Tea to Burn through Body Fat
We are still far from being able to rejoice the arrival of spring, but I hope everyone is well.
I have been devoting myself wholeheartedly to taking online lessons in German. Until just a few months ago, I found myself being able to memorize new words and phrases with little revision by passively listening to audio books. But now, I have reached a stage where I am unable to keep up with my studies without sitting at a desk, and this has resulted in me spending a lot of time sitting down. Unfortunately, I have also reached the age at which I am prone to gaining weight if I am not careful. I have been unable to spend a lot of time at the gym, while I have been sitting all day long, staring at textbooks to try and solve problems in German. I have gained weight, of course, but fortunately, the tea leaves used to make ITO EN’s “Ichibanzumi no Oi Ocha” has been recognized as having the ability to burn body fat, and I now keep a teapot and teacup on my table at all times.
Caffeine stimulates the brain and helps to boost motivation, while substances known as gallate-type catechins assist the burning of fat, so green tea has become indispensable during my studies, as well as while reading scripts to memorize my lines. Moreover, drinking it has benefits even before and while exercising, so I take a flask of green tea with me whenever I go for a stroll around the lake, or go hiking in the mountains.
Incidentally, the tea set in the photo is an ARTS & amp; SCIENCE tray that was given to me by Haruka Ayase sometime ago, my favorite Gunji Pottery teapot (cracks have appeared giving it a more antiquated look) I have been using for over 10 years, Masanobu Ando’s Ko-Imari (old Imari) soba noodle cup replica, and a tin saucer I bought in Kyoto when I was younger.
I hope ITO EN’s “Ichibanzumi no Oi Ocha” will help everyone during these times of great anxiety.03.10.2021
The state of emergency is on the verge of being lifted in stages, but it seems that people in Tokyo are still having to live very restrained lives. It makes me wonder how long this is going to continue.
I am currently in Vienna where measures are being implemented in which restaurants are only allowed to provide takeout meals, while only people with certificates to prove they are COVID-19 negative are allowed into beauty parlors.
Most music and theater performances are held with no audiences, while those held with PCR tests have to face losing huge amounts of money.
However, based on the idea that art is a necessity for nurturing the soul regardless of the conditions, art galleries have remained open as always, and Belvedere 21, the museum of contemporary art near Vienna Hauptbahnhof has been holding “Joseph Beuys. Think. Act. Convey” exhibition since yesterday to commemorate the 100th year anniversary of the birth of Joseph Beuys, one of the contemporary artists representing the 20th century.
Born in Germany, Joseph Beuys’ extensive works include not only paintings and sculptures, but also photos, videos and performances and speeches given by Joseph himself. He rebelled against authoritarian ideals, which were on the verge of taking over the world of art at the time. He continued creating works that challenged these ideals to prove that art wasn’t for just the chosen few, but creativity was something that everyone had, and anyone could become involved in art.
In the 1960s, he became involved in Fluxus, an art movement which was also joined by Yoko Ono, Toru Takemitsu, John Cage, who composed the famous 4′33″, Jonas Mekas, the filmmaker who was known for his 8 mm films, and Nam June Paik who became renowned for his video installations, among others. All these artists were deploying their own methods to express their skepticism toward what had come to be taken for granted at the time.
Everything from pieces of felt to farming machines, hoses, buckets, and even daily commodities like soap, or dirty items of junk and wet laundry were all turned into works of art by Joseph. Milk, chocolate and even oil became part of his works of art, demonstrating the ease with which he could remove all barriers between everyday life and art. At a glance his works may seem eccentric, but his method of finding creativity in all kinds of materials found in daily life is pantheistic, like the way Japanese people have seen divinity in all aspects of nature since ancient times. It is also similar to the “Yo no Bi” philosophy of Yanagi Soetsu, who led the Folk Art Movement in which he saw beauty in everyday tools, and it made me feel that perhaps Japanese people might be able to relate to Joseph Beuys’ works more than people living in Europe.
