Investigation of ‘Japanese soul’; story behind ‘Toire no Kamisama’; CM of the week: Shin Heparize Drink

The current movement toward a more insular society is believed to reflect a backlash against the postwar trend of opening up to the world. With economic growth a thing of the past, the Japanese are now more interested in Japan.

Comedian Beat Takeshi tries to get to the root of this trend by going to Mount Koya in Wakayama Prefecture to investigate the “DNA of the Japanese soul.” In a special 2.5-hour version of “Kyokasho ni Noranai Nihonjin no Nazo” (“The Riddle of the Japanese That Isn’t Explained in Textbooks”; Nihon TV, Mon., 8:54 p.m.) Takeshi visits the temple on Koya, which is considered to be the crucible of Japanese Buddhism. In the ninth century, the priest Kukai established the Shingon sect there and started training monks. Takeshi enters the temple and sees things that have never before been caught on film.

One of the biggest selling singles of 2010 was “Toire no Kamisama” (“The God of the Toilet”) by singer-songwriter Kana Uemura. The 9-minute-52-second epic is one of the longest pieces ever performed on NHK’s New Year’s Eve song contest. TBS has dramatized the story behind it and will air the drama Wednesday night at 9 p.m.

While in elementary school, Kana (Aina Ashida) is sent to live with her grandmother (Shima Iwashita) after her grandfather dies in order to keep the old woman company. She tells Kana there’s a deity in the toilet, and if she cleans it every day, the deity will make her beautiful.

Kana follows these instructions, but after she enters high school her interests turn to music, and she has less time to spend with her grandmother.

CM of the week: Shin Heparize Drink

A pudgy salaryman, with an anachronistic mustache and a nondescript gray suit a size too large, walks out of his office at the end of the day. The female receptionist bows and thanks him for his hard work, and suddenly he leaps into the air and breaks into a balletic dance routine as a hoarse-voiced singer comes on the soundtrack croaking the familiar strains of Daniele Vidal’s hit “Les Champs Elysees,” except he’s singing about “Heparize,” an energy drink made by Zeria Pharmaceutical.

As the “hepa” in the name indicates, the drink contains a formula that helps the liver function more effectively, and the CM’s message is that even though the salaryman is exhausted after a day at the office, Shin (New) Heparize Drink will keep his liver up to speed for a night of drinking with his subordinates, who are waiting outside for him and break into the same elaborate dance moves, as does a park statue. The wonderful choreography in this popular CM was created by dancer Shigehiro Ide, who also plays the salaryman.