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Sunday, May 5, 2002


Death and the old maid

"Tokyo Friend Park II" (TBS, Monday, 6:55 p.m.), hosted by veteran announcer Hiroshi Sekiguchi, is a prime example of the mindless, pointless game-show genre. The main idea is to match up two complementary celebrities who will work together to win prizes for themselves and selected viewers. Because the games are more physical than mental, they are encouraged to wear casual clothing or sportswear.

The stunts are always the same. There's "Chuchu Busters," a kind of three-dimensional variation on the arcade game Whack-a-Mole.

In another challenge, the two celebrities work together on a seesaw contraption, shifting their combined weight in order to move a ball down a series of levered shelves.

The funniest segment is a game in which each celebrity, wearing a Velcro-lined jumpsuit, leaps off a springboard and flings himself at a wall-size target. Thanks to the Velcro, his entire body sticks to the wall, and the higher he leaps the more points he earns.

Mental acuity gets lip service in the "Body & Brain Quiz." While one celebrity runs on a treadmill, the other answers a series of trivia questions. The final stunt is a game of air hockey, called "Hyper Hockey," in which the celebrity pair is pitted against the comedy team Honjamaka, who are invariably dressed up in outrageous costumes as a kind of handicap.

With each game segment, the celebrities accumulate gold bars, which they can trade in at the end of the show for darts. They throw the darts at a rotating wheel for prizes.

This week's celebrity pair is gaijin tarento supremo Dave Spector and former yokozunaAkebono. Considering the sumo champion's bulk, the Velcro leap should be a high point. But it will also be interesting to see Spector dressed in something other than the natty suits he always wears.

People of Japanese descent living overseas are referred to by the Japanese themselves in terms of generations: issei, nisei, sansei. Residents of Japan of Korean descent are referred to in the same way. Generally speaking, issei are those Koreans who were brought to Japan, sometimes against their will, before or during World War II. Many of these people continue to harbor strong resentments toward Japan. Their children, the nisei, were born here and exist in a kind of extra-national limbo. They cannot become Japanese citizens unless they choose to do so later in life (being born here is not a guarantee of citizenship), and though many have no ties whatsoever with Korea, they may have been instilled with their parents' sense of outrage and, when it comes ot employment and education, are often the target of discrimination.

The third generation, which has reached adulthood, collectively refer to themselves by the English term "Korean-Japanese" as a means of staking their claim to an identity that distinguishes them from their parents and grandparents. Unlike their parents, they tend to use their Korean names but also acknowledge that, culturally, they are more Japanese than Korean. As such, they have become a link between the two countries, promoting mutual understanding and cultural exchange.

This week, the documentary discussion series, "Ningen Yuyu" (NHK-E, Monday-Thursday, 7:30 p.m.), will look at this third generation of Korean-Japanese and how their greater openness is changing many Japanese people's feelings about Korea.

Monday night's program will look at the question of "nationality" and, by means of a survey, explore young Korean-Japanese people's feelings about seeking Japanese citizenship while also "taking advantage" of their Korean heritage.

On Tuesday, the series will profile Tomotake Kanemoto, a rock guitarist-turned-Protestant minister who wrote a book about his experience growing up as a Korean-Japanese.

The World Cup preparations will be the subject of Wednesday night's program, specifically the efforts of a Korean-Japanese DJ-announcer at Kobe's Kiss-FM to build a bridge between Korea and Japan through soccer.

The final night is about a video project consisting of interviews with 500 issei throughout Japan. The third-generation Korean-Japanese who are carrying out the project want to donate the finished documentary to libraries and schools as a means of preserving the Korean-Japanese experience for future generations.

Y asuko Sawaguchi, whose impersonation of Makiko Tanaka in a series of insecticide commercials was one of advertising's high points last year, is the latest former idol to be reduced to acting in two-hour mysteries.

In this week's installment of "Women and Love and Mystery" (TV Tokyo, Wednesday, 8:54 p.m.), Sawaguchi plays veteran TV director Keiko Sugiwara, a skilled, dedicated professional whose busy career has left her no time for a long-lasting relationship. Stung by the realization that her colleagues consider her a sad, lonely woman, she invents a boyfriend, but the lie gets out of hand.

Understanding that her colleagues are spying on her, Keiko goes to a park for a "rendezvous" with the imaginary boyfriend. She strikes up a conversation with a gentleman stranger in the hope that the busybodies watching her will be fooled. The man, however, is in the park to meet a certain woman whom he has never seen before, and assumes Keiko is her. They leave together, but soon thereafter the woman who was supposed to meet the man shows up. Keiko's friend, a photographer, has also followed her to the park, and he takes pictures of everything that transpires, including the arrival of the second woman.

Two days later, the woman's murdered body is discovered by the police.

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