Bewigged comedian Kimimaro Ayanokoji made it the hard way; not on TV or even in theaters, but at sightseeing destinations where he would board tour buses and pass out cassettes of his act to middle-aged women, who tended to be the target of his humor. They loved it, and word-of-mouth eventually made him one of Japan’s most popular standup acts.
This week, the first installment of NHK’s four-part “Family History” (NHK-G, Mon., 10 p.m.) looks at Ayanokoji’s upbringing as a means of understanding the man. He was born and raised in a rural part of Kanagawa Prefecture, where his father carried out insemination of dray horses. Though the family was poor, poverty was not as serious a problem as it might have been owing to his father’s gentle nature, developed out of his deep love for horses. It wasn’t until after his father died 13 years ago that Ayanokoji learned the tragic truth of his father’s own past.
The unlikely subject of this week’s installment of the art history show, “Bi no Kyojin-tachi” (“Giants of Beauty”; TV Tokyo, Sat., 10:15 p.m.), is one of Japan’s first international arms merchants. Actually, the program is about Thomas Blake Glover’s home in Nagasaki, which is considered the oldest wooden Western-style structure in Japan, even if the shingles are Japanese-style.
The Glover House, which is now a popular tourist attraction, was not really the main house for Glover, a Scottish merchant who moved from Shanghai to Nagasaki in 1859 to export tea. He built it as an annex for business meetings, which eventually included various people involved in the overthrowing of the Shogunate, such as Ryoma Sakamoto, the subject of NHK’s current yearlong historical drama. Glover eventually became rich selling guns to the rebels and, it’s said, to the Shogun’s forces, too.
CM of the week
Gin no Sara: A young woman walks into a public plaza and spies a man across the way. Their eyes lock and both seem overcome with emotion. The woman starts hurriedly removing her clothing, and the man does the same as Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Air on the G String” plays delicately on the soundtrack.
When both are down to tank tops and boxer shorts, the woman pours a bucket of white paint over her head. The man follows suit, but with red paint. She crouches down with her face to the ground, and he runs over and lays himself prone on top of her, his legs and arms extended. The image morphs into that of a piece of tuna sushi, and the words “a supreme meeting of neta and shari appears under the logo of the Gin no Sara sushi chain. Neta is the special sushi term for the morsel that lies on top of the rice, while shari describes the ball of rice itself.