This guy's not your usual TV host

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TOKYO -- Mino Monta straddles the world of Japanese television like a colossus.

Turn on a TV here at any time between 5:30 a.m. and 9 p.m., and the chances are very high that he will be presenting a show on one of the channels.

And if he's not on the program itself, he may very well be advertising a product during the commercial break.

The Guinness Book of World Records, in its 2008 edition, will again recognize Monta -- whose real name is Norio Minorikawa -- for being the busiest man on television in the world. He puts in just shy of 22 hours of live appearances every week, plus tapes his recorded show, hosts a radio chat show and squeezes in the making of ads.

"He's indefatigable," says Kathleen Morikawa, television critic for the Daily Yomiuri newspaper. "He just goes on and on and seems to live his whole life on TV. How he physically manages it is amazing."

Dapper and sprightly at 62, Monta's trademark is his swept-back gray hair and on-screen energy. And the viewers love him because he plays the man-in-the-street role to perfection when grilling politicians or businessmen.

"He has this image of being very down to earth and he can project that so that people, especially the older people who are watching his daytime shows, really identify with him," Morikawa says.

"He's willing to scold government officials and admonish politicians, which has a huge resonance with the public," she says.

Monta started out as a journalist with the Sankei newspaper but joined the affiliated Nippon Cultural Broadcasting in 1967, reading the news, covering baseball and hosting a late-night radio show. After a spell in local TV in the 1980s, he returned to the bright lights of Tokyo and gradually assumed the mantle of housewives' favorite presenter.

His working day starts at 3 a.m. at his home in Zushi, 50 miles southwest of Tokyo, and he is driven into Tokyo preparing for Tokyo Broadcasting System's "Asazuba," which is on five days a week and finishes at 8:30 a.m.

From there, he is driven to Nippon Television's studios for "Omoikiri Terebi," which runs for nearly two hours from midday, offering insight on lifestyle, health and fashion issues.

Other commitments throughout the working week include hosting the Japanese version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" and "Amazing Animals."

On New Year's Eve 2006, Monta hosted the annual "Red and White" singing contest, reversing a slump in viewing figures for the first time in a decade. Monta's presence brought the show back over the 40% threshold. This year, the four-and-a-half-hour singing extravaganza was hosted by actress Yukie Nakama and singer Masahiro Nakai -- and sank to a record low of 30.6%.

Monta is not, however, indestructible, and last year spent a week in hospital after an operation on his back. True to form, he was back in front of the cameras within two weeks.

Monta set the record for live TV appearances in 2006 and said at a presentation ceremony in Tokyo for the Guinness World Record award that he was touched, adding, "I want to die talking."

He may very well get his wish.
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