Trend in Japan Web Japan
Arts and Entertainment
Business and Economy Lifestyle Science and Technology Fashion Arts and Entertainment Sports People
Arts & Entertainment
Tear-Jerking Love Stories Enthrall Japanese Women (October 14, 2004)

Bae has won legions of fans in Japan. (Jiji)
Japanese women are being swept up in an unprecedented craze for jun'ai (pure, innocent love). A South Korean TV drama series titled Winter Sonata and the novel Sekai no Chushin de, Ai o Sakebu (Crying for Love at the Heart of the World) by Katayama Kyoichi are among the catalysts for this boom. Middle-aged women are said to be the most passionate devotees of Winter Sonata, while middle school and high school girls are the most hardcore fans of Sekai. Both have earned abbreviated nicknames, a sure sign of popularity in Japan: Winter Sonata is familiarly referred to as Fuyusona, and Sekai as Sekachu. Why are people so hungry for "pure" love? Discussions about why this theme has struck such a chord with Japanese women have been filling the columns and airwaves of Japan's media.

Winter Sonata Draws Unusually High Ratings
Winter Sonata (Fuyu no Sonata in Japanese) was produced in South Korea in 2002. It was aired on Saturday nights at 11 pm on the NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) General terrestrial channel from April to August 2004, and despite being shown at such a late hour it quickly became a hit, achieving viewer ratings of over 20%. Such was the show's impact that when the star of the series, Bae Yong-joon, visited Japan, hordes of mostly middle-aged women crowded the airport to greet him. Nicknamed "Yong-sama" by his fans, the actor's extraordinary popularity has become known as the "Yong-sama phenomenon."

NHK actually first began broadcasting Winter Sonata in April 2003 on its Satellite 2 channel. But seeing the show's popularity gradually rise, it decided to put the series on its flagship terrestrial channel, a move that ignited the Fuyusona frenzy. Fans have been snapping up videotapes, DVDs, and books about the drama, and this demand helped NHK to reverse the decline in sales and profits it experienced in fiscal 2002 with an increase in both of these indicators in fiscal 2003 (April 2003-March 2004). NHK's operating revenue (excluding subscriber fees) rose ¥4.6 billion ($41.8 million at ¥110 to the dollar) over the previous year to ¥105.4 billion ($958 million), of which revenues from Winter Sonata accounted for ¥3.5 billion ($31.8 million).

The book Sekai no Chushin de, Ai o Sakebu has sold more than 3 million copies, becoming the bestselling Japanese novel of all time. The film version of the book drew 5 million people to theaters, and a TV adaptation aired from July to September 2004 registered high viewer ratings as well.

Both stories are about pure and innocent love. In Winter Sonata a young woman meets a man who looks just like her first love, who died years before in an accident. Sekai, meanwhile, is the tale of a man who for 17 years cannot overcome the loss of his sweetheart, who died of an illness in his high school days.

Reminders of Yesteryear
Other novels dealing with pure love, such as Wasure Yuki (Snow of Oblivion) by Shindo Fuyuki and Ima, Ai ni Yukimasu (I'm Coming to See You Now) by Ichikawa Takuji, are also enjoying brisk sales. NHK earlier aired another South Korean romance series starring Choi Ji-woo, who played the heroine in Winter Sonata, on Satellite 2. In the hope of recreating the Winter Sonata boom, NHK broadcasts the program on terrestrial TV starting in October.

So, why pure love, and why now? Katayama Kyoichi, the author of Sekai, has this to say: "Romantic affairs are fundamentally about committing oneself to another person with one's heart and soul. It may be that my novel reached the hearts of young people who are not content with superficial relationships." In regard to South Korean drama series, one critic observes that "the characters use beautiful language, are polite, care about their families, and maintain platonic relationships. Perhaps they remind today's Japanese of something they have left behind."

As Japanese women increasingly enter the workforce and build careers, it may be that some have found they have little time for the ultra-romantic pursuits portrayed in jun'ai TV series and books. These refreshing stories appear to be providing a welcome outlet for their romantic feelings.

 Page Top

Copyright (c) 2004 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

Related articles
(April 25, 2003)

(July 4, 2002)

(January 18, 2001)
Drop Us a Line
Your Name

What did you think of this article?

It was interesting.
It was boring.

Send this article to a friend

Go TopTrends in Japan Home

Go BackArts & Entertainment Home