Actor James Jirayu star in travel series for Thai and Japanese TV

Soap star James Jirayu ventures as far as Fukushima in a travel series produced for Thai and Japanese TV
PHOTO: The Nation

Actor Jirayu "James" Tangsrisuk has swapped soap for travel. Having found fame in "Khunchai Puttipat" from the drama programme "Suparburoot Juthathep" ("Gentlemen Juthathep"), he's now the host of a half-hour series on Japan.

Channel 3 SD is premiering "Tabi Japan with James Jirayu" on its digital Channel 28 tomorrow at 5pm. Tabi is Japanese for "travel".

The Japanese government is sponsoring the show to promote tourism in the Tohoku region to the Northeast. James will be visiting six prefectures - Aomori, Akita, Miyagi, Iwate, Yamagata and Fukushima. They've all got gorgeous scenery and a lot of coastline (and thus great seafood), and Fukushima, of course, has a melted-down nuclear reactor.

There's no mention in the show's itinerary of the 2011 disaster that wrecked the atomic power plant there or the fact that much of the prefecture remains off-limits to casual visitors, so it should be interesting to see what James discovers.

Aomori is the first destination on his map. James will be exploring several routes that take in the spectacular natural scenery and sampling the food and other aspects of the local culture and he's also going to demonstrate his talent as a photographer.

Starting with a morning stop at a market, he'll take pictures and upload them to Twitter (@Jirayu_jj) and then be ready to answer viewers' questions. Then it's off to the lovely Oirase Valley to see the leaves changing colour and admire a celebrated waterfall.

In the evening James will visit a 100-year-old onsen ryokan for a steamy bath amid sub-zero temperatures. Fans will be posting questions and comments all day, every day, via Twitter.

"I'm excited to be doing something new, and being the host is a challenge," says James. "While shooting at several locations I was always impressed by the local way of life and each unique culture. I believe the show will inspire more Thais to visit Japan."

Aomori also has Shirakami Mountain, with the world's largest virgin forest of beech on its flanks, and the mystically alluring Lake Towada-ko. Tsugaru Quasi-National Park is there, and Shimokita-hanto Quasi-National Park is on the tip of the Honshu Peninsula.

Akita Prefecture is known for its kakunodate - the mansions that were home to the samurai class 200 years ago.

Miyagi boasts one Japan's "Three Most Scenic Views" and its natural beauty warrants three stars in the Michelin Green Guide Japon published in France.

Iwate is home to two popular national parks, and one of them, Hiraizumi, is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It's also famous for high-quality Maesawa beef.

Yamagata offers the lofty, 110-year-old Risshaku-ji Temple, also known as Yamadera, a popular hiking spot.

Fukushima is the final stop in the 10-week series, and James is there to sample the peaches for which the prefecture is (also) famous. The climate has always been perfect for growing various kinds of fruit. Another attraction is Ouchijuku, "the Inn Town", built in the 17th century.

"Tabi Japan with James Jirayu" is a joint production among Channel 3 SD, TV Asahi and Hakuhodo DY Media Partner in association with the Japan National Tourism Organisation and three government ministries. "It's a travel programme suitable for the whole family," says Surin Krittayaphongphun of Channel 3.

"There are more and more Thais travelling to Japan these days," adds Taichi Kono of TV Asahi's Bangkok Business |Bureau, "and I hope viewers are impressed by the charms of Japan they might have not seen before and be inspired to explore our country."