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Sunday, May 26, 2002


Let the coverage begin!

This week, there will be lots of television activity to help soccer enthusiasts prepare for the World Cup, which starts Saturday.

NHK's digital Hi-Vision channel will show a series of important games featuring Japan's opponents in the opening round: Belgium on May 27, Russia on the 28th and Tunisia on the 30th. All the games will start at 7:30 p.m. On the 30th, there will be a special program analyzing Japan's chances against these teams.

In the afternoons this week, the Hi-Vision channel will present, in their entirety, all of Japan's matches at the World Cup in France in 1998: Argentina on the 28th, Croatia on the 29th, and Jamaica on the 30th. All the games will start at 1 p.m.

The big day, of course, is Saturday. And at 7:30 p.m. on both the Hi-Vision channel and NHK-G, there will be a "Countdown Special," followed by the opening game of the World Cup, France vs. Senegal in Seoul, at 8:20 p.m.

In addition, many regular programs are adding World Cup features this week. On Sunday, Nippon TV's popular infotainment show, "Tokumei Research 200X II" (7:58 p.m.), will feature a segment on hooliganism. The segment will discuss the possibility of soccer hooligans causing trouble here in Japan and over in Korea. In its inimitable way, the program will dissect the phenomenon of hooliganism using various data.

Monday night at 7 p.m., Fuji TV will present a two-hour World Cup variety special with Japanese celebrities and non-celebrities participating in a special version of the hit quiz show, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" The questions, we assume, will all be related to soccer and the World Cup.

On Sunday, the TBS documentary series "Jonetsu Tairiku (Passionate Continent)" (11 p.m.) will profile the 23-year-old singer Chitose Hajime, who was born and raised on Amami Oshima, a small island in the Ryukyu archipelago that stretches from Kyushu to Okinawa.

Hajime grew up singing and playing the modal shimauta style that is played on the island and that has been popularized through Okinawan music. Though she hasn't changed this style in any appreciable way, Hajime has imprinted herself on the national imagination in ways that pundits find difficult to explain. Her debut single, "Wadamitsu no Ki (Poseidon's Tree)," has sold half a million copies since it was released at the end of February, eventually reaching the top of the singles chart.

Possessed of a voice that can span 2 1/2 octaves, Hajime has gained considerable attention over the years, winning a number of min'yo (traditional folk song) competitions held throughout Japan. She has also benefited considerably from reports that women, especially young women, who go to her concerts invariably leave weeping, so impressed are they with the emotional depths that Hajime reveals in her singing. (They are not likely to understand all of the words, however, since the traditional songs that make up a good part of her repertoire are in a dialect that many Japanese cannot comprehend.) Last week, she released a three-song maxi-single that includes an English-language version of Joni Mitchell's "Blue."

The director who made this documentary started covering Hajime six months before her debut single was released. In addition to footage of her concerts, there will also be a segment with the French music producers known as Deep Forest, who sought Hajime out to contribute to one of their recordings.

Some Japanese language scholars are fretting that nihongo is changing so rapidly and radically that many idioms, words and phrases are in danger of extinction within a generation. And even if they are remembered, many young people inevitably misuse them.

Starting June 1, NHK will present a 10-minute weekly primer on endangered Japanese titled "Daikirin" (Saturday, 8:45 p.m.). The title is a clever but slightly arcane play on words. The sound of the title is reminiscent of classic Japanese dictionaries like the Kojien, but it also utilizes the name of the show's host, veteran actress Kirin Kiki.

The show is presented dramatically, with Kiki and her "assistant," played by Miki Satsuki, taking on roles. In each program, they discuss the origins of specific words and phrases, and how to use them correctly.

The series will continue every Saturday night for five weeks and then resume in September.

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