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Sunday, March 23, 2003

CHANNEL SURF

Women on top

Shows about and for women will highlight the second week of Japan's pre-spring TV specials. Fuji TV will present the eighth in its occasional series of talk shows, "Ganbare! Onna Bakari no Jinsei Tatenaoshi Hitori Mi, Issho Kenmei Special" (Monday, 7 p.m.), in which a dozen or so single female celebrities discuss life without men. Since the title indicates these women are "recovering" from something, the implication seems to be that being with men is the normal state of affairs.

Most of the discussions, in fact, revolve around individual reasons why they can't or don't get married, or why some of them got divorced. Singer Mariya Yamada explains that she was raised by a single mother, and that the experience was the driving force behind her decision to enter show business at an early age. Women's studies professor Yoko Tajima, who rejects the institution of marriage outright, talks about how modern women are still poisoned by the image of being rescued by a prince on a white horse. The discussions are complemented by video reports of "average women" struggling to raise children on their own, or recovering from divorce.


On a slightly more progressive note, businesswomen are celebrated on "Jiritsu Nadeshiko ga Saku Toki (When Independent Japanese Women Bloom)" (TV Tokyo, Tuesday, 10 p.m.). "Nadeshiko" is a term usually used to emphasize feminine traits that are traditionally prized in Japan: reticence, humility, strength. In this particular case, it is attached to women who have made names for themselves in the world of business through their own endeavors, and thus helped the Japanese economy immeasurably.

One hundred such women -- entrepreneurs, project leaders, housewives with business acumen -- are assembled in a studio to talk about their individual success stories with veteran journalist Shuntaro Torigoe. In many cases, these women did not enter business until after they had raised children.

Among the topics are women's special ability to understand consumer trends at the basic level; their use of real life experiences in making business decisions; whether or not the current economic decline can be pinned on a "masculine" business model; and how men in general set up obstacles to women's success in business.


On Friday, viewers will have to choose between two fairly frivolous female-oriented variety specials. At 6:55 p.m., TBS will broadcast a true-crime program focusing on famous cases in which the perpetrators were women. Most of them, it turns out, have to do with insurance scams.

At the exact same time over on TV Tokyo is "Saikon wa Saiko (Remarriage is Great)," a matchmaking show in which the participants are all divorced. The main segment follows three women who have made pacts with themselves to land "super-rich" husbands living in foreign countries. All three go to Italy, which, apparently, has lots of super-rich men sitting around waiting for Japanese divorcees.


In the drama realm, NHK will present "Ware, Bansetsu o Yogosazu (Our Honor Is Not Stained)" (NHK-G, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.), a work of fiction that addresses a woman's traditional role during the Meiji Era. Kaoru Kobayashi plays Matsumoto, who arrives in Osaka alone at the age of 10 and through hard work and ingenuity becomes one of the city's most successful merchants. Expanding his influence and wealth outside of trade, he becomes a railroad baron and founds a bank, a textile company and a brewery. Enormously rich, he and his wife, Hama (Naomi Fujiyama), live in a huge house, but then a great depression hits Japan. For years, Hama, who cannot bear children, has had to endure a cold relationship with her husband, who is more intimate with a female business partner. But faced with financial ruin, it is Hama, not Matsumoto, who rallies to save both their livelihood and their marriage.



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