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Sunday, Dec. 1, 2002


A look at the trials of the uprooted

Though so-called international marriages continue to become more commonplace in Japan, the authorities still treat them as glaring exceptions that call for special treatment. If you're not a Japanese national and you want to make sure you can stay in Japan in the event you divorce your Japanese spouse, you'd better have a permanent resident visa. If you're pregnant and the father is Japanese, you must either marry him or make sure he legally acknowledges the baby before its born, otherwise you and the baby might find yourselves on the next plane home.

TV Tokyo's "Sunday Big Variety" (Dec. 1, 7 p.m.) doesn't delve into these legal nuances as it visits half a dozen foreign women who married Japanese men and are now living in Japan. However, it does explore the special problems that these women face in being accepted by their communities and in-laws.

Among the foreign wives profiled is a 33-year-old woman from the Solomon Islands who met her Japanese husband when he was an overseas volunteer in the South Seas 12 years ago. Both sets of parents disapproved of the union, though his folks have softened a bit since the couple's son was born. They now live in Nakano Ward, Tokyo, where she runs an English conversation school and teaches Samoan dance.

Anjelica, a 40-year-old woman, met her Japanese husband, who is 28 years her senior, when she was a secretary in Mexico and he frequently visited her company on business. They corresponded regularly for years before tying the knot. When she moved to Ota in Gunma Prefecture, she couldn't speak any Japanese. Now, however, she's not only fluent, but also helps other Spanish-speaking immigrants learn the language.

The situation of a 27-year-old Indian woman may typify what awaits many Asian wives. She met her husband at a New Delhi factory where she was a manager. After they married, she moved to his family's farm in Hiroshima, where she experienced severe culture shock. Now, after six years of fighting with her mother-in-law, she feels quite Japanese.

It's no secret that the world's forests are disappearing at an alarming rate due to indiscriminate cutting. It is estimated that one hectare of forest vanishes every 10 seconds. At that rate, 90 percent of the world's forests will be gone by the end of this century.

Japan, of course, is party to this destruction, mainly in Southeast Asia, where deforestation is accelerating faster than anywhere else in the world.

On "Chikyu Gojuoku-nen Kiko (The Earth's Five-Billion-Year Journey)" (Nippon TV, Dec. 2, 9 p.m.), three groups of Japanese celebrities will travel to Southeast Asia to view firsthand the ravages of commercial forestry. Noriko Sakai, an idol who may be more popular in the rest of Asia than she is in Japan, will visit a nature reserve in Malaysia. Here, the forests are conserved and used as a tourist destination to make money for the local people. This "ecotourism" is becoming a popular way for developing countries to bring in foreign currency without damaging their natural environments.

Comedian Cha Kato and his daughter visit a compound for orphaned orangutans in Malaysia. Due to deforestation, orangutans are losing their natural habitat and have become an endangered species.

Lastly, the J-pop dance group PaniCrew goes to Borneo to find out how deforestation has affected the everyday lives of the native people.

W hen people think of Tokyo, they normally imagine Ginza, Shinjuku and all the bright-lights, big-city attractions, but the capital as a municipality also takes in such far-flung places as Miyake Island and Mount Takao.

Photographer Shinpei Asai has always wanted to explore one of the "rural villages" that are situated in Tokyo proper, and he gets his chance on this month's installment of NHK's travel show, "Tsurube Kazoku ni Kampai (Tsurube Toasts Families)" (NHK-G, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.), which visits Hinohara-mura in the mountains that border Kanagawa and Yamanashi prefectures.

Asai mainly wants to photograph the local elementary school, but he finds to his amazement that the village has none. He has to be content with a junior high school. The show's regular host, comedian Tsurube Shofukutei, hears that on the day before he and his TV crew arrived, two women gave an uproarious standup comedy routine at the village festival, and he goes in search of them to get a taste of their act. As always, Tsurube and his guest wander about the community willy-nilly, meeting people at random on the street and then visiting their families.

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