Travel information, talk show product review, family melodrama

In 2007, more than 8 million people visited Japan from overseas, double the number that visited 10 years ago.

The lower value of the yen last year (it has since gone up) benefited tourists from Europe and the Americas, but the most conspicuous increase was among tourists from China, reflecting an expansion in disposable income among richer Chinese.

This week, TV Tokyo’s business documentary series “Gaia no Yuake (Dawn of Gaia)” (Tuesday, 10 p.m.) looks at this influx and how travel agents and tour companies are taking advantage of it.

Japanese culture is attracting greater interest overseas, in particular subcultures like anime and manga.

One company offers special otaku (nerd) tours of Akihabara for foreigners.

Rural hot-spring resorts whose business has shrunk in the past two decades are now actively cultivating foreign tourists.

G al Sone may have finally lost her competitive eating crown several weeks ago, but the impossibly thin “big eater” celebrity remains a fixture on the variety-show circuit and this week figures prominently on “Rankin no Rakuen (Ranking Paradise)” (TBS, Friday, 8:55 p.m.).

Each week the show attempts to rank some consumer phenomenon in Top 40 style.

This week’s subject is ekiben, or train-station lunch boxes.

Sone and the comedy trio Robert sample ekiben from all 47 of Japan’s prefectures for the purpose of ranking them in terms of quality.

However, Sone’s skills being what they are, they do it all in one sitting, and the three male comedians can’t keep up with the professional.

The last time Gal Sone appeared on “Rankin no Rakuen” was in November and the subject was packaged curry in retort bags. The brand she named the best immediately saw a huge spike in sales, so lunch-box makers throughout Japan will be watching the show carefully.

T V drama producers are always desperate for good scripts and sometimes hold contests to find them.

This week’s “Doyo Premium (Saturday Premium)” (Fuji, 9 p.m.) presents the winner of the second annual Non-Fiction Drama Award, though it’s actually the first time a winner’s work has been broadcast. Apparently there were some rights problems with last year’s winner because it never made it to TV.

“Aiba Monogatari (Story of a Beloved Horse)” was written by a former high-school principal.

Hirokazu (Goro Kishitani), a workaholic, finds his life turned upside down after his wife is hospitalized.

He didn’t know she was an avid horseback rider in her spare time, and learns that the facility where she rode is planning to put down her favorite horse.

He decides to take the animal, which places a huge burden on him and his family.