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Sunday, Jan. 8, 2006

Channel Surf

Only a few months after its publication, Charles Jenkins' memoir, "Kokuhaku (Confession)," has been made into a two-hour docudrama by Nihon TV (Monday, 9:30 p.m.).

Jenkins is the American soldier who crossed the DMZ into North Korea in 1965 and spent the next 40 years there as a prisoner.

In 1980, he was forced to live with Hitomi Soga, a Japanese national who was abducted from Sado Island by North Korean agents. For the first time since his defection Jenkins opened up to another person, and they eventually married and had children.

The program contains dramatizations of incidents described in the book as well as documentary footage of Jenkins and Soga, who now live on Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture.

It's the year of the dog, and to commemorate that fact Nihon TV will present a new dramatization about Hachi, the famous canine whose likeness is preserved in the plaza in front of Shibuya Station in Tokyo.

Based on a book by Kaneto Shindo, "Densetsu no Akita-ken Hachi (The Legendary Akita Dog Hachi)" (Tuesday, 9:30 p.m.) tells the story of university professor Hidesaburo Ueno who, in the early 1920s, was given an Akita puppy that he named Hachi, since the dogs splayed-feet stance reminded him of the Chinese character for "eight (hachi)."

Ueno gave the dog to his daughter, Chizuko, but when she married shortly thereafter and left the Ueno household, Hachi fell under the professor's care, and he grew to love the dog. Every day, Hachi would go to Shibuya Station to wait for Ueno when his train arrived in the evening, but one day his master failed to appear.

One of the ironies of Kabuki is that while it is restricted to male performers and musicians, many scholars believe it was invented by a woman. On Friday at 9:15 p.m., NHK-G will present a drama about this woman titled "Okuni of Izumo."

Based on a novel, it presents Okuni (Rei Kikukawa) as the inventor of a new type of dancing that utilized strange movements and peculiar costumes and became identified as Kabuki. Shortly after the turn of the 17th century, she and her troupe travel from their home base of Izumo, Shimane Prefecture, to Osaka, where they perform and, legend has it, put their audience into a trance. Okuni is invited to perform at Osaka Castle for the warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi. After watching her dance, he asks Okuni to entertain important guests, and helps her develop her art form.

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