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Sunday, Dec. 7, 2008

Channel surf

TV Asahi takes a long-term, in-depth look at life within a child-welfare facility on its documentary series "Hodo-hatsu" ("Information Dispatch") (Monday, 7 p.m.).

Such facilities are not technically orphanages, since the children who live there have been "separated" from their parents for various reasons: In some cases the parents died, in others the authorities took the children out of dangerous homes, and in still others the parents voluntarily gave up their children.

The program focuses on one teenage girl who has been living at Aoba Gakuen in Kyoto since she was 4 years old. In the meantime, the girl has bonded with one of the facility's counselor-teachers, turning her into a kind of substitute mother.

The teachers at the facility are very aware of the fragility of their charges' psychological states, but nevertheless balance understanding with strict discipline in order to prepare them for a world they will have to enter soon.

The documentary also includes an interview with one girl who, having turned 18, is about to leave the facility and live on her own.

At the Beijing Olympics last summer, Yuki Ota became the first Japanese ever to win a medal for fencing. The 22-year-old athlete's silver medal did not come easy, as he explains on the talk show "Top Runner" (NHK-G, Monday, 12:10 a.m.).

Ota was certainly a prodigy in Japan, becoming the youngest-ever national fencing champion at age 17. A year later, he advanced to the Japan Olympic team and went to Athens. He didn't do as well as he thought he would, so he started taking lessons with a renowned Ukrainian coach and his technique improved greatly. When asked to explain his main strengths, he points to his ability to analyze his opponent quickly, his fast reflexes, and his single-minded determination to win.

One of the great unsolved crimes of all time was the robbery of an armored car on Dec. 10, 1968, in which a lone thief made off with ¥300 million without firing a shot or even threatening anyone's life. Forty years later, almost to the day, Fuji TV presents a special two-hour docudrama, "Shinshogen! Sanoku-en Jiken" ("New Testimony! 300 Million Yen Incident" (Saturday, 9 p.m.), about the crime.

The robbery was carried out by a man posing as a motorcycle cop who stopped the truck and convinced the guards that there was a bomb on board. He simply drove the truck away by himself.

The program uses documentary and dramatizations to speculate on where the money may have ended up after the robbery.

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