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Sunday, Sept. 3, 2006

CHANNEL SURF

NHK's "The 88 Temples of Shikoku: Pilgrimage for Beginners" and more

As the title indicates, Nihon TV's variety show "The Sekai Gyoten News" (Wednesday, 9 p.m.) looks at astonishing news stories from all over the world. This week's installment looks at a woman who lost an amazing 182 kg.

Joanna lives in Scotland. For years she was married to a man whose mission in life was to make her fat. Joanna went along with this odd quest and eventually ballooned to 230 kg. At one point her doctor told her that if she didn't start losing weight, she probably wouldn't live another three months.

In her case, going on a diet involved more than just calorie counting. Joanna divorced her husband first. For six painful years she struggled with her weight, undergoing stomach surgery and numerous diets. She now has "the figure of a fashion model" and is happily married to man who seems to have more normal desires. They have two children.

This week, NHK's educational channel launches a series of how-to programs centered on leisure. The first series, which will comprise 13 weekly half-hour episodes, will be "The 88 Temples of Shikoku: Pilgrimage for Beginners" (Wednesday, 10 p.m.).

The 88 temples of Shikoku is one of Japan's oldest walking tours. About 100,000 people embark on the pilgrimage every year. The entire hike is 1,400 km in length and usually takes about 50 days. The number of pilgrims is expected to increase as more and more boomers retire.

There are two purposes to the program. One is to give potential pilgrims an idea of how they should prepare for the arduous journey. Experts instruct viewers on how to "walk effectively" and what the temple accommodations are like. But the main purpose is to prepare people spiritually, since the pilgrimage is a religious experience. The program explains the proper way to pray, and what those prayers signify.

Over the years, the once-popular Friday night legal variety show "The Judge" has morphed into "D Theater: Fate's Judge" (Fuji, 7 p.m.), a more open-ended variety show, but still hosted by the ubiquitous Monta Mino.

This week's show looks at the career of kabuki star Ichikawa Shunen. The world of traditional Japanese theater is made up almost exclusively by dynasties. Actors pass their skills on to their sons who do the same with their sons.

Ichikawa, however, learned kabuki acting and dancing at a workshop run by the National Theater, and later was hired by the company headed by superstar Ichikawa Ennosuke, who eventually gave him an acting position. In the late 1980s, he was awarded the name Ichikawa Shunen, and has since become one of kabuki's most celebrated female-role specialists. The program looks at how he made it in a world that is famously closed off.



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