A rice farmer’s crusade; Japanese-American drama by `Oshin’ scriptwriter; CM of the week: Yahoo!/Kirin Fire

The subject of this week’s “The Professional” (NHK-G, Mon., 10 p.m.) is rice farmer Minoru Ishii, who is leading the crusade for a more open-minded approach to Japanese agriculture.

As rice prices continue to drop, farmers are angry but still stick to old methods. Ishii’s motto is, “The more hardship you endure, the more fulfilling your life is.” He belongs to the organic school of farming, and although his rice sells for the rather high price of ¥1,500 per kg, it’s extremely popular. He has won the Japanese Grand Prix for domestic rice three years running.

Ishii, whose farm is in Miyagi Prefecture, says that growing rice is like raising children, and on the program he reveals some of his secrets, one of which is to cut the tips of seedling sprouts one week before planting in order to “condition” them for the difficulties of life.

Sugako Hashida, Japan’s most beloved scriptwriter of family sagas and the author of the country’s most popular drama export of all time, “Oshin,” turns her attention to America with the five-part serial “99-nen Ai: Japanese- Americans” (“99 Years of Love: Japanese-Americans;” TBS, Wed.-Sun., 9 p.m.).

Hashida’s story is about the Hiramatsu family, whose patriarch, Chokichi (Tsuyoshi Kusanagi), leaves Japan in 1912 at the age of 19 because of extreme poverty. He seeks his fortune in America but is confronted with discrimination. The farm job he was promised is no longer available to him.

Eventually, Chokichi (played by Kiichi Nakai) starts his own farm and raises a family. The richness of the soil and the size of his property convince him that he has found paradise on Earth, but later America goes to war with Japan, and he loses everything. While in a detention camp, his grown son (Kusanagi again) decides to volunteer for the U.S. Army.

CM of the week

Yahoo!/Kirin Fire: Right now there are two TV commercials that utilize the Village People’s huge 1970s hit “YMCA,” which in Japan was commandeered by singer Hideki Saijo.

Saijo revives the song, complete with red, white and blue costumes and backing cheerleaders, in a spot for Yahoo! Japan’s Mobage (mobile game) service. He is joined by comedian Noritake Kinashi, who, during the chorus of the song, does some commandeering of his own by neglecting to sing the last two letters of the title acronym, instead chanting “Y-M-Y-M,” which stands for Yahoo! Mobage.

If that’s not enough, you can see another Hideki, Major League Baseball star Hideki Matsui, join the grounds- keeping crew of his team the California Angels as they perform “YMCA” on the baseball diamond. Predictably, he messes up the dance steps.