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Sunday, Aug. 17, 2003

Channel surf

On Aug. 17, the quiz variety show, "Amazing Animals" (TBS, 8 p.m.), includes a portrait of a dog named Shiro. The 2-year-old stray was scheduled to be gassed at a public facility when he was rescued by an organization that provides helper dogs to people with hearing disabilities.

Shiro, in fact, is the first subject of a new project to train dogs for people who have multiple disabilities. The training procedure is very difficult, since the disabled persons must carry it out themselves. The ideal result will be a relationship that allows the disabled person to live fully by his or herself.

On the same show is a competition between two Japanese macaques named Jiro and Chibi Jiro (little Jiro). Jiro is a professional entertainer, while Chibi Jiro is a younger monkey with very bad manners. The aim of the competition is to find which of the two is capable of "greater kindness."

A powerful symbol of the Pacific War was the tokkotai, the suicide pilots who in the West were called kamikaze. Many young men went to their deaths in airplanes that only had enough fuel to get them to their targets, but 145 soldiers went out on suicide missions of a different sort.

These men, called kaiten, did not pilot planes, but rather steered torpedoes underwater with explosives wrapped around their bodies. This week, Nippon TV's "Documentary 03" (Aug. 17, midnight) portrays one such suicide bomber.

The portrait starts with the discovery of an imon ningyo, keepsake dolls that were made by the women who constructed the special torpedoes and which they sent to the soldiers who would man them. The producers of the documentary track down the woman, now 73, who made this particular doll. Her life during and since the war is explained, along with the brief life of the soldier who received her doll.

This week, NHK's BS1 channel presents a four-part geography series aimed at children who are on summer vacation. Nick Middleton, a professor at Oxford University in England, travels to the four areas of the world that represent climate extremes.

* Aug. 19: Middleton travels to the Danakil desert in Ethiopia, considered the hottest place in the world, with temperatures averaging above 40 degrees every day. (Though, considering the current weather conditions in England, Middleton didn't have to travel that far.)

* Aug. 20: The professor slogs all the way to Siberia and a town called Oymyakon, which once recorded an atmospheric temperature of minus 71 degrees. While Middleton is there, the temperature is a relatively balmy minus 30 degrees, so he decides to take a dip in a local river.

* Aug. 21: Meghalaya, a northeastern province of India, is considered the wettest place in the world since it always experiences the most rainfall. When Middleton arrives, however, he finds that the expected rainy season has been delayed for some reason.

* Aug. 22: The driest place on earth is said to be the Arica desert on the extreme northern coast of Chile. In order to acclimatize himself to the harsh conditions, Middleton trains with the Chilean Army in the desert, learning how to catch nighttime dew for drinking water.

The programs begin at 6 p.m. and are in bilingual format.

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