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Sunday, June 17, 2001

CHANNEL SURF

When commuter hell takes on a whole new meaning

Several weeks ago, JR's Saikyo Line started to reserve at least one car on its nightly commuter runs for women. The move followed a precedent set last year by the Keio Line, whose new service, according to reports, is very popular.

Though it sounds like a trend in the making, it's actually a return to the past. After the war, many commuter trains had gender-segregated cars. The reasoning at the time had to do with the prurient idea that crowded trains were unbecoming places for women. Feminists eventually stopped the practice, though, arguing that it was discriminatory.

The move back to segregation was brought on by increasing intolerance for the long-standing problem of chikan, men who grope women on trains. What's interesting about the change is that men in general have welcomed the new segregation since separate cars makes it less likely that innocent men will be accused of molesting women.

This afternoon at 4:05, Fuji TV will present a drama titled "Rush Hour Nightmare," in which a 48-year-old salaryman (Kunihiko Mitamura), on the day of his 20th wedding anniversary, is falsely accused of groping a woman during the morning commute. The man is forced to defend himself in a trial that is clearly stacked against him, though by that time the accusation itself has ruined his reputation and that of his family. His company contemplates transferring him to a remote post where he'll be less of an embarrassment, his two children are bullied at school, and his neighbors avoid him. Since early last year, NHK has been collaborating with the Asia Broadcast Union on a series of events called the Asia Music Festival, which brings together Japanese and Asian pop artists for live music broadcasts. The first festival was aired from Thailand in May 2000, and the following October there was a program from Hong Kong.

On Friday at 7:30 p.m., the third two-hour special will be broadcast live on BS2 from the RTM Auditorium in Kuala Lumpur. The Malaysian roster of artists include "super idol" Siti Nurhaliza, currently the biggest-selling recording artist in the country; R&B queen Liza Hanim; the 12-member "Islamic gospel" group Rabbani; pop-rock quartet Kool; teenage song-contest winner Winnie Kok; Indian heartthrob Manivannan; and "veteran" pop singer (meaning she debuted before 1997) Erra Fazia.

On the Japanese side, you've got the dancing madness of SMAP-wannabes Da Pump; singer Eriko Imai; the cuddly soft-rock duo 0930 (pronounced "o-ku-sa-ma"); and dance-music star Hitomi Shimatani, who recently had a hit with a cover of a Janet Jackson song.

In addition to performances by each artist, there will be some cross-cultural duets, including one by Imai and Hanim, who will sing the Mariah Carey hit, "Hero." The hosts are model and singer Maya Karin and Marc Panther, the French third of the Japanese techno-Eurobeat trio Globe. Last year, archaeologists unearthed a set of giant piles on the grounds of the Izumo Grand Shrine in Shimane Prefecture. The piles, the largest ever found in Japan, have fascinated archaeologists and engineers alike because of what they seem to indicate: that a huge detached shrine stood where they were found.

For centuries, legend had it that a shrine 48 meters tall (about 16 stories high) had been erected on stilts within the Grand Shrine's precincts, but many historians rejected the rumor because they didn't think the technology was available in Japan at the time. The discovery of the piles has now made these people rethink their assumptions.

On Saturday at 9 p.m., NHK-G will present a special program in which experts from various disciplines -- construction, metalwork, etc. -- will attempt to create a simulation of what may have stood on the spot where the piles were discovered. The piles are quite extraordinary in themselves. Each one consists of three 1-meter-diameter pillars tied together. Structural engineers claim that this construction method made the shrine earthquake-proof in much the same way that buildings are made quake-proof today. This week on "Sunday Big Special" (tonight at 7 p.m.), TV Tokyo takes a break from visiting every restaurant and inn in Japan and drops in at the homes of celebrities -- supposedly uninvited -- to see what kind of food they keep in their cupboards and refrigerators. Reporters (themselves celebrities) ask the invaded individuals what they buy for sustenance and where they buy it, thus providing the promotional tieup possibilities that keep TV Tokyo in the black. Where they exist, family members are also interviewed and picked on.

Among the famous people who open their pantries to us are Devi Sukarno, who, understandably, keeps her larder stocked with foie gras, caviar and truffles, but who also likes simple Japanese meals made with tofu and mentaiko (fish eggs). Popular "new half" (transvestite) talent Karuseru Maki is having a party when the reporter arrives. The munchies seemingly represent every national cuisine on the planet.

In addition, an expert talks about how the color of food affects one's well-being. For instance, never eat green cheese when it's supposed to be white.



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