Droopy eyebrows and eyes with cute round pupils, a felt hat and a fisherman’s vest were Joseph Beuys’ trademarks, and for some reason, every time I see his interviews or performances, I am reminded of the dominating and self-centered street performer, Zampano, and his wife, Gelsomina, who bravely devotes herself to clowning despite being treated cruelly, in Fellini’s movie, “La Strada.” Beuys himself was like a clown and an extraordinary swindler, and he was also like the ultimate idealist, philosopher and social entrepreneur overflowing with dreams, and whenever he spoke or took action, he was obscenely annoying. Yet he always commanded attention, which is perhaps why people around him could not ignore him.
Joseph Beuys continues to fill us with questions from beyond the grave. Art blesses us with a sanctuary in our hearts that cannot be intruded upon by anyone.
I pray that everyone finds freedom within their hearts even in the face of adversity.03.07.2021
The Launch of My New Book
It’s that time of year when the sweet scent of Japanese apricot blossoms fills the air.
My book, “Austria Taizaiki (Living in Austria),” a diary of the rollercoaster ride of ups and downs I have experienced living in rural Austria, was released today.
The world is filled with news that makes me want to cover my ears, but spending my days living in a remote location that is far from being convenient, doing nothing but engrossing myself in weeding the garden has given me no time for anxiety. Time has simply flown by, and everyday life has been the cornerstone of my life.
It was a twist of fate that brought me here to Salzburg, but I have heard there are many beautiful and long-forgotten country houses with boundless potential scattered throughout the wilderness of Japan, too.
“Austria Taizaiki” has been published by Gentosha, and is available in paperback and electronic form. I hope everyone reads it when they find time.
I would like to pray for everyone’s health and safety.02.05.2021
Living in Austria
We have been forced to live in inconvenience with no light at the end of the tunnel, and many people have had to make great sacrifices. We have no choice but to quietly endure this situation, in order to protect precious lives whether they be those of people close to us or strangers.
I believe everyone has been living dreary lives in which they cannot even meet with close friends to talk, or can rarely treat themselves to a nice meal at a restaurant. There are times when you may feel compelled to complain about it. In my case, I have always dissipated my stress through writing. When I was 29, I took notes of all my complaints during the filming of the movie, “Memories of Matsuko,” which even came to be published in a book titled, “Kiraware Matsuko No Ichinen (A Year in the Life of the Disliked Matsuko).” I was on a roll, so I traveled to India where I suffered great agony from a stomach upset, stepped in cow dung, and had my passport stolen. But all this led to the publishing of the “India Ryokouki” series of books.
This time, I have spent three months since April writing about my days in the countryside of Salzburg of Austria, where I currently live, getting covered in dirt while gardening, dealing with slugs that ravaged a part of my finally completed garden, and engrossing myself in weeding to the point that I could barely walk.
I am susceptible to bronchitis whenever I catch a cold, so I lived in fear every day, during the first lockdown of my life, that I may become seriously ill in the event of catching COVID-19. So, I began taking online lessons in German and strolling around the mountains to eradicate such negative thoughts from my mind.
There are no restaurants nearby that offer take-out services, so I sometimes found myself at a loss at what I could cook. I even tried baking, which I was terrible at, and failed repeatedly sometimes resulting in piles of ash.
“Austria Taizaiki (Living in Austria)” is a paperback that captures such incidents in my everyday life, and it will go on sale on February 4.
I look forward to better news this year, and hope that you too, will find peace in your everyday life.01.20.2021
Happy New Year
We were struck by an unexpected disaster last year, turning it into a year of anxiety with no light at the end of the tunnel.
I felt distressed every time I read in the newspaper about the numerous people who had lost their loved ones, while even the healthy lost their jobs, or the skyrocketing number of people struggling to feed themselves, while more women faced even greater stress than usual trying to juggle work and family.
