|Topics in Japan #40:
Atsuhime boom---longing for a woman that survived a stormy era
“Atsuhime” is a title of a drama series aired by NHK, Japan's public broadcast station, this year. The drama portrays the life of Atsuhime, a woman who lived from 1836 to 1883. She was married to one of the last shoguns of the Tokugawa family that ruled Japan for more than 250 years through the 17th to the 19th centuries. At the time, Japan was experiencing a major transition from the Tokugawa shogunate era to a rather liberal and westernized society. So, naturally, Atsuhime went through a number of hardships.
“Atsuhime” is part of NHK's annual drama series called “Taiga Drama (=drama saga),” which has been quite popular since it started in 1963. Every year, the series focuses on one historic hero or heroine so people can enjoy learning about the person's life over the course of the year. And this year's “Atsuhime,” which ended with a high audience rating, has become one of the biggest hits in recent years.
The popularity of “Atsuhime” has gone beyond the drama to become a social boom. Kagoshima City launched a large-scale tourism campaign as the hometown of Atsuhime, and welcomed visitors from all over Japan. The editor-in-chief of a young women's fashion magazine says that she got a request from several readers for a feature article on Japan's history, which she thought was quite unusual. As this shows, Atsuhime has been popular even among young women, who are not usually the main audience of history dramas.
One of the key factors of the whole Atsuhime boom is Aoi Miyazaki, the young but skilled actress that plays the heroine. One survey shows that the most popular name among baby girls born in 2008 was “Aoi,” with many parents naming their children after the actress. Maybe women today are longing for a strong and beautiful figure like Atsuhime, and hoping that they or their baby girls will have skills to survive this fast-changing modern society.