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Sunday, Nov. 1, 2009


Japan Prize awards, documentary on Nara temple, and Beat Takeshi's definition of beauty

On Monday, NHK will broadcast the winners of the 36th annual "Nihon-sho" (Japan Prize; NHK-E, 6-8 p.m.), which awards outstanding domestic and international contributions to educational television.

Since 2008, the Japan Prize is also given to so-called nonlinear content, such as Web sites, educational games and interactive products. This year, NHK received 324 entries from 196 organizations comprising 65 countries or regions. Categories are broken down into school-age groups (pre-school, primary school, youth, continuing education, welfare education) and cover both actual produced television series and proposals for programs, mainly from countries with limited broadcasting means. As part of its 50th anniversary commemoration, TBS will present a three-hour docudrama on Nara's 1,200-year-old Tosho Daiji Temple called "Tenpyo wo Kakenuketa Otoko to Onna-tachi" (The Men and Women Who Spanned an Era; Tues., 7:55 p.m.).

The temple was built in 759 by the Chinese priest Ganjin, who had been invited to Japan by the Imperial family to promote Buddhism. Ganjin (Katsuo Nakamura) goes through great hardships in order to come to Japan and becomes blind in the process. He is given a house in Nara by the Emperor and, with the help of his monk assistant, Nyoho (Shido Nakamura), starts building the great structure on the site where his house stands. Ganjin died in 763, but his work was continued by Nyoho.

The program also includes documentary footage of the rehabilitation work on the main building, which began in 2000 and is scheduled to be completed next year. Close attention is paid to the advanced technology behind the original construction, as well as the politically unstable conditions that Ganjin had to contend with while carrying out his project. The definition of beauty is different from one culture to the next, a subject addressed by Beat Takeshi on his variety show "Takeshi no Nippon no Mikata" (Takeshi's Way of Looking at Japan; TV Tokyo, Fri., 10 p.m.).

Japan's beauty industry generates ¥2 trillion a year, and one of the questions Takeshi asks is whether or not products and services associated with bijin (beautiful women) can save the Japanese economy. More specifically, what do we talk about when we talk about beautiful women in Japan? Can such a designation be defined scientifically? Some "aesthetic experts," for instance, think the size ratio between the white portion of the eyes and the iris influences how "pretty" a woman is considered. Are cheekbones important?

Takeshi and his guests, including second place finisher in the Miss Universe pageant, Kurara Chibana, look at what is considered beautiful in other countries, too.

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