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Sunday, Oct. 22, 2006

CHANNEL SURF

NHK's "Premium 10," Nihon TV's "Catherine the Great" and more

On Sept. 23, 35,000 people flocked to the Tsumagoi resort area in Shizuoka Prefecture to attend a concert featuring folk-rock singer Takuro Yoshida and the soft rock trio Kagu-yahime. In 1975 these two artists played for 12 hours at the same site in front of 50,000 fans at the first-ever concert of its kind or size in Japan. They performed about 100 songs.

The bulk of the 2006 crowd was made up of men in their 40s and 50s who sang along lustily with every song. Most of the concert was broadcast live on NHK's Hi-Vision satellite channel. This week, NHK's "Premium 10" (NHK-G, Monday, 10 p.m.) will present a documentary on the concert and Takuro's career, which started in 1970. This year he turned 60, and in many ways the restaging of the legendary Tsumagoi concert was a comeback, since Takuro spent the last three years successfully battling lung cancer. The fact that he could perform for eight hours last month would seem to prove that he's fully recovered.

Many of the world's great museums often began with storerooms of the booty of kings. St. Petersburg's Hermitage Museum started out in a slightly different way. In 1764, Catherine the Great purchased a large collection of Western European paintings and installed them in the Hermitage, which was built as a palace.

On Tuesday, Nihon TV will present a two-hour special on the museum as a reflection of Catherine's private life. In "Catherine the Great: Love and the Hermitage" (9 p.m.), actress Tomoko Yamaguchi searches through the museum's vast collection of world-famous art and artifacts to find the secret of Catherine's storied love life.

It is well-known that Catherine had many lovers, as many as 10 at one time, but who was her favorite? Yamaguchi finds clues that the empress loved only one man her whole life, but why was this fact hidden for so long? The final scenes of this travel documentary will probably surprise you.

On Saturday at 10 p.m., TV Tokyo's art history series, "Bi no Kyojintachi (Giants of Beauty)" will look at the work of Japanese photographer Shoji Ueda, who died in 2000.

The program will specifically look at his influential Desert Series. Ueda lived his whole life in Tottori Prefecture, which is famous for its vast stretches of sand. The Desert Series is a set of staged shots, wherein Ueda placed people on otherwise empty sand dunes as if they were objects. The black-and-white photos were startling in their use of contrast and texture. Ueda said he liked to play with images, and he valued freedom over fame. He rarely traveled outside his home town, even though his pictures were shown and admired all over the world.



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