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chapter 1


It is New Year's Eve, 1998. In a hotel in Hokkaido:

Kasahara Natsuki (Esumi Makiko) is taking a shower. Her two friends, Tsurumachi Fuyumi (Ishida Yuriko) and Kaede Haruko (Nishida Harumi) shout out to her that they are going skiing. Left alone in the room, Natsuki thinks to herself "It's going to be the end of the world coming?"

Out in the hallway, Fuyumi and Haruko pass a young man in the hallway. Stopping to "appreciate" his good looks, they start joking about how Fuyumi is too old for him.

The young man is Endo Kazuya (Kato Haruhiko), who came with his "senpai", Kaede Soichiro (Sorimachi Takashi) to take photographs of the New Year fireworks. When he returns to his room, he finds Soichiro dressed only in a bathrobe. Endo jokingly asks Soichiro if he had brought a girl in while Endo was out. Soichiro said, "Do I look like that kind of guy? You must be joking." Soichiro is a photographer for a famous newspaper in Japan.

Night falls, and the countdown starts. Soichiro takes many photographs of the fireworks; Natsuki is still in the bath but upon hearing people counting down to the new year she gets out of the tub and stands at the window to watch the fireworks; a doctor on call at the hotel is treating a small girl but they all stop to watch the fireworks.

Back in Natsuki's room, she tries to order the New Year bento set, but room service tells her there are no more sets available and she should have ordered in advance.

Endo is also trying to order some food from room service, but receiving no answer, he decides to go out to the convenience store to buy some food for himself and Soichiro.

Opening her door to deposit her finished dishes, Natsuki sees that the room opposite her had empty dishes of the new year set. Using her toe to hold the door, she checks out the yummy stuff in the new year set. The feelers of the prawn prick her and in shock she pitches forward..and the door slams shut. She's locked out. In her underwear....

Endo leaves the room, passing Natsuki who flattens herself against a "crevice" in the wall. She then tries to force open her door but to no avail.

Soichiro realizes that Endo left the car keys behind and opens the door to call him back. When he opens the door he sees no one there and turns to go back into the room. A while later he opens the door again...

To find Natsuki pulling on her door. When he asked her what she was doing, Natsuki replied "Agemashite Omedeto", once again hiding in the crevice in the wall. He asks her if he knows her and she replies that since it was New Year she would wish him Happy New Year. Soichiro then asks her if she was locked out and if she didn't mind, to come into his room and wait. She declined, saying she would prefer to just wait for her friends to come back. Taking her word for it, Soichiro turned to go back to his room. Natsuki, who actually would have loved to go into his room to hide, said, "what? You're really leaving?!" and pulled on Soichiro's bathrobe, yanking him out of the room...and his door slams shut. They are both locked their underwear.

Natsuki starts laughing and says to him, "NO problem, you have the keys!" when she sees that Soichiro is holding the keys in his hand, before he tells her that they are car keys. Soichiro decides to go to the reception to get a set of keys. Natsuki agrees that it is a good idea. As Soichiro turns to go, Natsuki asks him if he would let her have his bathrobe. He stares at her incredulously. She says, "Don't tell me you aren't wearing anything under that bathrobe." Soichiro admits that he is wearing underwear under the bathrobe, but asked Natsuki if she expected him to run through the crowded lobby like that.

Natsuki replied that she is getting married soon and how could she stand around in her underwear like that. What would people think?

Just at that moment, Natsuki hears someone coming and they both dash towards the lifts to hide. They take the lift down to the lobby.

In the lift:

Natsuki starts complaining that this is a terrible start to the new year. She then pretends to cry, in the hope that Soichiro will take off his bathrobe and give it to her. Soichiro watches her a while and then starts to take off his bathrobe. Natsuki peeks at him from between her fingers and at that moment, Soichiro says," Just I thought, I can't do it." When Natsuki whines why not, Soichiro said her attitude was bad. They start arguing, blaming each other for being careless. Soichiro says," I bet you have no boyfriend." Natsuki gets really mad and says," what did you say!". Soichiro repeats that she couldn't possibly have a lover. While they are arguing, the lift door opens and they both jump apart to opposite sides of the lift. They decide to play "scissors, paper, stone" to determine who would go get the key from reception. Natsuki loses and gives a sorrowful face, looking like she's going to cry.

Soichiro stares at her a while, and then he says,"Mou shika nai!" (I can't do it!) He tells Natsuki she doesn't deserve to be pitied, then throws his bathrobe at her and runs in his underwear to the reception, amidst some screaming and stares from the crowd. Natsuki waits at the lift, marveling at Soichiro's daring.

Another day:

There is a suspected gas explosion in Trapiste Road in Sapporo. Soichiro and a colleague are sent to the scene to report and take photographs. There are many reporters at the scene as well as ambulances and the police. A news reporter is heard giving a commentary on what's happening. She says that a lady in a white coat is being brought out. She has a deep, bleeding cut on her leg.

