I’ve started re-watching another favorite Japanese drama, Yume wo Kanaeru Zou, which translates to “the elephant that makes dreams come true”. An elephant that grants wishes sounds like an unconventional sort of fairy godmother, which wouldn’t be too far off the mark.
Our story begins with Hoshino Asuka, a temp at an advertising company, on her 25th birthday. It turns out to be just about the worst birthday she can imagine as she finds herself dumped by the man she imagined herself marrying, who tells her that she’s simply too dull. To make matters worse, she returns home to find her apartment on fire. Asuka finds a new home, which the realtor tells her is called “the room that brings good luck” after the previous tenant became a successful famous photographer after moving in.
Asuka wallows in sorrow and self-pity in her new home, wishing simply for happiness. At this moment, the elephant god Ganesha appears and tells her that he can guarantee her happiness in three month’s time. Asuka signs the contract that locks her into an agreement to follow Ganesha’s series of unconventional tasks that are supposedly going to lead her to happiness.
One quote from Ganesha in the first episode that really struck me, and I think really sets the overall message of this drama is “You always conform to not stand out, so how is it that you expect to suddenly become happy over everyone else?” This really strikes into the heart of Asuka’s character, whose dreams consist of marrying a successful man, having two children, and being able to vacation abroad at least once a year. These are “small dreams” according to Ganesha, and this is precisely what makes Asuka, who blindly follows the advice in her love life from women’s magazines, so dull.
The Tasks- Episodes 1-3
- Cut your nails—I told you these would be unconventional.^^ Like many fashionable Japanese young women who spend much time and money on their appearance, Asuka has beautifully manicured long nails decorated with gems. Ganesha tells her that she must cut her nails, because our hands are the starting point of love, and they’re what we use to touch and sense other people. How can she do that with such long nails that impede her ability to type on the computer at work and even open a can of beer? Asuka believes that men prefer women with beautiful nails, but Ganesha makes the point later on, after Asuka fails to notice Ganesha’s own decorated nails until he points them out to her, that she’s putting effort into things that people barely notice. Ultimately, Asuka cares deeply about her appearance, but fails to work to understand other people. She instead could use her hands to perform good deeds, rather than dressing them up to the point that they become nearly useless.
- Cook your own food—Based on advice from her favorite magazine Cuncun, Asuka believes that this task means to hone her cooking skills in order to impress a man, but Ganesha tells her it’s more about taking care of herself and her inside. I suppose you could say this is a variation of “learn to take care of yourself in order to better take care of others”. A sub-lesson from Ganesha under this task is to start immediately. Asuka tells Ganesha that she’ll start the task of cooking her own food the next day, but he urges her to start right away, since if she waits, the reality is that she’ll never do it. Too often, we say “I’ll start tomorrow” to our goals and dreams, but tomorrow comes and we keep pushing it off. Start now.
- Use your left hand—Ganesha’s intention for this task is to teach Asuka to become more aware of her surroundings. By using her left hand, she becomes more conscious of her own actions, which in turn makes her more aware of the details of the world around her. New experiences are proven to make us more alert to our surroundings- imagine you’re on a trip to a new country, where you wish you had a hundred eyes and ears to be able to take in all the new sights and sounds. Unfortunately, many of us can’t afford to travel to a new country each time we want to become more aware, but a new experience could be as simple as taking a new route to work, trying a new restaurant, getting a different hair cut, or using your left hand (although this might be a bit too inconvenient ^^;).
- Use body touch— Asuka scores an invitation to a mixer, where she hopes she’ll meet a highly desirable bachelor. Ganesha tells her to use “body touch” on someone during this mixer, but Ganesha struggles to get Asuka to understand that his definition of “body touch” is not sexual, but rather means a touch of hearts. A deliberate, suggestive touch is certainly exciting and will get a man’s attention, but the touch that comes from when we are being truly attentive to others’ needs is far more natural and can be deeply moving. Asuka believes that she completes this task when she deliberately grabs the glamorously attractive tv producer on the arm, but her true act of body touch had already occurred when she noticed (thanks to her hyper-awareness due to the usage of her left hand) that the button on the sleeve of the more quietly handsome Kondo-san is about to fall off, and she removes it and places it into his pocket for him. This subtle, unintentional action shows her attention to others’ needs, and has a far deeper effect on Kondo-san than her calculated touch on the tv producer
- Asuka is given a number of other tasks during the mixer, including “show your energy”, “don’t speak”, “like everyone there (including the other women)”, and “don’t go to the second venue with everyone else”. The lesson from being told not to speak is to learn to actively listen to others and observe things around you. This certainly has it’s positive benefits for Asuka, which also helps her to see the ways in which she can like everyone, even the b**chy model who passive aggressively constantly insults Asuka.
- Greet everyone with a loud voice—The concept of this one is fairly simple: Bring cheer. This is a task I’m trying to implement into my own life, because it is important to acknowledge the presence of others around us, and a good heart-felt greeting can boost moods and even improve relationships.
Ultimately, although the mixer initially appears to be a disaster as Asuka struggles to follow her tasks, she can say in the end that she had more fun than she’s ever had, and the phrase ichigoichie (see my posts about this phrase here) makes its appearance to remind Asuka to cherish the moments in her life as they’re given to her, rather than worrying about manipulating their outcome. And if you have a bad experience, it doesn’t improve your life at all to waste time being upset over it.
I’ll be continuing this series very soon! I’m sorry this post ended up being so long, but I hope you enjoyed. Thank you!