Revealing looks at a ‘phantom chef’ and city sparrows; CM of the Week: Lotte Xylitol gum

You’ve been thrilled by the skills of “Ryori no Tetsujin (The Iron Chef)” and impressed by the knowledge revealed by “Ryori no Meijin” (“The Master Chef”). Now you can enjoy the unique talents of “Ryori no Kaijin” (“The Phantom Chef”; TV Tokyo, Wed., 9 p.m.).

The cooks featured on this new variety show are covered in their element: namely, the restaurants and kitchens where they work. Some are so obscure and proud that they only cook for one customer a night.

This week’s featured “phantom” is a sushi chef who is still in junior high school. He started training at the age of 3 at the foot of his father, who owns a noted sushi bar in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture. By the time he was 10, he had mastered all the standard sushi-making techniques, and since then has developed a few original ones of his own, which he will demonstrate for the cameras.

Sparrows are one of the most ubiquitous birds in the world, as common as pigeons and crows in urban environments. However, most people know very little about their lives.

Next week, NHK’s animal show “Darwin ga Kita!” (“Here Comes Darwin!”; NHK-G, Nov. 21, 7:30 p.m.) will look at five months in the life cycle of city-dwelling sparrows. Much of the information, and even some of the footage, is provided by viewers who have closely observed the nesting habits of sparrows near their homes.

Some of the surprising information uncovered by the program is that sparrows can be pugnacious and that they often seek the protection of larger birds of prey, though without the larger birds knowing it. They are also quite resourceful, and can build nests in almost any nook or cranny.

CM of the week

Lotte Xylitol gum: Sexagenarian rocker Eikichi Yazawa’s latest gig as a product pitchman is for Lotte’s Xylitol gum. It’s faster-moving and visually more inventive than his long-running series of spots for Suntory’s Premium Malt’s Beer, but it taps into the same relaxed vibe for which Yazawa is famous.

Dressed in a gray suit jacket, Yazawa holds up a container of the gum and says, “Let’s chewing.” One of his hard-rock songs comes on to the soundtrack, and we see the singer leading some sort of business meeting, then driving a small antique sports car through cartoon city streets, and finally relaxing on his couch with the container of gum in his hand. “Anytime,” he says, chewing away.

The progress from work environment to commute home to the comforts of one’s bachelor pad match the style of the Suntory ads, which stressed the sort of enjoyment one derives from a tall, cold beer after a day at the office. In that regard, the Xylitol ad seems to be saying, “Hey, let’s go to my place and chew some gum.”