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Sunday, Aug. 12, 2001



War and remembrance

This Wednesday marks the 56th anniversary of the Japanese surrender, but, as usual, only NHK is commemorating it in any significant way.

The theme of this year's series of broadcasts is "For those who don't know war," with "know," in this case, meaning firsthand experience. Tonight at 9, "NHK Special" (NHK-G) will not present its usual documentary, but rather a drama about a Tokyo family that is barely surviving through the last months of the war.

Written by popular novelist Hisashi Inoue, "Aozora no Tango (Blue Sky Tango)" tells the tragicomic tale of the Yamakawas, a family of five living in the shitamachi district. The Yamakawas make their living manufacturing uchiwa fans, but, owing to the war emergency, their business has shut down.

The patriarch, Shinsuke (Akira Enomoto), earns money by transporting black-market merchandise on a three-wheeled scooter. His wife, Kazue (Keiko Kishi), is busy planning the wedding of their eldest daughter, Kinuko (Rie Miyazawa), whose fiance earns a good living dealing in black-market farm equipment, thus making him something of a tycoon. At the relatively lavish reception, the guests busy themselves with scooping up as much free food as possible to take home.

Later, a soldier named Tachibana (Ryo Ikebe) pays a visit to Kazue. They were once lovers and, in fact, Kinuko is his child. Shinsuke knows this but nevertheless encourages his reluctant wife to meet with the soldier. Afterward, Shinsuke and Kazue dance the tango in a rare moment of calm tenderness. The worst, as they say, is yet to come.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights, NHK will continue the war theme with three documentary discussion programs. Monday at 9, 73-year-old novelist Saburo Shiroyama will discuss his final great work of literature, a book about tokkotai commander Tatsuo Nakatsuru. Tokkotai were the "special attack forces" of fighter pilots who flew suicide missions, mostly at the end of the war. Nakatsuru flew his own mission after he heard the Emperor's surrender message. He was 23.

On Tuesday night, also at 9, noted translator and Columbia University professor Donald Keene and veteran journalist Frank Gibney will recall their experiences on Okinawa in the final days of the war where they worked as information officers for the U.S. military. Keene's job was to interview captured Japanese soldiers. He asked them what the war meant to them, and the answer, for the most part, was that it meant absolutely nothing. When he pressed these soldiers to explain why they "fought to the death," he received no satisfactory answers. On the program, Keene will come face to face with some of the soldiers he interviewed 56 years ago.

The series will conclude Wednesday at 7:30 with a special two-part, 21/2-hour discussion between members of the generation who lived through the war and members of younger generations who know little or nothing of that time. Gibney and Shiroyama will participate.

Household tips can either be lifesavers or a waste of time. On the Nihon TV variety-show "Ito-ka no Shokutaku (The Itos' Dining Table)" (Tuesday, 7 p.m.), you get both -- and in abundance. Viewers submit tips in various categories of usefulness, and a fictional studio "family," the Itos, which is made up of popular, unrelated celebrities, try them out.

The advice falls into three categories: urawaza (tricks of the trade), uraneta (special advice) and dai-hakken (major discoveries). As the various family members try out the tips, they usually become embroiled in the kind of heated arguments families are famous for.

This week's guest is tarento Yuka, who demonstrates interesting new uses for those pointless ribbons often attached to packaging. We'll also learn how to remain comfortable in a car on a hot day; how to dispose of watermelon seeds easily and gracefully; how to make shaved, flavored ice (kakigori) more appetizing; and the best way to deep-fry pork cutlets. In the dai-hakken section, there will be a big surprise involving forks and spoons.

Nihon TV will also carry out its annual "24 Hour TV" charity event starting Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and continuing nonstop until 7:58 p.m. the next day. The show's "charity personalities" are nine members of the girl-group sensation Morning Musume. The special's "program personality" is comedian Koji Imada. And the show's "special supporter" is 16-year-old actor and showbiz Renaissance boy Kazuki Inari, who many people think is actually twice his own age.

The theme of this year's show is "What Is Family?" and the various celebrities involved will visit handicapped people and participate in a "hand-shaking" relay race that will include upwards of 100,000 individuals. Morning Musume are scheduled to perform some of their hit songs, but the main ongoing activity of the program, as it is every year, is the celebrity marathon. This year, singer and MC Naoko Ken will do the running, all 100 km of it.

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