And the moms keep coming. I’m excited to continue writing about women and mothers, characters that need a little light shone on them. I surprised myself with my thoughts on this mother, for she made choices I know I would never stick to. But she intrigues me because she was constant. And that’s one trait I’ve found I adore.
Manpyo Yasuko (Harada Mieko) Karei naru Ichizoku (The Great Family)
Karei naru Ichizoku was a drama I watched solely for Kimura Takuya. I believe to this day, it was some of his best work. The drama is captivating and moving and his performance phenomenal. Therefore, in a drama about men, there aren’t many women that catch your attention (in positive manner). Manpyo Yasuko is an anomaly on my list because her purpose in that drama was just to be a docile Japanese wife. For the time period of the drama, she embodied the expectations of her culture and even the ideas that many may still have of Asian women today; quiet, soft-spoken, helpmates.
Yasuko is all these things but was never a wallflower or a doormat. Yes, her husband was a pompous jerk, that treated her like a common housemaid or a wayward whore but she, herself did not adhere to that role or accept that assignment. Though deeply hurt by his actions, she genuinely viewed his behavior as a disgruntled reaction to a misunderstanding. Overall, when watching the drama you get the keen sense that her motivations as a wife and mother were spurned by something beyond herself, one could not identify by a superficial observation. Her values and views were lofty, despite her treatment.
I can’t say that it wasn’t excruciating to watch, for she not only allows her husband to be a tyrant but that she accepts his ways and lives within those boundaries. However, what many today would view as weakness, was vehement strength on her part. Somewhere within her, she’d decided to persevere– to remain, regardless of her husband’s philandering and cruel behavior, despite his hurtful words and assumptions. She chose to stay in her marriage. As a 21st Century woman, it’s scraping blasphemy to admit that I respected a woman like that, but I did. She was a mother that stayed because she knew what she had. Though she hadn’t signed up for a horrible marriage, she continued to be a respectful, pleasant wife. She did these things for her children, for her family, for their futures. She could’ve turned to alcohol or other men, she could have left Daisuke or fought with him constantly. Instead, she lived her life above reproach. She was a mother that was long-suffering, sustaining herself with the comfort of truth, a right attitude and speech.
I don’t find Yasuko to be trapped in her situation but tolerant (in the best non-cynical sense of the word). Though she could be easily misunderstood by her silence, her endurance in impeccable. If there is one thing that I’ve learned observing mothers is that motherhood has many facets and avenues. Your character as a woman immediately comes into play and question once you begin to raise children, once you’ve made a commitment to share parenthood. Unlike any other position in life, every move you make, decision you act upon, is scrutinized and taken into account, by someone other than God or yourself; a small psyche that is forever dependent on you.
Manpyo Yasuko is a mother that revealed her pride as a woman by honoring her filial customs and her vows. She shielded her children from backlash and scandal, from secrets, lies and indiscretions, all with grace, courage and love. Though her situation and actions may have differed in another time period or nation, her spirit and fortitude is transcendent.