Credits

I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Le Couple - 「ひだまりの詩」/"Hidamari No Uta" - Insert Song To 『ひとつ屋根の下 2』/"Hitotsu Yane No Shita 2"

 
Image courtesy of http://www.amazon.co.jp

 The much beloved Fuji TV "home drama" (family drama) series 『ひとつ屋根』/"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.
Image courtesy of http://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/kosumi_sk/16019382.html
"Hitotsu Yane No Shita's" success couldn't have been possible without the help of its stellar young cast headlined by the always dependable Eguchi Yosuke (江口洋介), the incredibly cute Sakai Noriko (酒井法子) and the charismatic Fukuyama Masaharu (福山雅治) as the three eldest siblings.  Up-and-coming young stars Ishida Issei (いしだ壱成), Oji Megumi (大路恵美) and Yamamoto Koji (山本耕史) would round out the cast as the three younger Kashiwagi siblings.
Eguchi, who had previously starred in two other hit TV series by Nojima - the landmark romantic drama 『101回目のプロポーズ』/"Hyaku Ikai Me No Propose" (1991) and the ensemble drama series 『愛という名のもとに』/"Ai To Iu Na No Moto Ni" (1992) and who had captured hearts as the lovable Lothario Mikami in the series 『東京ラブストーリー』/"Tokyo Love Story" (1991), delivers another memorable performance as eldest brother Kashiwagi Tatsuya (柏木達也). With his trademark long locks, goofy character eccentricities and over-the-top emotional outbursts, Eguchi seemed to be channeling his "101 Proposal" co-star Takada Tetsuya (武田鉄矢) in the series.  Like Takada's famed Kinpachi Sensei, Tatsuya always seemed to have some sort of quaint life lesson to teach to his siblings. His commitment to family, earnest attitude, and hardworking ethics seemed more reminiscent to the traditional values of older generations and thus made his character very admirable and a stark contrast to the stereotypes of modern generations of young people. After "Hitotsu Yane No Shita", Eguchi would continue to star in numerous and varied TV projects and films, successfully shaking off his J-Dorama idol image. He would also go on to marry the leggy 80s singing idol Moritaka Chisato (森高千里). 

"Hitotsu Yane No Shita" was Fukuyama's first high profile role after starring in a couple of smaller TBS series. His role as the aloof, troubled and idealistic second brother Masaya/雅也 would be a career changing turn for him and he would later find fame both as a singer and as a film actor. His most celebrated TV role would come almost a decade later as the crime fighting Associate Professor of Physics and Amateur Detective, Yukawa Manabu in the popular Fuji TV series 『ガリレオ』/"Galileo" (2007) and its sequel.  Fukuyama recently won further acclaim as the star of Koreeda Hirokazu's poignant family drama 『そして父になる』/"Like Father, Like Son" (2013) which won the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival and which is rumored to be remade for American audiences by Steven Spielberg.

