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Sunday, Jan. 21, 2007

Channel surf

Okinawa is famous for its unique folk-music style, but the music from Japan's southernmost prefecture is even more varied than what most people in Yamato (what Okinawans call the rest of Japan) imagine. This week, Nihon TV's performance program, "Gokujo no Tsukiyo (An Extreme Moonlit Night)" (Monday, 10 p.m.) presents several of the island's most interesting new acts who are on the verge of breaking big in Yamato.

Isamu Shimoji is an ex-salaryman who sings all his songs in the Miyako Island dialect. Then there's Toru Yonaha, who is reported to be the fastest sanshin player in Japan. The sanshin is the local version of the samisen. Yonaha is officially designated as an heir to the Okinawan technique, charged with passing along what he knows to the next generation, including Kumi Odori, a kind of performance utilizing taiko drums. Also on the show will be U-Dou and Platy, an Okinawan reggae group that sing about the unique problems on the island.

Another Japanese musician visits a much different island on the travel show "Chikyu Kaido (World Highway)" (TV Tokyo, Saturday, 10:30 p.m.), whose theme is an intense focus on one particular aspect of a particular region or city. Cellist Hajime Mizoguchi goes to Ireland, a place that he imagines to be the "best place in the world to play the cello." More a new-age musician than a classical one, Mizoguchi takes in performances by buskers on the streets of Dublin and then visits a workshop that specializes in Irish harps. Inspired by the unique tonal quality of the harp, which are said to impart magic powers, he attempts some duets with amateur harpists.

For many years, NHK has broadcast documentaries about life in China, in particular the social and economic changes that have taken place since the move toward more market-driven models since the late 1980s.

Starting Sunday, Jan. 28, NHK-G will start exploring the other Asian economic powerhouse, India, in much the same way. There are many Indian immigrants in Japan right now, and the country has become one of the world's biggest players in the information technology field.

The NHK documentary series "The Indian Shock" will focus on a different theme every night for three consecutive nights. The Jan. 28 documentary (9 p.m.) will be about India's technical knowhow, especially in the field of applied mathematics, and its highly educated workforce. On Jan. 29 (10 p.m.), the country's potential consumer power is explored: The emerging middle class in a nation of 1.1 billion people will have far-reaching effects on the world economy. The program on Jan. 30 (10 p.m.) will address India's developing role as a superpower in terms of diplomacy and economic strategy.

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