Wild Garlic

Wild garlic picking in Lobau

Wild garlic picking in Lobau

I am currently weight training, which is something I don’t enjoy, but it is to prepare for filming, which will begin shortly. //I find that training, in which light exercises and slow movements are repeated, such as in the Pilates and Gyrotonic® methods, is comfortable and very likeable. But I really dislike training using heavy weights to increase muscle bulk. Every time I saw men with puffed up red faces training at the gym with weights that are far heavier than themselves, I thought it was a world that had nothing to do with me, and I never dreamed that a day would come when I would grit my teeth to feel tingling pain in my muscles as if they were being burned…. Of course, it’s not that I want to bulk up like a man, and I wouldn’t be able to do it easily even if I wanted to, but I have doubled my intake of protein, and begun drinking it mixed with matcha (powdered green tea) to boost my concentration and motivation.

To strengthen my adductor and gluteal muscles and boost my endurance, which were my weak points, I purchased a SPECIALIZED electrically assisted mountain bike. In purchasing a mountain bike for the first time in my life, I was surprised by the speed with which times have changed. The optional palm-sized computer I purchased with it, which is smaller than an iPhone, is capable of displaying not only a map and the distance traveled, but also the user’s pulse rate and the power left in the battery. When it is connected to an iPhone or PC, it can keep a daily record of the user’s training. However, having said that, being an inherent lazybones, who likes to spend time doing nothing on days off, I have been finding it extremely difficult to get off my backside to train even on my mountain bike without a huge carrot dangling in front of me.

On this occasion, I motivated myself by treating myself to a trip to Lobau on the outskirts of Vienna to harvest wild garlic, a blessing of spring in Europe. I cycled endlessly along a tributary of the Danube, at times switching my electrically assisted bike to full power mode to climb effortlessly up hills, while pedaling under my own power on flat roads, to finally arrive at the forest that Napoleon is said to have passed through on his way to conquering Austria. As the name suggests, wild garlic is a plant that has the fragrance of garlic, and its leaves, while still tender, can be eaten in soups or sauces such as Genovese sauce. My fatigue was blown away the moment I saw the wild garlic, growing thickly and covering everything deep inside the forest, and I became excited at the thought of harvesting my own ingredient for dinner.

I returned home before sunset, and made potage by adding the wild garlic, in addition to cauliflower and mushrooms, to caramelized onion. I added some non-fried coconut chips and a few drops of olive oil as a fragrant garnish. It was a simple, yet delicious soup.


At Pelican bay of Naples in Florida

At Pelican bay of Naples in Florida

I am currently staying in Naples of Florida, in the U.S. The town is a popular place for the wealthy to retire in, and the streets, lined with many low rise mansions, are kept clean and tidy. But the place has an air of artificiality, and everything from the green of the planted trees to the blue of the sky, and even the glittering of the ocean reflecting the sunlight seems at times like it is fake. On the other hand, walking along the endless coastline brings you into contact with flocks of pelicans picking fish out of the sea, and other strange, but beautiful birds quietly biding their time, showing no fear for humans. Seeing a sea turtle calmly dragging itself along the beach made me realize how I rush so unnecessarily through life every day, and that I ought to enjoy myself more. Moreover, I saw wild dolphins swimming in the ocean for the first time in my life. I saw many of them repeatedly appear, then disappear in shallow water a mere 30 meters from shore. Until now, I had never become so engrossed in enjoying myself at the beach that I forgot to avoid being sunburned, but I have been sloshing TV&MOVIE’s Mineral Control UV Base repeatedly, all over my body, to enjoy 90-minute walks in the morning and late afternoon every day.

I also went to Taco Bell for the first time in my life. I tried all kinds of Italian and seafood restaurants by the sea, but I find myself disappointed by American food every time, so I decided it would be better for me to try junk food, which Americans are so good at making. As a result, I rode one of the hotel’s rent-a-cycles and pedaled furiously in my search for lunch. I would never go so far as to eat my tacos while staring at the dull interior of the franchise restaurant. Instead, I sat myself down beside some typical American-looking plastic ducks floating in an artificial pond in the parking lot next to the restaurant, while seeing some real ducks out of the corner of my eye, watching me with hungry eyes. I ate two crispy, Crunchy Tacos and two Soft Tacos with an unhealthy-looking sauce called, “Diablo Sauce.” Unfortunately, the guacamole I ordered as a side dish scored negative points in my book, but I was surprised to find that despite being a junk food restaurant, the food served at Taco Bell was actually nicer than the tacos served in the restaurant of the hotel where I was staying. I ended up spending lunchtime by the artificial pond over three consecutive days. I also ended up lifting my self-imposed ban on corn by eating tacos, which are made from the vegetable, but I forgave myself by exerting myself on my bicycle after every meal.