Soichiro is among the big crowd of reporters. His colleague can't get through the throng, so he asks Soichiro to get through. As Soichiro is about to take his shot, he suddenly stops when he notices that the girl's leg is injured and exposed, and that others were taking pictures of her face as well. He pushes through the crowd and covers the girl's leg with his overcoat, despite the shouts and curses that other reporters throw his way. His colleague grabs him and shouts at him," You idiot! Now we can't get any good pictures at all!" and flings Soichiro to the floor. Soichiro is left standing alone, apart from all the noise and commotion.

Back in Tokyo (Haruko's house):

Natsuki, Fuyumi and Haruko are drinking beer and talking. Natsuki asks if it is really alright for her to move in with Haruko. Haruko says no problem coz her dad is living with a younger woman in Paris. Fuyumi sees a board game, "The Game of LIFE (Jinsei Gamu)", stuck among the suitcases. Fuyumi exclaims that it brings back memories.

As they talk, it turns out that Natsuki's brother and sister-in-law had a child so she had to move out. Fuyumi is having an affair with a married man, and one day the man's wife went to her apartment so she can't go back there again, so she's moving in with Haruko. Haruko used to live with her father, younger brother and father.

Haruko says that although they are 30, they should still be happy if not life would be very difficult. Although they all profess that they are happy, they don't seem to be.

Back in Hokkaido:

The editor at the newspaper is looking through the pictures from the gas explosion. He angrily tells Soichiro that because of him, none of the pictures can be used in the story. Soichiro apologizes. He is later called to his supervisor's desk and told that he has been transferred back to the main branch of the "Dai-ichi Shimbun" in Tokyo. Soichiro is surprised and happy.

In Tokyo:

Natsuki is cutting hair. The customer wanted a haircut like Meg Ryan but it didn't come out that way. Natsuki says that it isn't the hairstyle that is the problem. She wanted to say it is the customer's face that can't carry it off, but in a bid to be tactful, she says the texture of the customer's hair is not suited to this hairstyle. Natsuki is saved from further difficulties when her colleague calls her and tells her that she has a visitor. It is her father.

Fuyumi is a receptionist in a big building. As there are two other girls working at the same job, the three of them hope that their smiles will attract the clients who desire information. As the first client steps in, they all straighten up and smile invitingly. Fuyumi's eyes light up in the hope that the client will go to her but he chooses the girl on her right instead. Fuyumi slumps a bit dejectedly, then notices that the other girl continues to smile. Another client walks in and goes to the other girl. Fuyumi is again bypassed. She clenches her hands and looks rather dejected.

Haruko is a freelance photographer. Her "assignment" today is to take pictures and try all the different ramen stalls. At one stall, the cook asks her why she has to take her own pictures. She says coz she has to cut costs as she is only a freelance journalist. The cook admires her camera and she says it was left behind by her brother. This is the 6th stall that she has been to today, as she is doing a ramen special.

Back at the house:

Natsuki shows Fuyumi and Haruko a picture of a balding man with glasses. She expected them all to laugh but they didn't. It turns out that Natsuki's father came to look for her because he wanted her to go for an arranged marriage meeting with the man in the picture. Fuyumi says that it is a good idea to go for the arranged marriage as she would then have a future. Haruko says that she doesn't foresee her future changing much, eating ramen everyday..Fuyumi also laments that all the girls at her receptionist job are younger than her and that she is too old for the job already. Haruko says that Natsuki has a good job, but Natsuki feels that bending over everyday and cutting hair made her hands rough. Natsuki's father hadn't called her for a long time, and it turned out to be just for this.

Natsuki said that her father was retiring that year and had planned to go to Hawaii with her mother but suddenly they decided not to go. Natsuki's mother told her that it was because that money was for her dowry. Fuyumi suggested that Natsuki uses that money to buy a house. Haruko hits her head and tells her her reaction is inappropriate. Haruko then tells Natsuki that if she decides to go for the arranged marriage to bring her along as the guy might be up to no good. Natsuki added that he had a child as well and was divorced. Haruko then suggests that Natsuki meet her friend from the "Dai-ichi Shimbun" instead.

Soichiro returns to Tokyo. He is greeted by all his juniors at the newspaper. His picture of the Hokkaido fireworks made front page news and Endo tells him it was so good lots of people had been asking him about it. Soichiro says the picture helped a bit and that he was going to the Society department to check in. It is then that his kohai tell him that that isn't the department he was transferred to. It turns out that Soichiro was transferred to the Household department dealing with food specialties- "Kyo no Ryori"( Today's dishes). It is no longer a hard news department but a features department.

In a restaurant:

Natsuki waits, all dolled up, for the arranged marriage meeting with Haruko's friend, Shiroyama. Fuyumi shows up, saying that she was replacing Haruko who couldn't make it. Fuyumi tells Natsuki that she has to act more demure and pitch her voice higher to have greater "woman flavour".

