Video: Lofty TV Goals

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Two shrines stand a stone's throw from each other in Tokyo's Shibuya district. One looks toward the past; the other embodies the present. The first, the Meiji memorial, a Shinto edifice of Japanese cypress embellished with gilded copper, is dedicated to Emperor Hirohito's grandfather. The other, which glints a deep azure in the sun, is the modernistic steel-and-glass headquarters of NHK, Japan's public broadcasting system, symbol of a national obsession: television.

The Japanese lead the world in the number of hours spent in front of the TV set. A 1982...

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