優しい時間 or Yasahii Jikan is a Japanese TV drama about a small cafe called Forest Clock located in Furano, a small town on the northern island of Hokkaido.
The owner of Forest Clock is Yukichi Wakui, a successful corporate executive who lost his wife Megumi in a car accident. He traded his corporate suit for an apron when he moved to his wife’s hometown Furano to open the cafe.
Yukichi’s only son Takuro was at the wheel when the car crashed and killed Megumi. This caused a rift between father and son because Yukichi thought Takuro was unrepentant while Takuro, reeling from guilt, lashed out at his father for neglecting him.
Yukichi left for Hokkaido alone leaving Takuro in Tokyo. Takuro visited Yukichi a year later. Although he was coldly received, he decided to stay close to his father. He became an apprentice for a pottery master in Biei (about 50 km away from Furano). His father wasn’t aware of his decision.
This drama starts 3 years after the accident. Forest Clock is now a centre of activity where the locals and tourists alike congregate to grind their own coffee beans and gossip. Yukichi lived a simple life making coffee and conduct small talk with his patrons.
The drama unfolds with Yukichi meeting people in Takuro’s life and slowly learned how little he knew about his son which had led to many misunderstandings and unforgiveness. The ending is fairly predictable, I just want to know how the 2 mend their relationship. I actually prefer happy endings.
If the drama is all about grief it would have been too much to bear. Comic relief was introduced via the cafe patrons. They are a cute bunch. There is the cheating husband, the police inspector who keeps losing his cell phone, the mountain rescue team, the hibernating couple and the choir. As a knitter, I am happy to see one of the male patrons knitting away.
There is also the budding romance between Takuro and Azu, a young girl working at the Forest Clock.
The English translation of 優しい時間 is gentle time. It is an apt title.
To borrow a phrase from Yukichi, this story is about “the smaller world“. It deals with the lives of individuals. There are no lofty aspirations or visions here.
It is a sort of micro-treatment of emotions: guilt, failure and fear. There are no heroes, only small characters. Not every situation turns out well. One of the patrons committed suicide because his business failed.
This is a fairly slow storytelling. I don’t mind because drama dealing with grief suits a slower pace. Time does seem to crawl for people who are grieving. Things seem to stand still.
Having said that, the pace of the ending was a little too slow.
Takuro seemed to be doing most of the reconciliatory work although Yukichi’s change of heart towards his son was not due to Takuro’s efforts. I was hoping to see a more passionate Yukichi during the reconciliation scene. But it might be too much to ask of a 60-year old Japanese man.
This drama feeds my soul because it caused me to reflect upon family relationships and the importance of communication.
Found Episode 1 at DailyMotion.