A Story About the Birth of the Universe

Amazing weather in Salzburg

Amazing weather in Salzburg

I have been given the job of narrating the Japanese version of “Voyage of Time,” the latest film by Director Terrence Malick, renowned for films such as “The Thin Red Line” and “The Tree of Life,” which won the Palme d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

This movie, exploring the beginning of the magnificent universe that we live in, was filmed based on meticulous evidence gathered under the supervision of 12 scientists. The overwhelming images are enough to make you gasp in awe, and the approximately 90-minute movie is interspersed with a little narration. It features no glorious movie stars or fashion trends that you want to follow, but it gently opens the door to a world you had kept locked up inside your heart, while you went about your daily life, rushed off your feet.

When I saw the English version, narrated by Cate Blanchett, I felt as though I had been set adrift in space, while at other times, I felt as though I had been enveloped in the embrace of Mother Earth, or as if I had entrusted my soul to the tranquility of the deep ocean. A picture is worth a thousand words, so they say, and words are not enough to describe the feeling that the movie imparted on me, but it was akin to having my soul gently massaged. We all invariably ask ourselves the question at some stage in life, “What is the meaning of our existence? Why does the universe exist?” And it is as if this movie allows us to understand the answers to these questions.

The recording the other day was also attended by the producer, Sophokles Tasioulis, and he had tears in his eyes, seeing the movie he had no doubt already seen a countless number of times. But in fact, I too, unexpectedly found my voice trembling upon seeing the beautiful images, and being utterly awestruck by the message of love embodied in the movie, while narrating its climactic scene.

Humanity is besieged by acts of terror, war, poverty, starvation, disasters, diseases and a variety of other problems, but watching this movie makes you realize that everything is a part of the workings of nature, and everything comes and goes. There is no point in lamenting the transience of the world, and it is as if the movie is making a declaration of surrender in the face of the inevitable, but instead of conveying despair, it exudes an air of warmth and hope.

It is such a beautiful movie that made me want to see it every day if only I had the time. I would like to thoroughly recommend people to take the time to let themselves go and relax to see the movie in a darkened theater.

Shake One

Shake one the most simplest and effective skin care product

Shake one the most simplest and effective skin care product

TV&MOVIE, indispensable for everyday skin care, has launched a new product called Shake One, containing all the goodness of Horse Active Age Oil, Horse Active Age Lotion and Horse Active Age Essence. This all-in-one lotion blends generous quantities of horse oil from Kumamoto Prefecture made only from carefully selected subcutaneous fat from the chest of horses, which has been carefully extracted in a furnace, Miyako-jima black jack extract said to have powerful antioxidant properties, strong UMF39 manuka honey from New Zealand, and placenta extract made from just the placenta of thoroughbred horses from Northern Farm of Hokkaido. It is a highly dependable lotion with the one bottle capable of taking care of all my moisturizing needs. I would also like to take this opportunity to invite everyone to try the limited edition of this lotion that I produced with the Actress Neroli fragrance. Everything has been made with natural ingredients, so if dry skin is your problem, the product can be used in combination with any oil, lotion, essence or balm that you normally use. I can also recommend using it over 10 min Mineral Foundation. Moreover, Shake One comes in a 90 ml bottle, so it can be carried in your hand baggage when you board airplanes.

If it weren’t for the fact that I work in the public eye, I would find it bothersome even going to the beauty parlor or the nail salon. I am such a lazybones that if I had time to spend on skin care, I would rather lie around doing nothing, so I am really grateful for the ease with which Shake One can be use.

I sincerely hope that everyone will become a long-time fan of this product.

Vienna Philharmonic Ball

Vienna Philharmonic Ball at Musikverein

Vienna Philharmonic Bal at Musikverein

Over 400 balls are apparently held in Vienna in January, and I attended the Vienna Philharmonic Ball held at Wiener Musikverein on the 19th. Despite having a job, which places me constantly in the public eye, I actually prefer a quiet lifestyle, and I don’t feel very comfortable at parties where many people gather. However, on this occasion, I had a great time looking around.

During the opening ceremony, debutantes in white dresses put on a performance, dancing in their innocence to the music of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. I found the sight of people young and old enjoying themselves as they danced in their elegant attires surprisingly enjoyable.

In the past, I acted in a ball scene in the drama, “Shirasu Jiro,” but I repeatedly stepped on the feet of a British man who played the part of an American Ambassador, and vice versa, despite having practiced the Viennese Waltz. I remember it ended in total disaster with the two of us smashing into a wall.

