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KITA NO KUNI KARA HIMITSU (A secret from the Northern Country)

This story is a popular 2 part drama in Japan. About love and betrayal and 8 years before..and 8 years after. Starring Rie Miyazawa. Fuji TV's drama "Kita no Kuni kara" (From the Northern Country) might be described as a Japanese version of "The Little House on the Prairie," despite its modern setting and the fact that the somewhat naive father character in no way resembles the strong, idealistic father portrayed by Michael Landon in the U.S. series.  About five years ago, NHK conducted a survey in which it asked 1 million viewers what television program from the past they would like to watch again.  In the nonnews category, "The Little House on the Prairie," aired on an NHK channel, placed second, and Fuji TV's "Kita no Kuni kara" took sixth place.  Considering that the survey was conducted by NHK, it is surprising that a Fuji TV program did so well. Indeed, programs broadcast by NHK took the top five places in the poll.  In response to popular demand, Fuji TV will air the two parts of the latest sequel--the seventh to date--titled, "Kita no Kuni kara: '98 Jidai," on Friday and Saturday night.  The two episodes will run for a total of about six hours.  The drama was first broadcast as a one-hour weekly series from October 1981 to March 1982. Since then, six sequels have traced the fictional Kuroita family's struggle to survive in Hokkaido and the children's passage into adolescence and adulthood.   Viewers have identified with the story as closely as if they were watching a documentary about a real family. "I feel like I have gone through these 18 years alongside the characters in the drama," wrote one 27-year-old fan in a letter to Fuji TV. "This drama soothes and comforts me and makes me feel at home."   A 49-year-old viewer wrote: "I have never missed an episode since the drama was first aired. I now feel like Jun and Hotaru are my own children, and I always look forward to the next sequel so I can see them again."  Toshio Nakamura, director of Fuji TV's program production department, said, "I believe that this drama--following one family's developments for 18 years--is something unprecedented in the world of TV dramas." The script of the seventh sequel, written by So Kuramoto and published last month by publisher Rironsha, quickly entered the list of the nation's top 10 best-sellers.  The original series introduced Goro Kuroita (played by Kunie Tanaka) and his two children, Jun and Hotaru (Hidetaka Yoshioka and Tomoko Nakajima). Goro divorces his wife and moves from Tokyo to his hometown of Furano, Hokkaido, with the children. Ill at ease with their new life--their house is without electricity or gas--and missing their mother in Tokyo, primary school-aged Jun and Hotaru at first resist their father's decision to live a self-sufficient life in rural Hokkaido. But they soon get used to their new life and marvel at their father's skill in providing the house with running water and constructing a windmill to generate electricity. In the first sequel "Fuyu" (Winter) in 1983, Goro unwittingly finds himself saddled with debts totaling 7 million yen after an old friend, Midori, asks him to look after her son.   The son, Shokichi, becomes a good friend of Jun's, and in the next sequel, "Natsu" (Summer) aired in 1984, the two start a fire, which, to their horror, burns down the house Goro built.  In the third sequel, "Hatsukoi" (First Love) aired in 1987, Jun, now in his third year of middle school, falls in love with a local girl. They promise each other they will attend a part-time high school in Tokyo together, but in the end Jun leaves for Tokyo by himself.  "Hatsukoi," which depicted the springtime of the children's lives, attracted a host of new fans, according to the program's producer, Yoshiaki Yamada.

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Passing the baton

The fourth sequel, "Kikyo" (Coming Home) aired in 1989, follows the course of Hotaru's first love affair. She works as a trainee nurse at a hospital in Hokkaido, and attends high school part-time.  Meanwhile, Jun returns home for the first time since he moved to Tokyo. Although Goro knows his son is in some kind of trouble, he warmly welcomes him home.  In "Sudachi" (Leaving the Nest) aired in 1992, Goro is feeling lonely living by himself in Furano. Hotaru is still attending nursing college in Asahikawa and Jun has found a job in Tokyo. Although Hotaru knows that her father wants her to move back home, she decides against it. Jun, meanwhile, has made a girl pregnant as a result of his thoughtlessness. Goro apologizes to the girl and her family, emptying his wallet to compensate them. In "Himitsu" (Secrets) aired in 1995, Jun returns to Furano and is hired by the local council as a temporary garbage collector. His affection for a local girl is undimmed when he learns from his friends of a secret in her past.   Hotaru falls in love with a 42-year-old doctor and runs off with him to a tiny village in the depths of the countryside. After meeting the doctor's wife, Goro visits his daughter and her lover there.  Of the six sequels, "Kikyo" won the highest audience rating, 33.3 percent, while the last two sequels have also achieved ratings of more than 30 percent, according to Fuji TV.  In the latest sequel, "Jidai" (Era) to be aired over the weekend, Hotaru stands at a crossroads in her life. She realizes she is pregnant after breaking up with the doctor. She confesses all to Sota, one of her close neighbors in Furano, and asks to borrow some money. Without telling Goro or Jun, Sota secretly plots to marry Hotaru off to a man who has been infatuated with her for 15 years.  Tomoko Nakajima, who plays the role of Hotaru, actually is pregnant and is expecting to give birth this month. Her pregnancy surprised the program staff, who did not realize she was pregnant until they finished filming.  "I did not notice (her pregnancy) at all. It's just like Hotaru, very cool," said Tanaka, who plays Goro. "After 18 years, the two children have grown mature enough to take care of their aging father in the drama. I think the same could be said of them in real life."   Tanaka said Japanese society continues to change, sometimes in ways that are not healthy. The drama is a rare example of a program that has accurately and unsensationally depicted this through the trials of the Kuroita family. "There are a lot of 'throwaway' television dramas broadcast these days, but in this drama I wanted to record life in Hokkaido for good, as a precious image of the 20th century," scriptwriter Kuramoto said.  Kuramoto, who actually lives in Furano, said he has written about the realities that the Hokkaido town faces. And it seems he will continue to do so even after 18 years. In the latest sequel, Goro, who protected his children in the past sequels, gradually changes place with Jun and Hotaru. It is now his children's turn to face and overcome the various obstacles that life throws up. The baton is about to be handed over to Goro's children, the scriptwriter said. "The end of the century is approaching. That's why I named this sequel 'Jidai,'" Kuramoto said. The producer, Yamada, said that he especially hopes younger viewers will watch the latest sequel.  "I want them to think how to live their lives," Yamada said.

STARRING: Too many to list
NETWORK: FUJI TV
REVIEWS:

I have not seen the whole series but I did see the one in 1995 which is pretty good.  No rating on this one.


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