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Sunday, Dec. 21, 2008

CHANNEL SURF

Southern All Stars-inspired drama; Takeshi as Tojo; and communal living

Though they officially retired a few months ago, Japan's most beloved rock band, Southern All Stars, just won't go away. On Monday, Nihon TV will present a special two-hour drama, "Za Naminori Resutoran" ("The Wave-riding Restaurant") (8:54 p.m.), which is built around 30 SAS songs.

The story takes place in SAS' hometown of Chigasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture. Kenji Konami (Yo Ozumi) has just bought a restaurant on the beach that caters to local surfers. He moves from Tokyo to prepare the restaurant for its grand opening, and while visiting a shrine in the tourist enclave of Enoshima meets some strange and interesting locals.

But that's nothing compared with the people who keep dropping by his establishment as he gears up for business. The steady stream of offbeat characters with problems prevents him from getting stuff done. The all-star cast includes members of SAS itself, but not, reportedly, leader Keisuke Kuwata.

The second four-and-a-half hour offering of TBS' large-scale historical drama series about World War II, "Gekido no Showa" ("Showa Upheaval") (Wednesday, 6:55 p.m.) stars comedian Beat Takeshi as Hideki Tojo, the major general who was army minister at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor and who eventually became prime minister during the war.

The drama focuses on newspaper reporter Masaichi Yoshihara (Tatsunori Takahashi), who, in 1948, is frustrated because he doesn't know the "truth" about the war that Japan just lost. He seeks out an older journalist (Toshiyuki Nishida) who had connections in high places before and during the war and interviews him. The man tells him of the conflict that existed between the government and military leaders prior to the war, and how the conflict reached its peak with the American embargo of Japan in July 1941. Tojo advocated war because he believed Japan had no other choice, but there were many people who disagreed.

For some people, Christmas is the loneliest day of the year, so NHK's decision to visit a "share house" this Thursday seems appropriate. In the documentary "Heisei Nagaya no Junin-tachi" ("The Residents of Heisei Tenement") (NHK-G, 11 p.m.), cameras probe the lives of 40 people living in an apartment building near Otsuka Station in Tokyo where the rooms have bunk beds and the kitchen and bathroom facilities are communal.

The rent is ¥60,000 a month and residents don't have to pay deposits or key money. Most of them are only sporadically employed, and many have problems that go beyond their economic situations. One young man works part-time jobs as he tries to break into show business, while another who recently quit his full-time job now makes a living with currency deals on the Internet.



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