Tuesday, November 19, 2013

NHK making drama about Rita Taketsuru

Post by Chris Bunting
Rita and Masataka Taketsuru
The morning drama on the Japanese national broadcaster NHK (Asadora) is an institution. It is aired daily from 8 am to 8.15 am and has been a feature of Japanese national life since 1961. Some of the biggest audiences on Japanese television have been for these dramas.

The subjects and characters in the Asadora are refreshed all the time but they always centre around the struggles of a female heroine to make her way in life Until now, they have always, of course, been about a Japanese woman, but that is all about to change.

From September 2014 to early 2015, the Asadora will be about a foreigner. I think there may a feeling of wanting to express a more open, more foreigner-friendly Japan ahead of the Olympics You will probably have guessed from the photo above that the foreigner in the drama is not a zainichi Korean or someone from an Asian neighbour; it is none other than Rita Taketsuru, the Scottish wife of Masataka Taketsuru, the founding father of Japanese whisky (and Nikka). If you read Japanese, there is more info on the NHK site.

The drama will be called "Massan," which was Rita's nickname for Masataka. Rita's is a great story (For more info, see: 1, 2) and it will be interesting to see how NHK handle it. There were some hard times. The marriage was initially resisted by both families and it carried Rita thousands of miles from Scotland in a world where communications meant visits home were impossible, she was the wife of a busy business leader who spent much of his time away and lived through the period of rising militarism and rising suspicion of foreigners. She was in Japan throughout World War II and subject to intense suspicion. The venerable Tatsuro Yamazaki, who I met during the research for 'Drinking Japan', recalls that Masataka Taketsuru used to come into his bar and had once reflected that he felt guilty about what he had made Rita go through.

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