Watching History: The Taiga Drama   大河ドラマ

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Japanese Heroes

If after a long day of visiting in Japan you end up exhausted and watching TV in the evening, you are sure to get a glimpse of Japanese history with the NHK taiga drama featured every Sunday at 8pm.


The taiga drama is one of the traditions of Japanese television. Every year since 1963 NHK produces and disseminates historical series based on the life of a great man of Japanese history. The current season is the 53rd  and enjoys a success that continues unabated.

The taiga drama is generally focused on two periods: the provinces at war, Sengoku Jidai, in the sixteenth century or the end of the shogunate, Bakumatsu, in the nineteenth century with incursions in less loved Japanese periods. 

If the first seasons were centered around the great men, the series now focuses on more humble Japanese heroes. Exit the warrior hero, enter the figures personifying pacifism, the importance of knowledge, openness to the world and equality between men and women since there are now as many heroines celebrated as there are heroes . This year, 2015, is the year of Yoshida Shoin, a fundamental hero who was a teacher.

Each new series also intends to pay tribute to a region and boost tourism. The 2014 drama about Kuroda Kanbee was a celebration of the city of Himeji and the year of the reopening of the castle. The 2013 drama about the young Niijima Yae, a native of the province of Fukushima was intended as a tribute to this bruised Prefecture.

The Japanese, have a very strong relation with their history, which is taught in detail in schools. The taiga drama is a way to maintain a link with this past, and for us it is a real window on history. A foreign spectator will struggle to follow the dialogues but will remain fascinated by the faithful reconstructions and the actors' talents. The taiga drama offers 40 minutes of Japanese history recommended to every visitor.

2015: Hana Moyu (centered on Yoshida Shoin and his sister, educators and advocates for the opening of Japan during the Bakumatsu).

2014: Gunshi Kanbee (centered on Kanbee Kuroda, strategist, Christian warrior and lord during the Sengoku Jidai).

2013: Yae no Sakura (centered on Niijima Yae, samurai girl involved in the Boshin War and one of the first Japanese nurses, nineteenth-twentieth century).

2010: Ryomaden (centered on the legendary Sakamoto Ryoma, idealistic and revolutionary Bakumatsu, the most popular romantic hero in Japan, nineteenth century). 


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