“Ano Ie ni Kurasu Yonin no Onna (Four Women Who Live in That House )”
In the special drama, “Ano Ie ni Kurasu Yonin no Onna (Four Women Who Live in That House),” written originally by Shion Miura and set in an old European-style building, I played the part of Sachi Makita , the heroine and embroidery artist who continues an eccentric lifestyle of living with her mother, Tsuruyo , her friend, Yukino, and Yukino’s colleague, Taemi.
Producers Junpei Nakagawa, Jun Kurosawa and Mizuho Shizukuishi, whom I worked with in the past on the drama, “Mohohan(Copycat Criminal),” were the people who offered me this role, and I spent days devoting myself wholeheartedly to acting out a person who lives in Director Yoshihiro Fukagawa’s world, which is nostalgic, like a fairytale, and yet offers us a peek into comical and real human relationships.
I am actually fickle-minded to the point that I have never even managed to knit more than 10 cm of a scarf, and although I consider myself to be relatively dexterous with my hands, I am not very proficient at sewing or handicrafts. I completely lack the patience to engage in steady, mundane handiwork. That is precisely why I have so much respect for dyeing and weaving artisans, potters, embroidery artists and other such people who toil with their hands to create beautiful pieces of art.
For this drama, I was initiated into the world of the embroidery artist, Wakako Horai, who lives in Kyoto. I practiced passing the needle through the fabric at a perpendicular angle, but found myself writhing in impatience trying to complete the embroidery in the image that I had envisaged. The beauty of Wakako Horai’s embroidery is not only in its composition and stitching, but also the outstanding choice of colors in the fabrics and threads used, characterized by smoky, soft tones that are suited for mature women.
Getting back to the drama, I was once again blessed with a wonderful cast. Sachi’s mother Tsuruyo, who is naïve and egocentric as if she is the princess of Musashino, was played with great wittiness and subtlety by Nobuko Miyamoto, an extraordinary comic actress. Sachi’s friend, Yukino, who has given up on the myth of love and affection, spends all her time traveling back and forth between her work and the European-style house, and finds inner peace through yoga, was played in a cool and comical manner by Hiromi Nagasaku. Yukino’s colleague, Taemi, played charmingly by Riho Yoshioka, ends up living with them in order to get away from a hopeless loser-come-stalker. The old-fashioned farmhand who has lived in a separate room on the same premises since before the heroine, Sachi, was born, is played by a boorish Min Tanaka, who charms people throughout the world with his dancing. Then there is the interior finisher played by a straightforward Jun Kaname, whom Sachi, who has given up on love and fashion in order to meet her busy work schedule, has feelings for. Everyone’s acting was superb during filming, and I found myself intrigued by the delightful dialogue and line delivery as if I were a member of the audience. However, after it had been edited by Director Fukagawa, the completed drama was more amusing and absurd than I had imagined, and yet it had a heart-warming storyline, allowing me to enjoy it from the bottom of my heart despite having performed in it myself.
In the original novel, what left a deep impression on me were Yukino’s words, “Having an affection for someone doesn’t mean understanding that person, as it is nothing but a subjective preconception. Love is a disposition and feeling of resignation in which you decide to continue a relationship with someone you can never come to understand, after your preconception has been shattered.” But in spite of this, Sachi continues to dream, telling herself, “I want to realize mutual understanding, even though this feeling is not limited to men.” In a narrative passage that follows, she also states, “Perhaps it is because the night is long that we have an insatiable appetite to pursue light, understanding and love. If that is the case, people are living beings with lonely, loving souls.”
Old-fashioned patriarchy is on the verge of disappearing in many developed nations, and I believe it is common knowledge that the structure of families is diversifying. The communal lifestyle led by four women and one elderly man is perhaps like another form of “family.” I hope you enjoy a long autumn night watching this adult fantasy of a gathering of people who each have their own flaws and eccentric quirks.
The special drama, “Ano Ie ni Kurasu Yonin no Onna (Four Women Who Live in That House)” will be aired at 9:00 P.M. on TV Tokyo, Monday, September 30.09.27.2019
For the past two months, I have been immersing myself in the nature and the music of Salzburg.
