The portion of resident Korean nationals in the sports and show business worlds is higher than it is in the general population. Athletics and entertainment were and still are two traditional ways for non-Japanese to escape poverty.
This week the variety show “Family History” (NHK-G, Mon., 10 p.m.) profiles actress Kaho Minami, who is married to Hollywood star Ken Watanabe. Minami’s mother was Korean, and the program traces her heritage back to her grandfather, who came to Japan before World War II and worked in Kyoto at a store that sold martial-arts equipment.
After the war he lost his job and his family fell into deep poverty. They were supported by the eldest daughter, Naoe, who led a very turbulent life but thanks to her persevering spirit was able to make a stable home for her own family, including Minami, who inherited that spirit.
Thanks to Japan’s impressive showing at the Olympics, 2012 was a banner year for Japanese athletes, and Fuji TV celebrates the success in its own way with the 90-minute special “Top Athlete ga Taiketsu Zettai ni Arienai Yonban Shobu” (“Top Athletes in Unimaginable 4-stage Contests”; Tues., 10 p.m.).
Some of the biggest athletes in Japan compete against each other in rather odd configurations. For instance, golf prodigy Ryo Ishikawa challenges Homare Sawa of the Japanese women’s soccer team to a contest that determines which has better control of their shots. Boxing champ Koki Kameda demonstrates his split-second reflexes against the “attack” of badminton player Kumiko Ogura. And veteran baseball star Kazuhiro Kiyohara assembles a team of pros to bat against softball pitcher Yukiko Ueno in a game lasting only three innings.
CM of the Week:
Sato Shokuhi: Sometimes it’s hard to be simple. Sato Shokuhin’s new commercial for its kirimochi (cut rice cakes), a New Years staple, features teen actress Yu Aikawa and two “family members,” a combover-sporting father and a shorts-wearing younger brother, positioned around a hibachi and performing what used to be called an “interpretive dance” to a catchy electro-enka tune. The moves are pretty complex, and according to the Sato website the trio needed 50 takes to get it right, though it doesn’t mention how many rice cakes they ate in the process.