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NHK morning serial drama depicts the ideal mentor and husband for working mothers

  • 2016-02-18 15:00:00
  • Translation

(AERA: February 8, 2016 – pp. 54–55)


 Masami Ueda, representative of the Hanamaru Career Institute (career support service company in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo), had difficulty getting out of bed on the morning on Jan. 22. Masami is a fan of NHK’s morning serial TV novel Asa ga kita, and on that day Tomoatsu Godai “Godai-sama”) died.


 “I am devastated! Devastated! He was the ideal mentor!”


 The television drama is receiving audience ratings of over 25% on some days, and when Godai died, it set off on the Internet a phenomenon dubbed “Godai Grief.” Women posted: “I have lost all desire to go to work!” “I am taking the day off from work!” Women came one after the other to the Osaka Exchange (Chuo Ward, Osaka City) to see the bronze statue of Godai, widely regarded as the “father of the modern Osaka economy.” During Asaichi, the show that follows Asa ga kita, announcer Yumiko Udo had tears in her eyes as the program opened. “Can’t Godai-sama live just a little longer!” she implored. She welcomed Dean Fujioka, who plays Tomoatsu Godai in the drama, as the day’s guest on the program. This seemed to help console the broken-hearted women.


 Jealous of the purity of their connection


 Asa, the heroine of the morning drama, is based on Asako Hirooka, a businesswoman who lived from 1849 to 1919. Godai, her mentor, guides her career, recommending coal mining to her. Masami, herself an executive, says she felt jealous of the two for the platonic bond they share.


 “I am jealous of Asa. She skillfully made her business a success. I want to cry out, ‘Please give me a Godai, too!'”


 Masami launched her company 22 years ago. There are male business executives that she respects, but she has not been able to develop a relationship like the one that Asa and Godai enjoy.


 “Everyone is nice to me at the beginning, but they start bashing you if you intrude on their turf. They are very competitive, or perhaps they just don’t have the time or mental space to be able to be mentors. Other women executives say the same thing.”


 When she gave birth to her first child, Masami had her husband promise that he “would not play golf to entertain business partners.” On weekends, he has taken care of the housework and three children because Masami has to go to the office. The ideal man also helps at home. Her husband has become a high-ranking officer at his workplace without playing any golf.


 Rieko Ueda, president of Mothernet (Yodogawa Ward, Osaka City), which arranges for babysitters and domestic help services, thinks Asa’s husband, Shinjiro, is the ideal man.


 “My husband was living apart from the family due to a work assignment when I started up my company, and he is still living apart from us. The reality is that my husband cannot help out even if he wants to. For Asa, Shinjiro is both a mentor and someone who helps her with childrearing and in everyday life. When Asa was facing the dilemma of balancing childrearing and work, he encouraged telling her by saying that he loved her and the way she was handling the situation. I was smitten.”


 Rieko says that Shinjiro is the “ideal husband” for working mothers, who are her company’s customers. For a while after having children, the mothers are still rank-and-file employees, but the mothers become managers when their children enter elementary school. People around them say, “Your children are in elementary school now so they’re off your hands, right?” and it is assumed they can do overtime, too.


 “Childrearing gets difficult in an entirely different sense when the children reach puberty. The working women need Dad Shinjiro.”


 What about Godai? Rieko uses female executives who are a generation ahead of her as role models. Having older women who always give encouragement provides great emotional support. “It is impossible that a man could be a mentor, so good-looking, and a close friend of your husband, right?” says Rieko.


 “We received phone calls at the NHK Osaka Broadcasting Station from people saying that they wanted Godai to live longer,” says Motohiko Sano, executive producer of Asa ga kita, with surprise.


 “Godai was one of the rare individuals who traveled overseas in the mid-1860s so he had experiences and perspectives different from others. Dean’s life has been similar. Dean was born in Japan [and graduated from Seattle University], but started his acting career in Hong Kong and Taiwan rather than his native country of Japan. I knew we had to have Dean for the part.”


 Mr. Sano found Tosa Horikawa, the novel on which the television drama is based, in the library and thought it would make a good morning drama. “As I read the novel, I thought that Shinjiro and Asa were a perfect match. This is historically true, as well. I thought that the story would resonate with our audience today as in more and more couples both the man and woman are working and more and more people are not forming partnerships.” (Abridged)

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