Cities • 2017 • episode "2/3" The Art of Japanese Life

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He explores how the artistic life of three Japanese cities shaped the country's attitudes to past and present, east and west, and helped forge the very idea of Japan itself. In Kyoto, James reveals how the flowering of classical culture produced many treasures of Japanese art, including The Tale of Genji, considered to be the first novel ever written. In Edo, where Tokyo now stands, a very different art form emerged, in the wood block prints of artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige. James meets the artisans still creating these prints today, and discovers original works by a great master, Utamaro, who documented the so-called 'floating world'. In contemporary Tokyo, James discovers the darker side of Japan's urbanisation through the photographs of Daido Moriyama, and meets a founder of the Studio Ghibli, Isao Takahata, whose film Grave of the Fireflies helped establish anime as a powerful and serious art form.

The Art of Japanese Life • 0 • 3 episodes •

Nature

James journeys through Japan's mountainous forests, marvels at its zen gardens and admires centuries-old bonsai, to explore the connections between Japanese culture and the natural environment. Travelling around Japan's stunning island geography, he examines how the country's two great religions, Shinto and Buddhism, helped shape a creative response to nature often very different to the West. But he also considers modern Japan's changing relationship to the natural world and travels to Naoshima Art Island to see how contemporary artists are finding new ways to engage with nature.

2017 • Travel

Cities

He explores how the artistic life of three Japanese cities shaped the country's attitudes to past and present, east and west, and helped forge the very idea of Japan itself. In Kyoto, James reveals how the flowering of classical culture produced many treasures of Japanese art, including The Tale of Genji, considered to be the first novel ever written. In Edo, where Tokyo now stands, a very different art form emerged, in the wood block prints of artists such as Hokusai and Hiroshige. James meets the artisans still creating these prints today, and discovers original works by a great master, Utamaro, who documented the so-called 'floating world'. In contemporary Tokyo, James discovers the darker side of Japan's urbanisation through the photographs of Daido Moriyama, and meets a founder of the Studio Ghibli, Isao Takahata, whose film Grave of the Fireflies helped establish anime as a powerful and serious art form.

2017 • Travel

Home

The clean minimalism of the Japanese home has been exported around the world, from modernist architecture to lifestyle stores like Muji. But the origins of this ubiquitous aesthetic evolved from a system of spiritual and philosophical values dating back centuries. James visits one of Japan's last surviving traditional wooden villages, and the 17th-century villa of Rinshunkaku, and reveals how the unique spirit of Japanese craftsmen turned joinery into an artform - creating houses without the need for nails, screws or glue. Exploring some of the traditional arts of the Japanese home, James also investigates attitudes to domestic culture in modern Japan, meeting photographer Kyoichi Tsuzuki, chronicler of Japan's crowded cities and tiny apartments. Other highlights include a performance by calligrapher and artist Tomoko Kawao and a visit to the hometown of architect Terunobu Fujimori.

2017 • Travel

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Part 3

The actress heads to the island of Shikoku hoping to gain a better understanding of Japanese Buddhism. She then takes a bullet train to another island - Kyushu - where she finds the Henn Na Hotel, the world's first robot hotel. At Nagasaki, she visits Shiroyama Elementary school, one of the only buildings to survive the atomic bomb dropped on the city in 1945. Joanna then travels to Sakurajima, one of the country's most active volcanoes, before heading to the islands of Okinawa where one of the bloodiest battles of the Second World War was fought.

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Part 2

The actress flies over Tokyo in a helicopter. The city was bombed extensively during the Second World War, so almost all of it is a symbol of the post-war economic boom that saw Japan become the world's second largest economy. While in the capital, Joanna heads out to a nightclub to see a Japanese girl band and witnesses the largely male audience perform almost as much as the artists on stage. Later, Joanna travels to the Kiso Valley to walk the Nakasendo Way, an ancient route that once linked Tokyo to Kyoto, a place best known for that most famous of Japanese traditions, the Geisha.

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Indonesia to Australia

The adventurer begins his final leg on the northern tip of Sumatra, near the epicentre of the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami, finding out how the province of Banda Aceh has undergone many changes since the disaster. He also explores the illegal trade in exotic pets in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, before heading for Australia, the final country on his epic journey. There he visits the unspoilt wilderness of the Kimberley region, meets a real-life crocodile hunter and goes fishing with Aborigines campaigning to stop the construction of a giant gas plant.

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Part 2

The second leg begins in Siberia and takes him to Russia's far south west and the majestic Caucasus Mountains. From Lake Baikal, the oldest and deepest lake on Earth, Simon takes the Trans-Siberian Railway to the city of Krasnoyarsk, the scene of brutal violence in the 1990s, and now the location of a cafe paying homage to Vladimir Putin. Simon is introduced to a Siberian community that worships a former traffic cop they believe to be the reincarnation of Christ. Along with a rare interview with the messiah himself, Simon meets some of the daughters of his followers being educated to become future brides of worthy men. After encounters with Tuvan throat singers and Cossack street patrols, Simon visits Dagestan, a largely Muslim region that has been scarred by jihadist violence. He meets security forces who use highly trained dogs to tackle the terrorist threat, and villagers attempting to keep their ancient tightrope-walking traditions alive.

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Honshu

Japan's central island of Honshu is home to over 100 million people, and its biggest city, Tokyo, is one of the largest urban metropolises on earth. But it has a wild heart - most of Honshu is mountainous. This wilderness is home to an astonishing range of wildlife - black bears, monkeys, exquisite fireflies and even cow demons. But all across this island, from the mountains to the edge of the sea, people and nature are drawn together in the most unexpected ways.

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Sri Lanka to Bangladesh

The adventurer reaches Sri Lanka, whose strategic location and tropical spices made it a target for invaders and colonisers for centuries. In the north he visits the scenes of vicious battles between the Tamil minority and the Sri Lankan army, traumatic events from which the population is still recovering. On his way to Bangladesh, he hitches a ride on a trawler, highlighting one of the Indian Ocean's fastest-growing industries - providing prawns for the West. But as he reveals, it comes at a price for the environment.

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