Notes from the front

To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the establishment of Hokkaido Television, Asahi TV will present a special installment in its Human Vision series of social-historical video documentaries. “Kiri no Nikki: Aryushan kara no Dengon (Diary in the Fog: A Message from the Aleutians)” (Feb. 16 at 2 p.m.) explores one of the more unusual episodes of the Pacific War.

Few people know that there was actually a Battle of the Aleutians, which comprise the string of islands that extends west from the coast of Alaska. American forces battled the Japanese Imperial Army, and all 2,500 Japanese combatants were killed. After the battle, an American soldier found a book with writing in it and handed it in to his superiors, who had it translated, thinking it might contain valuable intelligence.

The book turned out to be the personal diary of a young doctor named Nobuo Tatsuguchi. Fairly certain that he was about to die, Tatsuguchi poured out his heart in the diary, addressing his thoughts to his wife and the daughter he had never even seen.

The military translators were moved by the document, and it soon spread throughout the United States in various forms as a kind of testament to the waste and futility of war. Eventually, parts were even published in American junior high school textbooks.

Actor Naoto Ogata travels to the Aleutian island where Tatsuguchi died and visits the people who live there. He finds out that many Aleuts were caught in the crossfire of battle. He also reads from the diary and tries to discover why this very personal document from an enemy soldier touched the hearts of so many Americans.

Certain combinations that at first glance don’t seem to work often turn out to be perfect matches. Take traditional vaudevillian Tomio Umezawa and former boy singer Kiyoshi Maekawa. The former, who has been called the “shitamachi Tamasaburo” because he made a name for himself as an oyama (male actor who plays female roles) on the small theater circuit in Tokyo, is a performer of the old school. The latter, who started out as the lead singer of the 1960s “mood chorus” group Cool 5, is a smoothie who’s not really all there. (For you trivia freaks: He was also the first husband of Hikaru Utada’s mother; her famous daughter was by her second husband.)

However, the two have become an item thanks to NHK, which sent them as a pair to entertain the folks in the hinterlands and taped community theater performances for later broadcast. Though each man does his own thing, they are more popular as a kind of comedy team, with Umezawa playing the straight man to Maekawa’s confused know-nothing.

This week on TBS’s Monday Mystery Theatre (9 p.m.), the two will appear in their first TV drama together. In “Ekimae Taxi Yukemuri Jiken Annai (The Case of the Station Taxi Hot Spring Steam Incident),” Umezawa plays Yumetaro, a rookie taxi driver in the hot spring resort town of Atami who becomes a cabbie after he is forced out of the police department for a series of infractions. Shinnosuke (Maekawa) is the instructor assigned to teach him the ropes.

As they get to know each other in their inimitable way, the two drivers cross the path of an armed robber who is hiding out in Atami.

A more professional atmosphere hovers over this week’s “Women and Love and Mystery” episode (TV Tokyo; Wednesday, 8:54 p.m.), which is adapted from a story by the late best-selling mystery writer Misa Yamamura. Though all of Yamamura’s stories are set in the Kansai region, “The Diamond Smuggling Murder Incident” has been moved to Narita Airport in its TV incarnation.

Yuko Narita plays veteran customs inspector Yoko Imai, who has a special talent for spotting phony gems. One day, she inspects the bags of a trading company employee named Mayumi and finds some contraband jewelry. Believing the young woman’s claim that she didn’t know the items were dutiable, Imai lets her off after she pays the proper duty for the items.

That night, however, Mayumi is found strangled to death in the airport parking lot. Imai, who noticed that Mayumi had a real diamond ring on her finger that afternoon, learns that the ring is not on the corpse. She tries to forget the incident and leaves it to the police, but that night she tells her colleague about it and the colleague talks her into investigating the case herself.

Imai later learns that Mayumi was having two love affairs; one with her supervisor at the trading company and another with a jewel merchant. She visits the jewel merchant’s place of business, and thanks to her appraisal talents can tell that the merchant is dealing in mostly phony merchandise.