Before attending the ball, I had my hair set at the hair salon, took time to put on my makeup, which I hadn’t done in a long time, and made careful preparations. Meanwhile, I also tried grilling the salmon “miso yuan-yaki (marinated in miso and grilled),” which I had had marinating for several days, using an oven that I was not used to. Unfortunately, I grew impatient with the oven, which took too much time to heat up, and I turned it up high, resulting in the salmon being burned black. By the time I noticed, it was too late, and when I opened the oven in a hurry, I was enveloped in a cloud of terrible smell. The smell of burnt fish and the sweet “miso yuan” lingered on my black velvet dress and even my coat.

I was forced to quickly change my menu to sesame sauce soba noodles, which I made by mixing sesame paste into soba soup. Learning from this experience, I will make sure to avoid gilling fish in an oven ever again.

Snow Country

In the mountains of Salzburg

In the mountains of Salzburg

I am currently staying in the mountains of Salzburg, about two and a half hours from Vienna by train. As you know, this town, blanketed in snow for around four months of the year, is the birthplace of Mozart, and it is visited by a constant stream of tourists.

Ever since I was young, I had always dreamed of attending the Salzburg Festival someday, but being a lazybones at heart, I never managed to muster the get-up-and-go to do so until now.

The temperature often drops to minus 15℃, but to stack wood in the fireplace and blow air into it to get the fire going, then continuing to add more wood as required to keep it going is a great luxury to me. Spending such a relaxing time is unthinkable when I am rushed off my feet every day during filming.

I discovered some pumpkin seed oil at a local supermarket, a specialty product of Austria, which I mixed with white balsamic vinegar to make salad dressing. It has a sweet aroma, as if it has been roasted, which whets the appetite, and unfortunately I am on the verge of gaining weight.

But this is not something I can afford to ignore, so for the first time in my life, I tried snowshoeing, which is something I had always wanted to do. Stepping onto the soft, meter-deep powder snow and enjoying the squeaking sounds it makes as you walk through a snowfield, deep in the mountains, with not a single soul in sight, is the ultimate form of bliss. Then feeling complacent in the knowledge that I have burned through calories, I restart the cycle of indulgence by satisfying my appetite once more. There are actually so many books that I want to read, and so many movies that I have to watch, but……

Wishing Everyone a Happy New Year

Vienna State Opera

Vienna State Opera

Happy New Year!
I hope everyone is enjoying their holidays.

Since last week, I have vacated my home for a friend who is visiting from overseas, while I am spending time in Vienna. It is such a joy being able to watch operas and ballet performances every day without having to worry about my schedule. I end up dozing off every now and again due to jet lag, but at the very least I take care not to start drooling.

I was blessed with an opportunity to attend a rehearsal of Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s New Year’s Concert at Wiener Musikverein a couple of days ago. I immersed myself in the eloquent, yet profound music of the orchestra, conducted with passion and an overflowing sense of humor by Gustavo Dudamel.

In the audience were around 40 members of a bright-eyed youth orchestra from Venezuela, the home country of Dudamel. To them, it was no doubt a tremendous joy to witness a live performance by one of the greatest orchestras in the world led by a fellow countryman, who is the pride of Venezuela.

I will write about it in greater detail in the March issue of “Shosetsu Gento”, but the orchestra will apparently perform the New Year’s Concert wearing new outfits designed by Vivienne Westwood. The concert will be broadcast live in 90 countries throughout the world, and in Japan too, it will be broadcast at 7 P.M. on NHK Educational TV.

Furthermore, there are New Year’s Eve concerts being held everywhere around town tonight, and I plan to go to the New Year’s Eve Gala staged at the historical Wiener Konzerthaus to see The Philharmonics, an orchestral ensemble formed by the best of the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonic Orchestras.

Being an eagerly-awaited New Year’s Eve Gala, I brought my kimono with me from Japan, but I carelessly forgot to bring my “nagajuban (under-kimono).” It is impossible to put on a kimono without the neat, decorative collar of the “nagajuban,” and the kimono I paid so much in excess charges to bring here has turned into nothing but a useless burden. I had my friend, staying in my room in Tokyo, send me my “nagajuban” via international mail just in case, but there are absolutely no signs of it arriving, due to both the customs house and post office slowing down for the Christmas holidays. I have no choice but to make do with a little black dress, and I am utterly disappointed with my own foolishness.

In any case, I plan to enjoy myself for a while in this city of music.
I would like to wish everyone a wonderful New Year!

