No beating around the bush: Japan’s appeal is inescapable. It’s where old meets new, idiosyncrasies are adored, and where traditions and modernity coexist in perfect harmony. Japan has it all - a rich history, safeguarded architectural wonders, kawaii finds, and bursting with flavors evident in their local cuisines.
Taking the next flight out to Japan makes for a brilliant summer plan. However, with the entire Luzon under enhanced community quarantine due to the volatile nature of COVID-19, all of us stay advised to stay home. For most who are working from home, this is also the best time to learn and watch from home while rediscovering Japan through its iconic shows that offer a unique dining and travel experience.
Who doesn’t enjoy eating a classic bowl of ramen, moist takoyaki, or the pancake-slash-omelette marvel okonomiyaki? But have you heard of the sweet and salty pastry mitarashi mochi, taken a bite of seared eel with ponzu sauce?
There are also popular places Filipinos are eager to explore such as the Pokemon Cafes in Tokyo, Vampire Cafe in Ginza, Kawaii Monster Cafe in Harajuku, or Cherry Blossom gardens in Osaka. But what about taking a field trip to little nooks along various train lines in Japan - say a Sugita plum farm tucked away in a residential village. Take a peek inside an ‘aesthetic’ showroom in Omorimachi, or shop at Umeyashiki for Semi’s statement bags made from repurposed art display banners.
Whatever it is, there is no doubt that Japan brings all possibilities to life - and who wouldn’t want to have a piece of that?
GEM, an all-Japanese TV channel from Sony Pictures Television and Japan’s Nippon TV, brings Filipinos closer to Japan with shows that not only intend to educate but entertain. It offers Filipino audiences an unconventional and bespoke travel guide that encourages them to dare and discover Japan’s rich culture and lifestyle. It offers a unique kind of entertainment that marries Japan’s wit and humor with unexplored places and perspectives of Japan that’s never been seen before.
Comedian and actor Daisuke Miyagawa brings viewers off the beaten path in search of exquisite delicacies and ingredients in Dining ★ Al Fresco. More often than not, the show features food native to unfamiliar places around Japan. Find Miyagawa and his co-hosts learning the intricacies of food production and creating delectable Japanese dishes at the end of each episode.
Dining ★ Al Fresco takes you honey-harvesting in Hagi-Iwami Airport in Shimane, tuna-farming in Takashima, Nagasaki Prefecture, salt-making in the southern island of Ishigaki, and so much more. The show will have a total of 221 episodes since it first aired on GEM in 2016.
Dare to Surprise is an interesting take on typical food and travel shows. Here, everything is unscripted. Comedian Hiromi, actor Genta Aoki and TV presenter Mami Yamase, along with their celebrity guests bring viewers to untapped food stops without any prior preparation. This means looking for establishments to film, coming up with topics of conversations while interviewing chefs and restaurateurs, and reviewing dishes they’re trying for the first time. Think of it as a food raid by the show’s hosts and some notable Japanese actors like Ryoma Takeuchi, Suda Masaki, and Yosuke Sugino. Apart from that, the show gives fans close-quarter interactions with the personal lives of its popular celebrity guests. Dare to Surprise definitely brings the element of surprise to Filipino viewers, and fills them with food discoveries, humor and entertainment.
Next Stop, Discovery is a travel show with no itinerary, giving walking tours of featured cities by foot and by train. Episodes have featured interesting locations along different lines of Japan such as Ueno, Asakua, and even Mt. Fuji.
Different celebrity hosts hop out of different train stops to wander and see what’s to see - from hole-in-the-wall food joints to specialty shops to riveting garden neighborhoods. Not only do you get to discover uncharted finds, but the show teaches you how much you can get out of a city without spending a fortune. Indeed, this show arouses your curiosity for Japan’s interesting finds, distinct flavors, and rich history. By the end of March 2020, a total of 189 episodes will have aired on GEM since 2015.
Next Stop, Discovery airs every Thursday at 8:00 p.m.; Dare to Surprise every Thursday 9:00 p.m.; and Dining ★ Al Fresco every Friday 8 :00 p.m..
GEM is available via SKYcable Channel 116 in Metro Manila; SKYcable Channel 222 in Cebu, Davao, Bacolod, Iloilo, and Baguio GSAT Channel 57; and vaiours provincial cable operators nationwide.
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