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Mondays – Saturdays, 8.00 – 8.15 a.m. from 29 September 2014 – 28 March 2015


Osaka was at Japan’s most spectacular from the Meiji to Taisho era. Western wine and spirits were imported from overseas. Wharf merchants prospered. The production of Western wine and spirits began, ushering in a new period. In the midst of this, there was a young man who went alone from Osaka to Scotland in order to do the impossible – make Japan’s first domestically-produced whiskey. In 1920, Kameyama Masaharu or Massan for short, returned to Japan with true skills after finishing a two-year apprenticeship. He also brought a Scottish wife, Ellie. This would be the start of turbulent days. Massan’s family has run a Japanese sake brewery in Hiroshima’s Takehara for generations. His mother Sanae is indignant that her son has taken a foreigner as his bride and blows up a storm when she tells him to make a clean break and take over the family business. To make matters worse, the world enters a great depression and Massan’s plan to produce whiskey suffers a setback. He eventually loses his job. On the other hand, Ellie receives a cold reception. At the mercy of cultural differences and misunderstood by the people around her, she still has to contend with the appearance of Massan’s fiancee. Nevertheless, Ellie is aware of Japanese hospitality and continues to support her husband even though they have occasional marital spats. Massan, who has been out of work, is soon welcomed as the general manager by Kamoi Kinjiro of Kamoi Shoten which had huge success in the wine business. Japan’s first whiskey distillery is born in Yamazaki. However, the domestically-produced whiskey cannot sell … … As Japan enters the Showa era, Massan goes over to Yoichi in Hokkaido by himself. In this vast northern land similar to Ellie’s native Scotland, the two of them try out making whiskey from nothing. However, they encounter repeated failure. While the business falters, the Pacific War begins. Ellie, whose birthplace has become the enemy, is suspected of being a spy. Even so, she lives as a Japanese, loves her family with Massan, protects their workers and continues to support his dream to make whiskey.

Tamayama Tetsuji as Kameyama Masaharu (Massan)
The second son of the Kameyama family which has run a sake brewery in Takehara, Hiroshima for generations. Although he grew up watching his father Masashi who had the habit of saying, “The heart of the maker dwells in sake”, he became fascinated with whiskey after he came out to Osaka to study zymurgy.「In 1918, he went to Scotland alone to learn the technique of making whiskey. In the midst an uphill struggle in a foreign land, he met a lovely Scottish woman called Ellie. Ellie was also attracted to him. He was hot-blooded and easily taken advantage of, but his eyes sparkled when he talked about his dream. The two of them fell in love and married in spite of the strong opposition of the people around them. Believing that he would achieve the domestic production of whiskey in Japan, he brought Ellie back to Japan with him. However, the route to the production of the first domestically-made whiskey is a long way off and beset with numerous difficulties. Despite being at his wits end, he spends his life making whiskey buoyed by Ellie’s unflagging cheerfulness and love.

Charlotte Kate Fox as Kameyama Ellie
She grew up in the suburbs of Glasgow in Scotland and led an ordinary life devoted to helping with household chores. Then one day, she met Kameyama Masaharu, a young Japanese man who had come to learn the technique of whiskey making, and fell in love with him. She is excited about “great adventure of her lifetime” – living with Masaharu in a strange land. Shaking off her mother’s vehement opposition, she crosses the seas with him. However, a foreign bride is not welcome in Japan. What she thinks is right is mistaken as a result of cultural differences and her actions cause uproar. Even so, she finds the virtues of the Japanese and develops a fondness for Japan. She is naturally cheerfulness and always with a smile no matter how tough the going is.

Aibu Saki as Tanaka Yuko
She is told by her father Daisaku that he would like her to take Kameyama Masaharu to be her husband after he comes back to Japan from Scotland. However, Masaharu returns with a foreigner as his wife. Daisaku is not shocked to the extent that she is. She had devoted herself to training in homemaking as she waited impatiently for two years for Masaharu’s return. The outlet for her anger is not only directed at Masaharu but also Ellie. She takes every chance to pick on Ellie and becomes Ellie’s great nemesis after Masaharu’s mother Sanae. But Ellie realises her true feelings which she keeps private from her parents, and starts to learn about the affection of Japanese females from her.

