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Sunday, Oct. 6, 2002

CHANNEL SURF

Down on the farm with the Tokio boys

According to research, currently the only TV show that men over age 45 can stomach, other than NHK's "Project X," is "The Tetsuwan Dash" (Nippon TV, Sundays, 6:55 p.m.). In the show, the boy band Tokio -- collectively and individually -- embark on large, time-consuming projects involving agriculture, commercial fishing, mechanical engineering and even paleontology. In a way, its popularity with older males is easy to understand. As with "Project X," "Tetsuwan" celebrates the joys of initiative, ingenuity and hard work that is carried out for the sake of both the individual and the group.

On Oct. 6, the program will present a special two-hour version that highlights the funnier side of Tokio's ambitious endeavors.

Over at Dash Village, the farming commune that the boys have been building from scratch over the past two years, the big project now is digging a new well. In order to irrigate their extensive fields of rice, potatoes and vegetables, power their mill, and nourish their goats and ducks, Tokio diverted a stream, but it isn't satisfying their expanding needs. One of the members even resorts to dowsing to find the best places to dig.

Another member takes the band's fishing boat, Tsuretaka Maru, which the group bought as a wreck and refurbished, out to Izu Oshima to fish for kampachi (horse mackerel). In a change of pace, there will also be a segment in which the boys participate in what very well may be the biggest game of kick-the-can ever played: The field of competition covers the entire 23 wards of Tokyo.

Just as the dead will always outnumber the living, show business wash-ups will always outnumber show biz successes. Japan, however, may be the only place in the world where you can actually make a pretty decent living as a washed-up star.

At least four times a year, one or another commercial station will present a special program that searches out stars from yesterday to find out what they're up to now. Because these shows are aired so regularly, naturally they need lots of washed-up celebrities, so you see a lot of repeaters. The question becomes: At what point does a washed-up star stop being washed-up?

On Oct. 7, TBS will attempt to trump all the other networks with "Ano Hito wa Ima . . . (That Person Is Now . . .)" (6:55 p.m.), which will present the 100 "missing persons" that viewers want to see the most, based on some kind of survey. The list is not limited to child actors, one-hit wonders or victims of scandal, but also includes faded athletes, retired politicians and anyone who commanded the public's attention for more than a few hours.

Celebrity hunters will track down the elusive stars and interview them. Some will appear in the studio and watch as short documentaries of their "glories and disappointments" are shown. Some will perform the songs they were once famous for. Comedian Masami Hisamoto is the host. The very special guest is Monica Lewinsky. Does she qualify as washed-up?

While the public supposedly wants to know more about the activities of the Imperial family, the media is given so little to work with by the Imperial Household Agency that they usually resort to digging up old footage that everyone has seen a hundred times.

It's especially difficult now, when everyone wants to see Princess Aiko, who is less than a year old. There is no old footage.

TV Tokyo has solved the problem rather ingeniously by following the ladies who follow Princess Aiko. On Friday at 7 p.m., TV Tokyo will present "Aiko-sama mo Sugu Man-issai (Princess Aiko Will Soon Be 1 Year Old)," but the focus will not be on the Imperial baby, but rather on three women who follow the little girl's activities religiously.

One middle-aged woman has been dogging the Imperial family for 10 years and has a massive collection of photographs to prove it. The second subject of scrutiny is a younger woman who has followed the princess's comings-and-goings while she herself awaits the birth of her own child. A third woman has been at the heels of the Imperial clan for eight years and sees her obsession "as a kind of sport; it's good for my health." They all show up early to scheduled events to secure the best spots. Camera crews have, in turn, followed these three women since Princess Aiko's birth on Dec. 1.

Some children don't have it so well, and they will be discussed on this week's NHK special, "Toto Kodomo ga Rokuju-nin (In All, 60 Children)" (NHK-G, Sat., 9 p.m.). The government recently revised the foster care laws for the first time in 48 years as a way of encouraging more people to become foster parents. As of 2000, 7,400 people in Japan were registered as foster parents, but currently just 1,699 are actually taking care of abandoned or orphaned children, 2,157 children to be exact. This number represents less than 10 percent of all children now living in Japanese orphanages.

NHK spent six months with Toshio and Sayoko Nagai, an older couple who own a small manufacturing business in Osaka and who have taken in 60 foster kids over the past 28 years. The living periods have ranged from one week to 10 years, and a number of departures and arrivals were filmed during the half-year that the cameras covered the Nagais.



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