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The trouble with today’s disaffected youth

Long before he said “no” to America and became the controversial governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara was one of Japan’s most important postwar novelists, more influential than Mishima, if not as gifted. His most famous work, “Taiyo no Kisetsu (Season of the Sun),” is certainly the last word on youthful disaffection in Japan. It was a huge bestseller and won the Akutagawa Prize when it was published 47 years ago.

The book not only made Ishihara famous, it made his younger brother, Yujiro, the biggest movie and singing star in Japan. Yujiro famously took the lead role in the movie version of the novel and was such a hit that he created a whole new tribe of tough-talking young people called “taiyo-zoku.”

Though the Ishiharas were from a well-to-do family, the hero of “Taiyo no Kisetsu,” a third-year university student named Tatsuya, is a poor boy trying to finagle his way into the upper classes. Yujiro, in fact, was a notorious hell-raiser as a teenager, and he didn’t need to do much research to play a disaffected youth whose ambition clouded his sense of morality.

This summer, TBS is broadcasting an 11-part TV dramatization of the book (Sunday, 9 p.m.) that updates it to 2002. Though the class-climbing theme may not work as well in the Koizumi Era as it did in postwar Tokyo, the real stretch is in the casting. Tatsuya is played by Hideaki Takizawa, the 20-year-old baby-faced icon of Johnny’s Jimusho. It’s like asking Tobey Maguire to do a remake of “Rebel Without a Cause.”

In the first episode, which was broadcast last week, Tatsuya meets the pure-hearted Eiko (Chizuru Ikewaki) when he collides with her in an intersection, forcing her to drop her sheet music. Eiko’s mother is a successful concert pianist, but Eiko herself does not have what it takes to be a professional.

In tonight’s installment, Tatsuya, though thinking of Eiko, makes his move on Yuki, the fiancee of his rich friend Shinji, the first of his many attempts to get back at the rich and, by implication, a society that drove his father to suicide and forced Tatsuya to grow up in poverty.

This week, NHK’s BS2 channel presents a series of travel specials on European cities using as guides maps of the cities drawn at specific times in history. All programs start at 10 p.m.

Monday: Paris. The map that is used to navigate Paris was drawn in 1739, 50 years before the French Revolution. The map is so detailed, in fact, that it even includes illegal, makeshift dwellings constructed by indigents in the courtyard of the Louvre. The two travelers who act as hosts soon discover that, with only a few exceptions, the city has almost completely changed. Paris’ famous radiating-spoke urban design, which has been the model for a number of cities, including Tokyo, was not implemented until the mid-1800s. Until then, Paris was not the City of Light, but a sprawling, stinking, filthy mess.

Tuesday: London. Using a map from 1900, our travelers trace the two-year residence of Japanese writer Natsume Soseki, who went to London on a grant from the Meiji government to study English, since he himself was an English teacher. Soseki moved house five times and suffered a nervous breakdown. His state of mind is related through his letters home and diary entries. Again, we learn that the landscape of London changed significantly after World War II and that maps once indicated the financial situation of certain residences.

Wednesday: Florence. A 15th-century map is utilized to study the city that gave birth to the Renaissance. The question our travelers try to answer is: Why did the Renaissance happen in Florence of all places? Assuming a Flash News style, the program interviews and reports on the city’s most famous geniuses of the day, including da Vinci and Machiavelli. Also, using an old map, our hosts trace a “date course” that was taken by Dante when he was courting Beatrice.

Thursday: Berlin. A professor of Hiroshima University produces a whole sheaf of maps of Germany’s capital, drawn at different times in history, to show the evolution of the city through its many distinctive plazas, including Alexanderplatz, Potsdam Platz, Leipzig Platz and others. It is the professor’s belief that the only way to understand the history of Berlin is to understand the changes that each of these “town squares” underwent over time.

Sunday, Nippon TV’s news magazine, “Document ’02″ (12:25 a.m.) will profile Hiromasa Ando, a transgendered man.

Several years ago, Saitama University made news by announcing that they would specialize in treating people with transgender problems. Strictly speaking, transgendered people are those whose sexual attributes at birth are ambiguous. Sometimes these people are raised as one sex while feeling decidedly like the opposite. Many have operations, but others retain the body they were born with and simply try to adjust their lives accordingly.

Obviously, it’s a difficult undertaking, since what really needs to be changed is the individual’s relationship to a society that has already made up its mind.

Ando, who grew up with the name Chinatsu, has been a successful motorboat race driver, competing as a female, for a number of years. However, he has always thought he was male, ever since he was small, and in September of last year he came out and told his employer, the Japan Boat Racing Association. They subsequently allowed him to change over to the men’s competition.