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Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009

CHANNEL SURF

Tele-fraud documentary, urban myth sleuths, eco-institute tour

Remittance fraud, where con artists call people on the phone and fool them into transferring money through automatic teller machines, has become a hot topic. Despite warnings from police and banks, people still fall victim to such swindles.

On Monday, NHK looks at the criminal side of the story in the documentary special "Shokugyo Sagi" ("Occupation: Swindler") (NHK-G, 10 p.m.), which reveals that most of the perpetrators of such fraud are men in their 20s who have graduated from prestigious universities. Many, in fact, have worked for reputable companies. They consider swindling to be a job just like any other, and often actively "recruit" young men like them with the promise of high salaries. In interviews, they reveal that they don't care about their victims. "Japan is now all about winners and losers," one con man tells NHK. "And in such a society, fraud is the fastest way to become a winner."

Busting myths is always a popular pastime on TV shows, and it gets the full treatment on "Himitsu Kessha: Mayutsuba" (TBS, Tues., 7:56 p.m.). "Himitsu Kessha" means a "secret society" like the Freemasons. "Mayutsuba" literally means "spit on the eyebrow" and refers to an action that suggests skepticism.

The secret society here is made up of three people: SMAP member Shingo Katori and the comedy duo Kyain. Their stated mission is to "thoroughly investigate" certain beliefs that have been passed down for generations and ascertain whether or not they are true.

The usual topics of controversy receive attention: UFOs, ghosts and other phenomena that science cannot explain. They also listen to a song that is so melancholy that more than 100 people have reportedly committed suicide after hearing it.

So Kuramoto is one of Japan's most successful dramatists. Though he has written many stage plays, he is probably more famous for his television scripts, in particular the ones he wrote for the enduring Hokkaido-set family saga "Kita no Kuni kara" ("From the Northern Country").

Some years ago, Kuramoto set up a drama institute in Furano, Hokkaido, where young people could learn all about writing, directing and acting in plays. However, recently he has converted the institute into a foundation that promotes environmental awareness on a global level.

In the special program "Mori no Rabu Reta" ("Forest Love Letter") (TBS, Wed., 6:55 p.m.), TOKIO keyboardist Taichi Kokubu visits Furano for a tour of the facility and in the process learns about the problems that the Earth now faces.



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