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Sunday, Nov. 18, 2001


Saddle up for the mystery tour

Monday night at 8 and 9:15, NHK-G will broadcast the first two parts of a six-part drama series by best-selling mystery novelist Keigo Tono, who is famous for his elaborate plot twists. Tono himself was quite surprised that NHK had picked up his novel, "Akui (Malice)," for serialization, since, according to the author, "it's an extremely difficult story to put into visual terms."

The story itself is about a best-selling novelist named Hidaka who is murdered in his home in Osaka. The body is discovered at the same time by two people: Hidaka's wife, Rie, and his best friend and fellow novelist, Nonoguchi. Rie was supposed to meet her husband at a hotel, but he doesn't show. She goes home and meets Nonoguchi, who claims he received a call from Hidaka asking him to come over.

A police detective named Nishihara learns that Hidaka had been planning to move to Canada in two days to live alone. He visits Nonoguchi at home, and the writer tells him he is planning on writing a "nonfiction novel" based on his friend's murder.

In Part 2, Nishihara untangles Nonoguchi's complicated telephone alibi. Nonoguchi eventually confesses, even though Nishihara finds the motive unlikely. He knows that Nonoguchi is lying, but what is he trying to hide?

Nishihara is played by Osaka comedian Kampei Hazama as a kind of "Kansai version of Colombo," the rumpled L.A. police detective immortalized by Peter Falk. Kampei, who is famous for his lightning-fast ad-libs, told NHK that he was not used to playing such a serious, unassuming part. It was all he could do to keep himself from cracking up during most of the shooting, especially since many scenes required him to deliver long, unbroken monologues.

This week, TBS's Friday night documentary series "Super Friday" (7 p.m.) presents what it claims is the dieting special to end all dieting specials. Though weight-loss programs "are as numerous as the stars in the sky," there are a few that have been proven effective by experts. The problem is that they are not easy to follow and, in fact, require a great deal of willpower.

The most effective dietary means of losing weight is the so-called low-insulin diet. The trick is to keep your blood-sugar rate low by checking the body's production of insulin, which contributes to obesity. Foods that are rated high on the GI (glycemic index) tend to cause the blood sugar to go up, so the trick is to stick to foods with a low GI.

The subject of the documentary is a young woman who consumes an average of 8,000 kilocalories a day. Women her age normally consume about 2,000 kilocalories. She embarks on a "training diet in hell," which is actually a clinic where she lives for two weeks under the care of a very strict trainer who was once a professional boxer.

Among the other diets discussed is a macrobiotic plan recommended for housewives, which is followed by Madonna and Tom Cruise. The food is invariably crude and boring.

L ater the same evening, Fuji TV presents "Eleven Little Braves," a travel-nature special put together by Makoto Shiina. Shiina, one of Japan's most respected literary figures, is famous for his love of Mongolia, which he has written about extensively. He even directed a movie, "The White Horse," that was set in Mongolia with an all-Mongolian cast.

Shiina recruited 11 boys from Iriomote Island in Okinawa Prefecture to go with him to Mongolia to learn how to ride horses. The reason he chose boys from an island is because "all their lives, their horizon has been the sea. I wanted them to experience a place that was land as far as you can see."

This past summer, Shiina took the boys to a plain about 120 km south of Ulan Bator. The 11 boys stayed in the homes of nomadic people who have no electricity, gas or running water. The boys spent their days fetching water, caring for cattle and learning how to ride a horse, an animal that none of them had ever come into contact with before.

The purpose of the adventure is to enter a traditional Mongolian horse race, called a nadam. Shiina and the boy who played the lead in his movie act as instructors. The Japanese youths are perplexed at first by the way the Mongolians live, while the Mongolians can't believe that there are boys in the world who have never ridden a horse.

T V Tokyo is in the process of showing, on an irregular basis, all fortysomething installments of the "Otoko wa Tsurai-yo" movie series, featuring Japan's favorite traveling salesman, Tora-san. On Saturday, the neighborhood travel show "Admatic" (TV Tokyo; 9 p.m.) features the Shibamata area of Tokyo's Katsushika Ward, where the series took place.

Because of the popularity of the Tora-san movies, which started in the 1960s, Shibamata is considered a mandatory Tokyo sightseeing spot for tourists from the countryside. As usual, the show will count down the 30 most prominent features of the neighborhood and create a promotional campaign based on what they find.

Among the places of interest is Takagiya, a sweet shop specializing in dango (dumplings), which was the model for Kurumaya, the dango shop that Tora-san's family owns in the movies. The special guest is Gin Maeda, who played Tora-san's brother-in-law.

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