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Bewigged comedian Kimimaro Ayanokoji made it the hard way; not on TV or even in theaters, but at sightseeing destinations where he would board tour buses and pass out cassettes of his act to middle-aged women, who tended to be the target of his humor. They loved it, and word-of-mouth eventually made him one of Japan’s most popular standup acts.

This week, the first installment of NHK’s four-part “Family History” (NHK-G, Mon., 10 p.m.) looks at Ayanokoji’s upbringing as a means of understanding the man. He was born and raised in a rural part of Kanagawa Prefecture, where his father carried out insemination of dray horses. Though the family was poor, poverty was not as serious a problem as it might have been owing to his father’s gentle nature, developed out of his deep love for horses. It wasn’t until after his father died 13 years ago that Ayanokoji learned the tragic truth of his father’s own past.

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