24 September 2013

はじまりの歌 Hajimari no Uta

Title: はじまりの歌 Hajimari no Uta
English Title: Song of the Beginning
Country: Japan
Language: Japanese
Year: 2013
Episode: 01
  • 松本潤 Matsumoto Jun
  • 榮倉奈々 Eikura Nana
  • 戸田菜穂 Toda Naho
  • 國村隼 Kunimura Jun
  • 尾上寛之 Hiroyuki
  • 石田卓也 Ishida Takuya
  • 徳永えり Tokunaga Eri
  • 由紀さおり Yuki Saori

Nakahara Wataru works as a freelance photographer in Tokyo. A travel magazine gives him an assignment to take pictures of  Hagi town in Yamaguchi prefecture for a travel feature.

Hagi is coincidentally Wataru's hometown, although he hasn't gone back for the last few years. He thinks there's nothing special about Hagi, and the town only has rows of old buldings and natsu mikan, a citrus fruit.

While visiting the local elementary school, Wataru runs into Imachi Natsuki. They were classmates and members of the choir club when they were younger.

Natsuki is a newly transferred teacher to the local school. She is also the director of the choir club, and she asked Wataru to play the piano for the choir club while he is in town.

Hajimari no Uta is about finding your own vocation, and having the courage to follow through. Nakahara Wataru wanted to become a teacher when he was younger, but he ended up becoming a photographer when he was older. Even though a lot of time has already passed, will he still choose to become a teacher?

I think it's amazing how some people's dreams when they were younger are still vivid in their minds. I can't quite remember what I wanted to be when I was younger, and perhaps that's why I didn't have any strong conviction on what particular field I wanted to study or what specific career I wanted to pursue.

There are other characters in the drama who had to change professions even though they loved what they did for one reason or other, but they ended up loving their new jobs. For instance, Wataru's father quit being a fisherman when his mother died, and ran a ferry transporting people across the river. For another, Wataru's older sister Minami had to take many odd jobs when she returned to her father's house after her divorce. I suppose it's particularly comforting to know that maybe a person can be suited to many different jobs, which lessens the pressure when it comes to choosing the right careers.

Wataru is from the small town of Hagi, and he had to go back for a work assignment. According to him, there's nothing to see or do in his hometown. I suppose he doesn't see it as anything special, especially as he is currently living in Tokyo, but I think it's amazing that a place has managed to remain unchanged over a long period of time.

Hagi is also the birthplace of a distinguished intellectual named Yoshida Shōin, and it's fascinating how the children in local schools are required to recite his teachings on a daily basis.

Yoshida Shōin:
  • Even if one's body decays on the Musashi Plain, I will forever possess the Japanese spirit.
  • One must have intention in all things.
  • There are people in this world who may say the things I do are not good, but God alone knows my devotion to my country.
  • Every human being has one or two strengths.
  • Seeing for yourself is better than a thousand hearsay.
  • Love flows stronger from parents to children, than from children to parents.

The scene that I'll always remember from Hajimari no Uta is when Wataru had a confrontation with his friends about whether he is successful or not in his career as a photographer. I think it was the kind of conversation you'll only have with people who are close to you, because you can only open up about your real thoughts and feelings with people you are comfortable with.

Nakahara Wataru: At my level, this (work getting cancelled) happens often. I'm an idiot. I got carried away and went to Tokyo, but in the end I couldn't succeed.
Imachi Natsuki: Aren't you acting like a spoiled child?! Whether things go well or not, be more serious about it.
Imachi Natsuki: Everyone had a lot of hard times, but even so, people grit their teeth and carry on. There are hundreds of things we don't like about ourselves, but we desperately push on.
Imachi Natsuki: And yet, what is this 'at my level' crap?

Wataru is understandably frustrated with his lack of progress in his work, especially when his work assignment is cancelled left and right. Wataru does not satisfy the usual definition of a successful photographer, and Wataru is obviously a failure when evaluating his work against such measurements.

His friends are dismayed to hear Wataru belittle himself, especially when they think of him as quite the cool guy and an amazing person. When you think about the situation from his friends' perspective, it's like Wataru is insulting them when Wataru sees himself as nothing special.

I also like how Wataru's friends are not preoccupied with superficial definitions of success and failure. According to them, what's important is when a person is serious and passionate about his work, and all that matters is when a person works hard and gives his best.

はじまりの歌 Hajimari no Uta