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Sunday, Feb. 18, 2007

Channel surf

The guest on this week's edition of Nihon TV's interview-performance program "Gokujo no Tsukiyo" (Ultimate Moonlit Night, Mon., 10 p.m.) is figure skater Shizuka Arakawa, the only Japanese athlete to win a gold medal at last year's Winter Olympics.

Arakawa, who isn't known for emotional displays, talks candidly about why she didn't break into hysterical tears when she won in Turin. She also goes into detail about why she was first attracted to figure skating as a child (it was the gorgeous costumes) and how she progressed so rapidly once she started training (she considers herself extremely competitive). In addition, she talks about her decision to quit skating several years ago after she became the number one skater in Japan, and how a "certain person" talked her into continuing. In fact, she considers the gold medal merely a first step toward becoming a professional skater.

Arakawa will also perform a routine that she designed specifically for the program.

It's often said that Japan is in danger of losing many aspects of its traditional culture. The TBS 90-minute special "Zetsumetsu Bunka Hozon Variety" (Preserving Extinct Culture; Sat., 2 p.m.) will look at regional cultural artifacts that are on the verge of dying out.

The producers drew up a questionnaire about which local foods, language aspects, customs and objects they believe have been lost or soon will be lost and sent it to people all over Japan. Talent will then visit areas and report on the disappearing items, such as public phones, whose loss isn't surprising (though some will question whether it's a cultural loss). Popular talent Becky will also travel to Niigata to interview residents of a small town whose one school is about to be shut down.

As the central and local governments look for ways to slash spending, one of the first items for budget review is public welfare. On Feb. 25, Nihon TV's news documentary program "NNN Document 07" (12:50 a.m.) looks at a tragedy that happened in Kita Kyushu and how it reflects on this trend.

Last May, a man in his 50s was found dead in the public apartment where he lived alone in Kita Kyushu. It was later learned that the man, who suffered from a chronic illness and was unemployed, had tried to apply for public assistance but was turned down. Kita Kyushu, in fact, is famous throughout Japan for its low welfare rolls, and has become a model for other cities that are trying to cut their welfare budget.

The program interviews local government officials who say that the welfare system is being improperly exploited by some citizens. However, welfare recipients and their supporters say that local governments think more about rationalizing their work than serving the public.

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