On the other hand, I have come to realize the preciousness of everyday life I had taken for granted while quietly enduring this subdued lifestyle, and I was able to engage in numerous activities that I would otherwise not have had time for.
I wonder what the new year holds in store for us.
I would like to pray for this year to bring peace of mind and joy to everyone’s lives.01.02.2021
I was given the opportunity to play Rinko Soma, the first female prime minister of Japan, in the movie, “First Gentleman,” which is based on the novel of the same title written by Maha Harada. This story is told from the perspective of her husband who gives close support to the Soma administration, which is inaugurated upon overcoming numerous obstacles and traditions. We finished filming just the other day, thanks to the meticulous and quick work of the wonderful team led by Director Hayato Kawai, who is good-natured and calm at all times.
Rinko’s husband, Hiyori, has had a sheltered upbringing and is unambitious, and all he wants is the opportunity to study birds, and live peacefully with his wife. But their life changes dramatically as the result of his wife becoming Prime Minister, and some unexpected twists of fate have him running around like a headless chicken, which is portrayed comically and charmingly by the dexterous Kei Tanaka. He assumes his role casually and effortlessly, and yet reaches out directly to people’s hearts, and I was inspired by his acting every day. I was also surprised by his understanding of on-site needs, for which he could have almost been an outstanding assistant director.
While women have become prime ministers in various countries around the world, I played my part asking myself every day, “When will the day come when a woman will become Prime Minister in Japan?” The Soma administration’s manifesto contains numerous plans, but priority was placed on “creating a society conducive to working women giving birth to babies and raising them” in order to put a stop to the declining birthrate and aging population. I played my part every day under Director Kawai’s supervision, while drawing many insights from the performances of my co-stars, and thinking about what kind of person would win the support of both the elderly, who hold many votes, and people of the younger generation who show little interest in politics, if a woman were to actually become a prime minister in today’s Japan.
I met Director Kawai for the first time in about 20 years, since working with him on the drama series, “Keizoku (Unsolved Cases).” But despite being completely rushed off his feet with no time to spare, as with Kei Tanaka, for his popularity after churning out a series of hits, including “Suzuki Sensei,” “Let’s Go, JETS! From Small Town Girls to U.S. Champions?!,” “My Love Story!!,” “The Naked Director,” etc., he found the time to carefully give out instructions to each and every actor and staff member. As a result, everyone was able to stay peaceful and calm, and have fun on-site regardless of the tension we were all feeling from the COVID-19 crisis.
The photo above captures a moment in the daily life of the Soma family. As at my own home, housework in the Soma family is done by whoever has the time to do it, so breakfast is made mainly by Hiyori, while Rinko too, sometimes prepares meals. The delightful dishes and mugs with bird designs were made just for this movie by Keiko and Tsunehisa Gunji, the husband and wife who run Gunji Pottery.
The movie is about a prime minister and her husband, but it’s also a story about all working women and their partners. I hope everyone enjoys watching this light-hearted movie version of “First Gentleman,” which provides comical and heart-warming entertainment.10.22.2020
Body Wash with a Moisturizing Retaining Ingredient that Doesn’t Wash Away
The COVID-19 crisis continues, but as if to make things worse, it is now that time of the year when dry skin becomes a problem, and it makes me wonder how everyone is handling it.
I just finished filming a new movie the other day, and in addition to writing, I am currently taking online German lessons and exercising daily to improve my posture. But having said that, I am not really seriously engrossed in these activities. Instead, it has become increasingly important for me to enjoy my work, as a congenital lazybones. In learning German, I concentrate diligently during lessons, but once they finish, I rarely review them, and in my desperate search for ways my brain can learn naturally without having to struggle, all I do is listen passively to audio books and the radio.
