Thought that I’d do a trial recap, so I’d start with this daily NHK morning drama which is airing now in Japan.
Ume-chan Sensei, starring Horikita Maki as the heroine, and Matsuzaka Tori, her childhood friend. Ume-chan is the youngest daughter among three children of the Shimomura family. Her father is a doctor at the Imperial University Hospital. The story unfolds from the end of World War II, and Ume-chan becomes a doctor despite being a fumbling, careless, good-at-nothing dreamy little girl initially. The format of daily NHK morning drama is 15 minutes per episode, 6 episodes a week, and always focus on a heroine. A full drama spans over half a year, a new drama starting either in spring or fall. Anyway, so here we go, Week 26, Episode 127-132.
1957. The whole family gathered at the Shimomura house, at the suggestion of Matsuko (Mimura), the eldest daughter of Shimomura Kenzo (Takahashi Katsumi). Everyone was in high spirits, and Matsuko was telling everyone about the washing machine her husband bought. Mother, Grandmother and Ume-chan were especially interested because Kenzo has no interest in new machines and he’s old fashioned, and thus Shimomura household still does laundry by hand. Despite calling them shallow, he finally relented in letting the ladies purchase a washing machine after seeing how the females in his family are interested in it, and also feeling guilty about how he always takes his wife for granted and causing her to leave home for a few days, questioning her existence in the family.
Kenzo asked his eldest son-in-law about his company and then asked his own son, Takeo (Koide Keisuke) about his. He then dismisses Takeo’s trading company, leading to Takeo’s displeasure that Kenzo always picks on him ever since he decided to quit medical school and do business. He left in a fury after dinner, with his girlfriend, Shizuko, and Ume-chan trailing after him. Ume-chan asked to have a chat, and the three of them entered a neighborhood izakaya (Japanese bar restaurant). Nobu’s (Ume-chan’s husband, aka childhood friend, played by Matsuzaka Tori) father came in for a drink, and upon seeing Takeo, asked when he’s marrying Shizuko, only to have Takeo replied that he has no intention of getting married, and left in a huff, leaving Ume-chan shocked and Shizuko disappointed.
Ume-chan returned home and talked to Nobu, expressing her concern for her brother, and asked Nobu to try to persuade Takeo to change his mind about getting married. She saw Nobu finished cookies she received from a patient, and they bickered abit. These two, they are like two kids. Ume-chan felt uncomfortable at the tummy, and they thought maybe she ate too much during dinner. I’d think otherwise. The next evening, Nobu asked Matsuko’s husband and Takeo along for a drink, and the real intention of the two married men was exposed easily by Takeo.
The guys were joined by Nobu’s father and a helper at their factory at the izakaya. Despite the initial intention was to persuade Takeo that being married is good, Nobu’s father managed to get both Nobu and Kato (Matsuko’s husband) to admit that their wives get mad over the smallest thing and being married is not all that good. While grumbling, Matsuko and Ume-chan appeared at the izakaya and overheard the complaints. Nobu was extremely apologetic the next morning and tried to make it up but messed it up instead.
Ume-chan gave Shizuko a ring at work, wondering if Takeo mentioned anything about the men’s night out. Shizuko said no, and asked to meet Ume-chan. She confided in Ume-chan at a guy from her hometown, who she had some bad blood with, tracked her down in Tokyo and had been appearing at her doorstep these days, causing her to seek refuge at other friends’ places for a few days. Shizuko said she couldn’t bring herself to tell Takeo about this especially after quarreling on the night of family dinner at the Shimomura’s. Ume-chan offered to help, and asked Nobu to go to Shizuko’s place and talk to the bad guy, forgetting about her unhappiness with Nobu in the morning.
Shizuko appeared after work at Ume-chan’s clinic, hoping things will go well since Nobu had headed over to Shizuko’s apartment to talk to the bad guy. However, the bad guy appeared at the doorstep of Ume-chan’s clinic…
And he turns out to be Shizuko’s childhood friend. He told the girls she was his first love since elementary school, and he came to Tokyo because her father asked him to pass a photo of a guy whom her family wants to matchmake her with. And why did Shizuko keep running away from him? Because he always endlessly declares he loves her. Pfft. Nobu and Takeo came trailing in, and Takeo was asked by Shizuko’s friend who he is. Takeo finally said that although they’re only dating now, he DOES have the intention of marrying her one day. Pfft. Guys and their Attitudes.
Ume-chan felt tummyache again the next day, and it finally hit her that it could be something else. She went to her in-laws for lunch (her own family and in-laws are next door neighbors), intending to tell everyone the news of her pregnancy, but the men were busily wolfing down their lunch before starting on a newly taken order (they run some kind of machinery factory). Ume-chan went to the factory instead, but the machines were drowning her voice. When the machines were finally turned off, she was finally heard saying “I’m pregnant.” Everyone was happy, Nobu was stunned beyond words, and mother-in-law told Ume-chan to go home and tell her mother as well.
