Early days of Ayako Koshino; miracle-worker maid; CM of the week: Japan Tobacco

Last Monday, NHK’s latest six-month asa-dora (morning drama series) started. “Carnation” (NHK-G, Mon.-Sat., 8:45 a.m.) is a fictionalized version of the early life of Ayako Koshino, one of Japan’s first Western-style fashion designers, who emerged during the Taisho Era (1912-26) and gave birth to three other famous female fashion designers: Hiroko, Michiko and Junko Koshino.

The protagonist, Itoko (Machiko Ono), is the daughter of a prominent kimono seller in Osaka, though she is attracted to Western apparel. However, her main obsession is the sewing machine she spies in a business located not far from her family’s establishment. She decides that she will quit school and work for the company, just so she can learn how to use the device. Her father strongly disapproves, even though he knows in his heart that the kimono business is on its way out.

Though not a governess like Mary Poppins or Nanny McPhee, “Kaseifu no Mita” (“Mita the Maid”; Nippon TV, Wed., 10 p.m.) is still pretty magical for a domestic servant. Wherever she is hired, she figures out the central problem in the life of the family she’s working for and then goes about solving it, often in a cold, bossy sort of way. She never smiles or betrays any emotion.

In this week’s premier episode, Mita (Nanako Matsushima) is hired by Keiichi, whose wife recently died. Keiichi has four children, the oldest of whom is 17, and he is at his wit’s end trying to find time to take care of them on his own, which is why he needs a housekeeper. But Mita cleans up more than just the house.

CM of the week

Japan Tobacco: In its latest “manner advertisement,” Japan Tobacco features a man who is waiting on a bench in a park. He stands up and pulls out a pack of cigarettes, but then has second thoughts about having a smoke when he spots his little boy running to meet him after school. He thinks to himself: Now that I have a child, I understand even more the meaning of maintaining “good manners.”

The boy runs into his arms, and as he kneels to scoop him up, the man’s gaze falls on a “manner poster” that informs him, “A lit cigarette is carried at the height of a child’s face,” which has less to do with manners than with basic public safety. The man and his son walk home hand in hand. Both are smiling and neither is smoking.