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Sunday, April 19, 2009

CHANNEL SURF

Kuwata roars back with 'Tora-san,' drama about running from debt, and the story of a 'bad wife'

Keisuke Kuwata, the leader of the Southern All Stars, who called it quits last summer after 30 years as Japan's most popular rock band, revives his old TV series. "Kuwata Keisuke Ongaku Tora-san" ("Keisuke Kuwata, Music's Tora-san") (Fuji, Mon., 11:15 p.m.) was first broadcast for six months in 2000 and has popped up on occasion as a special program.

For this run, which is also set to last six months, he'll be joined by comedian and actor Yusuke Santamaria in a variety-show format centered on music, though the guests will not be limited to musicians. The "Tora-san" in the title refers to the late Kiyoshi Atsumi's traveling salesman in the "Otoko wa Tsurai yo" ("It's Tough Being a Man") movie series, and is meant to suggest that Kuwata's musical interests are both wide-ranging and down-to-earth.

Chisato (Maki Horikita), the protagonist of the new drama series "Atashinchi no Danshi" ("The Boys in My Family") (Fuji, Tues., 9 p.m.), is a fugitive from debt. In the first episode, broadcast last week, we learned that her mother died when she was young and that her father was a gambler. After he ran away, his debts, which amounted to ¥100 million, fell on her, so she also ran away, and ended up on the streets.

Then she meets Shinzo Okura (Masao Kusakari), the rich owner of a toy company, who promises to pay off her debts if she marries him and signs a contract. A month later he dies, and according to the terms of the contract, 21-year-old Chisato has to act as a mother to Okura's 6 sons, who range in age from 12 to 30.

In this week's episode, the third son, Sho, who ran away some years before, returns and promises to help Chisato carry out the "10 maternal commitments" stipulated in the contract. However, he runs into opposition from second son Takeru, who was main reason for Sho's departure.

Yaeko Yamamoto (1845-1932) has always been portrayed as a "bad wife." She was married to Jo Niijima, the founder of Doshisha University in Kyoto, and was referred to as "the handsome woman," a backhanded compliment that stressed her perceived masculine tendencies.

Yae's real story is clarified on "Rekishi Hiwa Historia" ("History's Secret Historia") (NHK-G, Fri., 10 p.m.). She was only a "bad wife" in that she didn't "follow" her husband the way a wife was supposed to during the Meiji Era (1868-1912). She fought as a soldier in the civil war of 1868, and after her husband's death became a field nurse in the Sino-Japanese (1894-95) and Russo-Japanese (1904-05) wars. She once said that marriage was "the biggest disappointment" in her life, so who's to say Jo Niijima wasn't a "bad husband?"



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