Shimomura and Yasuoka (Nobu’s family) families gathered at the Shimomura house for a celebration for Ume-chan’s pregnancy, and Ume-chan called her older siblings to tell them the good news. Ume-chan’s mother wondered if Ume-chan can continue working at her clinic during the pregnancy, and Kenzo said he’ll ask Ume-chan’s friends at the University hospital if they’d be able to help out during this period.
Yayoi (Ume-chan’s best friend from school) dropped by her clinic, to help out Ume-chan. Yayoi is not sure if she’d like to inherit her own father’s hospital as she’s more interested in research. Yamakura, a fellow guy schoolmate dropped in, as he also volunteered to help Ume-chan out. Yayoi facepalmed at his arrival, as they have a serious bickering relationship. Someone just give them a loveline already! Do not all bickering relationships in dramaland evolve into a loving relationship eventually?!
Takeo is all gamed to bring in some new imports from Britain, and gets ready to meet his client, while Shizuko gets worried about his newest venture. Takeo calms her down, and told her that as soon as this import deal gets sealed, they’ll get married. Aww, a determined man is attractive.
Nobu tells Ume-chan how he used to wish that the Yasuoka factory could be expanded, and how he thought of expanding it, buying the newest machine and compete with other factories, but now he felt even as a small factory, if they can have their niche, they can still carve out a name for themselves in the industry. He added, for their firstborn, he wants to do make something that his child can be proud of him. Ume-chan listens to Nobu thoughtfully.
Ume-chan asked Shizuko and Takeo to come over for dinner, hoping to make use of Takeo’s impending import deal and his promise to marry Shizuko to mend the relationship between him and their father. However during dinner, an employee from Takeo’s trading company called their house, and Takeo left hurriedly.
Apparently the samples Takeo had were not the real deal, and it was a sham, and Takeo lost alot of money. He fired the three staff and gave them some compensation money, and proceeded to do the same to Shizuko, but she insisted on staying. He couldn’t be bothered to pursuade her otherwise and left the office without a word. He continued to remain uncontactable, and Shizuko went to the Shimomura household, hoping to find out if he contacted his family. Kenzo while returning from work, saw her standing in front of their house, and Shizuko related to him how Takeo actually loves Kenzo very much, and was only hoping to be acknowledged by his father, thus trying very hard to make his trading company a success.
Takeo did call home eventually, but he hung up after saying something cryptic…
Ume-chan decided to pop by Takeo’s office to take a look, only to find Kenzo at the door peering into the office. As usual, Kenzo was gruff when asked if he came out of concern. Dads, especially those in the olden days, why so rigid in showing your love to children (and wife)? Anyway, Shizuko opened the door to find both Ume-chan and Kenzo standing outside, and invited them in. They had no idea where Takeo went, and just then Yozo (Kenzo’s brother) helped a drunk Takeo in.
And then everyone else (who’re required to help this plot point go along) came. One of the staff who was fired by Takeo, brought a previous client along. Client came to thank Takeo for helping to export his pottery to the US, and Staff said he still wants to work with Takeo. Takeo will not hear of it and insists that the company is kaput, and tough Dad love comes in to knock some sense into him.
The company starts from scratch, Mom brought food over, everyone is happy. Ume-chan is at home, sewing baby clothes and thinking of the future.
Because this drama is 15 minutes long each episode, not every episode has development in plot. And it’s a very family oriented drama (and different from Korean dramas at that), it’s something which can be watched without paying full attention. The plot is simple enough, no makjang elements nor trials and retribution, just the daily lives of a normal Japanese family in a normal neighborhood post World War II.
I wouldn’t say the writing is bad; it’s decent, but there’re lazy writings here and there, such as how convinient it was for Kenzo to be around Takeo’s office, and the fired staff actually brought a previous client along, just to show that Takeo had been working hard enough, and it was simply bad luck this time round. I think because I’m too accustomed to watching Korean dramas these few years, I’m not particularly impressed by the Japanese way of writing family dramas. That’s not to say Japanese dramas are boring, but it’s really dependent on the genre. Japanese scriptwriters can be really quirky, and I think they’re really good at the legal/mystery/detective genre. The thing I realised about Japanese dramas is, I never find myself seriously invested emotionally most of the time. I think it is attributed to the Japanese culture; there’s this invisible, but very much there wall, between people in daily lives.
Anyway, if I never remember wrongly, this is the fourth last week for Ume-chan, before it makes way for the next morning drama on NHK.