Epic voyage makes ratings soar - World - News - The Independent

Epic voyage makes ratings soar

LOCAL HEROES : Monkey Stone Rock

If you had been in Trafalgar Square one Saturday in October, you would have witnessed, almost certainly without knowing it, a small moment in Japan's cultural history. It didn't look like anything special: two young Japanese men tottering to a halt in front of a bank of television cameras. They had not eaten for three days, and for the last 20 miles of their journey, they had walked. They were dazed, skinny and dirty, and were whisked off to a Japanese restaurant and an expensive hotel.

But back in Japan, when this small event was broadcast, ratings were in the millions. National newspapers compared the two lads to Buddhist holy men. A book about them sold 700,000 copies in the space of 10 days.

The two saints are Hiroyuki Ariyoshi and Kazunari Moriwaki, a pair of 22-year-old comedians known collectively, and for no discernible reason, as Saruganseki - "Monkey Stone Rock". Six months ago, they were recruited by Nippon Television for its Saturday-night comedy programme, entitled, with equal surrealism, Onward, Tele-Youth! Such programmes, the staple of late-night broadcasting, traditionally exert little pressure on the intellects of their young viewers, with a digest of music, chat, imbecilic party games and views of nipples. The unknown Monkey Stone Rock were hired to provide another key ingredient of the youth show mix: sadistic sniggering at the hardships of others. Flown to Hong Kong under false pretences, they were presented with 100,000 yen (pounds 570) between them, and instructed to make their way to London.

The weekly updates on their misadventures (they were trailed by a camera crew who were forbidden from giving them material support), were intended as no more than the usual silliness. But as the pair grew poorer, hungrier, more sick and more desperate, the show became a cult, capturing one-fifth of the Saturday night audience and taking on an epic, spiritual significance.

"Within six months," wrote the august Yomiuri newspaper, not noted for its effusions on dippy television programmes, "the two comedians, so cocky and lighthearted in the beginning, took on the appearance and attitude of religious men."

The sticky sentiment lurking beneath this apparently silly undertaking is suggested by the words of the lads' theme tune, "The Longest Journey":

Fighting against strong winds

You, the travellers,

Are heading for a destination

Far, far away.

Until we meet again, keep

Early on, however, the smiles were wiped off their faces. Ariyoshi and Moriwaki were arrested in Thailand, and were reduced to begging in India, where they were hospitalised for food poisoning and malnutrition.

To Tele-Youths in Europe and America, the idea of working your way across Asia may not appear very remarkable but, to pampered young Japanese, it was eye-poppingly bold. Twenty-two thousand miles and 190 days after their departure, they returned to Japan as heroes. In Tokyo, thousands of people turned out at a baseball stadium to welcome them home. The longest journey is over, but its message of endurance and steadfastness will live on.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
Life and Style
Bono and Apple CEO Tim Cook announced U2's surprise new album at the iPhone 6 launch
tech(but you can't escape: Bono is always on your iPhone)
Sport
Tim Wiese
sport
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Bookkeeper / Accounts Administrator - Central London, £30-40k

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Bookkeeper - Central London, £30-40k...

Permanent KS2 Teacher required

Negotiable: Randstad Education Ilford: A Redbridge based Primary School is see...

NVQ Assessor Level 2 & 3 Sport Development

£19200 - £26880 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: In NVQ Ass...

Secondary supply teachers required in Newmarket

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Secondary supply teac...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week