On Wednesday nights on TV Japan, NHK's "Tsurube no Kazoku ni Kanpai"（鶴瓶の家族に乾杯...Tsurube's Salute to Families） airs at 9 p.m. A series that premiered in 1997, it has raucous Osaka comedian Tsurube Shofukutei（笑福亭鶴瓶） visiting with a celeb guest star (and a fairly large film crew) each week out to various countryside areas all around Japan just to see what and who makes them tick. Of course, considering how famous host and guest are, the often sleepy towns get somewhat more aroused when the populace realizes who has arrived at their train station. And Tsurube and the guests, who have ranged from Johnny's Entertainment aidorus to veteran actors, have been able to access inns, restaurants and even private homes.
Despite some of the wide-eyed stares and occasional gasps and shrieks of surprise, "Kazoku no Kanpai" still comes off as being a pretty nice and natural video antidote to some of the day-glo variety programs with the manic tarento bouncing all about. And what rather sets the tone nicely is the theme song by veteran Masashi Sada（さだまさし）, "Birthday". Released in June 1997 as his 52nd single, "Birthday", written and composed by the singer, is relaxing and has Sada sing out his gratitude for being alive to celebrate another year.
Having lived in a small Japanese town myself for a couple of years, seeing Tsurube and company visiting towns and villages in places like Yamagata and Kochi Prefectures brings back some memories of life back in those days. And I've enjoyed watching the program over the past several months just to see the interaction not just between the celebs and the locals but also amongst the citizens themselves. I get to often hear and watch about the neighbourhood haunts and some of the more colourful types in town. At times, I have wished that perhaps I was a bit more sociable in my off time back in Gunma Prefecture.
|Tsurube in his younger days with|
a much fuller head of hair.