale with one unit (寸 – sun) = 3.8 cm in the long shaku  or around 3 cm in the common shaku. Some dictionaries translate 寸 as a tenth of a foot, which is close, or an inch, which is not. The Rikaichan toolbar gives 3.03 cm, and that sounds like the right number for the common shaku.

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They also see other old items. There was an episode in either D no Arashi or G no Arashi where the guys went to a lot of little shops like this trying to find the oldest item that had gone unsold. This was starting to remind me of that episode, even though it wasn’t their intention to look for old things here.

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This is a gramophone:

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And the store owner even brings out a record to give it a try, and it works, producing a sound out of the early part of the 20th century.

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He’s also got a box of hand-charged flashlights that still work. They don’t make them like that anymore.

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As interesting as that shop was, they just don’t have enough time, and have to keep moving.

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They don’t even go into this guy’s cafe – talking to him about the store’s name (Rocky) outside the door.

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The castellas draw them into a bakery, though.

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They get to see a 4.8 kg castella . . .

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. . . and of course get a bite to eat.

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Another coffee shop’s unique style draws them in.

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You see, this cafe has tables with one of the ultimate classic video games – Space Invaders. This is so geeky-cool:

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I love that they still keep this stuff in running order.

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Next was a 100 yen shop with the normal eclectic variety of goods.

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This ends up being just a flood of stuff they were amazed by, and I’m not going to list everything that catches their eye. Here are some highlights:

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The pattern of them finding interest items in shops continued at a futon shop which had been around for 125 years.

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This shop had an extremely elaborate safe:

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Figures that a futon shop would go that far back.

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They even explore the futon shop’s basement . . .

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. . . and in a stack of books . . .

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. . . find some really old baseball books. It’s like the pile was just waiting for Aiba-kun, the baseball enthusiast.

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This treasure deserves some extra time. Get a load of how they all huddle around the magazines with intense interest.

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Clearly this find is the climax of the show, and they brought in an extra guest – an appraiser of some sort who told them the value of the books.

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After that, they went to eat a proper meal (no, a castella and tea is not sufficient food).

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Even in the last minute, they showed Aiba-kun spotting something else . . . .

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This episode was all about the process of discovery, and since we didn’t know what they were going to find next (and there were so many neat things to find), it was fun. I ended up wanting to wander through the Satake shopping district myself – it sure has more character than any mall I’ve ever been in.

Aiba-kun really drove most of the action with his energy. There was hardly a scene where he wasn’t in top form – excited about everything. With him so engaged, it was impossible for the viewer not to be.

I continue to like where this show is going with its episode-by-episode variety, location shooting, and focused topics that still allow for a range of activities.