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Sunday, Sep. 11, 2011

CHANNEL SURF

Insurance investigator crime drama; ping-pong prodigy; CM of the week: Yamasa

Insurance policies are classic plot devices in crime stories and at the center of the new seven-part drama series, "Last Money" (NHK-G, Tues., 10 p.m.). Hideaki Ito plays a corporate insurance investigator named Mukojima, whose job is to check life-insurance claims and ensure they're legitimate.

His latest case is a real head-scratcher. A family of three generations goes off a cliff in a car, and the only member who survives is the grandmother. The head of the household, it turns out, had taken out a life insurance policy, but in order to decide who gets the money, Mukojima has to first determine the order in which the people in the car died. His job is made more difficult when a mysterious woman (Reiko Takashima) shows up claiming to be the policy holder's mistress.

Table-tennis star Ai Fukuhara is one of Japan's most famous athletes, and has been since she was a little girl. In the past year another young player has threatened to steal her thunder, and she's even younger than Ai-chan was when she first made her mark on the sport. Eleven-year-old Miu Hirano debuted at the age of 9, and last January at the All Japan Table Tennis Championships became the youngest player to rise as high as she did in the singles rankings.

Miu is the subject of "NNN Document '11" (Nihon TV, Sept. 18, 12:50 a.m.), which explains how she started at the age of 3 when she joined her mother in a table-tennis class. Her goal is to win a gold medal at the Olympics, and given how young she is, she could win a few.

CM of the week

Yamasa: Actress Shinobu Otake stands over the stove stirring a pot of stew. Her daughter, Imalu, wanders over, checks it out and says, "It's different from what you usually make." Otake tells her she's now using Yamasa dashi (soup stock), made from konbu (kelp). They sit down to eat and Otake says, "This is what pleasure is."

Yamasa is one of Japan's oldest soy sauce makers, which means its main rival is Kikkoman, and one of Kikkoman's chief advertisement figures is comedian Sanma Akashiya, Otake's ex-husband and Imalu's father. He's conspicuously absent from the home depicted in the Yamasa ad, and not just because he shills for the competition. In his Kikkoman ad he sings, "What's pleasure?" — a question Otake answers in hers. Evidently, pleasure is having a meal without Sanma around.



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