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A Doll’s-Eye View of Japanese Aesthetics

Kokeshi

It is remarked that women hold up half the sky. Propping up one particular outstanding woman, in turn, was a peculiar little woman: a top-heavy wooden doll without arms or legs.

Japan’s asadora (“morning dramas”) is a tradition stretching back to 1961 at national broadcaster NHK (Nippon Hōsō Kyōkai / Japan Broadcasting Corporation). For half a year to one year at a time, the television series tells the story of a heroine fighting for her dream under adverse circumstances. Massan, which aired from September 2014 to March 2015, for instance, depicted a Scotswoman who married a Japanese man and helped him realize his aspiration of producing genuine whiskey in Japan in the 1920s-1940s. Along the way, she battled with social hostility against foreigners. Often, the stories are modeled after real-life women. In the case of Massan, this was Rita Taketsuru, the Scottish spouse of Nikka Whiskey founder Masataka Taketsuru.

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