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Sunday, Sept. 9, 2007


Department store special, history focused tourism, police interrogation special documentary

This week's installment of the business documentary series "Gaia no Yoake (Dawn of Gaia)" (TV Tokyo, Tuesday, 10 p.m.) looks at the current trend of department-store mergers.

Several years ago Kansai giants Hankyu and Hanshin combined forces, and in the Kanto area there was Seibu and Sogo. The biggest news irecently is Isetan's and Mitsukoshi's decision to link up. For a while now, the department store model has been declining amid the diversifying tastes of consumers, who know what they want and where to get it — and it isn't necessarily in department stores.

This week's program concentrates on the merger between Daimaru and Matsuzakaya, exploring their strategy for restructuring, as well as the merits and drawbacks of collaboration. The show also looks at Takashimaya, the one old-name department store that has resisted the merger trend. Takashimaya's plan for renewal is to return to the basics — better service.

Every year another Japanese town or region seems to get added to UNESCO's World Heritage list. It's an honor that once guaranteed lots of coverage and hordes of tourists, but does a surplus of World Heritage sites in Japan mean less media enthusiasm for each one?

Apparently not, since even "Adomatchiku Tengoku (Advertising Town Paradise)"; (TV Tokyo, Saturday, 9 p.m.), a travel-variety show that usually focuses on small Tokyo neighborhoods, is devoting an entire show to the newly designated World Heritage site of Iwami Ginzan in Shimane Prefecture.

Iwami Ginzan was home to one of the world's most productive silver mines in the 16th and 17th centuries. In fact, at its peak, the mine accounted for one-third of all the silver produced in the entire world. The show looks at the mine, but mainly at the surrounding community, which is a quiet tourism enclave famous for its hot spring, which has been serving visitors for more than 1,400 years.

One of the most curious episodes in the annals of law enforcement is the subject of "Detchiage (Frame-Up)," a Nihon TV drama special that will be broadcast on Sunday, Sept. 16 at 1:25 in the afternoon.

In 2004, police in the small village of Shibushi, Kagoshima Prefecture, received an anonymous tip that a local politician who won election to the prefectural assembly by defeating the village's old order had engaged in bribery. The police rounded up 12 suspects and subjected them to grueling, seemingly endless interrogations that incorporated threats to their families and hints that they could face the death penalty. Some confessed under pressure and later recanted in court. The judge was apparently appalled by the behavior of the police, and acquitted everyone last spring.

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