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Sunday, Jan. 15, 2006

Channel surf

Japanese fans of Madonna can be forgiven for not knowing their idol came to Japan last month. Though the reason for the visit was to promote her new album, the trip was such a well-guarded secret that it seems no one noticed.

But Madge did take time out to be filmed for the aging boy band's variety show "SMAP X SMAP," which will be shown Monday on Fuji at 10 p.m. She is the dinner guest for the regular "Bistro SMAP" cooking segment, and since Madonna is one of the world's most famous vegetarians the boys had to come up with a meal that's both meatless and filling. As the Material Girl remarked when she showed up, "I've been dancing all day and I'm just famished." She requests typical Japanese food for winter, and watches carefully as they prepare the victuals, making them all self-conscious in the process. Even the normally unflappable Masahiro Nakai turns into a nervous wreck in the presence of the pop queen.

Moving from its prime-time slot to late night is "Aura no Izumi (The Fountain of Aura)," starring cross-dressing chanson singer Akihiro Miwa and "spiritual counselor" Hiroyuki Ehara (TV Asahi, Wednesday, 11:15 p.m.). Ehara is famous for supposedly being able to read people's "aura" and, based on what he sees, he offers them advice with regard to personal problems and future possibilities. This week's guest is Sakura Uehara, a former idol who has a reputation for meanness. She admits as much and says she sincerely wants to change. Ehara tells her that in a previous life she was born into a very a poor family who had to sell her to a brothel. She grew up to be a great beauty, which caused people of higher station to envy her and treat her cruelly. Consequently, in this life she may be trying to make up for past pain by causing pain to others who don't deserve it.

On Friday at 6:55 p.m., TBS will present a special about the global environment called "The World of One Second." The program will visit locations all over the world to describe specific ecological crises in terms of huge changes that occur on a second-by-second basis. For example, Venice is famous for its canals, but the onset of global warming has placed the city in dire peril because it is sinking beneath the waves at an increasingly rapid rate -- every second a volume of water equivalent to 324 25-meter-long swimming pools enters the canals. China's desertification is illustrated by the fact that every second an area equal in size to 48 tatami mats turns into desert. Other hot spots include Mt. Fuji and Antarctica.

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