It has been growing increasingly hot and humid, but I hope everyone has been keeping well.
Thanks to all the people who read my book, “Living in Austria,” immediately after its publication, it has already been reprinted numerous times, and I am truly grateful that the e-book version has also been popular.
Furthermore, Gentosha, a publisher I have worked with over many years, has made samples available over four consecutive days for those who have not read it yet on their e-book site, “note,” starting from 12 noon today. I had always enjoyed reading “note” myself, and it is a great honor to have the diary of my daily life under the COVID-19 crisis in Austria posted onto this site.
I believe many people have been too busy with housework or childrearing under this pandemic to have much time left for reading, and even single people may seek lighter entertainment that will make them laugh rather than engrossing themselves in reading. That’s something I too, can relate to, so I have been enjoying watching comedy movies in the name of studying German.
However, I am also deeply concerned about any further decline in the population of readers, and I make an effort to read books that capture my interest whether they be paper books or e-books. My most recent and fulfilling reading experiences were “LE REVOLVER” published by Gentosha and written by Maha Harada, who also wrote the script for the movie, “First Gentleman,” and “Ryogi-no Hyogen” published by Misuzu Shobo and written by the contemporary artist, Lee Ufan, whom I have the deepest love and respect for.
Samples of “Living in Austria,” which have been made available through “note” this time, include some unpublished photos, so I recommend anyone with an interest in Europe, Austria, country life, overseas living, dual residency, patchwork families, etc., to take a look by clicking on the link below.
Wishing you all a happy day.06.11.2021
We continue to live in great difficulty with the extension of the state of emergency, but how is everyone doing in taking a break from all this?
People living with their families or partners are no doubt spending more time with one another than they have ever done in their entire lives to date, and many of them may have even begun to wonder what the meaning of life is. The precious time together allows people to enjoy fulfilling lives, while spending so much time with the same people may make conversations somewhat monotonous by falling into a set pattern day and night. Or expectations of tacit understanding may not be met, causing irritation at times. On the other hand, there are no doubt people living on their own who have found themselves unable to bear the loneliness, causing them to crave for company.
As for me, spending time on my own does not worry me in the least, and in fact I almost find great relief in finding myself alone to enjoy reading or daydreaming, because my job requires me to be surrounded by numerous people all the time. However, I can understand how difficult it may be to maintain one’s spiritual wellbeing in having to spend more than a year at home engaging in teleworking.
“Living in Austria,” which I began writing last year during my stay-home period to spend my time alone in a meaningful manner, was reprinted soon after its publication thanks to the support of so many people. I would like to express my deepest gratitude to all those who read it.
I have belatedly decided to create an Instagram account after receiving requests from those who read “Living in Austria,” and numerous other people who have been providing me with daily support in public and in private.
Acting is a physically and mentally exhausting job, and I am kept busy even on my days off, spending an enormous amount of time reading scripts, taking lessons to live up to my role, working out at the gym, visiting art museums to hone my sensitivity, or immersing myself in nature. For a long time, this had made me reluctant to share information with others in real time on “when, where, and what with whom” I was doing something. Above all, I feared others finding out about my days off when all I wanted was to ensure I could spend some quiet time in solitude. This was the reason I had refrained from engaging in social media, which allows you to connect to anyone, anytime. But I believe sharing information randomly on “when, where, and what with whom” will allow me to connect with all my fans in a low-key way by closing the psychological distance between Japan and Austria where I currently live.
Until now, I had not even opened a personal account, so I had absolutely no idea of the benefits of Instagram, but I have found myself feeling excited, exhilarated or humored upon taking a peek at the beautiful lifestyles of so many others, or their words that have resonated in my heart.
I am currently living in a German-speaking country, and have been struggling every day with my inadequate capabilities in the language. I plan to post comments in Japanese and my limited German, and hope that you will understand how difficult this is. I will be more than happy to have my mistakes in German pointed out to me and corrected, so please don’t hesitate to do so.
The name of my official account is “mikinakatanioffiziell.” I look forward to everyone following me on Instagram.
I pray for everyone’s health in mind and body.06.03.2021
“RELATUM-STAGE” by Lee Ufan exhibited at Serpentine Gallery in London
I hope everyone is doing well as we enter spring this year with a mix of hope and a sigh of grief.
I began writing a new series of articles, “Kotonoha (Spoken Language),” for the magazine, HERS, which goes on sale today. HERS of Kobunsha, which until now had provided readers of this monthly magazine with information on fashion and everyday life has been given a new lease on life, and relaunched as a quarterly magazine. I was given the chance to appear on the front cover of the first spring issue and publish a series of articles.
In this age when anyone can easily publish their writing, it is almost a miracle that I have been asked to write an article series for a paper magazine, and I am truly grateful for this opportunity. This is particularly true under the COVID-19 crisis, when it has become difficult to travel abroad, and writing is about all I can do on the side apart from living my daily life. I have written about the small things in life that have given me joy while living a down-to-earth life in the countryside of Salzburg.
The theme of this issue is “Looking for and buying everyday life.” This is a theme that I find of great interest as a reader myself, and it was truly exciting to turn the pages of the magazine to see the beautiful photos and read the articles written by others.
I hope people will take the time to read this magazine, which may offer inspiration to the women living in these times of instability and apprehension, and provide them with a brief moment to relax and forget the woes of the world.
Wishing everyone a wonderful day.04.12.2021
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