As you may know, this area is known as the Lake District, and surrounded by the mountains of the Alps are numerous beautiful lakes scattered throughout the region with water so crystal clear that you can almost see all the way to the bottom. I have been SUP boarding on windless mornings, paddling effortlessly across the surface of these lakes like “Issun-boshi (character out of a Japanese folk tale),” or enjoying the mosses and ferns growing on the side of mountain tracks after the rain. On cloudy days, I have been weeding the garden, while spending sunny afternoons sitting in the shade reading the script in preparation for the filming of an upcoming drama, or studying German, which I have been racking my brain over recently….
I want to continue taking on new challenges in life, which is why I acquired my driver’s license past the age of 40, and moved to Austria. However, learning a new language at my age is not so easy as you can imagine, and I have been struggling. It is so difficult that it is almost enough to make me want to utter with resentment, “Who was the mastermind behind the language, who decided to incorporate such complicated grammar into German?” I end up spending days pretending not to see the textbook every time my brain nearly overheats.
Shopping for safe and delicious foods requires me to drive from one end of Salzburg to the other, going to a fish shop that sells delectable salmon roe and organic prawns, a butcher that sells dry-aged meat, a market where rare Steinpilz (stone mushrooms) are sometimes sold, a farm that sells fresh sheep milk cheese, and a flour mill that sells ancient wheats like emmer and spelt, among others. When organic coconut milk yogurt, soy milk, etc., are added to this list, shopping becomes a one-day ordeal, but the hassles of shopping are all blown away the moment I settle down to eat fruit in the morning, a snack for lunch, afternoon tea, or dinner outdoors in the clear and crisp mountain air.
Simply living life from day to day is enough to make the time fly by, but the Salzburg Festival, said to be the greatest festival in the world for music and drama, held at the Großes Festspielhaus located in the Altstadt, is also a must-see. I listened to the smooth performances by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra of Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 conducted by Daniel Barenboim, and Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 14 sung by the soprano, Asmik Grigorian, whom I adore. Today, I was also given the pleasure of listening to Schoenberg’s Violin Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 being rehearsed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra with Kirill Petrenko assigned as their new chief conductor, and the extraordinary violinist, Patricia Kopatchinskaja. Needless to say, Mahler’s Symphony No. 5 and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 are beautiful and gentle on the ears, but Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 14 and Schoenberg’s Violin Concerto were a little esoteric. But even so, when the performers put their hearts and souls into playing the music as if talking to the audience through sound and rhythm, even this esoteric music devoid of tonality becomes enjoyable to the listener as if it had become accessible. I am not a musician, so I cannot talk about the details, but I feel that it was because Asmik Grigorian and Patricia Kopatchinskaja have the refined sensitivity to understand contemporary music and the technical skills to perform it that they can visualize the landscape created by the music, which in turn is conveyed to the audience. Of course, the performance of the orchestra supporting the soloist was also outstanding. The experience inspired me to vow to strive in being an actor capable of conveying the emotional landscape behind the characters that I play.
I plan to return to Japan soon, after recharging my batteries in preparation for the filming of “Haru – The Woman of a General Trading Company,” which will be airing soon.
It is early fall, and I wish you all the best in getting through the unbearable heat, which will last a little longer. Take care.08.27.2019
Yokohama French Film Festival 2019
Yokohama French Film Festival 2019 has begun.
I was assigned the role of Festival Muse at the event, and was blessed with the good fortune of welcoming Director Michel Ocelot, Director Nils Tavernier, and Director Gilles Lellouche from France to the opening ceremony held at Yokohama Minato Mirai Hall. Unfortunately, Director Claude Lelouch, who became world-renowned for his works, “Un Homme et une Femme,” “Les Uns et les Autres” and “13 Jours en France,” among others, was a day late in arriving, and I was unable to meet him. But I was able to share the joy of immersing myself in French movies I so much long for with all the other passionate aficionados of French films.
Back in the days when I was still a jittery teenager, it was the variety of French films that always quelled my inexplicable irritation, fulfilled my quest for the truth, and articulated my inner thoughts on my behalf. Art house theaters screening French movies were still popular back then, and I spent my youth hopping from one theater to another, where I would end up in a daze after watching a heart-wrenching love story, be exhilarated by a sensual movie, keel over with laughter at the powerful humor of a film satirizing society, or doze off during a perplexing and long-winded movie, and yet walk away as if I had understood its meaning.
