Thoughts on: Kita no Kuni Kara

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? o_O

19 thoughts on “Thoughts on: Kita no Kuni Kara

    • I was able to find all the subs! Thanks to Chuks and Keiko on j-addicts. It’s the video files themselves that have eluded me. I’m so eager to see what becomes of these characters!

  1. This series is perfect, there’s JUST ONE SINGLE PROBLEM: Jun.
    I’m including here the Specials that were made after, I’m in the middle of watching the 1995 episode and unfortunately Jun is one of the most disgusting characters I have ever met in fiction, he almost makes me want to stop watching.
    It’s a real shame that the writer made him the protagonist, that the refused to give more time and screen to Hotaru and other characters, because Jun is to put it simple, a ”bad person”! Every episode he does something wrong, makes the lives of the other characters worse and more miserable, every episode ends with he feeling sad about all the wrong things he did, and he never learns nothing! This makes the characters more disgusting with each episode, he have no excuses to be who he is, is maddening!
    This aside, this series is brilliant!

    • Kuramoto Sou tends to write flawed characters that can sometimes be quite unlikeable, but somehow his dramas always make me feel warm and fuzzy anyway. It makes an iteresting contrast. I never had problems with Jun. He is what he is, a very flawed person which just makes him more real than your average drama character. It’s just that we don’t often get someone like him as the protagonist, so… Jdramas, especially the older ones usually have a more ralistic bent than those from e.g Korea or China. They also don’t shy away from controversial or difficult topics. Another thing I like about them.

  2. Pingback: 10 Best Things to do in Furano | Japan - Tripily

  3. I remember watching this series alongside my homestay family every week, even though my Japanese was barely passable I could certainly understand the emotions emanating from the screen. Seemed like every episode there was something that would move us to tears – (uh, not me of course). This became part of the backdrop of my first year in Japan. Here I am, 30+ years later watching it all over again on DVD with English subtitles. Everything that I missed during the original airing, the language fog, missed nuances, dialect differences, I can now go over and over again ad nauseum to my heart’s content. Plus the added advantage of all the additional years of Japanese studying not to mention online resources, there’s not a single word of dialog that I shouldn’t be able to figure out now. I can even adjust the stilted English subtitling to more natural phrasings as I see fit. I must say that after all these decades, it’s still my favorite Japanese terebi-dorama of all time. Even the whistled theme song pops into my head from time to time for no particular reason, and it always brings a smile to my face and warm fuzzies inside.

    • Yup, this gave plenty of warm fuzzies to me too. 🙂 Japan really makes some of the best slice-of-life dramas. There is something so relatable about many of them.

    • I’ve lately binged on several older jdramas, though this is by far the oldest I’ve watched. I just love it. 🙂 As for where I’m watching it… let’s say I got the files from a relieble source. I can e-mail you the details if you are interested. I think most of it is in YT too.

      • I also got hooked on Kita no Kuni Kara. Managed to find English subs for the original series, but ran into problems trying to find English subs for all of the subsequent Specials. So hard not being able to finish this wonderful show.

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