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The Japanization of wife and whisky in NHK’s morning drama Massan

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The story of NHK’s morning drama (asadora) Massan (2014–2015) is loosely based on real events. It depicts the lives of the Japanese whisky pioneer Massan and his Scottish wife Ellie in pre- and post-war Japan. Ellie assimilates and grows into the role of a perfect Japanese ‘good wife and wise mother’, while Massan fulfils his dream and succeeds in producing the first authentic whisky made in Japan. Approaching the series’ narrative from the perspective of multiculturalism, I argue that the series falls into the trap of representing the heroine as a stereotypical foreigner, resembling figures who perform their otherness in Japanese TV shows. Furthermore, when one considers Massan’s whisky entrepreneurship as a symbol for Japan’s postwar economic success, the series reflects several tropes of national ideology such as the belief in a unique Japaneseness. Thus, I suggest that this morning drama establishes an imagined and exclusive national community for its audience, in which a serious discussion of multiculturalism and foreigners living in Japan remains absent.
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Keywords: Japaneseness; diversity; international marriage; multiculturalism; national ideology; whisky

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Kanazawa University

Publication date: August 1, 2019

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  • The East Asian Journal of Popular Culture is the first academic peer-reviewed journal for scholars, teachers, and students from around the world who have an active and passionate interest in the Popular Culture of East Asia. The journal is devoted to all aspects of popular culture in East Asia and the interplay between East Asia and the wider world. With the growth in popularity of Asian visual products in the Western world and the increasing strength of the Asian markets, this publication fulfills the need for an international journal that allows Western and Asian film, media, literary, music, fashion, digital media, television, art and cultural scholars alike to engage in discussion. In the last few decades there has been a huge rise in the interest in East Asian popular culture. The East Asian Journal of Popular Culture will be engaging directly with that trend. From film to music; art to translation and fashion to tourism, this journal will offer a forum where multidisciplinary work can come together in new and exciting ways.
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