Ah, nostalgia… other people are immersing themselves in it with the latest instalment of the Reply series but I’ve opted out for the “real” thing. 🙂
For the past week I’ve been watching Kita no Kuni Kara (From a North Country) each evening, few episodes at a time. It’s an old series. The 24 epi drama aired 1981-82, depicting the life and tribulations of Kuroita family; father Goro, son Jun (11 yrs) and daughter Hotaru (8 yrs). The story is narrated by Jun and starts at the end of 1980, when autumn is just setting in. The series also has 8 specials which follow the family through the years from 1983 till 2002.
Facing a divorce from his wife (who had an affair) Goro decides to move himself and the kids from Tokyo to his hometown near Furano in Hokkaido and start anew. Goro is a simple and somewhat naive man, he means well but there are times his ideas of what is doable are a bit questionable. The family moves to his childhood home, situated in the middle of nowhere. The house has been empty for years and is little more than a shack. No running water (they have to carry it from a river about 1 km away) and no electricity. Hotaru loves everything about it but Jun is ready to run off. Life without the mod cons is hard but little by little things get settled and even Jun finds himself accustomed to the simpler way of life. Just goes to show how adaptable children can be. The house is repaird to at least habitable condition and another household member is added, when Aunt Yukiko decides she needs a change of scenery as well and moves in with them. With a little help from friends Goro eventually adds a pipe to bring water from the river and builds a little windmill for electricity. Right now I’m at a spot where he has started building a new, much sturdier log house.
You can tell Kita no Kuni Kara is couple of decades old and not just by the picture quality. The pace is sloooow, it took even me some time to get used to and I like a leisurely pace, ha. But once the initial adjustment period was past, I was throughly immersed in the story. Besides the Kuroita family there are a varied bunch of other characters we get to know – extended family, friends old and new, neighbours. Hokkaido with Furano and it’s suroundings are also ‘characters’ in the show and the scenery is just gorgeous. Even in low quality. This is a Kuramoto Sou drama and it shows in just about every aspect of the storytelling. The warmth and gentle humour is tangible, I love the way Sou handles the failings of human nature. He never condemns and there is always a reason behind each act, no matter how misguided it may be. He also doesn’t shy away from the more harsh aspects of life in a remote village. Besides Kita no Kuni Kara, I’ve watched 3 other Kuramoto Sou dramas and loved them all, Yasashii Jikan being one of my all time my fave jdramas. There’s just something about the way he writes that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. The emotional beats feel so tangible and at times raw that I always find myself moved, sometimes to tears. Characters are fully realised, real people. It also helps that the actors are SO good in the roles, even the young Yoshioka Hidetaka as Jun and Nakajima Tomoko as Hotaru are wonderful. A fun fact; Matsuda Miyuki who plays Tsurara is mother of actors Matsuda Ryuhei and Matsuda Shota (color me surprised – I hadn’t realised they are brothers, oops).
What really stuck me is how much rural Japan in early 80’s resembles rural areas in my own country about a decade earlier. The depopulating countryside with deserted houses and ‘packaged fields’. Many farms were too small to provide a sufficient livelihood. The younger generation also wasn’t interested in following their parents as farmers and moved out to towns and cities where it was easier to earn a living and life more modern. I’m old enough to remember all that, though I never lived in the countryside myself. It’s also funny how it feels like I’m watching snapshots in my family album with all the fugly fashions, some of which seem to hark back more to the 70’s. Like the tracksuits the kids are wearing (my kid sisters had almost similar ones) and Jun’s shorts (SO short and tight!) + shirt buttoned up and tucked inside the waistband + knee socks, LOL! I had a good chuckle when I remembered my own fashion faux of days past. Whoever thought that shirt/pullover tucked inside your high wasted trousers, ‘strangled’ with a belt was hip?