“The 64th Annual Red and White Song Contest,” Thursday, Jan. 1, from 5-10 p.m.

Köhaku Uta Gassen, more commonly known simply as Köhaku, is an annual music show produced by Japanese broadcaster NHK. The “Red and White Song Contest” is a program that divides the most popular music artists of the year into competing teams of red and white. The “red” team is composed of all female artists (or groups with female vocals), while the “white” team is all male (or groups with male vocals). The honor of performing on Köhaku is strictly by invitation, so only the most successful J-Pop and enka singers will perform.  A performance on Köhaku is said to be the highlight of a singer’s career because of the show’s large reach and status.

Köhaku airs in Japan on New Year’s Eve, with the announcement of the winning team taking place at midnight. In Hawai‘i, Köhaku has become a television viewing tradition on New Year’s night, and 2015 marks the 65th year since the program’s inception.

“Paper Moon,” a five-night program from Friday, Jan. 2, to Wednesday, Jan. 7, from 7-8 p.m.

A five-part drama about a woman who goes from trusted bank officer to a woman on the run. Rika Umezawa works at a bank, where she assists the bank’s customers with their transactions. She is especially sensitive to the needs of the bank’s elderly customers, and builds a strong level of trust with her clients. One of her customers is Kozo Hirabayashi, a wealthy property owner, who becomes infatuated with Rika.

After two years, Rika is now on the run, having left Japan with 100 million yen. Does Kozo Hirabayashi have anything to do with the money? Is Rika a thief or is she safeguarding the money for someone?

“Stork’s Nest,” Friday, Jan. 2, from 8-10 p.m.

Single mothers or parents unable to raise their children face the stigma of dishonor and shame from society. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Japan.

But what option is there if they are unable to raise their child?

The caring directors of a hospital in Kumamoto City decided to do something about it. In 2007, they converted part of the hospital facility to accommodate people who wanted to anonymously deposit unwanted babies. Response was overwhelming and soon mothers from across the country were coming to deposit babies at the cradle.

This drama tells the story of the creation of “Stork’s Cradle” and depicts the lives of some of the mothers who came to use the cradle.

“Big Family in a Small Village,” Saturday, Jan. 3, from 8-10 p.m. 

In a tiny little mountain village located in the Miyoshi district of Tokushima prefecture on Shikoku island lives a family of 14 people: mother, father, three sons, eight daughters, and a grandmother. The scenery is beautiful: blue skies, green forests, and clear streams filled with fish. Nature provides fertile soil for growing vegetables, and there isn’t a more idyllic spot to live.

See how the Big Family survives in their little village, growing their own food, living in their isolated little village, away from the hustle and bustle of modern Japan.

“Strategist Kanbe,” Sunday, Jan. 4, from 7-8 p.m. (episode #46) and Tuesday, Jan. 6, from 8-9 p.m. (episode #47)

The 53rd NHK taiga drama, “Strategist Kanbe,” tells the story of Kanbe Kuroda, a top-ranking samurai official for the Kodera family who lived during the Sengoku Period (circa 15th – 17th century). Follow Kanbe as he gains the trust of Toyotomi Hideyoshi and eventually becomes his right-hand man, marking the birth of Strategist Kanbe

“Letter to Mom in Heaven,” Sunday, Jan. 4, from 8-10 p.m.

A bittersweet story about a family trying to heal itself after the death of the wife and mother.

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, who becomes despondent and loses the will to live.

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

“Doctors Special,” Monday, Jan. 5, from 8-10 p.m.

A two-hour special based on the popular “Doctors” series about Kousuke Sagara, a highly skilled surgeon working at a corrupt hospital. There is a kind side to Kousuke that is evident in his dealings with his patients, but behind his skill and kindness lie a mysterious dark side.

“Gourmet Japan,” Tuesday, Jan. 6, from 9-10 p.m.

Back-to-back half-hour shows highlighting the delicious food of Japan. The first episode features cultured salmon in Tottori. The second episode features bonito cuisine in Kagoshima.

“Omiya-san Special,” Wednesday, Jan. 7, from 8-10 p.m.

Popular detective Omiya-san is back. Using his experience, his powers of intuition and reasoning, and memory of past crimes, he goes to work to unravel a mysterious new crime.

“Shinzanmono Special,” Thursday, Jan. 8, from 7-10 p.m.

A man unrelated to the famous Takayanagi Ballet Company is found dead in the company’s office. How did he get there? What was he doing there? What are the ballerinas hiding?

Detective Kyochiro Kaga is back in this special “Shinzanmono Special.”


“Doctor X 2,” premieres on Sunday, Jan. 11, at 8 p.m.

Michiko Daimon is a freelance doctor. She was dispatched to a university hospital that lost a number of doctors all at once because of harsh work conditions. When Michiko arrives at the hospital dressed like a fashion model, other doctors cannot hide their surprise. But more than her appearance, it is what she does in the hospital that creates a major stir.

“The Tempest,” premieres on Sunday, Jan. 11, at 9 p.m.

This series takes place in the 19th century during the reign of the Ryukyu Kingdom. Mazuru cannot finish school because she is female. She disguises herself as a male in order to obtain her dreams.

“Second Movement,” premieres on Monday, Jan. 19, at 9 p.m.

A drama involving two women who are violinists in an orchestra. One of them, Natsumi, gets pregnant and gives up the violin, and marries a cellist in the orchestra. The other woman, Mari, rises in popularity and soon becomes a solo violinist. The two women meet again by chance 17 years later. As they reconnect and share what’s happened in their lives, both find themselves envying the other’s path in life.

“Kuru Kuru Japan,” Monday at 6:30 p.m.

Delicious foods of Japan. Cultured salmon in Tottori, bonito cuisine in Kagoshima and more!

“Investigator Mariko 11,” Thursday at 9 p.m.; Friday at 8 p.m.

Crimes today utilize increasingly clever tricks and techniques. The police and crime laboratories must respond to these crimes quickly and with scientific knowledge. The lab must deal with such diverse tasks as analysis of hair, blood type, DND, voice pattern and handwriting, as well as polygraphs, the reconstruction of facial features, and superimposing.  The lab forms the main stage for this drama, which follows a female lab agent as she goes about her work. Mariko Sakaki, the main character, practices forensic medicine at the crime laboratory of the Kyoto Prefecture Police Department.

“Mysteries of Asia,” Friday at 8 p.m.

Asia is a mix of ancient cultures and fast-growing technology.  This program explores cities across Asia, visiting famous landmarks and the hot new nightspots.

“Japan’s Local Secrets,” Friday at 9 p.m.; repeats on Saturday at 8 p.m.

Although Japan is a relatively small country geographically, each prefecture has its own traditions, dialects, and . . . foods!!! This program takes us to the secret places throughout Japan known to the people of the area and introduces us to things unique to each place.



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