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Sunday, March 4, 2007

Channel surf

The tea ceremony is a unique cultural artifact of Japan, a bona fide art form that few people really understand. Given its iconic status as a tradition, some people may be surprised to learn that it is "only" about 400 years old.

On Monday at 10 p.m., NHK's educational channel will begin a four-part weekly series called "Gokan de Ajiwau Cha no Yu (Tea Ceremony Appreciated Through the Five Senses)." Though a bowl of tea would seem to be appreciated mainly through the sense of taste, the program shows how the traditional tea ceremony also gives equal consideration to image, sound, aroma and texture. Most people think the ceremony has everything to do with history and "manners," but the heart of the tradition is in experiencing the ceremony with one's entire being.

In the first episode this week, the concept of hospitality is discussed. Over the next four weeks, the program will explore the respective actions of the host and the guest, as well as a look at past tea masters.

This week's "Suitoku" (Wednesday Special; TBS, Wednesday, 6:55 p.m.) will look at the problem of juvenile delinquency and its effect on families. Using a variety-show format, the program features celebrities who themselves came from broken homes or whose own children at one time acted out antisocial tendencies.

The celebrities tell their stories in the studio and try to figure out just what it was that caused the breakdown in their family situations. Was it problems at school or at home? Is the educational system to blame, or the larger social environment?

As background for the discussions, the producers carried out a questionnaire survey among 500 mothers who provide information about their children's upbringing. There is also a special segment featuring popular comedian Hiroshi Shinagawa and his mother, who explains her son's history of juvenile delinquency.

TBS's long-running prime time family soap opera "Wataru Seken wa Oni Bakari (The World is Full of Demons)" (Thursday, 9 p.m.) has often exploited up-to-the-minute social issues in its story line. This week, it takes on the controversial topic of baby registration.

Yoko (Mami Nomura), the fourth daughter of the Oka-kura family, has wed for the third time, following two failed marriages that themselves followed two broken engagements.

She and her new husband have just had their first child, but because the divorce from her previous husband, Minakata (Jun Inoue), was only finalized six months earlier, according to Japanese law the baby's father is technically Minakata.

In order to have her new husband registered as the baby's father, Yoko will have to talk to her ex-husband, but she doesn't have the courage. Instead, she hires a lawyer to negotiate with him.

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