Cultural visitation, travel show special, eating game show

This week, rakugo (raconteur) storyteller Tsurube Shofukutei visits the historic town of Izumo in Shimane Prefecture on his travel show “Tsurube no Kazoku ni Kampai (Tsurube Toasts Families)” (NHK-G, Monday, 8 p.m.). He’s joined by former J. League soccer star Rui Ramos, whom he meets under the torii gate of Izumo Taisha, one of the most famous Shinto shrines in Japan, mainly because it supposedly facilitates auspicious connections, be they romantic, professional, or just friendly, that help visitors throughout their lives.

After Ramos offers a prayer of thanks for the various connections that helped him become a soccer star in Japan, he and Tsurube separate and wander around the town in pursuit of encounters with local townspeople, but for some reason the streets are deserted. Ramos takes the initiative and enters a community center, where some elderly people are practicing traditional dances. They persuade him to sing a song.

S peaking of retired soccer players, superstar Hidetoshi Nakata has kept a very low profile since the World Cup Tournament in 2006. Actually, he’s been traveling the world in accordance to his Web site motto: “Life is a journey and journeys are life.” Some of those travels are shown on the special program “Nakata Hidetoshi no Document: Boku ga Mita Kono Chikyu (Hidetoshi Nakata Document: The World I’ve Seen)” (Nihon TV, Monday, 9:30 p.m.).

Nakata started his journey in Prague in June 2006, traveling throughout Europe, Africa, the Americas and Asia. He spent the month of December 2007 on Easter Island in the Pacific, where he learned that the civilization that used to live there cut down all the trees. He talks to specialists who are attempting to reforest the island. He also visits Africa, where he confronts the reality of HIV, and Jordan, where he spreads the gospel of soccer.

T he most popular segment on the long-running variety show, “Tunnels no Mina-san no Ogake Deshita (The Tunnels Are Here Thanks to Everyone)” (Fuji, Thursday, 9 p.m.), is the one called “Shin-Kuwazugirai O Senshuken,” which translates loosely as “The New Championship for King of Disliked Foods.”

In this odd but revealing competition, two celebrities sit at a dining table, each assisted by one of the Tunnels comedians and each served four or five dishes. One of these dishes is something that the celebrity loathes. However, the other celebrity doesn’t know which one, and has to guess, even though his opponent will claim he likes everything.

This week’s guests are movie star Koichi Sato and a younger heartthrob, actor Satoshi Tsumabuki. The last time Sato competed on the show, it was learned that one of his most hated foods is raw celery. On this week’s show, there is a different vegetable among the four dishes he’s served, and immediately his mood darkens. Does he really dislike this vegetable, or is he using his acting skills in order to fool Tsumabuki?