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Sunday, Oct. 8, 2006


TBS's "The World's Super Doctors" and more

Japanese boys' interest in insects goes beyond the universal male childhood fascination with creepy-crawlies. Often, this obsession continues into adulthood and explains the hugely profitable trade in giant beetles.

On NHK's documentary program "Premium 10" (NHK-G, Monday, 10 p.m.), nature photographer Satoshi Kuribayashi travels to the Andes Mountains in Ecuador to hunt down Hercules, which at 18 cm is believed to be the largest beetle species in the world. Kuribayashi's career as an insect photographer sprang from his own obsession with beetles when he was growing up in Nagasaki Prefecture. For the NHK special, he even designed a special high-definition camera.

The Hercules' size is likely a function of its environment. The mountains in which it resides reach 6,000 meters in height. Kuriba-yashi also looks for the famed Elephant Beetle, which isn't the biggest in the world, but the heaviest.

Part 5 of TBS's occasional series on "The World's Super Doctors" (Tuesday, 9 p.m.) profiles Dr. Hiroshi Furukawa, who is one of the world's leading experts on stomach cancer.

Stomach cancer remains one of the main causes of death in Japan, and Dr. Furukawa has had a particular impact on the treatment of a virulent strain of scirrhus cancer, which invades the wall of the stomach and is thus more difficult to detect at the early, treatable phase. By the time this type of cancer is found, it is usually too late.

Forty-eight percent of the patients who contract this type of cancer and are treated by Dr. Furukawa live at least five years after the initial diagnosis. The program shows him working with patients on whom other doctors have given up.

Though it isn't a subject that is addressed very openly, teenage pregnancy is an issue in Japan. However, to most people it is only an issue that affects girls from lower-income families, which means girls who have lower expectations with regards to education and future employment possibilities.

The new drama series, "14-Year-Old Mother" (Nihon TV, Wednesday, 10 p.m.) takes as its bold premise the unintended pregnancy of a teenage girl from a well-to-do family who attends an elite private junior high school for girls.

In episode one, 14-year-old Miki (Mirai Shida) and 15-year-old Satoshi (Haruma Miura) meet at a cram school. Satoshi, whose mother is over-protective, is a lonely boy. Miki is the first girl he has even been able to talk with directly and openly. The two teenagers are harassed and deeply traumatized by a group of older kids, and during the process of healing they grow closer to each other. Eventually, Miki realizes that she is pregnant, and those around her suggest that she should have an abortion. But Miki has other ideas.

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