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Sunday, Nov. 17, 2002


Conveying messages of unity

It is estimated that an average of 220 people "evaporate" every day in Japan. The reasons are many, but can mostly be reduced to debt, love affairs, personal tragedy and involvement in crimes. And with no end in sight for the recession, the number is increasing year by year. Last year, about 80,000 Japanese people were reported missing.

Television has been milking the dramatic potential of this phenomenon for decades, but as more people opt to drop out of their jobs, families and communities, some producers have come to understand that the media can also play a responsible role. Asahi TV has tried to institutionalize the genre with "TV Chikara," a regular live program (Saturday, 8 p.m.) that features banks of telephones manned by Asahi employees who accept calls from anyone who has seen or heard about the missing people described on the show.

Not to be outdone, TV Tokyo will present a two-hour "Family Restoration Special" on Nov. 18 at 8 p.m. Hosted by the man who owns Japanese TV, Monta Mino, the show focuses on the families who have been "left behind" by people who disappear. In the cases presented, the families have seemingly exhausted every avenue and resource available to them, except the most powerful resource of all, television.

Among the missing people is a teenage boy who ran away mysteriously two years ago, despite the fact that he was getting excellent grades in school and was considered a serious and positive young man by everyone who knew him. There is also the tragic story of a man who, following seven years of happy marriage and the birth of two beautiful children, ran away after his house burned down and one of his sons perished in the blaze. A Brazilian woman comes on the show to ask for help in looking for her Japanese husband, who disappeared last March following a fight, leaving her with three children to support.

The Japan-Korea collaborative spirit engendered by last summer's World Cup attains its apotheosis on Nov. 17 with two live events on NHK's BS2 channel.

At 10 a.m., NHK will present a live broadcast of a special parade being held at the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba Prefecture. The parade re-creates the colorful pageantry of the Chosen Tsushinji, a group of messengers who brought Korean culture from the peninsula through the Tsushima Strait to Edo Japan about 200 years ago and, in turn, took Japanese culture back to their homeland.

In the same time slot, NHK will broadcast a documentary about four young people -- two Japanese and two Korean -- who have been tracing the route of the messenger group throughout Japan and South Korea since September. Along the way, the quartet has explored the histories of the areas they visit, investigated the reasons for the messenger exchange project, explained the things they carried and discussed the meaning of the journey in terms of Korea-Japan relations today.

At 7 p.m., NHK will return to Makuhari Messe for a special live joint concert featuring some of the biggest singing stars, both traditional and popular, on both sides of the Sea of Japan/East Sea (depending on whose map you read), including Kiyoshi Hikawa, BoA and Kim Yong-ja.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the debut of proto-rocker Eikichi Yazawa, and on Nov. 23 at 9 p.m., Fuji TV will present a dramatization of Yazawa's early life called "Nariagari." The title, which is a term for someone who rockets from poverty to fame and fortune, is also the title of a book of essays that Yazawa once wrote. The drama itself was initiated and produced by the singer, though he doesn't appear in it.

Yazawa, who is played by Masahiro Matsuoka of the boy band Tokio, was raised in Hiroshima by his grandmother after his mother ran away and his father, an alcoholic, died young. Lonely and impoverished, he grew up believing that money was everything and promised himself he'd be rich on his own terms.

As a teenager he moved to Yokohama where he formed a rock band called The Bass. He took a demo tape of the band to record companies, but it was roundly ignored. Yazawa, deeply disappointed, disbanded the group, thinking he'd go nowhere hanging around such amateurs.

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