TV personalities, or tarento in the vernacular parlance, wage a never-ending battle against encroaching irrelevance. They impose on our consciousness, and one of the easiest ways to do that without offering a compelling skills set is to exploit personal circumstances that are none of our business. Last June, Riko Higashio underwent a serum marker test to check on her unborn child. It was the first baby for the 37-year-old pro golfer, the daughter of former Seibu Lions manager Osamu Higashio and the much younger wife of fellow tarento Junichi Ishida. Prenatal screening is recommended for women over a certain age, and the test came back positive, indicating an increased possibility that the fetus could have the developmental disorder Down syndrome (DS).

Normally the doctor suggests a followup test, such as amniocentesis, but Higashio decided to forego further screening, saying there was no point since she decided she would deliver the baby regardless of what happened. Former long distance runner-cum-TV tarento and current Kumamoto city assemblyperson Akemi Matsuno criticized Higashio in the weekly Josei Seven. Matsuno’s son has DS, and she thought Higashio’s disclosure of her screening information was self-serving. The child was born in November without any apparent disabilities and received a great deal of press coverage, certainly more than if Higashio hadn’t talked about her pregnancy and Matsuno hadn’t weighed in.

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