Kyoto urges more samurai dramas: “Constant production is indispensable”

Image from the samurai action film “Hisshiken Torisashi”

by Robert Moorehead

According to Kyodo News, officials from Kyoto city and prefecture visited TV network offices to urge them to continue to broadcast samurai TV dramas. Why? Could it be because the dramas are often filmed in Kyoto, at the city’s film studios and the city doesn’t want to lose the jobs?

While that would seem like a reasonable concern, Kyoto officials packaged their concerns in terms of spreading “Japanese culture” around the world. The TV programs are “extremely effective” in teaching Japanese culture, according to the officials. But what version of Japanese culture are the TV shows teaching? The last time I walked outside my home in Kyoto, I didn’t see any samurai walking down the street. Why the insistence on depicting an image of Japan that’s trapped in the era of samurai?

“Constant production is indispensable,” according to Kyoto governor Yamada and mayor Kadokawa, to preserve and pass on the knowledge of staff and artisans. Whether enough people actually watch the shows is apparently less important than keeping people employed in the time-honored, traditional practice of … making a television show. I would like to add that my family also requires “constant production,” that is, “constant employment” to preserve and pass on knowledge, to pay time-honored bills, and to continue the cultural practice of putting food on the table and a roof over our heads. So where’s my TV show?

How about new shows, like a drama about working in the accounting department at Olympus, where fudging the numbers, hiding losses, and padding wallets has been taken to a new level? You could even make one of the accountants dress like a samurai.

Or a show that combines samurai with cosplay?  In which a samurai travels through time to find himself winning a costume competition at Comicon.

Or the samurai get new neighbors from Brazil, and all sorts of wacky adventures ensue? The samurai could drown his sorrows by talking to a hostess from the Philippines at his favorite sunakku.

Or combine shows to make “My Samurai is a Foreigner” (Samurai wa gaikokujin), in which the lovable, romantic Tony Lazlo not only loves kanji but also is a samurai.

Or “My Wife Is a Foreign Samurai” (Okusama wa Gaikokujin Samurai), combining the Japanese pastimes of watching samurai dramas and gawking at foreigners.

Or last, but not least, a brave samurai attacks the radioactive fallout at Fukushima Dai-ichi, repairs the reactors, and then unleashes his wrath on TEPCO. Now that’s a show I’d watch.

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