NHK TV drama sheds light on the lives of asexual and aromantic people

A new drama from Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) aims to foster a better understanding of people who identify as aromantic or asexual – a subject long ignored by mainstream television.

The series “Koisenu Futari” (The Two Don’t Love Each Other), which NHK began airing in January, opens with the female protagonist who worries that she is unable to have romantic feelings.

Aromanticism is a type of sexual orientation in which people have little or no romantic attraction, while asexuality is the lack of sexual attraction to others. One can be one or both.

The show proved difficult, but rewarding, for its creators at the public broadcaster, who had to avoid ubiquitous tropes and storylines when writing it.

“Japanese TV dramas always come with cuddling scenes, kissing scenes and weddings,” said Yuta Oshida, 33, who came up with the idea for the project. such a relationship with the male and female characters.”

AGAINST A CURRENT

When Oshida was directing his first drama project, which involved high school students who devoted themselves to sacred Shinto music and dance “kagura,” during his fourth year with NHK, he ran into a problem.

As he discussed story composition with the screenwriter and other staff, they thought it was odd not to feature romantic relationships for young characters.

But it felt like the romance angle just didn’t fit and was baked into the work. Oshida continued to wonder if this was a necessary part of the story.

He later learned about asexuality and gained a deeper understanding of it by interviewing asexual people he met through a relative and at social gatherings.

He came up with ideas for “Koisenu Futari” and presented it in May last year.

Some NHK staff wondered if the project would work as a story. But others said audience members unaware of aromantic and asexual orientations might sympathize with the characters. They eventually won, and the project was greenlit for production.

A scene from the fifth episode of the TV drama series “Koisenu Futari” in which Sakuko (played by Yukino Kishii), right, and Takahashi (Issey Takahashi) face off while traveling in Odawara, Kanagawa Prefecture (Supplied by NHK)

THE PUBLIC LITTLE KNOW ABOUT ASEXUALITY

In a 2019 survey of 15,000 people living in Osaka, 0.8% identified as asexual.

But compared to LGBT sexual minorities, those who are aromantic or asexual remain less known to the public. And many suffer in silence due to a lack of understanding of their sexual orientations.

Ken Nakamura, 25, who identifies as asexual, lectures and works to raise awareness on the subject. He noted that people who identify as aromantic or asexual keep a low profile, and because of this, they are often misunderstood.

“Some are hurt by remarks that are meant to be goodwill gestures, like, ‘You just haven’t met the right person,'” Nakamura said.

According to an online survey conducted by Dentsu Diversity Lab in 2020, 80.1% of respondents said they knew the term LGBT. But only 5.7% said they had heard of aromantism and asexuality and knew what it meant.

EXPERT OPINION REQUESTED

Nakamura provided guidance for the show, alongside Haruka Imatoku, to ensure it accurately reflected the lives of community members.

Imatoku, 27, is the chief executive of Nijiiro Gakko, a Tokyo-based nonprofit that has been organizing social gatherings for non-LGBT sexual minorities, including asexual people, since 2016.

Event attendees can speak freely about uncomfortable remarks they receive in their daily lives. Such remarks are often based on the misconception that romance is common to everyone in life.

“We easily accumulate little blunders every day,” Imatoku said.

Shunya Okajima, 32, an administrative scrutineer who submits legal documents on behalf of his clients, knows this well.

He joined a gathering like one of these meetups five years ago and identified as being aromantic and asexual.

Although Okajima had never met any of the participants, he sympathized with what each had been through and felt so comfortable that it was as if he had known them for many years.

While chatting with other attendees, he learned that many of them are not comfortable with the idea of ​​marriage as it is often tied to romance, but they still want to find a partner to spend their life with. together.

Okajima said he wants to work with aromantic and asexual people to explore alternative relationships to marriage and help them with their wills and inheritance issues – one of the many areas of life they struggle with due to of their misunderstanding.

(This article was written by Hiroki Ito, Midori Iki, and Honomi Honma.)