Suddenly, they hear someone announcing that he is from the "Dai-ichi Shimbun", and they both jump up and bow and greet the newcomer. Suddenly Natsuki's eyes widen as she realizes that the guy in front of her is Soichiro!

In the meantime, the girl who was injured in the gas explosion comes to Tokyo to look for Soichiro. Her name is Kurata Nazuna (Kimura Yoshino). However, Soichiro is not around. Endo blurts out," Don't tell me you are the reason he was transferred back here?"

Soichiro and Natsuki are surprised and not too happy to see each other again. Soichiro tells Fuyumi that his senpai, Shiroyama, is going to be late because of work. Fuyumi tells him that she isn't the one meeting Shiroyama, Natsuki is. Soichiro looks at Natsuki in disbelief and asked Natsuki what happened to the guy she was marrying on New Year's eve. He then proceeds to tell Fuyumi about their encounter in the Hokkaido hotel. Fuyumi tells him that Natsuki was with them. She then proceeds to tell Soichiro about how Natsuki can't get a partner for the past 28 years. Soichiro looks at Natsuki and mouths, She's 28? Fuyumi then clarifies that it is excluding the kindergarten years and that Natsuki is actually 30. Soichiro then says, So old already? He sits down with them.

When Soichiro's phone rings, he leaves the table to answer it. Fuyumi then tells Natsuki that Soichiro is really handsome and cool, and she gets all fluttery around him. Natsuki tells her that she is always like that, everytime she sees a good-looking younger man. Natsuki then tells Fuyumi to go home because when Shiroyama comes, he will also think that Fuyumi is the one he is supposed to meet, coz she is so sweet in pink and her little bird voice. Natsuki has a premonition that she will eventually be left in the cold.

When Shiroyama arrives, he really mistakes Fuyumi for Natsuki and the meeting goes downhill for Natsuki from then on. Shirohana spends the time talking to Fuyumi instead. Natsuki finally stands up and and leaves the table. Soichiro chases after her.

He asks her if she's free today, but she rejects him, saying a photographer for the Dai-ichi Shimbun who has been to exotic countries couldn't possibly understand how she feels. Soichiro grabs her hand and flags a cab.

In the cab, he shows her pictures of gyoza, his assignment for the week. He tells her about being transferred from Hokkaido to the household department. NO more traveling to Paris or Egypt for him. He brings her to an air field and takes her up in a Cessna (I think). They fly over Tokyo and Soichiro tells Natsuki to take some pictures as it's her first time flying.

On the way back the plane starts to fail. That's when Natsuki discovers that Soichiro had just gotten his license that very day. They start to quarrel as Soichiro tries to land the plane safely.

On the ground, Natsuki tells Soichiro that she was really happy he took her flying. She asks him why he takes pictures of gyoza. He then tells her about the incident in Hokkaido, and how he covered the girl with his jacket. When Natsuki tells him that it was the right thing to do, he tells her that to be a professional photographer, he cannot do such things.

As they part, they wish each other luck in life, and Soichiro wishes Natsuki good luck in future arranged marriages and she says she will not to bring along cute friends the next time she goes for "omiae". Soichiro tells her he will send the photos she took to her, but then she says it's ok. As the bus arrives, Natsuki tells Soichiro that she thought that it was the right thing to do to cover the girl's leg and that she thought the same thing when she was reading the news. She also told him that his kindness can definitely be displayed in his photos. Soichiro is really touched by her words and thanks her. He tells her she has a great smile that any cameraman would one to capture. The bus comes and Natsuki gets on, and Soichiro watches until the bus disappears from sight.

Back at the house:

Both Fuyumi and Haruko asks Natsuki why she didn't exchange phone numbers with Soichiro coz he was really very good looking. Natsuki said the atmosphere was different and it didn't seem appropriate to ask for his phone number. Haruko announces to them that her younger brother has returned to Tokyo and will be staying with them in the same house for a while. Fuyumi asks Natsuki if she will see Soichiro again. Natsuki said she didn't think so but if she did, maybe it was fate. Fuyumi thought it was so romantic to be led by fate.

Just then the doorbell rings. Haruko's brother has arrived. Fuyumi is eager to see him. Natsuki asks her if all she thinks about is love when she looks at a guy. Fuyumi replies what else is there?

They hear Haruko talking to her brother, asking him if he's tired and to come in. Fuyumi says that Haruko treats her brother very matronly and concerned, Natsuki says it is because Haruko hasn't seen her brother in a long time and she's really happy.

Haruko comes back and says," My brother is here. Let me introduce you." As Haruko's brother steps into the room, Fuyumi and Natsuki's eyes widen and they get a shock. Standing in the doorway is Soichiro. Fuyumi exclaims it's destiny, and Natsuki groans, "A fated meeting again." Haruko is confused and tells them it isn't their fate, it's her brother, whom she calls So-chan. The other three just smile, albeit a little pained, and greet each other.

End of first episode.