New Richmond plays host to Japanese TV show
New Richmond is now known as a riddle at the end of the earth in Japan.
On Sunday afternoon, three famous Japanese men and a crew of 15 filmed an episode of "Sekai No Hate Made Itte Q!" at the New Richmond Area Centre.
Translated, the show is called "Riddles at the Ends of the Earth."
Kaori Oshima, production coordinator for Nippon TV, explained, "They travel the world to cover the most thrilling and exciting events."
Thrilling and exciting in New Richmond, Wis., meant log rolling and boom running with the help of Lumberjack Enterprises of Stillwater.
Stars of the show include Teruyoshi Uchimura, a comedian; Daisuke Miyagawa, Japan's most up-and-comedian/talent; and Yuya Degoshi, a Japanese idol. They all are famous and popular in Japan, a fact proven by their show's 18 percent rating.
All three are comedians, said Oshima, but Miyagawa stands out.
"He's the Jim Carrey of Japan," she said.
Riddles at the Ends of the Earth has already filmed the stars chasing cheese down a hill in Great Britain, skiing across open water in Austria, racing water buffalo in Indonesia and other crazy adventures.
Oshima couldn't quite explain how the Nippon TV network knew about log rolling. Once they started researching the sport to find a tournament for the men to compete in, Oshima said they came across the Lumberjack Enterprises Web site, www.lumberjackenterprises.com.
Jamie Fischer, owner of Lumberjack Enterprises, said he got a telephone call about a month ago from Oshima, asking about tournaments. Next thing Fischer knew, he was producing a full tournament for a 15-million viewer Japanese TV network.
"It started as a general phone call and just expanded from there," Fischer said.
Sites for the tournament including Florida and Texas were bounced around but eventually The Centre was deemed the ideal location. Fischer teaches log rolling classes for all ability levels every Monday night at The Centre.
The Centre only had about 10 days notice that the event would be held there, said Anne Lepper, aquatics director.
Requirements by the network stated that 21 local people were needed, Fischer said. About half of those people had to be new to the sport, and the other approximate half could be semi-professional or below.
Fischer comes from a long line of log rollers and boom runners and is a lumberjack professional himself. He and his wife, Jill, frantically called around to their friends both inside and outside of the lumberjack world to round up a cast.
"We had a huge response. We actually had to turn some people down," Fischer said. Teams of rookies and those experienced in all things log were assembled.
By 4 p.m. Sunday, about 100 people from the area sat in bleachers and chairs around the pool at The Centre. Some came to support the local teams while others rambunctiously backed the Japanese visitors.
First up for the day was the log rolling competition. Two people from each of the eight teams got on the 16-inch diameter log and tried to stay on longer than the other. Whoever won two out of three tries advanced to the next round.
It wasn't an easy victory for any of the local teams. Degoshi led the Japanese team with quick feet and steady balance.
After an hour of log rolling competition, Jason Peterson rolled in at first place, followed by Degoshi in second and Angie Ireland in third.
Peterson, a Stillwater resident, said he did some log rolling years ago. Fischer called him up last week to see if he'd like to be on Japanese TV, he said.
"I had nothing else going on," Peterson said with a smile, holding his new three-foot tall trophy.
The second and final event of the afternoon was the boom run. Two lengths of booms were set up across the pool, about 45 feet. Each contestant had to run the length of the boom one way and tag their awaiting partner. If they fell off the logs, they were allowed to swim to the edge of the pool to tag. Whichever team of three finished first moved on to the championship bracket.
The Western Red Cedar logs were prepared and brought in by Fischer and his crew. Each of the eight logs in The Centre's pool on Sunday weighed between 700 to 1,000 pounds, Fischer estimated.
Competitors had to wear special spikes, provided by Fischer and his lumberjack friends. The spikes were so sharp that they couldn't be worn on the tiles around the pool because they would crack them.
The combination of the large logs and sharp spikes makes boom running the more dangerous of the two lumberjack sports, Fischer said.
That was proven by Miyagawa during his final run of the day. He took a nasty spill and hurt his leg. Earlier in the day he also lost a contact lens.
When the Japanese team came up in boom running, Uchimura roused the crowd and his team by yelling "I can do it," and "We can do it" in accented English. Fans responded with roars of cheers and applause.
The excitement inspired the Stillwater-based Hill-Water team as well.
With all six men performing well, the heat ended in a tie. Fans yelled to Uchimura "You can do it!" A re-do put the Japanese team in the championship bracket.
They went on to win over the Underwater Adventures team, captained by log rolling champ Peterson, in a close race.
"I love Wisconsin!" Uchimura yelled after their first place victory.
In a recap interview, Miyagawa explained their boom run strategy through a translator.
"We had the worst guy [Uchimura] go first, and then the second and third next," he said. "But the worst guy did the best."
Fischer said even with the language barrier (only Uchimura and Degoshi speak some simple English) coaching the trio was easy. They all spent about three and a half hours in The Centre's pool on Saturday trying out both events.
"They did extremely well. They're some of the most athletic people I've ever coached," Fischer said.
The episode will air sometime in late March, Oshima said. It will not be broadcast in the United States.