The best film of the season! Eiko Koike’s “A House Without a KOTATSU” shows a new form of patriarchy. | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The best film of the season! Eiko Koike’s “A House Without a KOTATSU” shows a new form of patriarchy.

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Eiko Koike (43) starred in the fall drama “The House Without a Kotatsu” (NTV), which reached its final episode on December 20. From the perspective of an otaku who has watched a lot of dramas, the drama was not only interesting but also revolutionary in some way.

Eiko Koike, who starred in “A House Without a Kotatsu

The drama takes place in the Fukahori household. The wife, Marie (Koike), solves domestic troubles while supporting the family finances. Ten years ago, many people would have advised divorce.

But times have changed, and Japan’s patriarchal system is collapsing. Family dramas, too, are changing, keeping abreast of current trends. Let us look back at such changes with drama titles.

The 1990s, the heyday of patriarchy and battles between wives and mother-in-laws

Let’s start with the 1990s. The model case drama for the trend of “husbands work in society and wives protect the house” was “Wataru Seken wa Oni Bakari” (1990, both on TBS). The model case dramas of the “husbands work and wives stay at home” trend are Wataru Seken wa Oni Bakari (1990, all on TBS), Double Kitchen (1993), and The Eldest Son’s Bride (1994). The husband does not do housework as a matter of course, emphasizing that he works and only sleeps on his days off. It was a time when it was considered a good thing for a wife to be a housewife and have many children.

Moreover, the wife is treated as a housekeeper by the mother-in-law. The late Yohji Nojiri was a master (?) of this wife-snoring act. The late Yoko Nogi was a master (?) of this wife-snoring act. All the wife-mother-in-law battle dramas of the 1990s were interesting because of her. In particular, her role as Machiko Hanaoka, the mother-in-law in “Double Kitchen,” was the best because of the way she bared her emotions. She swears at her son’s wife, who lives in a two-family house, while beating her drum vigorously whenever she doesn’t like something. Sometimes she would throw the garbage she had swept into the son and daughter-in-law’s mailbox. Despite her meanness, she also showed deep affection for her mother-in-law. I have never seen anyone better qualified than Ms. Nogi to play this role in a drama.

Early 2000s, when fathers lost their authority.

Then, the 2000s. While Ms. Nogi showed her dignity as a mother-in-law in the daytime drama “Bride and Bridegroom” (Fuji TV, 2010), family dramas began to change little by little.

Alice Hirose played the role of the devil’s wife in “The Wife Who Knows.

The title of “My Husband Can’t Work” (NTV, 2017) was novel even from the start. There was no way that the husband = father could not do his job, and he was supposed to boast immense power as the patriarch of the family. But when you open the lid, even the father is a human child. Some types can be active in the company, while others are not. That is what the drama began to hammer out. Incidentally, at this time, I had become independent and was working on commission for various publishing companies. As I looked at the many people I met there, I recall realizing that just because you are a man does not mean you can do the job, and that no one is perfect.

And in “The Wife Who Knows” (Fuji TV) broadcast in 2021, Motoharu Kensaki (Tadayoshi Okura, 38), who works at a bank, is not only squeezed by his boss but also yelled at by his wife, Mio (Alice Hirose, 29). He has zero authority as the patriarch of the family. The seesaw of gender equality in drama is getting flatter and flatter.

The “I can’t write! 〜(TV Asahi, 2021), the father, Keisuke Yoshimaru (Toma Ikuta, 39), who does not work and takes care of all the household chores, finally makes his appearance. The story began with the wife of a successful novelist leaving the earning to ……. Eventually, Keisuke gets a job as a screenwriter, and his life changes. 2020’s “Kyoku Shufudo Michi” (NTV) is no exception, and the position of househusband has become the standard in dramas as well.

In an era where each family decides the head of the household

Recently, “My Wife” (Fuji TV, 2023). The title of this drama suggests that the wife works and does not do the housework. There is no difference between men and women in terms of who can and cannot do housework. Just because you are a woman does not mean you are a good cook. If you look around, most of the cooks working in the restaurant are men.

Then follows “A House Without a Kotatsu,” the first episode of the series. In episode 8, Yusaku asks Marie for a divorce because he wants to draw a manga about divorce. He expresses his dislike for his father-in-law, who does not work, drinks all the time, and gave him the down payment for his own home. His wife always takes the wheel of the car when they drive, and Marie says she “needs” Yusaku, who can’t find a single good thing about her even though she has a 360-degree view of him.

Divorce is averted in the ninth episode. In the last episode, Yusaku finally published “A House Without a Kotatsu”. The book did not sell well, but for Marie, it was the book she had been waiting for 10 years.

The shape of each family is different, and even if it looks unbalanced to others, it is fine as long as it is balanced by the people in the family. The proposal for a new kind of family in “A House Without a Kotatsu” was very innovative. In the past, there used to be a battle between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, but in the Fukahori household, there was a battle between the son-in-law and the mother-in-law in Alexandria. Watching Marie’s father, Tatsuo (Kaoru Kobayashi), taking notes of the other’s every move and reporting them to Marie, it was more insidious than the battles between women.

Incidentally, Marie’s parents divorced at the ripe old age after she reached the age of 60. His wife was a clean slate, had a new partner, and had already decided on a nursing home to move into. Looking around the drama as a whole, I am deeply convinced that this is “Reiwa’s version of Watariki.” …… I hope that more dramas depicting this kind of family perspective will spread in our society and make it more convenient. It is not a kotatsu that Tatsuo bought, but it is a sauna that heats up as well. I would like to know how that one turned out.

  • Interview and text by Hisano Kobayashi

    Writes essays and columns, edits, and appears on radio for promotional work. He is also the author of "Kekkon to nakaridemo ryuwashikana life" (KK Bestsellers) and "Best of Heisei Drama! (Seishun Shuppansha). Born in Hamamatsu City, Shizuoka Prefecture.

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