Media Mix, Dec. 20, 2020

Sugako Hashida

Here’s this week’s Media Mix about the stalled engagement of Princess Mako and Kei Komuro. In the column I cite an Asahi Shimbun Koron piece. Koron articles typically include personal essays by three writers, and I mentioned two of them in my column. The third was written by Sugako Hashida, the veteran teleplay writer, famous for the long-running “home drama” Wataru Seken Oni Bakari, a saga about several generations of a middle class Tokyo family. I’ve always found Hashida to be annoyingly verbose. She’s the type of writer who has her characters give long, unnatural speeches that attempt to explain everything, whether it be about a development in the story or about life itself. Like many big shots in show business, she gets away with a lot because no one edits her. Her imperiousness extends to her view of the world and, especially, the “Japanese family,” of which she is considered an expert, though her views are quite reductive. 

In her Asahi comment, she says she initially had no interest in Princess Mako’s marriage simply because she has no interest in the imperial family, but after she was asked to write about it she studied the matter as covered by the weekly magazines and she now thinks it is interesting. That’s because she can look upon Mako’s situation the way she would one of her home dramas, which are invariably filled with “meddlesome relatives.” She confesses that she started writing about fictional families in order to confront the problems taking place in her own family, in particular the bad notices her housekeeping and cooking skills received from her in-laws. She channeled her anger into her scripts, which explains the long-winded, often self-righteous speeches. 

Nevertheless, she says she tries to consider every angle of a problem that arises in her stories, meaning not just from the viewpoint of one person, but from the viewpoints of everyone affected. That said, she then confesses that as she gets older she automatically takes the sides of older characters, and in the case of Princess Mako’s floundering betrothal she takes the side of her father, the Crown Prince, and if that makes her a “gawking old lady,” then so be it. Since I’m not really sure how the Crown Prince really feels about his daughter’s marriage—as I said in the column, his comment sounded equivocal to me—I’m not really sure what Hashida is talking about, but the essay does read like something that one of her characters would say; i.e., very little about Princess Mako’s dilemma and a lot about Sugako Hashida. Maybe that’s what Asahi Shimbun wanted.  

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