James begins his journey at Cape Soya, the northernmost tip of Japan on the remote island of Hokkaido. This snowy wilderness is the least densely populated area of the country, and James tries his hand at dog sledding across the stunning landscape with some deceptively docile-looking canine pals. A few bumps and bruises later and it's time to brush up his language and origami skills in one of the smallest restaurants he's ever seen. This is a 'Yatai', or a tiny eating and drinking shack, where you're encouraged to cram around a small communal table and break noodles knee to knee with people who, until the beer starts flowing, are total strangers. But there are more winter sports on the horizon, as a day or so later James finds himself playing 'Yukigassen' - the world's only codified and refereed team snowball fight (complete with regulation sized balls). Despite James's natural athleticism, and the stern words of encouragement from his disappointed guide Massayo, he's not a natural in the cut and thrust of a grudge match where the snowballs are solid ice and crash helmets are obligatory. To escape from the bitter cold, the director gives James a chance to warm up and indulge his passion for metalwork. He meets Korehiro Watanabe, one of Japan's last samurai swordsmiths, who allows James to be his apprentice for a day (forgoing the usual ten-year commitment). After several hours spent learning the extraordinary secrets of the sword master's forge, James takes a handmade katana for a quick spin, showing how this ancient craft still yields fear-inducing results. By now it's definitely time for some food and drink, and James brews his own beer at one of the growing number of microbreweries springing up in Sapporo, Japan's beer capital. Then he heads out into Hokkaido's bountiful icy waters to catch an octopus, and learns the art of sashimi and tempura in a quayside cook off. At least James's efforts go down better than a dessert featuring sea urchin ice cream.