“Eigo de Shabera Night” on NHK and more

NHK has the good fortune to control the Japan rights to several Korean TV dramas that are very popular, and they don’t let them go to waste. They use clips as resources on other shows, especially their Korean language classes.

This week, they even use them on a special prime time edition of the English-learning variety show “Eigo de Shabera Night” (NHK-G, Monday, 9:15 p.m.), which travels across the Japan Sea. The show’s regular gung-ho announcer, Matsumoto-san, takes a tour of locations used in the hit series “Winter Sonata” (in summer, no less), which are already hugely popular with tourists from all over Asia.

He also tests Koreans’ English ability, which, according to TOEIC records, is much better than the average Japanese. Matsumoto also interviews actor Lee Byung Hun, who stars in “All In,” a TV drama currently being broadcast on NHK.

Most Japanese baseball players enter the big leagues through the draft system after they graduate from high school or college. Koji Akiyama was one of the few who made it by simply trying out. Several years ago he retired from the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, where he had an impressive career as a hitter.

On Friday, TBS will broadcast a late-night documentary, ” Baseball’s Samurai,” about Akiyama’s journey to the United States, where he interviewed Japanese players who made it in America by doing it their own way. He wants to find out how they think, how they spend their free time, what their goals are , and why they came to America.

Among the players Akiyama meets is So Taguchi, who plays for the St. Louis Cardinals. He also talks to Mitsuru Sakamoto, who went straight to the United States after graduating from high school several years ago. He has yet to make it to the majors, and now plays for a Single-A team in the Colorado Rockies’ farm system. Akiyama is also granted a rare mid-season interview with Hideo Nomo, the L.A. Dodgers pitcher who was the first “samurai” to make it in the big leagues.

On Saturday, NHK will present a special program called “The Vatican and Contemporary Society” (NHK-E, 10 p.m.) that will attempt to look at the Catholic Church’s role in the modern world.

Pope John Paul II is the leader of a church that contains 1.1 billion adherents. He is considered a man of peace and despite his fragile health continues to speak out about the world’s problems. In fact, the older he becomes, the more opinionated he seems to be. As the spiritual leader of so many people, he cannot be ignored, and even U.S. President George W. Bush made a special effort to meet the pontiff when he was in Europe last month (the fact that his opponent, John Kerry, is a Catholic, surely had something to do with it).

Studio guests will discuss these matters in the context of the Catholic Church’s relevance in today’s world, and whether or not its values are are at odds with the values of the 21st century.