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A nostalgic trip to Vladivostok, interview with Mikhail Gorbachev; CM of the week: Kirin Ichiban Shibori

Back in the 1960s, before the average Japanese had enough money to travel long haul, a popular foreign destination was the Soviet city of Vladivostok on the Pacific coast. Most of the Japanese who traveled there were young people with wanderlust who also had a romantic attachment to the socialist experiment. And it was easy: You took the train to Niigata and boarded a special ferry to Vladivostok.

Very few Japanese go there anymore, so this week’s special edition of the travel show “Tsurube no Kazoku ni Kampai” (“Tsurube Toasts Families”; NHK-G, Mon., 7:30 p.m.), which takes in the city, may surprise older Japanese who think they remember it.

Rakugo storyteller Shofukutei Tsurube’s companion this time is the magician Mr. Marik, who right away delights a group of Russian children in a park with his prestidigitation skills. He and Tsurube also talk to street musicians and visit a large family whose elderly matriarch has some very moving stories.

Superstar news commentator Akira Ikegami makes his own trip to Russia on this week’s edition of “Sekai wo Kaeru 100-nin no Nihonjin” (“100 Japanese Who Changed the World”; TV Tokyo, Fri., 8 p.m.), though the main person he interviews isn’t Japanese but rather the man who is thought to have delivered his country from the Cold War: Mikhail Gorbachev, the seventh and last general secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Ikegami asks the respected Russian leader about the changes in his country — and the world — during the 20 years that have elapsed since the fall of the Soviet Union.

In addition, astronaut Soichi Noguchi, who recently returned from an extended sojourn on the International Space Station, shows up in the studio to answer some odd questions.

CM of the week

Kirin Ichiban Shibori: Major League Baseball star Ichiro Suzuki is recognized in the crowd at a big summer festival somewhere in Japan. Despite his initial protests, he is pressed into service to carry some lanterns in the parade and quickly becomes caught up in the excitement. After his demonstration, he toasts his hosts with a large glass of Ichiban Shibori beer.

It looks like an expensive commercial, at least in terms of human resources, and one can’t help but wonder when Ichiro had the time to come to Japan to take part in it, since he’s a regular starting player with the Seattle Mariners. Though it’s possible he was keyed into the CM digitally, most likely he participated during the off-season. In any case, he sure looks happy to be back in Japan, away from the Mariners’ dismal showing and his own irrelevancy as a star player for a team eternally stuck at the bottom of the standings.