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Sunday, July 18, 2004


"NHK Special" traces Japanese garbage to China and more

July 19 is a national holiday, "Umi no Hi (Day of the Sea)" to be exact, and Nippon TV will celebrate large bodies of water with a special afternoon travel program (4 p.m.) about the Amazon River, specifically where it meets the ocean.

Hidekazu Akai and Noriko Kato will travel through the Amazon forest, which accounts for one-third of all the rain forests in the entire world and is said to produce one-fifth of the Earth's oxygen supply. The two Japanese travelers will hook up with native people who will teach them how to live within nature.

The pair will also attend a number of nature-based local festivals, including one that is held on a reservation for an indigenous tribe. They will also learn about the rich flora and fauna of the area and play with dolphins that swim up the Amazon from the sea.

School lets out for summer vacation this week, which means that lots of kids will be causing all sorts of mischief. The two young protagonists of TBS's "Wednesday Premiere" (9 p.m.), however, have plenty of constructive work to occupy themselves. Yotsuya-kun and Otsuka-kun don't go to the same elementary school, but they attend the same after-school juku (cram school). All this educational activity isn't enough, however, and when the two friends have free time they carry out scientific experiments in a vacant house in their neighborhood.

One day, a corpse is discovered in the house by police. The victim's face had been partially damaged by a corrosive chemical. Afraid that the equipment they use for their experiments might lead police to think they're the murderers, the two little geniuses sneak in to retrieve their tools at night and stumble upon some mysterious diagrams.

Yotsuya and Otsuka offer their brilliance to the bumbling police detective who is placed in charge of the case in order to help him solve it. That's one way to spend your summer vacation.

Japan has slowly and methodically developed its recycling capabilities in order to address the enormous amount of waste the archipelago is producing. In many ways the effort has been successful, but now that recycling facilities are online to handle waste, there's no waste to recycle.

The reason is China. Production on the mainland has increased so rapidly that raw materials are always in demand, and much of Japan's recyclable waste is being bought at a premium by China, where it is being turned into clothing, cars, and other items that are sold to other countries, including Japan.

This week's "NHK Special" (NHK-G, July 25, 9 p.m.) traces the route that Japanese waste -- 6.8 million tons a year -- follows when it goes to China. Chinese recycling experts, armed only with cigarette lighters and magnets, are able to assess the value of entire mountains of garbage, which are shipped to China and sorted by hand. Though China's need for recyclables is helping Japan solve its garbage problems, it is also destroying Japan's own recycling industry.

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