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Sunday, Nov. 12, 2006

CHANNEL SURF

NHK's "Ashita wo Tsukame," Fuji's "Tokyo Tower" and more

Every week, NHK's "Ashita wo Tsukame (Grasp Tomorrow)" (NHK-E, Monday, 7 p.m.) profiles a specific occupation as a way of inspiring young people toward career choices.

This week the occupation is wagashi shokunin, which means "Japanese confection craftsman."

Making traditional Japanese sweets by hand is a craft that requires many years of practice and study, usually at the foot of a master.

The program follows a 20-year-old female high-school graduate from Yamagata Prefecture who enters into an apprenticeship at a wagashi store in Matsue, Shimane Prefecture.

Along with Kyoto and Kanazawa, Matsue is one of the most famous cities in Japan for its confections.

The young woman reckons that it will take her 10 years to become ichininmae (full-fledged) as a wagashi creator, and even when she isn't actually at work, she practices her technique of wrapping sweet-bean paste in rice cake.

In order to develop more readily the state of mind required to bring out her own artistry as a confection maker, she also studies the tea ceremony as well as Japanese painting.

Another kind of craftsperson is at the center of NTV's "Tuesday Drama Gold" (9 p.m.), which is about a caterer named Nao (Noriko Sakai) who is forced to solve a murder to save a friend.

After the chef of a high-class Tokyo restaurant is found murdered, suspicion falls on his young assistant, Eita (Takanori Kawamoto), who witnesses say was quarreling with the chef hours before his body was found. Eita becomes a fugitive, and Nao, who has known him for years, believes that he is incapable of murder.

Eita makes the mistake of shoplifting a melon so that he can make a special dish for his sister, who has just returned from a long sojourn overseas. He is arrested and jailed by the police. Nao, still convinced he is innocent, is not allowed to visit Eita in jail and so she sends him a message in a lunch box that is conveyed by her husband, who happens to be a cop.

Last July, this space previewed a special drama based on Lily Franky's best-selling novel, "Tokyo Tower." However, several days before the program was to air it was canceled because one of the actors in the drama, comedian Keiichi Yamamoto, had been arrested for allegedly molesting a teenage girl. Since the role he played was central to the story, it couldn't be removed without destroying the drama.

This Saturday, "Tokyo Tower" will finally be aired (Fuji, 9 p.m.) with new scenes that were recently shot with a different actor. Hailed as a new classic of Japanese literature, the novel centers on the relationship between a woman (Yuko Tanaka) who is in fragile health and her grown son (Hiroshi Oizumi), who is trying to make a living as an artist in 1970s Tokyo.



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