Okaasan to Issho

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

Okaasan to Issho (roughly translated, "With Mother") is a long-running show on NHK in Japan (since 1959) aimed at preschool children, much like The BBC's Watch with Mother. The show is a collection of sketches, songs and dances, many designed to be interactive with the child's parents (specifically, Mommy, see Housewife below). Actual children are usually part of the show and interact with the hosts.

The show's hosts are four young adults, two dancers/gymnasts and two singers, one of each sex, respectively. New hosts are rotated in roughly every five years to keep the hosts young (and more relatable to children, one would suppose). Many prior hosts have gone on to become pop stars and actors in mainstream Japanese culture. Additionally, there are four full body suited actors playing a series of characters and skits. These, too, are constantly changed out every few years (though it's possible it's the same people in the costumes).

The current hosts are:

  • Mitani Takumi: Singer
  • Yokoyama Daisuke: Singer (is the lead host most of the time)
  • Itou Mayu: Dancer (appears to have a ballet background)
  • Kobayashi Yoshihisa: Dancer/Gymnast (does the ending theme, wears brightly colored jumpsuits)

The show can be seen in the United States on any premium Japanese-language channel weekday and Saturday mornings. Saturday shows are generally reruns or live events from theater tours.

Tropes used in Okaasan to Issho include:
  • Breakaway Pop Hit: A recent song about a mushroom wanting to leave the forest and go on an adventure (set to traditional Russian folk music) became a hugely popular hit and charted on the regular Japanese music charts. It was even sung live by the hosts on NHK's New Year's Eve special (one of the most watched shows of the year in Japan).
  • Engrish: It's probably a good thing that very few of the target audience can read some of the Engrish shirts that have appeared on the show (a 3-year-old wearing a "Gay Jews for Jesus" immediately comes to mind...).
  • Excited Kids' Show Host: Averted. The hosts are rather subdued and rarely talk down to the kids as much as many shows of this type.
  • Fake Band: The music video for Rock N Roll Dragon has the hosts pretending to be a rock band. Mitani and Itou are the guitarist and bassist and obviously have no clue how to play, and they don't even fake it (they simply hold the guitars rigidly). Kobayashi behind the skins seems to know what he's doing, though.
  • Food Porn: Seriously, most of the skits and songs seem to be about food. This could just be a cultural thing though.
  • Housewife: Often a criticism of the show is its rather traditional presentation of the family unit. Any mother depicted is always a housewife (and as mentioned, the interactive dances and such are meant to be done With Mother), and Dad is always the guy who leaves every day in a suit with a briefcase.
  • Long Runners: Been on the air for over 50 years in one incarnation or another.
  • Parental Bonus: The DVD collections of the songs have bonus songs with the current cast singing songs (new and old) with various previous hosts.
  • People in Rubber Suits
  • Theme Song Power Up: Literally, the ending song is PAWAPAWAPAWA (Power Up!)
  • What Do You Mean It Wasn't Made on Drugs?: Many non-Japanese can find the skits and songs, well, disturbing. Given that it's Japanese and aimed at small children, the show can seem like a weird acid trip sometimes (IE, the aformentioned mushroom song video).
  • Writing Around Trademarks: Kobayashi (along with Itou as his assistant) plays a trickster type in one recurring sketch, changing a picture and making kids guess what was changed about it. His costume is awwwwwfully close to the Riddler's outfit from Batman (let's hope no one from Time Warner ever catches Japanese children's programming).
  • Younger and Hipper: The cast is replaced about every five years with fresh new young faces.