We're shown over and over again how casual Sakura dresses—loose jeans, practical casual tennis shoes, an oversized trench. She's also pretty casual and unfeminine in her actions. She stops by a shrine on her way to work to pray for her whisker, then wolfs down some breakfast noodles at a standing restaurant. She also visits a convenience store for a vitamin drink(?). When she finishes, she looks over at the man drinking the same thing in the same stance, and is horrified by his full beard. She clutches her bandaged chin and leaves.
At the salon where she works as the assistant manager, Sakura is in high demand, not only from the customers, but also her colleagues, who ask for her expertise in everything. She's competent and well-liked, and is willing to do even the lowest tasks in order to set an example for her juniors. When she lectures her juniors about not being cheerful in helping every customer, they remark on her "old sermonizing father personality" coming out again.
The juniors all gossip about who the new manager will be, speculating that Sakura has been passed over yet again for the promotion. Throughout their conversation, we see and hear ominous footsteps as someone approaches the salon. In walks hottie Tachibana Rintaro, and he marvels that the place hasn't changed a bit. The junior employees gossip about how he and Sakura are the same age and started at the salon together, but he worked his way up the promotion chain while she stagnated in the same salon for all these years.
When Sakura runs into him, she's again shocked at the sight of a beard (his), and he asks about her band-aid. He explains that he's the new manager and ribs her about never getting promoted. He pointedly calls her Kin, which makes her bristle. They obviously know each other well, and just as clearly don't get along. She also chides him for reeking of alcohol, and he brags that he stayed out all night at his farewell party from his last salon.
Sakura goes to HQ to complain and is coldly told "We can't stop you if you decide to quit." She replies that the salon is like a child that she has nurtured and she won't give it up.
She returns to the salon and overhears the junior employees speculating on why she was passed up again. Maybe because she's too focused on the customers and not on sales. Maybe she just doesn't have the talent for management. She goes home and has a good cry.
Sakura goes to a spa with her best friends Miki (who is married) and Shima (who is divorced and a player). She complains endlessly about Rintaro. They talk about men, and Sakura reveals that she hasn't had a boyfriend in 10 years. They tease her about her band-aid and ask if it was acne or a whisker like some old man. The discussion turns to hormone imbalances, and they decide that Sakura is an old-man woman. Shima decides that Sakura hasn't had enough skinship, so she needs to make things happen to keep from evolving into an old man. Miki decides that she needs to get things going with her husband, since it's been almost a year. She doesn't want to start growing whiskers. Sakura yells that men just don't understand anything.
At the same time, Rintaro sits in a bar complaining that women don't understand anything. He hates all these women who act like men and don't care about being feminine and shy. Empowerment has ruined women.
The women leave the spa and Sakura and Shima decide they want some beer. Miki wants to go home and prepare a special night for her husband. It comes up that Shima has never met Miki's husband, and she promises not to steal him from her. (Spoiler alert: this is foreshadowing.)
Sakura and Shima head to a bar (the same one Rintaro is at, natch), and Rintaro makes a point of saying that he remembers Shima, even after all these years, because he never forgets a beautiful woman. He starts bickering with Sakura about drinking in the day. It's okay for him, though, because he's a man. But women need to be modest.
He tells her that she will always be a failure in work and love because she won't flatter men, and then gets a cake in the face. (Haha! I like this drama.)
When he leaves, Shima points out that he's one hot man. She asks about the nickname Kin, and Sakura spits out her beer.
Miki dances in the kitchen while she makes her husband's favorite foods. The doorbell rings, and it's interfering Mother-in-law, here to, well, interfere. She calls out for her son Kohei and criticizes Miki for letting her kids play video games. Kohei invites his mother to visit frequently. Poor, poor Miki. That secret sip of beer isn't going to make the horror disappear.
Sakura falls asleep at the bar and has a nightmare about becoming and old man and growing a long beard. Shima seduces a young man in the restroom.
Miki tries to present her complaints about Mother-in-law to Kohei and begs him not to ask her to move in. He ignores her while playing a game on his phone and then rebuffs her attempts at romance by saying "My mom's downstairs."
On the way home, Sakura vows to find a man before she turns 40 next year. The blossoms on a cherry tree near her suddenly open, but snap shut again when she comments on them. Keke.
At work, Rintaro watches incredulously as Sakura talks with a customer about love. One of the juniors informs him that she's very popular with customers wanting advice on love.
A girl named Chiyoko that knows both Rintaro and Sakura shows up for her appointment with Rintaro. She watches him bicker with Sakura, and hilariously can't keep her head still while a junior blow dries her hair.
The reason? Sakura asks if Rintaro is in love with her, since he's fighting the same way he used to in elementary school when he liked a girl. The junior keeps turning Chiyoko's head back, but she can't sit still. She jumps up and invites Sakura to a giant go-kon as a lure for Chiyoko (I guess lure is another meaning of "Sakura"). Sakura accepts over Rintaro's objections.
