Sunday, December 05, 2010

Kanryotachi no Natsu eps 1-6

When we think of Japan, we think of an industralised nation that creates a huge percentage of the world's cars and electronic goods. We think of a prosperous nation that has an incredible public transport system and superb internet. Kanryotachi no Natsu looks at post WW2 Japan as it is trying to revive its economy through the eyes of the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MITI). More specifically, through the eyes of Kazakoshi (Sato Koichi) and Tamaki (Funakoshi Eiichiro) who opposing forces in MITI.

This dorama is about a Japan when the Americans would laugh at their attempts to create their own cars. This was a Japan that would export really cheap shirts to the US that were of poor quality. This was a Japan that was trying to create televisions which would be cheap enough for your average consumer to buy and using the upcoming Olympic games to spur the television industry. This was a time when refrigerators and washing machines were a luxury and cost months of pay. A time when pollution and destruction to the environment was not a foreseeable outcome of modernisation.

Sigh, indoor smoking in the good old days. :)

Probably the most interesting storyline from this dorama so far is the issue of free trade. MITI was responsible for protecting and nurturing the local Japanese industries. Protecting basically meaning restricting imports while trying to improve the local industries so that one day Japan could compete globally, something Kazakoshi was a proponent of.

However, the US-Japan relationship was very important post WW2 and the Americans were trying to force Japan to open the borders of its industries, ie allow free trade. However, the Minister of Trade Ikeuchi, played by the awesome Kitaoji Kinya who is backed by Tamaki believes that the bleeding of local industries is necessary in order to protect the Japan-US relationship and to teach Japan to stand on its own two feet. Basically you have two opposing forces in MITI, each doing what they think is right for Japan. Kanryotachi no Natsu asks all the right question and really gets you thinking about how scary free trade is for a growing economy.

 However the answer to all the questions really is how big is the picture you want to look at and how do you number your priorities? Is sacrificing small industries necessary to appease the US? Would that not mean that they would be more eager to place additional demands on Japan? Or is it not better to let the strong survive in the international marketplace instead of isolating Japanese industries from the world. Like the IBM episode where Japan has spent a lot of money trying to develop their own computer but in the end has to allow IBM limited entry into the Japanese market because Japan's technology is too far behind.

Ep 5 has the best English that I've ever heard by a Japanese speaker in a jdorama.

I come from a country where protecting local industries is just an excuse for politicians to get richer and allow the production of inferior products so its nice to see a show about bureaucrats and politicians actually doing their jobs, arguing over what is best for their country and playing the political game of seeking alliances and influencing votes. The backbone of the first 6 episodes of course the friendship between Kazakoshi and Tamaki, two good friends who are forced to oppose each other because of their beliefs.

I need to get me some white sideburns.

Kanryotachi no Natsu is an awesome show. Unfortunately, the last sub was uploaded in September so the status of the project is up in the air. If you've got an interest in history and want to see how a struggling economy can become a developed country, this is a must watch.

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