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Sunday, Nov. 16, 2008

Channel surf

The guest on this week's "Top Runner" (NHK-G, Monday, 12:10 a.m.), NHK's weekly interview show, is actress Aoi Miyazaki, who is playing the title role in the public broadcaster's yearlong historical drama series, "Atsuhime," which winds up next month. Miyazaki is the youngest person to ever land the lead role in NHK's Sunday night serial, which might explain its popularity.

Miyazaki entered show business at the age of 4, but didn't make a big impression until she appeared in the 2001 movie "Eureka" as a girl who survives a bus hijacking, but is severely traumatized. Since then she has been in demand for everything — movies, television, advertising — and her simple lifestyle is said to be an inspiration for young people. Just before she started work on "Atsuhime," in which she plays the wife of the 13th shogun, she announced that she was getting married, news that alarmed NHK, but which seems to have had no adverse effect on the series.

T he variety show "Himitsu no Kenmin Show" ("The Secrets of Prefectural Citizens Show") (Nihon TV, Thursday, 9 p.m.) is expanded to two hours this week for a special installment, which means more time is devoted to Osaka. Though the program tries to spread its reportage equally among Japan's 47 prefectures, every week there is a special segment dedicated to Osaka, simply because it's such an entertaining place. Sure, the food and the dialect are different, but what makes Osaka so special is its natives, who are naturally funny, even the ones you meet on the street.

One of the region's odd customs has to do with batteries. People in Osaka believe that if you keep new batteries in the refrigerator they will last longer, which is hardly a unique idea. However, Osakans also believe that if you store seasonings and condiments next to your batteries in the refrigerator, it will improve the flavor of the food you make. A survey of Osaka residents finds that this belief is quite widespread.

H istorians have argued for years about the location of the prehistoric kingdom of Yama Taikoku. The kingdom existed on the Japanese archipelago in the 3rd century, but at that time the people who lived here had no written language. Everything known about the kingdom is from Chinese accounts. Some historians believe Yama Taikoku was in present-day Shiga Prefecture, while others say present-day Kyushu.

This week, the world history quiz show "Sekai Fushigi Hakken" ("World Mysteries") (TBS, Saturday, 9 p.m.) makes a claim for Shiga. The program looks at the Makimuku excavation site near Nara, which archaeologists believe will answer many of the questions about Yama Taikoku.

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