I haven’t made any attempt to disguise how much I dislike the Tokyo Ii Mise Kudoi Mise segment that has been added recently to the beginning of Arashi ni Shiyagare (嵐にしやがれ) episodes. So, you can imagine how . . . thrilled . . . I was when I saw this episode was a Tokyo Ii Mise Kudoi Mise special, where the normally ten minute segment would take the entire hour.

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I confess, I considered not reviewing it at all, but since all five members are involved, I decided to give it a chance. Also, it helped that Watabe Ken-san wasn’t their guide this time – instead, they’re going to have a series of more prominent guest guides.

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It’s also been a while since we’ve seen them all stuffed into a van, and their chatter was amusing. They tried to play shiritori, but so slowly it was more as a distraction to pass the time than a competition.

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I think the tedious part this time is not so much the restaurants, but their guest guides. Incidentally, though the show translates “kudoi” as “tedious” in its title, the word also means long-winded, gaudy, and loud – aspects that aren’t quite captured by the word tedious.

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I mention that because the first kudoi epicure is Takeuchi Riki-san, and while I might describe him as gaudy and loud, and perhaps verbose, I don’t think tedious is quite the word for him.

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The van cam suddenly got a lot more interesting:

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Somehow, I always catch Ninomiya-kun making interesting faces:

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Ninomiya-kun panicked about Takeuchi-san being loud – it was late at night and he didn’t want to disturb people – but Takeuchi-san isn’t the type to be bothered by that sort of consideration. That’s what makes him kudoi.

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Takeuchi-san leads them to a sushi place with shabu shabu.

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Actually, the sushi chef is pretty kudoi himself, and Sakurai-san can’t tell if he’s making jokes or not.

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Well, here’s some shots of them eating . . .

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. . . and the super-expensive food.

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There was an additional wrinkle involving a kudoi NTV announcer who stopped by to introduce a special kudoi rule: that one member would have to pay for everyone’s meal, and Takeuchi-san would pick the name out of a box.  You just saw that the total price was 21,000 yen, or around $210, and the night is just starting. I don’t know if their name gets placed back in the box after they get picked – if so, it could get costly.

Obviously, I won’t say who had to pay for that round, so let’s just move on. Off they went to meet their second guest/host.

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It was professional gourmet Hikomaro-san (彦摩呂), and again he made for a formidable figure in the center seat.

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Another Ninomiya look:

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And this time, the restaurant involved a lot of wood, and otherwise featured soba.

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Did I say soba? I meant handmade soba:

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The guys get their fill of it . . .

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. . . the chef interrupted their meal to prove that he’s kudoi but the guys just slurped their way through the talk . . .

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. . . and Hikomaro-san picked the Arashi who would pay for it all.

On to person number three.

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This time, they got someone who fit a bit better in the center seat – Nakayama Hideyuki-san.

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This time they went to Akasaka, to a place that specialized in yakiniku. We’re hitting all the Japanese cuisine basics in this episode – sushi, soba, yakiniku . . . what could be the number four?

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The owner of the restaurant used to be a pro baseball player. That’s . . . nice. There’s sort of a thing with former athletes getting into the restaurant business, isn’t there?

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The meat sure looked good, but that’s all thanks to some assistant director who spent an hour posing it, getting the lighting just right, and pouring sauce over it.

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Naturally, the owner had to give a little talk, but his heart really wasn’t into this attempt at being kudoi.

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A portrait of the bliss of eating from MatsuJun:

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But that bliss is going to come at a cost to one of the Arashis . . .

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. . . and the price tag for all six of them this time is 41,580 yen – around $416.

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At this point, you have to wonder: aren’t they full? Surely they’re ready to call it a night?

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Then this guy enters the vehicle:

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That, as you might have guessed, is a sumo wrestler. More specifically, he’s the 64th yokozuna, Akebono-san.

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The guys had been hoping for a light dessert after finishing off three main courses already, but ‘light’ isn’t a word anyone is likely to associate with Akebono-san.

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Once again, Nino-kun ends up involved in the best screencaps:

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They actually go to a steak house that caters to pro wrestling fans. Sushi, soba, yakiniku . . .  then steak? MatsuJun despairs that steak is impossible.

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With widespread disbelief at the size of the situation (640 g of meat) . . .

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. . . the meal arrives. Maybe they should split it five ways like A.B.C-Z did in Australia.

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No such luck, of course. They’re all putting on weight tonight!

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After that, there was some supplementary silliness . . .

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. . . and then Akebono-san had to pick out who would pay the bill.

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The show ended with a 24-hour TV preview, with the title saying that one out of every 22 people in Japan is a foreigner (I’d love to know if they think that’s a high ratio or a low one), and they wonder what those foreigners think is Japan’s good points or bad points.

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It looks like Nino-kun handles the interviews, and I love this one – he’s asking Indians how Japanese curry is. I can put it in one word right now: bland. On the bright side, it’s also healthier than Indian curry, which tends to involve more oil.

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There’s no doubt that this episode was better than simply an extension of the regular segment. First of all, having all five Arashi members present restored the balance of personalities is lacking in the normal segment (or, for that matter, in their former show Himitsu no Arashi). The guests were also excellent. See how much better things could be if it isn’t Watabe Ken-san every time, but a different talent each week? Though, let’s face it, the best moment was when the last guest turned out to be Akebono-san. That was epic.

But this was not better than a normal episode of Arashi ni Shiyagare, which might involve some sitting and eating, but otherwise still involves a variety of other activities. Unlike a normal episode, this special was far less unique – it looked a lot more like any number of other shows on Japanese TV.

The Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi this time was an easy choice for me – it was Ninomiya-kun. He really secured it when he was trying to get Takeuchi-san to quiet down, and followed up with a number of good moments, including one where he had to drag Ohno-san out of a restaurant. The 24-hr TV preview also added to his contributions. Ohno-san also merited consideration.