"Hitotsu Yane No Shita" was also the first major TV role for popular 80s idol singer Sakai Noriko AKA Nori-P (のりピー).  Nori-P's charming personality and touching performance surprised many critics and won the hearts of audiences making her even more in demand. After her stellar performance in the series, it would not be long until Nori-P would go on to headline her own drama series and further display her natural acting talents in the tearful NTV series 星の金貨』/"Hoshi No Kinka" AKA "Heaven's Coins / Die Sterntaler".  Nori-P's devotion to her craft would clearly be displayed as she would spend nearly half a year mastering Sign Language in order to portray lead heroine Aya in the series.  Nori--P would also contribute the theme song 「碧いうさぎ」 for the series and which would go on to become not only one of her most successful singles but also one of her signature songs.  Yet, her personal life would take a dramatic and tragic turn in 2009. As if in imitation of one of her TV Dramas, Nori-P would find herself involved in a drug scandal involving her husband, a former Pro-Surfer. In the days that followed, Nori-P would be wanted by police and the target of unrelenting tabloid media coverage. Nori-P would be charged with the use and possession of Amphetamines and although she would receive a suspended sentence, Nori-P was publicly humiliated and saw her various endorsement deals cancelled. Her clothing line and recording contracts would also be revoked and she would be forced to cut ties with her Talent Agency. However, in an ironic turn, sales for her various past albums and singles including "Aoi Usagi" would see a dramatic increase during the period after the scandal.  Nori-P would eventually make her comeback to show business in 2011 after a brief hiatus but her former "pure" image would be forever shattered by lingering negative rumors which include details of her family's "Yakuza" affiliations and the revelation of images of various tattoos on her body including one on her ankle, one on her ring finger and a rumored elaborate "butterfly" image inside her inner thighs surrounding her private area.
Nojima favorite Ishida Issei is the son of popular actor Ishida Jyunichi (石田純一). His father and mother would divorce when he was only three years old. His mother would subsequently take him to live abroad in a nomadic lifestyle in such diverse areas as Oregon in the US and Australia where he lived until he was sixteen.  He would be discovered by a TV Producer when Issei happened to be attending a concert performance featuring his father.  He would soon debut as an actor later that year (1991).  After his appearance in "Hitotsu Yane No Shita", Issei would appear in a string of other Nojima scripted dramas including the powerful disability drama 『聖者の行進』/"Seija No Koushi AKA When The Saints Go Marching In" (1998) and the cult juvenile detention drama 『リップスティック』/"Lipstick".  In 1994 Issei would also debut as a musician and Music DJ with the Warner Music Japan group and release a couple of original albums. Yet like his co-star Nori-P, he would get involved in a drug scandal of his own in 2001. He would be charged with drug use and possession and after a sentence of one year house arrest, he would resume his acting and music career.


Top Row - L-R - Eguchi Yosuke, Sakai Noriko, Fukuyama Masaharu; Bottom Row - L-R - Ishida Issei, Oji Megumi and Yamamoto Koji
Oji Megumi began her career as a model and campaign girl for such companies such as the Seibu Department Store chain and JVC. "Hitotsu Yane No Shita" would be her first major role in a series.  As a result of her impressive performance in this series and its sequel, Oji would find steady work starring in a number of TV dramas and series in subsequent years.

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.



The supporting cast featured a number of great and familiar character actors who would later go on to find their own individual successes after starring in this series and its sequel.  The list of guest stars in "Hitotsu Yane No Shita" would read like a "who's who" of up-and-coming stars including - Uchida Yuki (内田有紀), Murakami Rikako (村上里佳子), Fubuki Jun (風吹ジュン), Nakatani Miki (中谷美紀), Adachi Yumi (安達祐実), Yamamoto Kei (山本圭), Matsu Takako (松たか子), Ukaji Takashi (宇梶剛士), Ogi Shigemitsu ( 小木茂光), Ito Yuko (伊藤裕子), Asai Erina (浅井江理名) and Fujiwara Norika (藤原紀香).


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
The Kashiwagi Family would represent a microcosm of interesting personalities and each sibling would have their own unique, complex and intriguing back story as well as compelling subplot:

Kashiwagi Tatsuya/柏木達也 (portrayed by Eguchi Yosuke) - A former Marathon runner who had Olympic medal potential but ultimately gave up on his dreams after suffering a severe and debilitating Shin Splint injury. Tatsuya is set to marry the daughter of the company president who had sponsored him during his Marathon competitions. To celebrate his pending marriage he makes a fateful decision to travel from his family's small hometown in Kyushu to Tokyo to reunite with his estranged younger siblings.  Seven years prior, their father (a kindly small town physician) and their mother had both died in a tragic car accident leaving them orphans. Unable to take care of his younger brothers and sisters, they were each sent off to live with family friends and relatives around Tokyo. Tatsuya envisions a tearful and joyous reunion but is shocked and saddened to discover that his young brothers and sisters have all grown distant. Only eldest sister Koyuki is happy to see Tatsuya and together they vow to rebuild their broken family no matter what happens. Tatsuya decides to open his own small dry-cleaning business and buys a small three room, one bath, 2-story home in a subsection of Tokyo.  As the series unfolds, Tatsuya's plans for marriage falls apart.  He eventually does fall in love again with a Shinjuku Bar Hostess, "Jasmine" (Murakami Rikako) but is jilted by her later in the series.  As the big brother, everyone's pet name for him is "Anachan" 「あんちゃん」.  While a bit of a country bumpkin (he often exclaims that even though he had only a high school education, all the important lessons in life he learned were in kindergarten) and prone to emotional outbreaks (he cries easily) and physical altercations with his younger brothers, he is of big heart and will do anything to protect and keep his family together.  His favorite food is pudding deserts and his favorite cartoon character as a child was "Muttley" (known as ケン-ケン/Ken Ken in Japan), the snickering Hanna-Barbera dog character from "Wacky Races" and "Dick Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines")  in which he and his siblings frequently imitate his trademark snickering.


