It is estimated that an average of 220 people “evaporate” every day in Japan. The reasons are many, but can mostly be reduced to debt, love affairs, personal tragedy and involvement in crimes. And with no end in sight for the recession, the number is increasing year by year. Last year, about 80,000 Japanese people were reported missing.

Television has been milking the dramatic potential of this phenomenon for decades, but as more people opt to drop out of their jobs, families and communities, some producers have come to understand that the media can also play a responsible role. Asahi TV has tried to institutionalize the genre with “TV Chikara,” a regular live program (Saturday, 8 p.m.) that features banks of telephones manned by Asahi employees who accept calls from anyone who has seen or heard about the missing people described on the show.

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