April 15, 2010
A matter of height
An Asadora protagonist is always a woman. The lead of Ge-Ge-Ge no Nyoubou is played by Nao Matsushita, who is 175 cm (5'9") tall. The average Japanese female is 158 cm (5'2"), the average Japanese male is 172 cm (5'8") tall, so she towers over almost everyone.
Watching enka singer Kiyoshi Hikawa's variety show, I was sure he was at least six feet, but it turns out he's 177 cm (5'10"). It's just that he was that much taller than his guests.
I'm 176 cm tall, the exact average for the American male. I used to have a pretty unobstructed view standing in a subway car in Japan. But over the last quarter century, adult male height in Japan has gained 3 cm, so not for long.
The average Japanese eleven-year-old has gained an amazing six inches since the end of the war.
Thirty years ago, Japan's most famous tall actress was Youko Shimada. To prevent a comical mismatch of height in the Shogun miniseries, the 171 cm (5'7") Shimada was cast against the 185 cm (6'1") Richard Chamberlain.
Nao Matsushita's character really was a couple standard deviations taller than the average (Nunoe Mura was repeatedly turned down for marriage proposals because of her height), and she is playing opposite the six foot Osamu Mukai.
So in historical and relative terms, the role does call for someone with height on her side. (Incidentally, theirs was an arranged marriage, and Nunoe Mura and Shigeru Mizuki were married a week after their omiai.)