Drama · Japanese Pop Culture

生きたい物語・I want to Live

Today, I’d like to share something a little different. Along with talking about school lunches, I would also like to share a part of Japanese culture that is not only imbedded into Japan’s daily routine, but also influences pop culture and brings a sometimes very real representation of Japanese society: Japanese dramas.
Now, mostly I will be providing drama summaries and introducing dramas that I have especially enjoyed, but from time to time also provide a little more background on what each drama is projecting about Japanese society. The drama I would like to introduce today is called 1リトルの涙 (1 Litre of Tears).
First, you must know that this drama is based on a dramatic tragedy diary written by a girl named Aya Kito. In her diary, she talks about coping with her teenage life along with a degenerative disease. She was diagnosed with a disease called spinocerebellar atrophy when she was 15 years old. The disease causes the person to lose control over their body, but because the person can retain all mental ability the disease acts as a prison. Aya discovers this disastrous news as the disease has already developed. There is no cure. She keeps a diary of not only what she does but how she feels and the hardships she must endure. Initially, the diary’s purpose was for Aya to chronicle impressions she had about how the disease was affecting her daily life as was suggested by her doctor. As the disease progressed, however, the diary became Aya’s outlet for describing the intense personal struggles she underwent in coping, adapting, and ultimately trying to survive her disease. As she notes in one entry, “I write because writing is evidence that I am still alive.” After her death some ten years after being diagnosed, another diary was published, one written by her mother, telling about a mother’s struggle to cope with her daughter’s incurable illness.
The origional cover of 1 Litre of Tears.
Synopsis (taken from Wikipedia)

The story begins as Aya prepares for the new semester. Despite being happy, she suffers from slight physical problems, which only her mother seems to notice. However, one day, she falls unconsciously on the floor. After she is sent to the hospital, she is shortly diagnosed with the disease. Despite the fact that she is diagnosed with the terminal illness, she does not lose the will to survive.
She still makes friends with others, including her first love, Yuji. She later develops an interest in Haruto. Although somewhat cold, Haruto was still kind to her. Meanwhile, her health continues to deteriorate. Knowing that she will not survive for long, she returns the gift Haruto has given, who discovers the fact when he reads the love letter that Aya gave him.
Aya Kitō proved her courage and positive attitude towards an uncertain future when suffering such an illness, spinocerebellar ataxia. The drama spans a decade, during which she graduates from school while her conditions worsen.
This drama examines the complex range of feelings that patient, family, friends, and the general community, undergo during the painful process when someone so young is diagnosed with a terminal disease. In doing so, the script considers particularly the domestic situation of caring for an ill relative who requires specialized attention, but it also critiques general attitudes towards the disabled in Japanese society. Every new day for Aya means accepting new obstacles and new losses. Therefore, most importantly, this series commemorates the indomitable spirit who wrote a “record of a girl who was chosen by this strange disease.”

This drama is extremely powerful and real. I found myself crying nearly every episode and thinking about if I was in the same situation, would I be as strong as Aya? There is a scene near the end of the series where Aya is not hospitalized because she can no longer walk. Also, she has to be watched carefully while she eats because she can no longer control her body’s movements enough to properly eat food without chocking. During the middle of the night, Aya manages to get to a pay phone to call her mother because Aya is afraid. However, her movements are so restricted that she cannot dial the number fast enough to actually connect and she is now too weak to get herself back to her room. Moments like this, others worse and others not so worse, really made me think a lot about my life. I know this does not sound like the most cheerful drama, but I highly recommend it.
Like all Japanese dramas, some stock characterization is evident: the angelic and sacrificial mother, the aloof and enigmatic boy-hero who proves to be truly loyal, and the jokester father. But where this drama succeeds so perfectly is the brilliant interpolation from the real Aya’s diaries: the words, examples, and deeds are part the work of screenwriters, but mostly the true and authentic words of the sick Aya. The script moves magnificently between the various moods of tragic and heroic that a life-threatening illness bring out in both the one suffering, and those who suffer with her. It is impossible, or was for me, to get through an episode without shedding pure tears of awareness.
You can watch the entire drama here: http://www.mysoju.com/1-litre-of-tears/
ot only is the drama amazing, but the music is spot on as well. I am especially fond of the ending song called “Only Human” and performed by K. K is origionally from Korea, but is popular in Japan.
You can listen to the song here : http://aimini.net/view/?fid=dApFjtQO0VaG7Iiz6aKK

今は 前へ 進め
赤い爪あとに 涙 キラリ 落ちる
もっと 前へ 進め
濡れた道 かがやく
強い 強い 光
強く 前へ 進め
Lyrics (Romaji)
kanashimi no mukou kishi ni
hohoemi ga aru to iu yo
kanashimi no mukou kishi ni
hohoemi ga aru to iu yo
tadori tsuku sono saki ni wa
nani ga bokura wo matteru
nigeru tame ja naku
yume ou tame ni
tabi ni deta hazu sa
tooi natsu no ano hi
asita sae mieta nara
tame iki mo nai kedo
nakare ni sakarau fune no you ni
ima wa mae he susume
kuru shi mi no tsu ki ta basho ni
shiyawase ga matsu to u yo
boku wa ma da saka shi te i ru
kisetsu ha zu re no hi mawari
ko bu shi nigi ri shi me
asahi wo ma te ba
aka i tsume a to ni namida ki ra ri o chiru
kodoku ni mo na re ta na ra
tsukia ka ri tayo ri ni
hame na ki tsubasa de tobi ta to
mo-to mae he susume
amakumo ga kireta nara
mu re ta michi ka ga ya ku
nami da ke ga hoshi e te ku re ru
tsuyoi tsuyoi hikari
tsuyo ku mae he susume

English Translation
On the other shore of sadness,
It is said that there is a smile,
On the other shore of sadness,
It is said that there is a smile,
Finally we arrived.
But what are we waiting for?
The purpose is not to run away,
It’s to chase after dreams
We should have gone out to travel
On that summer day so long ago
In a place worn down by sadness
something called a miracle, is waiting
Yet we are still searching
for the sunflower that grows at the end of spring
The warrior who awaits the morning light
before he can clasp it with red nails,
his tears glitter and fall
Even if we’ve grown used to loneliness
only relying on the light of the moon
We have to fly away with featherless wing
just go forward, just a little further
Even tomorrow, if you see it
Though there isn’t a sigh either.
Like a ship going against the current flow.
Right now, go forward, move ahead.
Even if it cuts through the rain and clouds,
The wet roads shine,
Only the dark will teach,
A stronger and stronger light,
Be strong, go forward, move ahead.
I am planning on going to a local book store soon to buy both Aya’s journal and the one her mother wrote. I am sure I will write a book review or maybe post some translations here.


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