New Year’s specials!

We have a great line-up of programs coming up for New Year’s week.

It all begins with the 66th Annual Kohaku Utagassen, the Red and White Song Contest, on Friday, January 1st. Kohaku takes place in Japan on New Year’s eve, but our tradition at KIKU is to air it on New Year’s night from 5-10pm. We will be doing that again this year, and re-airing it the following day, on Saturday, January 2nd, from 11am-4pm. So if you miss any part of Kohaku on New Year’s night, you can sit back on Saturday to watch what you missed. Or, watch the entire program again.

For the last three years, the white (or boys) team has prevailed. This year, the captain of the white team will be Yoshihiko Inohara, a member of the V6 group. On the red (girls) side, for the second year in a row, the captain will be Haruka Ayase, star of the 2013 taiga drama, Yae no Sakura. You can bet Haruka will be pulling out all the stops to get the red team to win this year.

There are two specials airing the night of Saturday, January 2nd. At 7pm, we have Big Guys With One Dish Tour #2. (We aired Big Guys With One Dish Tour #1 this past September.) The “big guys” are Hidehiko Ishizuka, star of the Fat Detective, and sumo master Furiwake. The two guys play an eating game while exploring the Miura Peninsula in Kanagawa. Whoever wins gets to eat the special foods of the area to their heart’s delight, while the loser must be satisfied with a tiny, tiny morsel. This show is hilarious.

At 8:30pm, we are airing Journey to the Moon, a love story that takes place at a train station. Ryota works at a publishing house and was in Gifu to meet with an author. He misses his train for the return trip home, and notices a blind woman in the waiting area. They strike up a conversation and Ryota eventually learns the woman was there waiting for someone. This is a bittersweet love story filled with symbolism.

On Sunday, January 3rd, there is a movie titled My Home, My Town airing from 8-10pm. This stars handsome Osamu Mukai as Ippo Sakuragi, a young man whose job involves lending support to lonely clients with emotional scars. The irony is that Ippo himself bears scars from when his father walked out on the family 20 years ago. What happens when Ippo’s family is unexpectedly reunited?

From Monday, January 4th, to Thursday, January 7th, we are resting Soko ga Shiritai in order to air special New Year’s programs from 7-8pm.

Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights, we will be airing a three-part Madame Butterfly special. The passion of Puccini’s opera is given new life in this TV drama about a young woman named Cho-Cho who struggles to maintain a respectable life following the death of her samurai father. After her supportive stepmother passes away, Cho-Cho is left with no resources, and is forced to become a geisha. Eventually, she meets an American naval officer, whom she marries. And although it would appear the tragedy of her life is over, that is not the case. Madame Butterfly stars the beautiful Aoi Miyazaki as Cho-Cho.

Monday at 8pm, we are airing Justice is Blind. This is a two hour drama based on a true story about a blind attorney who is driven by his desire to help the weak. Clients question Kensuke Okouchi’s ability to represent them effectively because of his handicap, but his intelligence and intuitiveness prove them wrong.

Tuesday, January 5th, the taiga drama Hana Moyu will air from 7-8pm. This will be followed by a 2-1/2 hour Chushingura special. This version of the famous 47 ronin story stars Masakazu Tamura as Kuranosuke Oishi and Tetsuji Tamayama as Takuminokami Asano.

Wednesday night, traditionally our Mystery Theatre night, we are airing The Last Witness. This is a drama about a former prosecutor who left public service to open his own private practice specializing in criminal cases. One day, a businessman asks Sadato Sakata to defend him. The businessman is accused of murdering a woman he was having an affair with. The crime appears open and shut: fingerprints, bloodstains, and security camera footage all point to the businessman as being guilty. But the businessman insists he is innocent, and Sadato’s intuition leads him to believe him and accept the case.

Finally, on Thursday, January 7th, we are airing Risking It All: Orange from 8-10pm. This drama is about the fire department’s Special Rescue Team, the men in orange uniforms. Only three percent of firefighters qualify to join this elite team, and must undergo rigorous training to be accepted in to Orange. The training is so harsh trainees themselves question the purpose and necessity. That is, until they learn how many lives were lost following the Great Hanshin Earthquake because rescue teams were ill-prepared to deal with the disaster. The desire to not repeat past mistakes is what drives Orange.

