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Sunday, June 22, 2003
We can rebuild it
Asahi's popular "reform variety" series, "Before/After" (Sunday, 7:58 p.m.), only occasionally tackles very old, traditional-style Japanese homes, opting instead for the kind of rickety boxes that were built during the '60s and '70s, which are more of a challenge to rehabilitate.
On June 22, however, the target home is an 80-year-old machiya in an old neighborhood of Kyoto. Machiya are Japanese-style town houses, and the one that receives attention has been vacant for several years, ever since the owner died. The owner's son, who is in his 50s, has his own home, so when he inherited the property he didn't move in. The one-story structure is cramped and narrow and virtually unusable. However, his son's 23-year-old daughter and her 28-year-old fiance want to move into the old house. The main problems are structural -- the only storage space is a hard-to-reach attic, and the floor is uneven with gaps in the walls that make the building drafty in winter. In addition, the toilet and bathroom are set up in a separate, makeshift facility in the courtyard out back.
The makeover "expert" this time is a young architect named Wataru Hasegawa, who grew up in Kyoto. Hasegawa is an expert on old Japanese buildings and especially fond of machiya, which were fortunately spared during the destroy-and-build spree that accompanied the late 1980s bubble economy, probably because they were located in areas of big cities that developers weren't interested in.
Though it may seem there's nothing left to invent, in Japan, the so-called inventor-housewives are superstars in their own right. Some, in fact, are millionaires.
The housewife invention boom is based on the idea that homemakers know exactly what sorts of products are needed to make everyday life easier. They come up with ideas and then sell these ideas to manufacturers.
This week, the documentary series "Super TV" (Nippon TV, Monday, 9 p.m.) covers the boom and looks at a number of inventor-housewives. One 58-year-old woman became rich through an invention that cost her only 3,000 yen to develop: heel-less slippers. By wearing these slippers around the house, women are forced to walk on their toes and, presumably, they lose weight in the process. The product has so far racked up 4 billion yen in sales.
One 63-year-old housewife has made a career out of churning out such inventions, which include a device that makes it easier to apply eyedrops. Another woman has become so rich with her "back-brace belt," a kind of orthopedic device, that she was able to buy two houses and three cars. Now her husband works for her.
The program also profiles a younger woman who is trying to sell her first invention and follows the process from inspiration to development to writing letters to manufacturers.
NHK's new late-night drama series premieres this Monday and continues for the next four weeks (NHK-G, Monday-Thursday, 11 p.m.). The title is "Blue Moshiku wa Blue," which can be translated as "Blue, Otherwise Blue." It doesn't tell you much, but it does suggest the ambiguous nature of the plot.
Izumi Namori plays Soko Sasaki, a woman trapped in an affluent but empty marriage. Her advertising-executive husband has a mistress, and Soko herself is seeing a younger man. While she and her lover are taking a secret trip, their plane experiences engine trouble and is forced to land in Hakata. Walking around the city, she comes across a woman outside a small restaurant who looks exactly like her and whose name is also Soko (also played by Namori). She is shocked to learn that this other woman is actually married to her former boyfriend, Kawami, who is the cook and owner of the restaurant.
When she returns to Tokyo, Soko visits her father to ask him if he has another daughter he never told her about, and he says he doesn't, but leaving the house she runs into the other Soko, who has come to see their father and ask the same question. At this point, they both realize they are the same person, having split into two beings when Soko decided not to marry Kawami. They decide to change places for a month.