After starting a few episodes on the road, Aiba-kun starts it in headquarters this time in Aiba Manabu (相葉マナブ), allowing the chief (that bronze engraved figure on the wall) to give him an explanation of this episode’s premise.

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Then the producers decided to toy with me. For many episodes, I’ve taken issue with the episode’s statistics, which are often outdated, omit key figures, or are otherwise liable to be misleading. So, they decided to break out the Japan Statistical Yearbook for 2013 to make me salivate. Among the things that I do, I write programs to crunch data like this to make economic projections.

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So . . . does this mean we can trust the statistics they have in this episode, at least? As long as they don’t compare Japan to other nations, they’re probably on safe ground – it’s always when they make international comparisons that their data is too sparse. They don’t seem to be aware that other industrialized countries collect similar statistics. But this will be an episode about Japanese consumption habits, so we should be all right.

The location shoot is in a very classic-style hotel. They could have done it anywhere, so it’s nice that they picked somewhere pleasant instead of, say, a studio.

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The guests this time were Tsuchida Teruyuki-san and Bibiru Oki-san – a more thoughtful pair suited to the quizzes we’ll get this time rather than some of the activity-filled episodes.

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The show was really all about the quiz questions, and I’m not going to give away the answer so you can play along (assuming a certain amount of Japanese language knowledge or a good dictionary). The first question was which fish Japanese purchase the most by weight.

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I’m not sure why they needed iPads to write their answers. In fact, I’ll go so far to say that I prefer the good old-fashioned whiteboard and marker, even if I can’t read their handwriting. It’s just a bit more organic.

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Aiba-kun decided to be less-than-serious with his choice (he picked Manila clam, which can’t possibly be right because of its limited uses), and after the other two expressed disbelief, he changed his choice to mackerel. Tsuchida-san picked salmon (my favorite) and Bibiru-san went with tuna – both very standard choices. I would have gone with tuna.

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As we’ve seen in previous episodes, they’re not short on specialists to explain things:

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The next question was which vegetable Japanese consume most. Some of the likely choices were already filled in.

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Aiba-kun managed to mess up on this one – he went with egg! I think he was aiming for popular salad ingredient rather than vegetable. He switched to squash.

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Who will win the meal by getting the top vegetable right?

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In between questions, they got a breath of fresh air and took in the beautiful surroundings while talking about the history of the place.

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Bibiru-san got a hint that Aiba-kun wasn’t really up on his history – especially on the Prime Ministers of Japan – when  he mentioned the third prime minister and Aiba-kun didn’t seem to recognize the name (which would be the rough equivalent of an American not recognizing the name of our third president – Thomas Jefferson).

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That led Bibiru-san quiz Aiba-kun, and Aiba-kun got Ito Hirobumi (Japan’s first prime minister), but he said it in such a soft and unsure voice that it drew a laugh from Tsuchida-san.

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Might this mean that we’ll get some history topics in future episodes? That would be fun (and necessary).

For now, they moved on to number of people who play each sport. Which sport gets the most participation from the Japanese people?

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Come on Aiba-kun! You can do it!

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Actually, none of them were able to get it right on their first try, even though they had good choices.

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Question four – what countries have Japanese been to the most? They filled in six of the ten this time – mainland U.S., Taiwan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, and Malaysia. Since the put mainland U.S. at #3, that probably means Hawaii is also somewhere in the standings. I wonder where the U.S. would be if Hawaii was included. Would that have been enough to put it in #2?

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Then we got a much more traditional economic question – that percentage of thirty-something Japanese are in each income bracket:

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Actually, the guys had to figure out which income bracket had the largest percentage. This is really, really easy if you’ve seen income statistics before, and even though they try to come up with special reasons for the answer, it’s really a familiar distribution around the world – even more so since the 2008 collapse.

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Back to food, after doing the veggies, they needed to figure out the most popular fruit for the sake of completeness.

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This time, it was unexpectedly Tsuchida-san with the fail:

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He wrote “habana” (Havana) instead of “banana”. Does he have a Cuba vacation on his mind?

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And there you have it – another excellent episode for Aiba Manabu. There are three main qualities that made this episode better than the previous one. First, it was focused on the participation of Aiba-kun and his buddies instead of on the specialists explaining things. Second, it was very easy for the audience to play along, and I think even English-speakers should have been able to do so by using some logic after seeing the graphics. And as an added touch, there was good humor with the fails that were sprinkled throughout. They might have had a bit to drink beforehand.

Also, after having episodes totally focused on one topic, it’s nice to have one on a broader array of subjects. It shows flexibility in the planning and keeps the viewer guessing about what the next week will bring. When it comes to variety shows, there’s nothing better than not knowing what they’re going to do next.