It looks like even in the spring season, the Winter Olympics continues to be prominent in the mind of whoever books guests for Arashi ni Shiyagare (嵐にしやがれ), because after two figure skaters and a snowboarder, the guest this time was freestyle skier Uemura Aiko-san. Uemura-san has participated in five Olympics – a striking fact on its own – making her first appearance in the 1998 Nagano Olympics.

At the start of the show, the Arashi members congratulated Uemura-san on her retirement from the sport and Ohno-san presented her with with flowers.

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This show seems to have become a first stop for athletes after they retire – Uemura-san is not the first one to make Arashi ni Shiyagare her first appearance after announcing an end to her competitive career.

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And perhaps that’s because of the Sakurai connection – Sakurai-san interviewed her on NEWS ZERO in October of last year.

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Sakurai-san asks her to give her impressions of each of the members, and she seems to have a pretty good read on them. She definitely watches their shows, and it sounds like her husband is an Ohno-san fan.

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After a brief VTR explaining Uemura-san’s specialty – the mogul . . .

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. . . Ninomiya-kun led his usual biography segment. Actually, it feels like we haven’t seen this in a long time.

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Now, Uemura-san wasn’t born in Nagano, but her family moved there when she was very young and she lived there for most of her life. It must really be something to participate in your first Olympics with your home town as the host city!

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Out of nowhere, Ninomiya-kun brought out what is apparently a Nagano mascot:

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Uemura Aiko-san sure seemed happy to see him, and he’s apparently quite a fixture in Nagano . . .

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. . . but he managed to impress the crowd here as well, as Uemura-san pressed his honki (serious) button, and he proceeded to dance to Arashi’s “Paradox”. Very good work for a mascot (they usually just do funny sounds).

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All the Arashis got mascot pins.

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They continued the biography after that . . .

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. . . with a VTR featuring quick clips of her at 14 and 16.

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Her first love was in middle school, and a cake accompanied the love confession.

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For some reason, that prompted the members to ask her to pick between them. I guess it always comes to this eventually, but to have it so early in the program, there was no surprise about who she picked (hint: the person she was most familiar with).

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Nino-kun moved on to her high school days . . .

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. . . and presented this charming photo of her:

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I like the picture of her with short blonde hair better though – sure seems like she was an outgoing, stand-out type even besides her sports aspirations.

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Compared to her early childhood, the discussion of her Olympic career was brief . . .

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. . . and mostly driven by VTR.

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Well, I guess with so much good video I can’t hold this VTR against the show director (most of it was competition footage and post-skiing reaction, all of which was fun to watch).

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The talk that followed was very muted, and had touching piano music going on in the background. I suppose that would have made sense if I knew what they were talking about, but the piano mainly served to make me sleepy, and felt out of place.

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I was thankful when they killed the piano and switched topics to her marriage and stuff her husband said.

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Uemura-san was prompted to keep a diary by her 2006 coach, which she calls a “fail diary” though I think she just records all her observations about skiing. She brought the diary with her, and the glimpse we got seemed extremely detailed.

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As you might already be gathering, the talk section was a huge part of the show – two-thirds instead of the normal one-half.

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The challenge segment was actually the very last part of Nino-kun’s corner, and he continued to act as host.

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The challenge was TRX training, as demonstrated by Uemura-san . . .

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. . . and then practiced by the Arashi guys. It wasn’t a competition or a challenge with specific goals – all they were trying to do was avoid looking hopeless at these exercises next to the recent Olympian.

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It’s always nice to see the Arashi guys active, but it didn’t last long – just five to six minutes in total. And worse, Ninomiya-kun didn’t participate.

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After that brief exertion . . .

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. . . they spent the remaining nine minutes with food. On the bright side, at least they fulfilled my main requirement for a food segment – that they make the food.

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The chef is a former fellow skier, and the Arashi guys note that he’s managed to get out of form rather rapidly – he retired at 24, and he’s only 29.

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Anyway, the members try to make their own soba noodles from dough – not an uncommon task on variety shows.

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The ultimate key is chopping up the noodles with a regular width, but nothing can save the situation if the initial steps aren’t done right.

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And that was it for the show.

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Uemura-san was a fine guest, but having so many Winter Olympic guests in recent months . . . well, that wasn’t really the problem. The real problem was that the talk segment went too long. There wasn’t enough activity to keep me interested, and that was especially true after a sequence of very active and fresh episodes preceding this one.

By the way, I’m wondering if we’re going to get male guests much anymore – apparently this show is doing a near-180 on that, and I was hoping we’d actually get some balance. I think having a full variety of guests might help to mix things up a bit better.

Trying to come up with a Most Omoshiroi (Interesting) Arashi for this episode is pretty much impossible. None of the members really did anything to clearly stand out. Ninomiya-kun was the main driver of  what went on, but he didn’t participate in the most interesting part of the show. The rest of the members all otherwise had equal contributions by my estimation, and nothing really noteworthy.

In short, this was a below average episode, thought that’s partly because the average has been raised since the beginning of 2014.

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