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Sunday, March 9, 2008

CHANNEL SURF

Tokyo air-raid photography, convenience stores, LDP versus the DPJ on TV

This Monday marks the 63rd anniversary of the Tokyo air raid. In the very early morning hours of March 10, 1945, U.S. bombers dropped incendiary devices on the capital. No one knows exactly how many people perished in the attack, but estimates range from 100,000 to 200,000.

Amazingly, only 33 photographs of the bombing raid's destruction are known to still exist. They were taken by Koyo Ishikawa, a police photographer. Ishikawa's story is recounted in the docudrama "Katararenakatta 33-mai no Shashin (The 33 Photos that Can't Be Talked About)" (TBS, Monday, 9 p.m.).

Toru Nakamura plays the photographer. The destruction, particularly that of Kototoi Bridge over Sumida River, is recreated using state-of-the-art computer graphics. The program will also include interviews with surviving eyewitnesses to the tragedy.

Despite their constant combative relationship, it's sometimes difficult to distinguish between the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition Japan Democratic Party. Clarifying these differences seems to be purpose of the two-hour Fuji TV special "Ima, Nippon ga Okashii (Now, Japan is Strange)" (Tuesday, 7 p.m.), where members of the LDP will sit down with members of the DPJ and engage in heated discussions. The moderator is wide-show host Tomoaki Ogura, who will make sure that the discussions avoid the kind of specialized jargon and rhetoric that tend to confuse and bore the average person.

The debates will also stick to topics that are uppermost in the minds of average citizens: How to fix the seemingly unfixable public pension system; whether or not the special gasoline tax is really necessary; and Japan's medical-care woes, particularly with regard to the shortage of doctors and lack of emergency services.

The convenience store has become more than just a place to purchase everyday necessities on the fly. Its role as a lifeline for many urban dwellers has turned it into an extension of their own homes. This social phenomenon is explored for comic effect on the special drama "24 Jikan Atatamemasu ka? Shippu Doto Konbini-den (Can You Be Warmed for 24 Hours? The Legend of the Sturm-und-Drang Convenience Store)" (Nihon TV, Saturday, 9 p.m.).

Toshi, of the comedy duo Taka and Toshi, plays Oikawa, who works in the head office of a nationwide convenience store chain. He is assigned to assume the managerial duties at an outlet in Shin Sekai, Osaka, which has had trouble holding on to managers. Oikawa quickly discovers why: old ladies who try to bargain down prices; yakuza who bring food from outside to heat in the store's microwave; and a very inept sales staff.



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