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Sunday, March 2, 2003

CHANNEL SURF

Tours into mystery

Recently, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced a government plan to attract 10 million overseas tourists a year by 2010, which would be twice as many as presently visit Japan.

Such a goal is impossible to reach without cultivating the Chinese tourist market. Last year, the number of Chinese who went abroad for pleasure -- about 16 million people -- increased by 37 percent over the previous year.

According to many economists, once per capita GDP breaks the $5,000 barrier, as it did in China last year, people look beyond material needs for psychological comforts, and foreign travel tops the list.

Consequently, most of the world's main tourist destinations -- France, Australia, Germany -- are making a concerted effort to attract Chinese tours. Japan has actually entered the competition late, despite the fact that it's physically closer to China.

This week, TV Tokyo's business-oriented documentary series, "Dawn of Gaia" (March 2 at 10 p.m.), will report on Japan's efforts to lure Chinese tourists. The program will include a report on 17 regional Japanese tourist groups who participated in a travel expo in Singapore, including one from Nagasaki, which has been particularly aggressive in the tourism field. The show will also tag along with a tour group from the south part of China as it travels to Sapporo for the Snow Festival and to Akihabara to buy electrical gadgets.


Family murders are as Japanese as cherry blossoms, and family murders with motives to do with inheritance are as Japanese as cherry blossoms on Mount Fuji. On this week's "Monday Mystery Theatre" (TBS, 9 p.m.), veteran actor/MC Kinya Aikawa plays a certified public accountant who investigates the murder of his employer, the patriarch of a very rich family.

The Inukai estate is worth some 1.2 billion yen, and Gimpei Kusunoki (Aikawa) has been entrusted with the job of overseeing it. Mr. Inukai has three children: his older, divorced daughter Tamako (Midori Utsumi, Aikawa's wife); his second daughter Suzue by a different mother; and his eldest son Ryuichiro.

One day, as Kusunoki is about to meet the old man to discuss business, Tamako tells him that her father has been acting very strange lately, but when Kusunoki asks his boss if there's anything wrong, he says he's fine. That night, he goes out by himself for a drive and is killed when his car runs into a wall.

Immediately, the other two children begin discussing the inheritance, and when Kusunoki finds the old man's will, they demand that he open it immediately. To everyone's shock, it turns out that Mr. Inukai had an illegitimate son that no one knew about. The dispute over the Inukai legacy then gets ugly.


Believe it or not, sometimes TV producers do try to come up with something new, though in the case of Nihon TV's "Super Special 2003" (March 8, 7 p.m.), the "new" idea seems more like a bunch of old ideas rearranged in a different way.

The idea of the special is to present a panel of celebrity guests with a real-life mystery and get them to use their powers of analysis and deduction to figure out a solution or explanation. All of the "mysteries" presented are based on real incidents, so there are real solutions. Among the conundrums discussed . . .

-- An electrical power outage is traced to an eel that has somehow gotten stuck in an overhead cable on dry land.

-- Following the last day of a sumo tournament, the dohyo (ring) vanishes into thin air.

-- Overnight, thousands of tadpoles move from one tank to a nearby tank that was previously empty.



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