There’s something about the utter simplicity of Shouwa Monogatari that never fails to move me. As someone who grew up in a household where the next rent check and sometimes even the next meal were sometimes an unsure prospect, I appreciate a series that authentically chronicles the struggles of working-class people while neither romanticizing nor sensationalizing them. When you’re never secure financially, there’s never a time when you can truly feel at ease – and this is something a child is acutely aware of (even more than an adult in some ways). But you’re also much less likely to take the simple pleasures of life for granted.
Really, you couldn’t get any more by the book than this episode of Shouwa. Little boys playing baseball and teenaged girls kissing in the park – if it sounds unrealistically wholesome, well – believe it or not those really are the sorts of things little boys and teenaged girls do, and it’s probably fair to say that with so many fewer distractions in 1964 they were a lot more important in the lives of those kids than most today. As always there are hardships and life’s lessons, too – but refreshingly this week, no physical violence from Psycho-Dad and only the occasional burst of shouting. I also learned the meaning of the “Katsu” scene from yesterday’s Ginga e Kickoff – apparently it’s a play on words, as “katsu” sounds like a form of “Good luck!” and thus, it’s a tradition for students to eat it on the night before a big game or exams.
Did you ever drop an easy fly ball or boot a grounder in a big game? There are few things more traumatic in a boy’s life, and I felt terrible seeing what Hosogawa went through – especially with the snotty rich-kid Kazama leading the bullying that started after Hosokawa’s rain-induced error that cost Kouhei’s team the school softball championship. Kouhei had his part in it too, having called his teammate a “klutz” after the error – but he’s always been a kid who ended up doing the right thing, and he has the decency to feel guilty about what’s happening. It would have been interesting to see what might have happened as Kazama was trying to push Hosogawa into the slimy pool and Kouhei intervened to stop it, but we’ll never know, as the Great Niigata Earthquake hit just at that moment. It’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow someone some good, and this one gives Hosogawa the chance to dive into the pool and save the drowning Kazama – and his place on the social ladder. That was a big quake – 7.6 on the Richter Scale, causing a 6 meter tsunami – but miraculously only 36 people were killed despite the destruction of over 2000 buildings and the entire Port of Niigata.
The other thread this week involves Yuuko and her boyfriend Sawatari-kun. Yuuko is working at a café – against the wishes of her parents and the rules of her high school – in order to earn enough yen to buy the dress she thinks she needs to impress Sawatari (who, judging by the brazen moves he puts on her, is more concerned with Yuuko not wearing a dress than what dress she’s wearing). I almost – almost – felt a twinge of sympathy for Psycho-Dad at seeing how totally at seas he was in dealing with his daughter. It’s probably realistic that a Dad in 1964 would be pretty clueless about his teenaged daughter, and while he has a pretty solid idea what might be happening he hasn’t a clue how to try and stop it. Neither does Mom though, to be fair.
Our casual stroll this week stays close to home – it’s a peek at the Yamazaki House itself, and the real-life counterpart which graces the Katsushika City Museum (Ohanadzaya Station, Tokyo-Narita main line, 8 minute walk).
Casual Stroll: “Yamazaki House”