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The much beloved Fuji TV "home drama" (family drama) series 『ひとつの 』/"Hitotsu Yane No Shita" was a huge ratings sensation when it debuted in the Spring of 1993. With its inspirational, heartwarming and touching story about the lives and tribulations of a young family of six brothers and sisters living together "under one roof" in the suburbs of Tokyo, it very quickly won the hearts of its young viewers and over time became one of the best examples of the popular 90s "Trendy Dramas". With its poignant and sentimental storyline mixed in with some goofy sitcom and melodramatic histrionics, it may come as a surprise to find out that this drama was scripted by the prolific screenwriter Nojima Shinji (野島伸司) known primarily for his tragic, dark and disturbing drama series like 『高校教師』/"Koukou Kyoushi" (1993) which aired just prior to this series.
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|Top Row - L-R - Eguchi Yosuke, Sakai Noriko, Fukuyama Masaharu; Bottom Row - L-R - Ishida Issei, Oji Megumi and Yamamoto Koji|
Yamamoto Koji began his acting career as a baby and child model. He would also display his singing talent by appearing in various Japanese musicals and theatre productions. "Hitotsu Yane No Shita" would also be his first major role in a TV drama and would lead him to other appearances in various TV series and dramas particularly "Jidai Geki" productions. He would also make further appearances in various theatre and musical productions.
|We Are Family - The Principal Cast of "Hitotsu Yana No Shita" - L-R - Sakai Noriko, Oji Megumi, Eguchi Yosuke, Yamamoto Koji, Ishida Issei and Fukuyama Masaharu|
|"Muttley You Snickering Floppy Eared Hound..." - The cast of "Hitotsu Yane No Shita 2" doing their "snickering" pose and Muttley (AKA Ken-Ken) - Images courtesy of http://ameblo.jp/kabutoxx/entry-10777414183.html and http://superheroisemgeral.blogspot.com/2012/02/hitotsu-yane-no-shita.html|
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There are only a few JPop love songs that really had the emotional impact to actually make me weep (山口 百恵/Yamaguchi Momoe's 「 いい日旅立ち」, Anzen Chitai/安全地帯 「悲しみにさよなら」 and KAN's 「 愛は勝つ」 come immediately to mind) and 「ひだまりの詩」 certainly ranks as among one of the best love songs ever. With its touching lyrics, gentle melody and lead singer 藤田恵美/Fujita Emi's angelic vocals, it is the perfect sentimental song for pulling at the heart strings.
|Image courtesy of http://photozou.jp/photo/show/140238/7031637|
Le Couple was comprised of the singing/song writing husband and wife team of 藤田隆二(Fujita Ryoji) and 藤田恵美 (Fujita Emi). Fujita Emi has always wanted to be in the spotlight even at a young age. From Kindergarten up through Elementary School, Emi was groomed to be a star - acting in school plays and singing in various chorus groups (one of her early performances was with a chorus group called the "Himawari Cuties" 「ひまわりキティーズ」). In 1978, after high school she tried her hand at becoming an Enka singer but wasn't able to secure a recording contract. Dejected but still determined to pursue her dream, Emi continued to sing (mostly Country and Bluegrass songs) in various Live House venues while working as an Real Estate Agent for the Tokyo area.
Fujita Ryoji grew up listening to the Beatles as a teen and taught himself to play the guitar in Junior High School. After high school, he joined a Country Music cover band and played various Live House gigs across Tokyo. It was during one of these performances that he met and fell in love with Emi who was also singing at the Live House he was performing in.
They married in 1990 and took a break from music, only performing on occasion as a hobby. After three years Emi and Ryoji decided to pursue their dreams again and began to sing original songs as a duo at various Live Houses in Tokyo. It was at one of these performances that they caught the attention of a Talent Agent for Pony Canyon who quickly signed them up to a recording contract. Emi and Ryoji would later debut under the name "Le Couple" the following year. In 1994 they would release their first single, a cover of the 1968 song 「海の底でうたう唄」'"Ume No Soko De Utau Uta" by the radio personality group モコ・ビーバー・オリーブ/Moko, Beaver, Olive. Subsequent singles would follow but it wouldn't be until their 5th single "Hidamari No Uta" in 1997 that they would finally get their big break. "Hidamari No Uta" owes much of its success to its being selected as the insert song to the drama series 『ひとつ屋根の下 2』 and within the span of only a few weeks, the song would jump from outside the top 100 to No. 78 and then into the Top 10, finally reaching the No. 2 position, selling over a million copies. The single would earn the duo not only an invitation to perform at that year's "Kouhaku Utagassen"/『第48回NHK紅白歌合戦』 but the song would also be selected as the No. 3 most popular song of the year by Oricon.
Unfortunately Le Couple wouldn't be able to match the huge success of "Hidamari No Uta" and this would be their only major hit. Ironically, Ryoji and Emi (whose songs talked about eternal love and the perfect romance) would find their relationship waning and they would divorce in 2007, two years after retiring as a singing group. The couple did not have any children while together.
Emi would however continue to perform as a solo singer under her married name.
The "Hitotsu Yane No Shita" series and its sequel would be released to VHS home video and Laser Disc but would inexplicably be denied either a release to either DVD or Blu-Ray.
"Hitotsu Yane No Shita" is one of those rare series in which one really does get to care for the characters of the story. While some of the humor was a bit forced and the subplots a tad bit too melodramatic, the series stands as one of the best examples of Japanese family dramas and its young cast of up-and-coming stars truly captured the hearts of audiences. This series is one of my all-time favorites and proved that scriptwriter Nojima could write happy stories too and not just the "doom and gloom" type stories he was famous for.