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Note: I'm writing people's names the Japanese way, with the family name first. I'm referring to characters by their family or given name based on how they were referred to in the show. Let me know if this is too confusing.

I was in the mood for something undemanding (no angsty love stories or hideous crimes), so I watched this five-year-old drama about a resort hotel.



Omokawa Seiji was the general manager of a fancy hotel in the past, but the hotel went bankrupt and he was unable to get another job in the hotel industry. As a result, he started drinking and his wife left him. At the beginning of the series, his father-in-law's company gives him the job of refurbishing and reopening a quaint, closed-up hotel in the Mt. Yatsugatake highlands.

He spends time in Tokyo scouting out employees. Instead of hiring experienced hotel workers, he wants to hire people with great personalities. He first chooses Homma Saori as the head waitress. While eating in a restaurant, he sees her serve a customer's coffee with the cup handle facing the "wrong" way, but realizes that she had noticed the customer was left-handed. He doesn't recognize her as the daughter of a chef he once fired, and she's reluctant to take the job because of that. Finally she decides she wants to know what sort of man Omokawa is, so she accepts the job.

Next he encounters Yamamura Kumi in a bar. She's just been dumped by her boyfriend, and is crying, when the power goes out in the bar. She gets up and kludges the circuit breaker with a piece of tinfoil to get the power back on, and he offers her a job on the spot. It turns out she has certificates as an electrician, a plumber, and a boiler mechanic, but hasn't yet found the right job for her.

We never find out Nakahara's given name. When we first see him, he's lying to a friend about having been a bellboy in a famous American hotel, but he was really just a fry cook in a restaurant across the street. He's cool and taciturn. He gets hired offscreen, so we don't know why Omokawa hired him.

He hires Ishizuka Yoshiki out of a bar in Roppongi, where he entertains customers with his vast collection of trivia. Omokawa thinks he has a great attitude.

The new employees arrive to find the hotel extremely dilapidated and full of trash, and are very disgruntled to find out that they're expected to help renovate it. There they meet Seki Mineko, a cheery local woman who's been hired to help with the renovations as well, and Wakatsui (whose given name we also never learn), an accountant sent by the investment company to keep an eye on things. Wakatsui is quite unpleasant, and immediately begins criticizing everything.

Disaster strikes right away, as they learn that the famous chef Omokawa hired won't come to work for the hotel after all. Omokawa goes to Tokyo to try to change his mind, but when he finally tracks him down, the chef actually runs away down the street. Omokawa begs all the chefs he knows to come and work for him, but none of them will take the job. Shortly after he returns, however, an elderly man arrives at the hotel and announces that he's the well known chef Koike Yuichiro, who was once the executive chef of the Orient hotel in Singapore. He says he wants to work for the hotel. Omokawa is suspicious, but offers to give him a trial.

We quickly find out that the president of the company, Omokawa's father-in-law, has it in for Omokawa and is determined to make him fail. (It's unclear why, since if the hotel doesn't succeed, he won't be able to sell it at the end of September as he plans to.) He arranges for a famous hotel critic who once panned Omokawa's previous hotel to come a week early to check the place out. Everyone is in a panic trying to get the place ready, and Omokawa clashes several times with Koike over the menu. Then the critic shows up a day early, when everyone is still running around in t-shirts trying to get ready. Things don't go well, but the critic is so charmed by the personalities of the staff (especially Kumi, who takes him stargazing) that he gives them a good review anyway.

After a rocky start, everyone starts to work well together. Even Wakatsui starts to warm up to the rest of the staff, though he does his best to remain unpleasant. They hire a couple more local people and things start to go really well. Unbeknownst to them, however, the president of the company is still planning to sell the hotel out from under them. Finally the axe comes down, and the contract is signed. The chain that bought the hotel decides to keep Omokawa and Koike on staff, but lay off the rest of them.

Omokawa tells the representative from the new chain that his condition for staying is that they keep the rest of the staff on, and Koike agrees, but the representative tells them that this is impossible. Finally the whole staff finds out what's going on. Everyone is pretty upset at first, but then Mineko reminds them that this is their hotel, and that they should all do their best for the little time they have left working there.

(Asian cultures in general are big on doing your best, and it's a common theme in dorama. In Japanese dramas, they say "ganbatte!" In Korean dramas, they'll raise one fist and say "fighting!" in English. In Taiwanese dramas, they say "let's work hard together!" It's all the same general concept, but I find the differences in the way they express it interesting.)

On the last day, Omokawa's wife, Yuki, comes to see the hotel with their son, Dai. She asks him to come back to the family. Ishizuka tries to confess his love to Kumi, but accidentally confesses to Koike instead. Surprisingly, there's no last-minute miracle -- the hotel really does close down and everyone goes back to Tokyo.

Cut to one year later. Omokawa is back with his wife and teaching in a hospitality school. We find out that the chain that bought the hotel is having a hard time, making less than half the profits that it made under Omokawa. (Schadenfreude!)

Because Omokawa's son says he wants to go back to that hotel and see the stars again, the family takes a trip. They arrive to find the hotel closed down again, but Wakatsui is in residence. It turns out the company has bought it back from the chain, they've regathered the staff, and they want Omokawa to return as the general manager. Ishizuka and Kumi have even gotten married in the interim. Happi Endo!

I enjoyed this series. It was sweet and rather domestic, with some suspense but the angst kept to a minimum. Not a whole lot actually happens, but the characters are engaging and kept me interested throughout. Not as peculiar as my usual fare, but just what I needed this week.

I'm adding another rating to my scale: angst.

Quality: 7
Weirdness: 1
Angst: 4
Entertainment: 5
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June 2010

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