TV Tokyo’s “Dawn of Gaia” tackles the 2007 problem and more

Japanese industry is now gearing up for what’s being called the 2007 Problem. In that year, the huge mass of humanity known as the baby-boom generation will start to retire, and when they leave their companies they will take with them many of the skills and knowhow that built those companies and, in turn, rebuilt Japan.

TV Tokyo’s business documentary series “Dawn of Gaia” (Tuesday, 10 p.m.) addresses the 2007 Problem at the micro level by visiting a number of major manufacturers. The town of Kure in Hiroshima, for instance, was once considered home to the greatest shipbuilding industry in the world, though international competition has eroded that reputation somewhat. Nevertheless, the industry cannot even hope to survive if it doesn’t replace boomer-age engineers with younger ones. One company reveals that they have tried for years to hire capable young engineers, but they tend to quit early on. Part of the problem may be the intense apprenticeship system that young engineers have to undergo. Consequently, those who do stay on are treated almost like kings.

Despite the abundance of Suzukis and Tanakas, it is believed that Japan has a greater variety of family names than any other country. Some scholars claim to have counted more than 100,000 different Japanese surnames.

On the TBS special, “What Position Are You?: Japan Nationwide Surname Ranking” (Wednesday, 6:55 p.m.), celebrities will take part in a quiz about family names while learning about their origins and meanings.

Most surnames have geographical connotations, which means people throughout Japan who have the same surname can often trace their lineage through that name to a particular city or region. In some cases it’s easier than others. An area of Toyama Prefecture, for instance, is famous for producing unique names that you will never find in any other place in Japan.

Of course, some names have no meaning at all, and the program unearths some really strange ones. In addition, the guests rank names according to how difficult it is to read them.

The teaching of Japanese history remains a controversial topic, and on Saturday at 7:57 p.m. Fuji TV presents a four-hour “Autumn Scholarship Special” on the history of Japan, starting from the third century A.D. to the end of the Pacific War in 1945.

Hosted by SMAP member Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, the program focuses on “20 turning points” in the development of Japan as a nation. Many famous incidents, such as the Battle of Sekigahara, are dramatized, and a number of well-known actors portray great men and women of the past, including Ryoma Sakamoto and Oda Nobunaga. The show will also include quizzes so you’ll really feel as if you’re learning something.