Asadora 朝ドラ are the morning dramas that are shown daily (except for Sunday) on Japan’s national broadcasting network NHK. They are broadcast between 8am and 8.15am, and are a big part of everyday life in Japan.
If you’re like me, and you’d like to learn a bit more about the history of Japan, especially in a visual way, while at the same time improving your Japanese listening skills, then asadora may well be something you would like too!
Travelling with furoshiki!
Each episode is only 15 minutes long, but because there are many series of asadora on sites such as Dramacool, you can happily watch a few episodes at a time. And because each series lasts 6 months, the stories are truly immersive. I’ve watched two asadora (Natsuzora and Asa ga Kita), and they both begin in the childhood of their central female protagonists. We are introduced to their families and hometowns; we see the difficulties that they started life with and the strength of their personalities; and we watch them grow into adulthood as they strive to achieve their goals and dreams.
Shinjiro brings Asa a gift wrapped in a black furoshiki!
Asa ga Kita
Asa ga Kita あさが来た is the story of Asa, who is born into a wealthy family of money-lenders in Kyoto in the mid-19th century bakumatsu period. This was an era of great change and political uncertainty in Japan, during the final years of the Edo period when the Tokugawa shogunate ended, and before the emergence of the modern Meiji government. As the story of protagonist and proto-feminist Asa evolves, the series gently portrays the increasing westernisation of Japan.
Women's Changing Roles in 19th Century Japan
Asa’s character is loosely based on real-life entrepreneur and women’s university founder Hirooka Asako (1849 - 1919). The drama’s narrative follows Asa as she enthusiastically harnesses one business venture after another, in order to protect and strengthen her husband’s family’s business. Asa, like Asako, begins by purchasing a coal mine, (in an era when steam power is becoming the new technology), and then develops the money-lending business into a bank – all the while dealing with inevitable challenging setbacks. Asa repeats a phrase throughout the series: ‘Fall down nine times and get up ten’ – a phrase attributed to the real-life Asako, which perfectly describes Asa’s resilient spirit.
Asa's daughter Chiyo carries furoshiki
Asa’s business success is paralleled with the difficulties and sacrifices she makes regarding her only daughter. The challenges of the working mother were portrayed in Natsuzora also.
Asa covers the bedroom floor in books!
Asa was born in an era when it was socially expedient to be married into a similarly respectable family. She is affianced to Shinjiro, the eldest son of a powerful money-lending family in Osaka when she is still a child. Asa has an eagerness to learn but it is socially unacceptable for women to aspire to an education. Women aspire to be good wives. Asa, with the unequivocal support of Shinjiro, challenges socially accepted norms as she pursues her entrepreneurial desires. In time, she becomes an inspiration to younger feminists. Her story arc ends with the founding of the first women’s university in Japan.
A furoshiki-wrapped gift!
One of the fascinating aspects of Asa ga Kita is the attention paid to the changing styles in dress and the home. As a young woman, Asa’s dress and hairstyle are very in keeping with late-Edo style. The Kano-ya villa is laid with tatami, and meals are eaten from elegant lacquer trays while sitting on the floor. As the years go by, Asa adopts western dress for business hours. The Kano-ya home adopts western furniture in the dining room where the family gather to eat meals together. Different modes of transport become available: steam trains and the bicycle!
A gift wrapped in furoshiki
Furoshiki as a Part of Everyday Life
All the way through the series you will see furoshiki being used as a part of everyday life. Furoshiki wrap clothes for travelling; baskets of oranges; gifts; parcels of books: all sorts of items are routinely carried and wrapped in furoshiki. It’s a real joy to keep spotting them! You can read more about the history of furoshiki from here.
You can catch the first episode of Asa ga Kita here!
And here's a list and descriptions of more asadora to watch. I think I'll watch Hanbun Aoi next!
Photo of Hirooka Asako is from Wikipedia.