"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
Kashiwagi Masaya/柏木雅也 (portrayed by Fukuyama Masaharu) -Second eldest brother. Was 18 years old when the car accident that killed their parents occurred. He was then adopted by his father's medical school rival, Dr. Kinouchi, who was ironically once engaged to wed Masaya's mother. Masaya was being groomed to take over the Kinouchi family's hospital. Spoiled with his new found wealth and corrupted by his privileged position as a fledgling doctor in training, Masaya had become arrogant and condescending. When Tatsuya first visits Masaya, Masaya refuses to even acknowledge him as family and even bribes Tatsuya with money to leave him alone (thinking that the only reason he is visiting him is to get money). In time and with the help of his sister Koyuki (whom Masaya had always had a deep romantic love for), Masaya has a change of heart and begins to re-establish his relationship with his siblings. During the course of the series, he falls in love with one of his ailing patients, the terminally ill but arrogant actress Hiyoshi Rina (Uchida Yuki) who unfortunately dies in his care and then proclaims his love to his sister Koyuki, whom he has always known was adopted into the family.  In the sequel, he leaves Japan to practice medicine abroad as part of a "Doctors Without Borders" type medical organization.  When Koyuki is diagnosed with leukemia he returns to Japan to help treat her. His family pet name was Chi-Niichan 「チイちゃん」

Kashiwagi Koyuki/柏木小雪 - (portrayed by Sakai Noriko) - Eldest sister of the family. Acts like a surrogate mother for her younger siblings. Was abandoned at the clinic where Dr. Kashiwagi worked at by Koyuki's mother (Fubuki Jun) who was just a teenager at the time. Rather than sending her to a foster home, Dr. Kashiwagi adopts Koyuki (he name's her after the snowy weather conditions she was born in). Koyuki's gentle nature, strong motherly instincts and genteel personality made her the family's favorite sibling.  Tatsuya and Masaya would be the only ones besides Koyuki who would know that she is adopted and would be very protective of that secret.  After the death of their parents, Koyuki was sent to live with close relatives in Tokyo.  She eventually graduates from a local college and begins work as an OL ("Office Lady"/Secretary) at a large financial company. There she begins a secret extramarital affair with her married supervisor.  She is the only one who welcomes Tatsuya when he comes to Tokyo. When Tatsuya disapproves of her affair, she ends the relationship (she has secretly always had romantic feelings for her older brother). When Tatsuya is rejected by "Jasmine", Koyuki professes her love to Tatsuya to console him but is rebuffed.  When youngest sister Koume finds out about Koyuki's past, it would cause a rift in the family.  Koyuki would later in the series go to Southern Japan to find her birth mother who has since remarried and had another daugther, Megumi (Adachi Yumi). Koyuki would get a marriage proposal from follically challenged, meek businessman Maezono Toshio (a surprising early "nice guy" role for the physically imposing Ukaji Takashi, who would later go on to play primarily film and TV villains including his recent appearance as conniving businessman Higashida in TBS' sensational 2013 hit series 『半沢直樹』/"Hanzawa Naoki").  Still later in the sequel, Koyuki would nearly die as a result of a leukemia but would pull through by the efforts of her siblings and a bone marrow transplant from Megumi.

