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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ex-patriot returns home, samurai classic revived, inventor-farmer special

On Monday at 9 p.m., TBS will present a new drama by noted scriptwriter Taiichi Yamada called "Toi Kuni kara Kita Otoko (The Man from a Faraway Country)."

Tatsuya Nakadai plays Yusaku, who returns to Japan for the first time in 46 years. He was once the employee of a major trading company and was posted to an office in Central America. During the assignment, he somehow became involved in a political dispute and was convicted and sent to jail. Back in Japan, his fiancee, Noriko (Komaki Kurihara), and best friend, Takumi (Naoki Sugiura), worked hard to secure his release, but they were unsuccessful.

Years passed, and when Yusaku was finally set free he learned that Noriko and Takumi had wed. He got married himself to a local woman and had a family, but following his wife's death he decides to finally return to Japan and see his old friends.

The second highest viewer rating in the history of Japanese TV was 35.8 percent for a 1968 episode of the historical drama series "Suronin Tsukikage Hyogo (Masterless Samurai Tsukikage Hyogo)," which starred Jushiro Konoe, one of the biggest chanbara (sword-fighting) movie stars of all time.

TV Asahi has revived the series (Tuesday, 7 p.m.) with Konoe's son, Hiroki Matsutaka, in the title role. Hyogo Tsukikage is the second son of the chief retainer to the shogun. However, he hates the rigid life of a retainer and has decided to become a masterless samurai, roaming the land freely. In each episode he stumbles upon some kind of intrigue and intervenes in his own cool, casual way to help the weak and powerless. On his journeys he is constantly shadowed by an amiable con man, and the two often work in combination, either making jokes or fighting off bad guys.

In this week's episode Tsukikage encounters a young runaway, who says she is looking for her mother, and the elderly man who is chasing her.

On this week's installment of NHK's "Professional: Shigoto no Ryugi (Professional: The Way of Work)" (NHK-G, Tuesday, 10 p.m.), the subject is Takao Furuno, a 56-year-old rice farmer who is the only Japanese recipient of the Swiss Schwab Foundation's Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

Furuno developed a method of pest control and fertilization called the Aigamo Agricultural Method that has become world famous. With this method, rice farmers do not have to use chemical pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

Instead, they use ducks, which are specially bred and released into rice paddies. The ducks eat insects and weeds while leaving the rice plants untouched, and their droppings act as fertilizer. Furuno discusses how it took him years to develop the method, and also talks about a new system for rice cultivation that involves seed-planting in dry fields.

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