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Sunday, Feb. 29, 2004

CHANNEL SURF

Nihon TV's "Super TV" explores festivals and more

Japan has many regional festivals, and some are very strange. Within the set of strange festivals there is a subset of events called hadaka matsuri, which means "naked festivals." At these revelries men strip down to fundoshi (loincloths) and do weird things.

One of the most famous is the Saidaiji Hadaka Matsuri, which takes place on the grounds of the Saidaiji Temple in Okayama City at the end of February. Approximately 9,000 men gather in the courtyard of the temple in the middle of the night to capture a 20-cm length of timber called a shingi, meaning "sacred wood." The man who finds and keeps the lucky piece of lumber will have good fortune all year long and will be the "hero" of the city until the next festival.

Nice work if you can get it, which is why the festival has lasted 500 years and 17 generations of men in Okayama have made it a point to participate year after year. This week's edition of the documentary series, "Super TV" (Nippon TV, Monday, 9 p.m.) will take an in-depth look at the festival, which attracts upward of 30,000 spectators a year.

Finding the bit of wood, which is recognizable by smell (two weeks prior to the festival the temple monks rub it with incense), is both an individual and a team effort, and the program interviews veterans who explain the strategy. Also interviewed is a 60-year-old man who has never won, but still participates every year, as well as a 62-year-old resident who has been the fuku-otoko (lucky guy) no less than 12 times.

On Tuesday, March 2 at 9 p.m., Nippon TV will present this year's winner of the Woman's Beat award, which is a competition for stories that are submitted for dramatization. Junko Nitta's "Fuyu no Himawari, Saisei Yori (Winter Sunflower: Coming Back to Life)" is a work of nonfiction that has been dramatized by Shizu Oishi.

Kyoko (Yasuko Sawaguchi), a professional designer, is preparing a Christmas Eve party for her family when she receives a phone call. She is informed that her husband, Tatsuo (Eisaku Yoshida), was in a traffic accident and is in a critical condition.

Tatsuo is in a coma and has suffered brain damage. A neurologist removes a blood clot from his brain, and though he recovers consciousness, he has lost all of his language abilities. More significantly, he has no emotions. He has been wiped clean of feelings.

Kyoko becomes the sole breadwinner in the family, supporting her little boy and Tatsuo, who begins undergoing rehabilitation with the help of a teacher named Nishizawa. Nishizawa's methods incorporate music into physical therapy. His main tool is the guitar, which Tatsuo was once fond of playing.



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