Hooked on Japanese TV
Along with Extreme Makeover and American Idol, one of my favorite "guilty TV" pleasures is a Japanese soap opera on KIKU, called Making It Through. I eagerly watch the misadventures of little, ponytailed Hina, her ambitious mother and her meddling grandmother. The program is a window into daily life in Japan, but I know little about the show itself. Now, I'll be able to find out more, with The Dorama Encyclopedia, a new book that guides readers through the world of Japanese TV dramas.
Japanese television was born in 1953, with the country's first official broadcast. At that time, there were only 866 televisions in the entire country, but presumably most of those sets were tuned in for the show: a scene from a kabuki play. A mere three days later, though, a drama written especially for the new medium was shown. It was broadcast live, and a technician caused a bit of a stir when he accidentally left the camera pointing at an actress during one of her costume changes. From this shaky beginning, Japanese television has matured. It's increasingly embraced by Americans, particularly on the West Coast and here in Hawai'i, where, according to the book's authors, more than a hundred Japanese shows have been subtitled and broadcast.
The Dorama Encyclopedia covers 1,000 series, including all genres of Japanese drama: kitchen-sink dramas, infidelity dramas, home dramas, trendy dramas. Each listing includes the names of key creatives, theme songs, showtimes and cross-references. The authors have even covered such gems as I Want to Be a Shellfish, The Flipside of Naojirï the Tofu Seller and I Borrowed Money from Her.
"Many people in Hawai'i have parents or grandparents who watched this kind of programming," says Phyllis Kihara, the general manager at KIKU. "Japanese dramas are family oriented, so everyone can relate to them, no matter where you are from." Kihara says that most of her station's audience is non-Japanese-speaking. "Japanese TV is for everyone," she asserts. "Everyone should sample some."