Here is the complete list of specials, along with original Japanese titles:

Friday, 1/1/16                    5-10pm              66th Annual Kohaku Utagassen

Saturday, 1/2/16              11am-4pm          66th Annual Kohaku Utagassen Retelecast

Saturday, 1/2/16              7-8:30pm           Big Guys With One Dish Tour (Ishi-chan to Furiwake Oyakata no Toriwake Tabi)

Saturday, 1/2/16              8:30-10pm         Journey to the Moon (Tsuki ni Yuku Fune)

Sunday, 1/3/16                 7-8pm                 Hana Moyu, episode #47

Sunday, 1/3/16                 8-10pm               My Home, My Town (Waga ie)

Monday, 1/4/16               12N-2pm             My Home, My Town Retelecast

Monday, 1/4/16               7-8pm                  Madame Butterfly, Pt. 1 (Chou-Chou San)

Monday, 1/4/16               8-10pm                Justice is Blind (Moumoku no Boku ga Bengoshi ni Natta Riyuu)

Tuesday, 1/5/16               12N-2pm             Justice is Blind Retelecast

Tuesday, 1/5/16               7-8pm                  Hana Moyu, episode #48

Tuesday, 1/5/16               8-10:30pm          Chushingura

Wednesday, 1/6/16        12N-2:30pm       Chushingura Retelecast

Wednesday, 1/6/16        7-8pm                  Madame Butterfly, Pt. 2

Wednesday, 1/6/16        8-10pm                The Last Witness (Saigo no Shonin)

Thursday, 1/7/16              12N-2pm           The Last Witness Retelecast

Thursday, 1/7/16              7-8pm                Madame Butterfly, Pt. 3

Thursday, 1/7/16              8-10pm              Risking It All: Orange (Inochigakede Tatakatta Shoboushi no Monogatari)

Friday, 1/8/16                    12N-2pm          Risking It All: Orange Retelecast

We hope you enjoy our New Year’s specials!

Ja, ne!

My neighbor, Horace

I have a great neighbor. His name is Horace and he does things like bring in my trash can so it’s not sitting on the curb all day while I’m away at work. He also makes homemade snacks for my dogs, and shares vegetables from his garden with me. But one of the best things he does is give me feedback about KIKU. He loved The Fat Detective. And Doctors and Doctor X. In fact, he likes practically all of the dramas we air on KIKU.

But his feedback this morning was a little different: “Hey, you gotta get some new shows!”

Although we are airing new shows, like Mother Class, Hanamoyu, Mystery Theatre, Japan’s Local Secrets, and The Emperor’s Chef right now, Horace is right. This is the time of year when we also air a number of reruns. So I thought I should explain to you — as I did to Horace — why.

KIKU airs a whole week of new, special programs each New Year’s week. Our translators, our subtitlors, and our entire staff are busy getting ready for New Year’s week in the month of December. Airing shows in December that have already been translated and subtitled allows us to focus and work on the New Year’s specials and new shows coming in January and February.

And there are a lot of new shows coming in January and February. In addition to the New Year’s specials, there are three new dramas starting in January, and four new dramas starting in February, including the new Taiga drama, Sanada Maru, and the second season of Behind the Noren!

I hope you all are lucky enough to have a kind, generous, and honest neighbor like Horace.

Ja, ne!


It’s December!

Can you believe the year is almost over? In three weeks it will be Christmas and one week after that, it will be 2016!

We have our 2016 New Year’s specials in place and are already working on translating and subtitling them. The star of the specials is Kohaku, the annual Red and White Song Contest. This year will be the 66th anniversary of Kohaku! That in itself is amazing.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be telling you more about our New Year’s specials, as well as three new dramas that will begin in January. There is a lot that will be happening in 2016. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at what’s to come!

Ja, ne.




I had an opportunity to attend the grand opening performance of Allegiance on Broadway last Sunday night. This is the musical inspired by the true life experience of George Takei, who also stars in the show. As a child, Takei and his family were relocated to an internment camp following the attack on Pearl Harbor. His memories of that experience form the basis of Allegiance.

My great grandparents, grandparents, and parents lived in Hawaii when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Fortunately, they were not relocated to any internment camp. But I know they experienced some form of doubt about their loyalty in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor.

And this is what is at the heart of Allegiance: loyalty. The war forced Japanese American people to choose loyalties. And those choices or non-choices tore people and families apart.

If you are traveling to New York, I urge you to see Allegiance. It is such an important story about the Japanese American experience that is relevant to everyone, no matter what your ethnic background.

Ja, ne.



Emperor’s Chef

We apologize for the technical problems with the first 20 minutes of last night’s airing of Emperor’s Chef. The show did eventually play in its entirety, but in case you missed it, it will re-air again today at 1pm.

Tiffcom 2015

I’ve written about Tiffcom before. It’s the Tokyo International Film Festival and content showcase that takes place each October in Tokyo. The content trade show portion lasts three whole days, and consists of a large exhibition area filled with booths manned by stations and producers hoping to sell their programs. It’s an excellent opportunity to meet with producers of programs from all over Japan, all at one location.

For us, it’s a chance to reconnect with producers and stations we have long established relationships with. But it’s equally beneficial to be able to meet new stations and producers we have not done business with before and learn about their products.

I’ve attended Tiffcom about four or five times since its inception 12 years ago, and always come back inspired. Sometimes, I’m inspired by a new genre of programs I learn about. Other times, I’m inspired by the establishment of a new relationship.