Tsutsumi Shinichi as Kamoi Kinjiro
He started apprenticeship with a drug wholesaler in Semba, Osaka. Then he learned to handle and mix Western wine and spirits. He started his own business, Kamoi Shoten, and became hugely successful in the wine business as a result of his remarkable sense of smell and taste. A pioneer who created the country’s first domestically-produced whiskey. Before wondering whether something is possible, he would first attempt to put into practice and motivate those around him. He is a person who constantly looks into the future and makes impossible dreams a reality. He loves astonishing people with new ideas. Unlike the average person, he moves with a swiftness that stuns others in order to achieve things. He becomes a great mentor to Masaharu and also a lifelong rival. Ellie is also greatly mesmerised by his calibre and a deep family connection is nurtured.

Izumi Pinko as Kameyama Sanae
Born into a family which has been sake brewers for generations, her husband Masashi was adopted into the family. She is the good, old-fashioned and plucky mother. Furious with Masaharu when he comes back to Japan with Ellie, she disapproves of his marriage in the belief that “a Japanese husband and foreign wife cannot be happy in this country” and presses him to take over the family business. Ellie is also driven into a desperate situation by her harsh attitude, but sees her Scottish mother in her and realises the depth of a mother’s love. Even though Masaharu and Ellie are disinherited for leaving home and heading to Osaka against her wishes, Ellie hopes to gain her acceptance one day and this becomes driving force behind her survival in Japan.

Maeda Gin as Kameyama Masashi
He married into the Kameyama family of sake brewers. Together with the chief brewer, he puts his soul into making Hiroshima sake that will be able to rival Nada-Fushimi sake. He does not talk much but taught a young Masaharu the secrets of making sake. Masaharu’s dream began because he wanted to make sake which would surpass his father’s. In the middle of the uproar that results when Masaharu brings Ellie back to Japan, father and son have a heart-to-heart talk for the first time, and he asks Masaharu if he has prepared himself. He watches over his son’s efforts to make whiskey with a mixture of severity and love.

Nishikawa Kiyoshi as Tanaka Daisaku
The company president of Sumiyoshi Brewery. Despite fake alcohol with sweeteners and colourings, he started what was one of the few plants for Western wine and spirits at that time. He acquired the technology to make the first domestically-produced whiskey and because he dreamed of freeing the small plant from subcontractors, he gave Kameyama Masaharu, who was fascinated by whiskey, his full support and sent him to Scotland, the home of whiskey. His real intention is to make Masaharu the husband of his daughter Yuko, and his future successor. Masaharu’s marriage to Ellie proves to be a major miscalculation and also sparks a great uproar in the Tanaka family. Then the great depression comes, and the whiskey business meets with a setback due to a lack of funds. Masaharu ends up leaving his great benefactor.

Habara Daisuke (Heisei Sarukani Kassenzu, Double Face)

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About jadefrost

This blog contains information and musings on current and upcoming Japanese dramas but is not intended to be comprehensive.
This entry was posted in Fall 2014 Dramas, NHK and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Massan

  1. shinhaku says:

    i heard this is based on a true story right?

    • jadefrost says:

      Yup it is. It is based on the story of Masataka Taketsuru, the father of Japanese whiskey, and his Scottish wife, Jessie Roberta Cowan. Their business still exists in Hokkaido today. It is known as the Nikka Whisky Distillery.

  2. HAROLD JOINER says:

    What happened to their adopted daughter Emma?

  3. kl says:

    I would like to know the songs Ellie sang to Massan when he was sad- my situation is the same with my boyfriend and he loves this story because he relates to it well. The one when Massan is told to give up on whiskey and she’s there for him and it was very emotional. Unfortunately it had been deleted on youtube

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