Chiyoko calls a friend (the other leg of our love triangle, Hiroto), who is in bed with some girl. (He's obviously really into her, too, since he throws her off him in order to answer the phone.) Chiyoko wants to meet with him so she can ask for a favor.
Sakura gets ready for the go-kon, and you'd really think a beautician would know how to apply makeup. You know, for something other than Crazy 80's Prom Night or Kabuki Theatre. She tries on several outfits, but the only one that works is a black suit.
As she leaves, it starts pouring. She tries to hail a taxi, but then notices one of her regulars—an old lady—drop a soccer ball for her grandson. It rolls down the long hill, and Sakura chases after it, ditching her umbrella and shoes. When she catches up to the soccer ball, a car zooms past and splashes her, drenching her the rest of the way.
Sakura runs to the salon to try to dry off, but decides to just skip the go-kon. Rintaro mocks her for finding excuses not to go, then mocks her some more when she says she'll go, because she looks like she's a college student going for a job interview. He tells her she should wear a short skirt and pulls her skirt up. She calls him a pervert.
Sakura tricked Miki and Shima into coming to the go-kon by telling them it was a business party. Shima books a hotel room before meeting up, and they both stare in shock when they see Sakura in her electric blue suit. They even mention that she smells like mothballs. Haha.
Shima heads straight for the buffet of men, and Miki heads straight for the buffet of food, even asking if she can take some food home with her. Hahaha! Chiyoko shows up and wonders at Sakura's outfit. Sakura says that she's trying to follow Rintaro's advice to be more like Chiyoko.
Chiyoko calls Hiroto while he's at the park doing tricks on his bike. He finally shows up and raises an eyebrow when Chiyoko points out his target. He wanders over to where Sakura is inspecting her sore feet, and stands near enough to hear her without seeming to pay her any attention. He also has this habit of playing with his lower lip. I wonder if it's because he's on the hunt or lying or if it's a seduction tool.
Kohei shows up to the hotel to pick Miki up. Shima tries hooking up with a guy, but isn't satisfied and decides to cancel her reservation. At the desk, she notices Kohei, who is trying to find the PTA party his wife is supposed to be at. She offers to take him to the party, but really lures him up to her room. She aggressively makes a move on him, and overcomes his objections, asking if he's ever thought of having an affair.
A drunk Sakura harasses a hapless waiter. She complains about Rintaro, especially about his nickname for her, Kin. Apparently he started calling her that after the famous fictional samurai character, Toyama no Kin-san, who has a tattoo of a sakura, or cherry blossom, on his shoulder.
She notices a guy trying to drag his girlfriend up to a room despite her objections, and Sakura tries to intervene, but before she can get past insulting the guy, she's dragged off by hotel staff.
She stumbles down the staircase, tripping and throwing her shoe. As she continues down, a voice calls to her and says "Aren't you forgetting something? My Cinderella?" Good thing she's so drunk, because I really don't think that line would work otherwise. Hiroto slips her shoe on for her, staring into her eyes the whole time.
The next morning, Sakura wakes up in a nice bed. She panics when she realizes she's with Hiroto, and then again when she realizes she's naked. She gets thiiisclose to Hiroto, and then jumps out of bed when he suddenly wakes up. She quickly gathers up her granny panties and bra, and he asks if she remembers last night. She spots her shoe, and it triggers a memory, and she calls him the Prince (because he called her Cinderella).
He recounts the events of the night before. Sakura mutters to herself about sleeping with him, but it's okay if they did, but she doesn't remember, so she feels like a jerk. He remembers to introduce himself, and then when he tries to join her on the floor, she scoots away.
He tells her he likes her and wants to date, and leans in closer. Sakura leans back away from him, a horrified look on her face.
She leans so far back that she can see the cherry tree outside the window, which suddenly bursts into blossoms.
I find it interesting in these jdorama noona romances (yes, I realize that I'm mixing countries and languages, but I don't know a word for them in Japanese, so this will have to do) that the age gap is always so, so huge. And it almost always seems to be 15 years. It's just strange to me, like they have to make the gap so big that it justifies being an obstacle.
The thing is, even a smaller age gap would be a huge obstacle for many people. I mean, I'm much younger than Sakura, but I'd still find it very difficult to date a 24-year old. Couldn't Hiroto be, like, 27 and still be considered too young? To me, those extra 3 years aren't enough to overcome all objections (it's still 12 years), but it would feel much less squicky. (And I know that age is just a number, etc., but it's still a big deal for lots of people.) Are we meant to feel this squicky? (Apart from the whole bet/favor thing, which is creepy in and of itself.)
The thing that pulls me into this drama, though, is really the dynamic between Sakura and Rintaro. They bicker and fight, but you get the sense that Rintaro is really into Sakura. And if you ask me, he has been for a very long time. I honestly think she's mostly oblivious, picking up on it just enough to tease him, but not to take his feelings seriously. And I can see how having Hiroto around will only aggravate the situation, until Rintaro finally comes out and does something about his feelings.