Nihon TV’s late-night series “NNN Document 05” focuses on asbestos and more

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the births of both the Liberal Democratic Party and rock ‘n’ roll. Though NHK might be expected to analyze the former, it has decided to celebrate the latter. On Dec. 12, 13 and 14 at 11 p.m., the BS-2 channel will present a three-part look at “The Birth of Rock: 50 Years.” Each night will cover a sub-era in the development of music’s most powerful force. The first night covers the roots of rock in R&B and boogie-woogie, and the emergence of rock ‘n’ roll as a distinctive commercial entity, which most rock historians credit to American disc jockey Alan Freed and his promotion of Bill Haley and the Comets’ single “Rock Around the Clock.” It will follow with the rise of Elvis Presley and end with the domination of The Beatles. Part 2 looks at the swift and radical diversification of rock ‘n’ roll in the 1960s and ’70s, concentrating mainly on Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin. The final night shows how music videos affected rock music and helped make superstars of Madonna, Michael Jackson and U2. Noted music experts will be on hand to comment throughout the series.

When Albert Einstein received word that he had won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1921, he was on a ship bound for Japan. The reasons for Einstein’s journey to Japan have always been clouded in secrecy, and this week TBS’s world history quiz show, “Sekai Fushigi Hakken (Discovering World Mysteries)” (Dec. 17, 9 p.m.), takes a detailed look at his journey. The program travels to Bern, Switzerland, and the patent office where Einstein worked as he developed his epoch-making theory of relativity. It will also reveal entries in the scientist’s diaries that he kept during his visit to Japan and also recreate some of his activities.

Though it’s been known for decades that asbestos, once the standard fire-retardant material for buildings and electrical equipment, is a serious health hazard, in Japan the issue wasn’t widely discussed until recently. Last spring, it was revealed that hundreds of employees of a company in Amagasaki in Hyogo Prefecture had died or become gravely ill because of exposure to asbestos, exposure that continued unabated even after its dangers were known. Nihon TV’s late-night documentary series “NNN Document 05” (Dec. 18, 12:55 a.m.) covers a 69-year-old man who is being hospitalized in Osaka with an asbestos-related disease. For 47 years he worked as a self-employed electrical engineer and was exposed to asbestos through orders he filled for large companies. It wasn’t until he became sick that he understood how dangerous that work was. Though the government is now compensating company employees and their families who are victims of asbestos poisoning, little is being done for similarly affected individuals who didn’t work for large companies.