As for improving my posture, it’s something I began on the side while undergoing rehabilitation for my hip joint, which had been giving me trouble for a long time. It has been somewhat of a struggle, but I have been taking lessons on and off that you almost have to laugh at because they are so harsh. But it’s all to restore my waistline, which had begun to swell due to lack of exercise during the COVD-19 crisis, acquire a good posture for a body that appears to reach up to the sky, and learn how to breathe effortlessly using my entire body. Of course, being a lazybones, I don’t have the tenacity to conscientiously continue skincare for my whole body. Taking my age into account, it’s probably best that I spend more time caring for my body, but if I had that much time to spare, I would rather lie around on the sofa, relax all my muscles by doing stretches to improve my posture, or loosen up my fascia using a ball or foam roller. This has made the innovative “hadakara” body wash, containing a moisture retaining ingredient that doesn’t wash away, an indispensable item in my daily life as a person who doesn’t like to spend too much time on body care. I tend to develop itchiness all over my body when my skin becomes dry due to lack of care, but thanks to “hadakara,” I have not used body oils for many years now. Being a negligent person, I am especially thankful for the foam dispensing type that foams up the soap with a single push of the pump. And now, a new product containing oil has become available. I thoroughly recommend “hadakara” to protect your own skin, and that of others close to you.
It is that time of the year when the changing of the seasons is beautiful.
Take care and stay safe.10.16.2020
Nesting at Home
The Friday night drama series, “Byoshitsu de Nembutsu o Tonaenaide Kudasai (Prayers in the Emergency Room),” has finished. I would like to thank everyone for watching the drama series.
It was time to say farewell to the days of being involved in the production of the series, which started off by being offered a part by Aki Isoyama who is an integral part of the history of TBS dramas, Akihiko Watase with whom I also worked in the past in the drama “JIN,” Yutaka Tawada who has produced dramas like “Nigeru wa Haji daga Yaku ni Tatsu (We Married as a Job!) ,” and Nobuhiko Takayama with whom I worked in “IQ246,” and was later followed by working under the supervision of directors like Shunichi Hirano with whom I worked in the drama “Anatani-wa Kaeru Ie-ga Aru (You Have a Place to Go Home to)” and carefully studying the script written by Tomoko Yoshizawa, while spending time dealing with the issue of life and death with all my wonderful costars, including Hideaki Ito and Tsuyoshi Muro.
On the night of the day we finished filming, I actually jumped on a plane and hurried back to my home in the mountains of Salzburg, where I have placed myself under voluntary house arrest, in Austria, which has now closed all of its borders.
I have heard that cherry blossom viewing is in full swing in Japan, and schools will be reopening soon, but here in Europe, alerts have been issued with only the bare minimum of essential businesses remaining open, such as grocery stores, hospitals, drugstores, gas stations and post offices. Restaurants have closed of course, and even cafés and fast food restaurants have all closed. People are only allowed out of their houses to buy food and medicine, go to the hospital, and take the occasional stroll. Meeting people other than family members is also prohibited. Children too, have to isolate themselves by not going to the park, and their parents are stressed out from having to deal with children, too young to understand the coronavirus situation, but bursting with energy.
As you are no doubt aware, tragic images of hundreds of dead people being transported by trucks, just across the border in Italy, are being shown on the news every day almost as if it were wartime. Above all, I have nothing but the utmost respect for the courage and dedication of medical workers who are putting their own lives on the line in striving to save the lives of other people. France is also in a state of complete chaos, and a doctor, who is accustomed to seeing people die, cried while being interviewed, saying, “It’s the first time I’ve seen so many people die, and I don’t know what to do.”
It’s at times like this that I recall what my character, Dr. Miyake, said in the drama I was acting in only until a few days ago; “I became a doctor because I wanted to save people, but upon becoming one, I’ve been forced to see just as many people die as I save. I’ve learned how to help people, but not how to accept their deaths. I can’t sleep, and it’s unbearable…”
I have no idea how long this state of house arrest is going to continue, but I’ve come to realize how lucky I am to be alive, and have enough food to feed myself.
Incidentally, in Austria where people have grown accustomed to recycling in everyday life, I am proud to say that toilet paper made from recycled paper is being produced in huge quantities, and people have not resorted to panic buying.
