I absolutely love Japan. I’ve been several times and I’ve had a few strange experiences there. No, I didn’t visit a love hotel — do they even exist? — but I did go to Tokyo’s oldest theme park, where you sit on giant mechanical pandas and tigers and ride them around. Sunshine City is another novel place in Tokyo. It’s a block of flats with an aquarium on the top floor, a dog petting area and an indoor theme park. There’s shopping downstairs but finding clothes for someone of my size is an absolute nightmare.
I tried raw chicken there. My family and I went to a restaurant that served chicken sashimi, which was odd and rather difficult to swallow, because we in the West have a cultural concern about chicken being potentially quite dangerous. Of course, if it’s prepared in the same way as other raw meats, then it’s probably OK. None of us wanted to eat it but we didn’t want to be impolite. The verdict? It was fine.
I’ve had lots of lovely holidays in Italy. Years before I met my wife, Jane, I had an Italian girlfriend, so spent a lot of time there, but it’s probably best not to dwell on that. When it comes to holidays, though, I’m quite happy sitting by the pool reading a book — which is usually a thriller of some sort. In fact, I’m happy if I’m sitting down anywhere. It doesn’t matter where it is. I always love to shop while I’m on holiday but Jane can’t bear it. I’m terrible — I buy stuff all the time. I bought a tweed suit in Edinburgh, literally within an hour of arriving. I really wanted to buy a Japanese taxi while I was there because they’re so wonderful. The doors open automatically. I was told I could ship one back to London but would have to remove everything that made it a taxi, which, essentially, left me with a car. It’s still one of my ambitions to own one.
I can proudly say I speak pidgin Japanese too. [Jonathan launches into Japanese.] That means: ‘Japanese I speak. I understand a little but I don’t speak it very well… yet.’ I’ve only been to Tokyo and Mount Fuji and would love to venture further a field, to places like Hokkaido in the north. I’m also very keen to visit Berlin.
There are several cities in the UK I’m very fond of, and Edinburgh is definitely one of them. I first went there when I was student to take part in the Fringe festival. I was Wiglaf in the London University production of Beowulf and I can still quote the review in The Scotsman newspaper. It said: ‘The growing maturity of Wiglaf is well portrayed.’ I was there a few months ago with Richard Branson to help him celebrate the launch of Virgin Atlantic’s new flights there. He threw a fantastic party in The Caves in the Old Town.
My family didn’t have much money when I was growing up, so we only had three holidays and those were to seaside towns in Kent. Each was pretty grim. My first time flying was to Ireland, which was scary but fun. But my first proper taste of travelling came much later. I went to Tangier in Morocco and hated it. The whole thing was awful: the hotel, the food, the people. To top it off, our flight home was delayed, so we spent 12 hours sat on the airport floor.
Comedian, chat-show host, film critic and DJ, Jonathan Ross is one of the most successful British broadcasters of his generation. After gaining a Modern European History degree, he worked as a researcher for Channel 4 in the early 1980s, then as a presenter from 1987.
‘Wossy’, as he’s affectionately known (he has trouble saying his Rs), has been married to the author, journalist and broadcaster Jane Goldman since 1988; they have three children and live in London’s Hampstead Garden Suburb.
Ross and Goldman have jointly set up television production company Hotsauce TV.
In 2005, Ross was awarded an OBE for services to broadcasting.
Published in the Jul/Aug 2013 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)