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Pop Culture in Japan: Taiga and trendy dramas

Long-running soap operas are very unusual in Japan, the exception being the public broadcaster NHK's taiga dramas. These epic historical sagas, which screen every Sunday night for a year, began in 1963 and have fallen in and out of popularity ever since. Usually concerning some great warrior figure of the past (1997's was about the warlord Mori Motonari), taiga dramas are pretty much a national institution.

The antithesis of these samurai epics is the even more popular trendy drama, which run for a strict twelve-week season and concern themselves with contemporary issues, such as the trials and tribulations of modern career women or the risky (for Japan) topic of single mothers. One of the most daring and popular, racking up a third of the viewing audience when screened in 1992, was I Have Been in Love With You For a Long Time, whose plot revolved around the complex emotional triangle between uptight yuppie Fuyuhiko, his overbearing mother and Fuyuhiko's arranged-marriage (yes, these still happen) bride Miwa.

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