Quiet Fight for Survival

A construction site in Kowloon of Hong Kong

A construction site in Kowloon of Hong Kong

I had an opportunity to visit Hong Kong. It was 20℃ and warm during the day, and it was not at all stressful walking around the chaotic city, like I had seen in movies in the past, without a guidebook.

Incidentally, the final episode of the Sunday Theater drama series, “IQ246,” will be broadcast tonight, and there is a final showdown between Sharaku Homonji, played by Yuji Oda, and Maria T, played by me.

The set used in the drama was dismantled after filming finished. It is too expensive to keep it in storage, and even if it were to be stored, the set with its distinctive features cannot be reused in other dramas, resulting in the demolishing of all parts.

The creative team invested a considerable amount of effort into building the sets for the Homonji Family home and Maria T’s room of light and darkness, so it was a great shame to see them being dismantled.

Sharaku Homonji becomes involved in the case just to kill time, while Maria T derives joy from manipulating criminals. They are enemies and yet they are somehow drawn to one another. Don’t miss the ending starting at 9:00 P.M.

By the way, the cosmetics used during filming, including the skin care lotion and foundation, were TV&MOVIE, of course.


The office was turned into Maria T’s hideout

The office was turned into Maria T’s hideout

Filming for the drama series “IQ246” finished last night.

I was invited to appear in this series by Producer Hiroki Ueda, to whom I am greatly indebted for everything he did for me during the filming of the drama series, “Keizoku (Unsolved Cases),” and the movie, “Jigyaku no Uta (Happily Ever After).”

I am the first to return to a normal, everyday life after breaking free of my Maria T outfit, but filming will continue until just before broadcasting of the final episode for Director Hisashi Kimura, Yuji Oda and other members of the staff and cast.

Yuji Oda is a man who always pays the utmost attention to every little detail in the script, while also creating a warm atmosphere on the set with his great sense of humor. There was always a free and easy ambience on-site, with Tao Tsuchiya maintaining her perkiness and engrossing herself in reading “The Tales of Ise,” despite filming continuing into the early hours of the morning, and Dean Fujioka ever so eloquently playing tunes on the Homonji Family piano.

The year is coming to an end, and I would like to dedicate my time to cleaning and tidying. This year, I plan pluck up the courage to get rid of some books that I had held onto for 20 years or more, to save space. The ritualistic shredding of the script I carry out every time filming finishes will also be executed without hesitation. Printed on the cover of the “IQ246” scripts were some quizzes that you could try solving to test your IQ, and every time I received a new script I enjoyed searching the depths of my knowledge trying to figure them out. But this, too, will end as of today.

I pray for peace and fulfillment everyone’s life. Meanwhile, the 9th episode of TBS’ Sunday Theater drama series, “IQ246,” will be broadcast tonight at 9:00 P.M. Don’t miss it.

Maria T

Wabisuke camellia arranged in a vase made by Kenta Anzai

Wabisuke camellia arranged in a vase made by Kenta Anzai

Once again, I was at a certain place in Central Tokyo until late last night, filming for the drama series, “IQ246.” There are only two episodes left to film, and the drama is heading toward its climax.

Until episode 6, I had played the part of Tomomi, a medical coroner, who loves dead bodies and Sharaku Homonji more than anyone else, but it is revealed that this was all a deception. Tomomi actually turns out to be Maria T, an intellectual criminal, who manipulates people with a desire to murder, with an IQ superior even to that of Homonji, played by Yuji Oda.

Maria T’s costume, entirely in black, was designed by Alexander McQueen, and I made sure that I wore it in a way that allowed viewers to recognize her just from her silhouette. It had been a while since I had worn fishnet stockings. The seams at the back were always slipping out of line, and it was rather annoying having to straighten them out every time before the cameras started rolling.

Maria T gives out her orders from a room filled with light and shadows, and the teacup she uses whenever she drinks tea was made by Kenta Anzai, who has a kiln in Koriyama of Fukushima. He was an apprentice of Taizo Kuroda, and is a master of the art of making “totai shikki” in which baked earthenware is coated with lacquer and repeatedly polished to suppress its glossiness for an elegant, matte finish. Normally it takes two to three months for the lacquer to dry after coating the baked earthenware with it, but upon my desperate begging he made it in just under a month prior to the start of filming.

I believe that the choice of a single cup can reveal so much about a person’s way of life, and every time I play a new character, I place as much importance on what kind of earthenware I use as I do on my choice of clothes and props used for my room. Incidentally, the perverted Tomomi put “dashi” soup stock in beakers.

The 7th episode of TBS’ Sunday Theater drama series, “IQ246,” will be broadcast tonight starting at 9:00 P.M. Don’t miss it.