James May reveals why he's glad to fly solo without The Grand Tour duo
James May is going it alone for his new adventure – spending three months in the wonderfully alien Japan for his new solo Amazon Prime Video series, aptly titled Our Man In Japan.
While The Grand Tour is dominated by his co-star Jeremy Clarkson, May takes the wheel – of sorts. In episode one he begins his adventure trying – and sensationally failing – at steering huskies through the snowy Japanese woodland. Much like The Grand Tour, his pursuits are disastrous from start to finish.
However, while TGT is about to embark on a series of road trips abandoning the studio, May spent an entire three months in the land of the Rising Sun and manages to explore as much as one can in 12 weeks, although in a country embedded in so much history and culture relatively obscure to a Western eye, he’s surely only scratching the surface.
It’s a refreshing move for May. He’s completely exposed without his fellow petrolheads and Our Man In Japan is, arguably, all the better for it. And, understandably, it was a much more enjoyable experience for the ‘Captain Slow’ too.
May revealed he spoke mainly to Hammond about his adventure, but explained both his usually partners in crime were amazed he didn’t go insane. But perhaps that’s because they weren’t there with him.
‘Obviously if the three of us had been together I’d have gone completely mad,’ May admitted. ‘But on this we had a very small, very mobile crew of people who get on very well and we romped through it and had a great time. I didn’t even realise how long it was.’
When fans of May’s television CV are used to the chaos of his current blockbuster on Amazon and Top Gear, Our Man In Japan barely mentions cars and the chaos is completely off the road. He’s pelted by snowballs, ends up slaughtering a live octopus (affectionately named Bob) and is almost killed carrying a humongous phallus at the Kanamara Matsuri, Japan’s Penis Festival. So why the change of direction?
‘I’ve always been fascinated by Japan: this was my 10th trip there,’ he said. ‘I’m immensely intrigued by it because it’s a very exciting country. The things that are exciting about it are actually quite the mundane things like going to a shop or going somewhere by train or going to a restaurant because everything looks different in Japan: you can’t read anything, you don’t know anything.
‘Japan has opened up a bit in the last decade and there are more international influences now but it still remains a very mono-cultural country. Japan is very Japanese.’
James May… Our Man In Japan is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video from January 3.
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