Kashiwagi Kazuya/柏木和也 (portrayed by Ishida Issei) - Hot-headed middle brother of the clan. Was only 13 when the tragic accident that killed his parents occurred. Was sent off to a close relative in Tokyo but the home environment was less than ideal and he soon became a juvenile delinquent who got into numerous altercations with Police. One incident even landed him in Juvenile Detention for a period of time. He would get involved in a juvenile gang with Yakuza ties. Although in recent years he had tried to distance himself from his troubled past, his former gang boss would try and force his hand in returning to crime. In order to help Kazuya, Tatsuya agrees to have Kazuya live with him to keep him out of trouble.  Prone to violent and emotional outbursts, opinionated and strong-willed, he frequently gets into physical altercations with his elder brother. Kazuya eventually frees himself from the criminal influences of his past and finds steady work at a manufacturing company.  There he meets the spunky tomboy Mochizuki Miki (the great Matsu Takako) who is caring for her ailing mother. Miki is also working part-time at a "Cosplay"-themed Companion Bar to make ends meet.  They fall in love and she eventually moves in with the Kashiwagi family albeit, she and Kazuya are forced to live in an outside tent because Tatsuya had rented out Kazuya's room to the effeminate college "ronin" Hayakawa Masumi (Kuroda Yuki), a fellow country bumpkin who has come to Tokyo with dreams of entering Tokyo University ("Todai").  Kazuya eventually is inspired to follow in Tatsuya's footsteps and becomes a Marathon runner.  Coached by Tatsuya's former teammate and tarnished Olympic hopeful Kawamura Izumi (Watanabe Yuki), who had been disgraced in a "doping" scandal, Kazuya attempts to win a local Marathon for the family's honor.

Kashiwagi Koume/柏木小梅 (portrayed by Oji Megumi) - Youngest sister of the group. Was only 9 years old when the accident that killed her parents occurred.  Obstinate and somewhat withdrawn, she was sent to live with distant relatives in the outskirts of Tokyo. However she was frequently bullied by the relative's own daughter who resented the fact that Koume was a top student at school. Koume at first rejected Tatsuya's offer to live with him and re-unite as a family but after Tatsuya promised to help pay for her college costs (Koume had secretly worked part-time as a Companion Girl at a Carabet Bar) she moves in with him. Although she loves her older sister Koyuki, she is secretly jealous of her and when she discovers that Koyuki is not biologically related to the rest of the family, Koume uses the opportunity to try and replace Koyuki as the family's favorite. As the series progresses, Koume and Koyuki reconcile and become loving sisters again. Later in the series, Koume is violently raped on her seventeenth birthday as she is walking home to attend her birthday party. Koume suffers severe psychological trauma from the event and Tatsuya vows to bring the perpetrator (an unapologetic and privileged college student) to justice. Tatsuya runs a local marathon in Koume's honor and nearly re-injures his legs in the process. Koume had a schoolgirl crush for close family friend, the kindly family doctor Hirose Yukio (Yamamoto Kei) who was considered an "uncle" to the family. Koume would eventually find love in the sequel when she meets up with the handsome Captain of her Tennis Club. 

Kashiwagi Fumiya/柏木文也 (portrayed by Yamamoto Koji) - Youngest of the Kashiwagi clan. Was only eight years old when the accident that killed his parents occurred. After being orphaned, he was sent to live with his mother's relatives. However, he was largely neglected and grew up withdrawn and shy. He was involved in a motorcycle hit-and-run accident in his first year of high school and was left paralyzed from the waist down.  Confined to a wheelchair, his foster parents sent him to a institution as they were unwilling to take on the burden of caring for him. The accident left Fumiya even more depressed and isolated, so much so that the caregivers at the Institution mistakenly thought he was autistic and mute (Fumiya refused to talk to anyone).  Tatsuya rescues Fumiya from the Institution and takes on the responsibility for caring for him.  In time Fumiya begins to open up to Tatsuya and the rest of his siblings and begins to talk again. Tatsuya attempts to have Fumiya go to a regular High School but his efforts are blocked when local high school officials refuse to accept Fumiya based on his disability.  Fumiya eventually accepts his condition and agrees to go to a school for the Disabled.  Fumiya would display a natural talent for art and would be encouraged to pursue his dreams of becoming an artist/painter.  Fumiya would be seduced by his Art Tutor (who is five years his senior) and who takes advantage of his trusting nature in order to steal the idea of one of his drawings (so that she can enter it as her own into a Art Contest).  Later Fumiya would find his true love in the beautiful concert flutist Terada Nami (Asai Erina) who is herself disabled (she is blind). While they share a deep and strong love for each other, Nami is nearly killed in a traffic accident when she attempts to see Fumiya over the objections of her stern parents.  Nami and Fumiya reluctantly break up their relationship in order to save Nami from any further danger and suffering.


