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Sunday, June 2, 2002

CHANNEL SURF

Looking behind life-or-death situations

This week marks the one-year anniversary of the murder of eight young children at the Ikeda Elementary School in Osaka. Shortly after that, a young man killed a child in a Kyoto schoolyard before killing himself when faced with arrest, thus reinforcing the fear among the general public that Japan's schools are no longer the safe havens they were once thought to be.

"Information Special" (Sunday, TBS, 5:30 p.m.) will look at how the Ikeda murders have changed the way educators, parents and the authorities look at school safety. The main portion of the documentary is about a group of victims' relatives who travel to Littleton, Colo., in the United States, where in 1999 two teenage boys ran amok in Columbine High School, killing 13 students and teachers, before turning their guns on themselves. The families of the Columbine victims have since established a foundation that is building a memorial to their murdered loved ones. The purpose of the memorial is not merely to pay tribute to those who died, but to also spur discussion among future generations of students about the meaning of the tragedy.

The parents of Ikeda and the parents of Columbine meet and discuss what they can do to prevent such tragedies ever happening again.

As anyone who's ever bought a melon in Japan knows, fruit can be quite expensive here. And right now is the most expensive time of the year, since few varieties of fruit are in season. (Strawberries? Ha!) And even when domestically grown fruit is in season, it isn't always as tasty as the price might lead you to believe. Out of season, you get stored fruit or hothouse fruit, which isn't such a treat.

The exception right now is kiwi fruit. Though some are grown domestically, the bulk of kiwis sold in Japan are imported from New Zealand, and both the flavor and the price are comparatively superior.

Most Japanese have eaten kiwis and probably know that they are a rich source of vitamin C, but except for eating them as they are or with yogurt, not too many people have an idea of how versatile they can be. Sunday, on the information variety show "Hakkutsu Aru Aru Daijiten" (Fuji, 9 p.m.), you can learn not only all about the various health properties of this magical green fruit (it naturally cleans your digestive system), but also half a dozen recipes for using it in breads, puddings and other preparations.

The recent meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Shimonoseki proved that most Japanese people aren't really that upset about not being able to eat all the whale they want. To put the matter in proper perspective, it is helpful to imagine the ban that has been placed on catching whales also being placed on catching tuna.

In that case, you'd probably have a war on your hands. The tracking of tuna is a 1 trillion yen business, and all Japanese, regardless of socioeconomic background, enjoy tuna on a regular basis.

Sunday's installment of the economic documentary series, "Dawn of Gaia" (TV Tokyo, 10 p.m.) will look at the business of tuna in Japan, specifically how a food that was once eaten only by the wealthy is now enjoyed by people from all walks of life. In particular, the more delicate, fatty otoro part, which has become amazingly affordable. Tuna fans can usually buy good quality otoro at discount sushi restaurants for as little as 120 yen per plate.

The program shows how prices are kept down mainly through creative tax-dodging, by using boats registered to countries with cheaper licensing fees and whose quota for catching tuna is unfilled because their people don't eat it. There will also be a segment about a university that is working on how to raise tuna in fish farms.

On this week's "Tuesday Suspense Theatre" (NTV, 9:03 p.m.), the theme is euthanasia and the doctors who advocate it.

A middle-aged man named Nakazawa (Kenji Kawarasaki) is brought into the emergency room of a hospital in Yonezawa after having ingested an almost lethal dose of herbicide. One of the attending doctors, a young woman named Shuko (Hiromi Iwasaki), reveals to her superior, Minori (Yuki Saito), that the man is her father, who abandoned her and her mother 17 years ago. She learns that Nakazawa married another woman, Nahoka, 15 years ago.

Shuko's mother, Masayo (Yoko Yamamoto), comes to the hospital from Tokyo when she hears the news, and immediately she and Nahoka develop a rivalry over Nakazawa's comatose form.

Minori learns that, just prior to Nakazawa's accident, he had asked Nahoka, who works at a bar, for a loan of 1 million yen, which led to a bitter quarrel. But she also learns that the emergency-room encounter wasn't the first time Shuko had met her errant father since he evaporated 17 years earlier. Apparently, they ran into each other in a department store not long ago, and Shuko informed him that he had been officially declared missing by the authorities.

The police suspect that Nahoka poisoned her husband, but then Nakazawa comes out of his coma and says that he tried to kill himself. However, he is not out of the woods and, in fact, is in great pain. Shuko tells Minori that she wants to put him out of his misery, and Minori wonders about her motives.



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