Perhaps this coronavirus disaster will become a major turning point in people’s senses of value throughout the world. I pray for everyone’s safety.03.25.2020
Prayers in the Emergency Room
The new drama series, “Byoshitsu de Nembutsu o Tonaenaide Kudasai (Prayers in the Emergency Room),” begins today. It is based on a manga series written by Tamayo Koyasu. It is a story about a Buddhist monk, Matsumoto, played by Hideaki Ito, who also works as an emergency doctor. He grapples with how he can save his patients’ lives, as well as their souls, while at times making serious mistakes as he strives to face up to the challenges of dealing with people’s lives. On the one hand, he preaches feverishly about the ways of Buddha, while on the other hand, he is a monk with all the worldly desires of a depraved person, who finds himself tempted by women in swimwear, brings obscene books to the workplace, and snacks on other people’s food. That is what makes him down to earth, vulnerable, and an attractive leading character in the drama who will keep all those who watch it riveted to the screen.
I play the part of Miyake, who is critical of Matsumoto’s overly enthusiastic passion, and scoffs at his Buddhist teachings, while cultivating a trusting relationship with him as a member of the same team of emergency doctors. I calmly and sincerely devote myself to administering medical care, in order to save the lives of dying patients right before me.
Tsuyoshi Muro plays the part of Hamada, a gifted but detestable cardiac surgeon who is like a manifestation of pure conceitedness and obtrusiveness. He is in constant conflict with Emergency Doctor Matsumoto, who strives to save everyone’s lives without thinking of the consequences even if it means accepting more patients than the hospital can handle.
Honoka Matsumoto plays the part of a young cardiac surgeon, who is far from being gifted and is inexperienced, but devotes herself to her job with nothing more than a genuine desire to save her patients’ lives. Meanwhile, Ryota Katayose plays a medical intern who is like the epitome of the “Satori generation (characterized by their lack of ambition and worldly desires),” seeing the world around him with an indifferent attitude and showing absolutely no respect or modesty toward his superiors.
Masato Hagiwara plays the part of Director Tamai of Aobadai Hospital’s Emergency Center, who is conservative, yet indecisive and weak-willed, but also has an unexplainable charm, while Kimiko Yo plays the part of Chief Director, who is well versed in the ways of Buddhism, and is the only person at the hospital capable of restraining Matsumoto, like a ball and chain, when he goes out of control.
The first episode about to be broadcast at last tonight, was filmed carefully over approximately a whole month. I have been deeply moved, almost to tears, by the performances of all the guests who join us each time. But like Miyake, I hold myself back and try to stay calm at all times.
Death is a daily occurrence to emergency doctors. But even so, they mourn the deaths of those they were unable to save, and strive to keep as many people as possible alive, driven by a belief that miracles do happen.
“Prayers in the Emergency Room,” the TBS drama series, airs at 10:00 P.M. every Friday night. I hope everyone enjoys watching it.01.17.2020
Best Wishes for a Wonderful New Year
Happy New Year!
I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to those who watched my drama series, “Haru – The Woman of a General Trading Company,” and all those who supported me in a variety of other ways last year.
Once again, I was invited at the start of the year to appear in NHK Educational TV’s broadcast of the Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Concert, and I am about to put on a kimono for the occasion.
The Vienna Philharmonic will not only perform waltzes and polkas under the baton of passionate Andris Nelsons, brimming with humor, but they will also perform works by Beethoven for the first time in the 150-year history of the Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Concert. Mitsuko Kusabue, who once played my mother on stage in “Lost in Yonkers,” also came all the way to Vienna to attend the concert, and we both enjoyed the New Year Concert in a celebratory atmosphere.
May the year ahead bring everyone great joy and happiness, and be filled with new discoveries.
The 2020 Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Concert will be aired on NHK Educational TV tonight, starting at 7:00 P.M. I thoroughly recommend everyone to watch it.01.01.2020