Image courtesy of http://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/customer-media/product-gallery/B00005FRXS?ie=UTF8&index=1
J-Canuck has already written an excellent post for Tulips' (チューリップ) 1975 classic folk song サボテンの花』 (Saboten No Hana) which was used as the Opening Theme for the series and its sequel, so instead I wanted to talk about Le Couple's (ル・クプル) beautiful love song 「ひだまりの詩」/"Hidamari No Uta" which was used as the insert song for  『ひとつ屋根の下 2』.

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.


5 comments:

  1. Hi, JTM. Thanks for another great write-up on a TV series and the theme song. I never caught the sequel to "Hitotsu Yane no Shita", but I loved the theme by Le Couple enough so that I did get the CD single.

    Thanks also for clearing up that mystery about the family's little schtick with the snickering. I'd wondered what that was all about.

    I also agree that "Hitotsu Yane no Shita" was light-years away from the darkness that was "Koko Kyoshi", although the mastermind behind both was one and the same. Still, I think Nojima couldn't resist bringing in some of that darkness into the last few episodes involving Koume's assault by a fellow student.

    When we viewed it here in Toronto, I don't think there was a dry eye in the place in the finale for the first series when Tatsuya was struggling to make it to the finish line while his entire family was exhorting him to do his best; all this while another Tulip ballad was playing in the background.

    Though I thought Tatsuya was a bit high-strung, his heart was in the right place. He definitely would've punched out Yosuke Eguchi's other alter ego of the feckless Kenichi from "Tokyo Love Story". As for my memories of Nori-P, they were actually more from the blooper reel as one of the other minor actors kept breaking her up with gales of laughter.

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  2. Great post on one of my beloved dramas! Like J-Canuck, I never got to see the sequel. Not sure if it's been subtitled yet, since for now I still can't understand dramas without those. But the original will always be entrenched in my mind. I have to say I really liked Kazuya's character even though he didn't have the big heart of Tatsuya. Yes, he was bad-tempered and sometimes annoying, but I liked watching him develop into a respectable person. And Koyuki's famous line about rabbits dying from loneliness always got me.

    Also, thank you for introducing Le Couple's song. I've never heard this one before, but it was gorgeous indeed. A perfect song to go with this heartwarming series.

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  3. Thanks J-Canuck and Nikala for your kind feedback and comments. I'm glad you both liked this post and agree that Le Couple's "Hidamari No Uta" is a great song. It's a shame that this series hasn't been released to DVD as it deserves to be released to digital format so that others can appreciate it. It's amazing how many big/familiar J-Dorama stars got their start from this series. After seeing how great Nori-P was in this series I'm very eager to watch "Hoshi No Kinka" now.

    Nakala - So how do you like living in Japan? I'm definitely jealous and would love to hear more about how you are doing over there.

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    1. Japan is great but life here has eaten up a lot of my money. I'm sure I don't need to explain why. I live in a medium sized city which is convenient and peaceful, but I am planning to visit Tokyo for a few days before the end of the year. And I don't have own a TV nor a digital signal in my apartment, so I'm slow with keeping up with recent media. On a plus side, I've been earnestly learning Japanese and made some great local friends. And of course, I came here to teach the little ones, which makes most of my days interesting, whether it'd be in a good or a bad way. The one thing I do hate here is the summer weather, but thankfully that's coming to an end now.

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    2. Hi, nikala.

      Yep, keeping control of the purse strings is usually the first big challenge for anyone making a go of it in Japan. But people find a way to do so even in a place as expensive as Tokyo; there are actually stores and restaurants which are pretty easy on the wallet.

      Tokyo should be quite exciting into the last week of the year, but then as soon as January 1st comes around, most of the city goes into cocoon mode for the next few days.

      Glad summer is over in Japan. The heat and humidity are the only things I don't miss about the place.

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Feel free to provide any comments (pro or con). Just be civil about it.