This time, I was most inspired by a group of stations from smaller cities in Japan. Each wanted to share programs that showcase the food, sightseeing highlights, and cultural strengths of their home town. It was clear everyone takes pride in their home town. And, interestingly, the stations that seemed to have the most pride and inspired me the most were the stations located in the hard hit Tohoku areas of Iwate, Miyagi, Sendai, and Fukushima. Heartwarming stories are plentiful in areas that have experienced hardship.

We plan to air many new programs in 2016, some of them from these smaller stations. I think once you’ve seen them, you’ll be inspired, too.

Ja, ne!


Tennou no Ryoriban – The Emperor’s Chef

We have a new drama starting Sunday, 10/25, at 9pm. The Japanese title is Tennou no Ryoriban, or The Emperor’s Chef. It is based on the true story about Tokuzo Akiyama, who was a master chef in the Ministry of the Imperial Household from 1921 to 1989.

As a young boy (and second son) Tokuzo flitted from one thing to another, unconcerned about his future and unable to make a commitment. It was a source of great frustration for his father. So his father arranged for Tokuzo to marry the daughter of a family that owned a seaweed business. One day while delivering seaweed, the newly married Tokuzo is given a sample of a freshly fried cutlet that he finds so delicious, it overwhelms him. From that point on, Tokuzo has found his future. He is inspired to become a cook of western style food.

Tokuzo trains in Paris and at the young age of 26, he becomes the chef for the Emperor of Japan!

Ja, ne!



As a young boy growing up in the country

Tokuzo tastes a new food, and this awakens

his awareness and interest in cooking.

Tokuzo goes to Tokyo and Paris

to pursue the culinary arts.


Fighting against discrimination and prejudice,

he becomes a chef at the Ritz Hotel in Paris,

the epitome of high society and luxury.

At the young age of 26, he rises to become the Emperor’s Chef in Japan.

You Impress Me

I regularly receive comments from you — our viewers — with suggestions for shows you’d like to see on KIKU. Your level of knowledge about Japanese programs, actors, music, and/or other details never fails to impress me.

Many times, the programs you suggest are programs already under negotiation for future airing on KIKU. But sometimes, you inform us about new programs we were not aware of or had not considered yet. That amazes me.

We appreciate your knowledge of Japanese programs and your suggestions. Thank you.

Ja, ne!

Letter to Mom in Heaven

In January this year, we aired a special titled “Letter to Mom in Heaven” as part of our New Year’s week of specials. If you didn’t see it in January (or even if you did), you’ll have a chance to see it this Wednesday when we air it in place of Mystery Theatre. It’s a very bittersweet story about a family trying to heal itself after the death of the wife and mother.

The husband, Haruki Mizunuma, is a workaholic who focused all his energy on his career, leaving the raising of his young son to his wife, Kyoko. But after Kyoko passes away, Haruki is faced with raising his son alone. This is even more difficult when his son Ren becomes despondent and loses the will to live.

At the one year anniversary of Kyoko’s death, Haruki and Ren travel to Kyoko’s hometown to visit her father. But Haruki has another motive for the visit. He wants to search for the meaning behind the “tree of happiness” Kyoko wrote about in her diary.

Ja, ne!


Autumn Specials

Can you believe it? It’s already September!

Which means…it’s time for our Autumn (September) specials!!!

This year, our specials are airing the week of September 14. If you’re a long-time KIKU viewer who followed Making It Through throughout all 20 seasons, you’ll be excited to learn there is a new 2015 special. We will be airing the four hour special on two nights: Monday, 9/14, and Sunday, 9/20. A lot has happened to the Okakura family since the last special. Some sad news, some happy news, and, as usual, many things for the sisters to deal with and figure out.

On Wednesday, 9/16, which is usually our Mystery Theatre night, we are airing a Seichi Matsumoto special, Black Gospel. Matsumoto’s signature style is intrigue, and Black Gospel will not disappoint. It is about a crime that takes place in 1959, a time following the war when Japanese were very sensitive about how foreigners in their country were treated, so as not to create international problems. When a young foreign priest is suspected in the murder of a young woman, detectives must handle the investigation with great sensitivity. And this becomes a greater problem when their investigations uncover shadowy business dealings behind the church.

Our Thursday special is Pro Bono, about a young woman seeking revenge against an attorney who refused to defend her younger brother, who was wrongly accused of a crime. When her brother is sentenced to life and dies in prison, the young woman, Kiriko, is determined to avenge the injustice done to her brother.

Friday, 9/18, we have a Mission to Kill special. We aired a Mission to Kill special last year, and this program is a continuation of that special, in which four professional assassins are hired by victims of crimes seeking revenge.

If you love animals, you’ll love our Saturday special, Kinako’s Challenge. It is a documentary about a police dog named Kinako who just could not pass her dog exams, and the trainer who never gave up on her.

Following Kinako, is a special starring our popular “fat detective” Hidehiko Ishizuka, and another fat guy, Sumo Master Furiwake. The two travel to Odawara and Hakone playing an eating game. The winner gets to eat to his heart’s content, while the loser is left with an empty stomach.

Please tune in for our September specials!

Ja, ne!