Skift Take

This is not the Tokyo that the city's Olympic committee wanted anyone to see before or after it was selected as the 2020 host. Bourdain takes Tokyo's bizarre side culture and questions just how strange it, or each of us, are.

Anthony Bourdain explains last night’s episode of Parts Unknown as “one of the most brilliantly shot and edited episodes” that his crew has ever done. It could also easily be considered one of the edgiest and most provocative.

Bourdain’s trip through Tokyo is as much about sushi as it is about fantasy, fetishisms, obsessions, and sex. And rather than digging into Tokyo’s past, Bourdain takes viewers’ shock and turns it on themselves, asking viewers to question how differently these scenes are from their own dark desires.

The episode starts with a trip to what Bourdain calls “the greatest show” he’s ever seen in his life. The dizzying procession of cartoon animals, scantily dressed women, and robots sets the pace and tone for the rest of the episode — an exploration of a city obsessed with living their fantasies online or through paid services rather than in real life.

He meets a collection of characters who each play a different role in the crowded city’s extracurriculars. Bourdain eats grilled fermented fish and skewers of beef intestine with rope artist Kinoko Hajime whose built a career on tying up men.

He eats dinner with the pioneer manga artist Toshio Maeda who created a completely new form of graphical deviance by introducing tentacles and demons to comics.

And he drinks beers with “melodic death metal” band Merging Moon whose members wish they could rock out instead of working part-time jobs like their parents expect.

Bourdain also searches for a connection between this strange mesmerizing side of Japan’s culture and one of the greatest sushi chefs of all time.

Bourdain spends much of the episode with Naomichi Yasuda. Yasuda is the founder of one of New York City’s most famous sushi restaurants who quietly disappeared to Tokyo after 27 years of building his stateside empire. Yasuda now runs a 12-seat sushi shop where he applies the skills he’s honed from a lifetime of karate — speed, timing, and distance — to cooking.

Yasuda’s story and sushi techniques are celebrated throughout the episode. And the scene of his giant hands molding tiny pieces of sushi is one of the most beautiful and well-produced segments of the entire season.

The episode was particularly fun to watch in tandem with Twitter since both Bourdain and the segment producer Josh Ferrell tweeted along with each scene. Find some of the best behind-the-scenes shots and stories shared below:

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Tags: anthony bourdain, cnn, japan, parts unknown, tokyo

Photo credit: Anthony Bourdain goes to hear a japanese band led by lead singer Yu, shown above. Parts Unknown CNN

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