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Sunday, March 30, 2003


Letters from the front

Personal perspectives on the tragedy of war are bound to be rampant this week, so Sunday's installment of Nihon TV's "Document" series (Sunday, 1:25 a.m.) might feel like overkill to some people. As history, though, it offers something more interesting.

The documentary charts the 60-year history of a collection of 728 picture postcards. All of the cards were sent by a soldier in the Japanese Imperial Army to his wife back in Japan during the Pacific War. The soldier, who died in battle on the island of Luzon in the Philippines at the age of 31, dreamed of becoming a painter, and each of the postcards contains not only a message, but a beautiful handmade picture.

Though seven years elapsed between the time the couple became engaged and the husband's death, they were only together one full year. Most of their marriage, in a sense, existed on these postcards. Fifteen years after the war, the wife decided to exhibit the postcards as an example of the horrors of war and as a tribute to her husband. The cards were exhibited throughout Japan.

When the exhibit reached Kanazawa, in Ishikawa Prefecture, the wife realized that it was in this city that she last saw her husband before he was shipped off to the war. Then and there she decided to donate the collection to a museum, but it was not until she died last fall that the collection was actually installed in a museum.

Though it's common for viewers to call up television stations and complain about a particular program, in every case, the viewer will have to talk to a polite yet indifferent functionary who may or may not forward the complaint to those it is really directed at.

This week, Fuji TV will give you the opportunity to complain to the people who really count: the production staff, and maybe even the talent. "Akashiya Sanma no Fuji TV Haru no Daihanseikai (Akashiya Sanma's Fuji TV Spring Regret Meeting)" (Wednesday, 9 p.m.) will, in fact, give you 2 1/2 hours of opportunity to do so, as long as you limit your bile to Fuji TV programs.

Hosted by the most popular TV personality in Japan, comedian Akashiya Sanma, the show is a prime-time sequal to a similar program that was aired after midnight last December. Broadcast live, the show will feature selected Fuji TV selected producers and directors, as well as a few notable celebrity guests, such as comedian Kazuki Kosakai, manzai teams Bakusho Mondai and Neptunes, and all-around loud social critic Piiko. Viewers will not get to address these people directly, but are asked to fax in their comments so that Sanma can read them to the employees of Fuji TV who will attempt to make sniveling excuses. Where warranted, tearful, humiliating apologies will be offered.

In February, NHK began operating a high-definition television broadcast station at the Showa Base on Antarctica. In order to commemorate the launch of the station, the public broadcaster will coordinate simultaneous satellite transmissions from the Antarctic Circle, the Arctic Circle and outer space to present three spectacular views of the natural phenomenon called the aurora polaris (the aurora borealis is the term for the phenomenon at the North Pole, while aurora australis is used for the Southern Lights).

The aurora, which resembles a huge curtain of varying hues of light in the night sky, is the result of electrons and protons from the sun penetrating the earth's magnetosphere near the poles and colliding with gas molecules, which then emit electromagnetic radiation in the visible portion of the spectrum.

NHK's ambitious broadcast (NHK-G, Sat., 7:30 p.m.) is taking place in April because that is the only time of the year when it is possible to have darkness both at Showa Base and Abisko, Sweden, which was chosen because it tends to be one of the most cloudless areas in the northern reaches of Scandinavia.

Obviously, luck will have to be with NHK, since the appearance of the aurora is not a certain thing. But it if appears in the north, it will appear simultaneously in the south, and thus viewers will have three views. If it sounds like something that is more interesting for the coordinators than it is for the viewers, just think of how cold you'd be if you were watching it in person.

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