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Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010

Channel surf

NHK starts its new half-year-long, 15-minute morning serial on Monday. "Teppan" ("Steel Plate"; NHK-G, M-F, 8 a.m. and BS2, M-F, 7:45 a.m.) stars newcomer Miori Takimoto as 18-year-old high school student Akari, a happy, easygoing girl who lives with her happy, easygoing family in the coastal town of Onomichi, Hiroshima Prefecture. Her main passion is playing the trumpet in a school club.

Akari's little world is thrown for a loop, however, when an older woman from Osaka named Hatsume (Junko Fuji) shows up in town and reveals to Akari that she is her real grandmother. Akari's mother died when she was very young and she was adopted by the family in Onomichi. In fact, the trumpet she plays was her real mother's.

Akari doesn't get along with Hatsume, but after she graduates she goes to Osaka to live with her and look for a job.

It's said that Japanese people think of themselves as being unique, but on the special two-hour program "Kangaerarenai!? Kindan World: Nihonjin Joshiki Hokai" ("Unthinkable!? Forbidden World: Overturning Japanese People's Common Sense"; Nihon TV, Fri., 7 p.m.) it is other cultures that are characterized as being out of the norm.

Described perhaps oxymoronically as an "academic variety show," the special explores the backgrounds of other places where customs completely go against received beliefs in Japan. In one region of India, for instance, a woman can have multiple husbands. In what is referred to as "the world's happiest country," stimulant drugs are legal. Camera crews visit a town where homosexuality is an "expression of filial piety." And in the United States there is a place where people still live life as their ancestors did in the 18th century.

CM of the week

Meiji's Tokachi Smart Cheese: In the 1990s, former idol Kyoko Koizumi was the unchallenged queen of ads. At one point she appeared in no less than 10 CMs for 10 different companies.

Older but no less wincingly eager to please, she appears in the current campaign for Meiji's Tokachi "smart" processed cheese. In Japanese, the term "smart" means "sophisticated."

There are two variations. In one 15-second spot, Koizumi apologizes profusely for believing that "all cheese is the same," and then nibbles on a slice of Tokachi, which she claims is different. In the other spot, she professes her utter shock at how different the taste of Tokachi cheese is from what she expected.

The implication is that Tokachi isn't as bland as other processed cheese, but such a determination likely depends on how familiar you are with real, "natural" cheese. Given her over-determined enthusiasm it's difficult to tell if Koizumi is.

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