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Sunday, April 26, 2009


60-second success stories, Japanese baritone in Estonia, and tales of drifter Manjiro

Answers to questions that probably never occurred to anyone except the producers of this variety show are the subjects of "Jinsei ga Kawaru Ippun no Fuka-ii Hanashi" ("Profoundly Satisfying One-Minute Stories About Life-changing Incidents") (Nihon TV, Mon., 8:54 p.m.). Celebrities discuss anecdotes that made significant changes in their lives and careers.

This week, the comedian Notchi discusses the "little break" that made him a star, namely a suggestion from his wife that, with a little bit of makeup, he could earn a good living as a Barack Obama impersonator. Also, Miyazaki Governor Hideo Higashikokubaru explains his brainstorm for a successful PR campaign to sell mangoes, and Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan describes how he started appending blooper reels to all his movies.

In addition, there's a short documentary about the success of Cup Noodle, which was a total sales failure when it was first put on the market.

On the NHK travel series "First Japanese" (NHK-G, Thurs., 12:10 a.m.), TV personality Tomohiro Sekiguchi visits Japanese people who live in foreign countries, where they have made some kind of impact. This week, he goes to Estonia to meet Hideyuki Nishimura, a baritone in the Estonia State Men's Chorus.

It is said that one out of every three Estonians belongs to a choral group, and the national Men's Chorus may be the most celebrated in the country, having once won a Grammy. Obviously, it is a very select group, and Nishimura is the first Japanese person to ever become a member. Next year, the chorus celebrates its 65th anniversary, and Sekiguchi watches the rehearsals and observes Nishimura's life in Talinn.

"Kogarashi Manjiro" was one of the most popular historical TV drama series of the 1970s, spawning sequels and movies and turning its lead actor, Atsuo Nakamura, into a star and, later, a prominent politician. Based on a character created by the novelist Saho Sasazawa, Manjiro is the archetypal matatabi, a silent, somewhat disreputable drifter who nevertheless always sides with the weak and the good. Think of Clint Eastwood in all those spaghetti Westerns.

On Friday at 9 p.m., Fuji TV will broadcast a new drama featuring Yosuke Eguchi as Manjiro, who, while entering the outskirts of a town, observes the daughter (Mayumi Wakamura) of a powerful local merchant being attacked by a group of bandits. Two other men, named Gennosuke and Kinzo, also see the attack and intervene, chasing the bandits away and saving the girl's honor. They then turn on Manjiro, asking him how he could just stand by without doing anything.

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