Morning Drama

This morning a new asadora started. I’ve been watching them for almost fifty years now and when a new one starts I’m always hopeful that I’ll get hooked on it. It’s a morning ritual for many households.

NHK, which is to Japan like PBS is to America, is the producer of these renzoku fifteen minute dramas. These series started in 1961 and continue to this day. This new asadora is set in Okinawa. They are all set in different locations around Japan and in different time periods. What is interesting to me is that the vast majority of them are based on a onna shujinkō who overcomes different challenges. If I had to guess, perhaps it is because they are aired at 8:00 AM (It used to be 8:15 AM) and they guessed that the audience would be largely female?

Every household in Japan during the 1970s

My first exposure to asadora was during asagohan at my Kyoto homestay in 1976. I didn’t understand more than a word here and there, but since it aired daily (except Sunday) I could sometimes get the gist of it just from watching. It seemed like an excellent language tool and I’ve watched them every chance I get.

The most famous asadora is Oshin. It’s been subtitled and aired all over the world and even been turned into a movie or two. I’ve watched it three times—the first time it aired, again in Rhode Island in 1988 with my giri no okāsan, and then again recently when it was rebroadcast (I have a subscription to Japanese tv.)


In Rhode Island we were able to borrow the whole series on video. My MIL and I cried together as we watched during the last days of my pregnancy and the first days of my son’s life. It was her first trip to America and there she was watching Oshin!

Chimudondon is the 106th asadora. Thanks to the miracle of the internet I can watch it daily and I can also watch reruns of previous asadora. They are well worth seeking out.

  • asadora – 朝ドラ literally morning drama and refers to dramas that are broadcast in the morning (duh)
  • renzoku – 連続 series. So renzoku asadora means “a serialized morning drama”
  • onna shujinkō – 女主人公 onna means woman and shujinkō is hero, so together they mean heroine.
  • asagohan – 朝ご飯 asa means morning and gohan is meal, so together it means breakfast.
  • Oshin – おしん the morning drama that had everyone in tears. Worth googling for more information. It’s everything.
  • giri no okāsan -義理のお母さん mother-in-law
  • Chimudondon – ちむどんどんthe name of the new asadora that started this morning. This is in the Okinawan dialect. Chimu in this case should be thought of as heart (even if it is closer to liver). Maybe vital organ is a good interpretation. Dondon is onomatopoeic and represents the thumping of the heart. Maybe the right interpretation of it together is “heartbeat.” But the implication is a little more exciting and vivid.

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