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Sunday, Aug. 14, 2011
Many Japanese felt that an era had ended with the announcement of the last print edition of Pia, the "Time Out" of Japan. Providing information on film showings, stage productions, concerts and art exhibitions as well as various countercultural events, Pia was founded in 1972 by university students influenced by the student democracy and antiwar movements. (The name Pia comes from "utopia.")
Viewing the reproduction of the first issue (26 pages, ¥100) accompanying the special collector's issue dated Aug. 4 to 18, one can only feel nostalgic for a time of jazz kissaten and of second-run films being shown by cheaper theaters (most now defunct) and student film societies in various obscure corners of Tokyo.
In a sense, a major role of Pia ended with the emergence of videos and DVDs, which made it possible to view movies at one's convenience. Of course, the death knell was sounded by the Internet and spread of cellphones, when print sources for such information became superfluous.
The company Pia continues to exist, providing information on movie showings and other events via Yahoo and the like, operating an online ticket service and sponsoring the Pia Film Festival.
Then came the announcement, on July 15, of the end of the beloved TV samurai drama "Mito Komon." Since its start in 1969, the title character, a retired deputy shogun, has traveled around Japan disguised as a retired merchant with two loyal retainers, Suke-san and Kaku-san, to help commoners root out crime and corruption.
Each episode ended with justice prevailing and the dramatic presentation of a lacquered inrou case bearing the crest of the Tokugawa clan, proving his identity as Tokugawa Mitsukuni.
The series is now in its 43rd season, but production will cease with the airing of its final episode — No. 1227 — on Dec. 19. The series boasted average audience share of 37.7 percent during its 10th season in 1979, but it has recently hovered around 10 percent. Evidently TBS and sponsor Panasonic have now decided that it's time for a change.
There are various reasons for the end of these two national institutions, but perhaps the post-March 11 consciousness marks the ending of one era and the beginning of another.