I admired French movies so much that at one stage, I even rented a small room for a live-in housemaid, known as a “chambre de bonne,” in the attic of a brick apartment flat on the left bank of the river by the Pont Neuf, which was the location of Director Leos Carax’s movie, “Les Amants du Pont-Neuf,” and I spent time traveling back and forth between the flat and Tokyo. The room I rented at the time had a communal shower and bathroom, and it did not even have a refrigerator, but I hung eggs and “mentaiko” cod roe I had brought from Japan outside the window, which was like putting them in a natural refrigerator. I enjoyed the simple life, owning very few material things. However, what I found intolerable every time I cleaned the communal areas were the other residents who, without a moment of thought, left such places in a dirty state, and after a while, I ended up moving to an apartment flat on Rue Saint Sulpice. Living in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, packed with movie theaters, and visiting theaters like LE CHAMPO, Grand Action, L’Arlequin and mk2 on foot was a precious way for me to recover in mind and body from the feeling of being burnt out all the time from working relentlessly in Tokyo.
Once again, the film festival offers an extensive and wonderful selection of beautiful, dryly humorous movies brimming with love for the underdog, and I would like to recommend everyone to experience the joy of indulging in French movies in the city of Yokohama.
Yokohama French Film Festival 2019, runs until June 23.06.21.2019
Mark Rothko exhibition at Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna
With the dawning of a new era, I am sure everyone spent their time differently, with some enjoying the extended holidays, while others devoted themselves to working or studying as usual. I had not taken time off over Golden Week for the past several years, but I was able to take an extended holiday exactly in accordance with the calendar, despite being in the middle of filming “Followers.” This allowed me to return to Vienna for a while.
In Vienna, with the timeless allure of a tourist spot with a legacy left behind by the House of Habsburg, and famous composers such as Mozart, you do not need to do anything special, but a mere stroll through town is a meaningful way of spending time there. Compared to Tokyo’s population of around 9.3 million, the entire population of Austria is around 8.8 million, making it a surprisingly small nation. But Vienna, the capital of such a tiny country, is where a wealth of culture, including music, art, architecture, literature, psychiatric medicine and psychology, has blossomed (the highly renowned Freud and Adler were also from Vienna).
While in Vienna, I was blessed with the opportunity to hear Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 performed by The Vienna Philharmonic at the historical Wiener Konzerthaus. With the participation of a choir and eight soloists, it was a moving experience hearing the grand performance of the famous symphony by more than 200 people (it is frequently referred to as the “Symphony of a Thousand”) on stage.
Moreover, it is still light at 8 P.M. at this time of the year due to daylight savings time, and it is not unusual for me to take a stroll through town after dinner. So, I walked along the Ring Road lined with portraits of Holocaust survivors to visit the magnificent Kunsthistorisches Museum built under the orders of Franz Joseph I in the 19th century. My aim was nothing other than to see the exhibition of works by the painter Mark Rothko, whom I adore the most in the history of modern painting.
Mark Rothko’s pictures consist of nothing more than surfaces and lines painted in two or three colors, and at a glance, they exude tranquility, but upon closer inspection, I feel that they also exude fierceness.
Ever since I saw his works when I was around 20 years old, either at Centre Pompidou in Paris or the MOMA in New York, I have found his creations to exude agony as if portraying an unfulfilled longing to be understood by someone, which has taken my breath away every time I have come across his paintings. Mark Rothko, born Markus Rothkowitz, moved to the U.S. with his family as Jewish immigrants from Russia, and in his younger days, he experimented with a variety of painting styles. Although he was not a realist, he engaged in still-life and portrait painting, and dabbled in surrealism to try styles similar to Picasso, but the colors and motifs of his paintings became consistent from around the 1930s. He used fewer colors with increasing age, and his motifs also became increasingly simplified. As a result, each and every one of his paintings came to carry more weight, reverberating in the hearts of those who lay their eyes upon them. Later in his life, he felt that the rise of pop art through people like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein threatened the value of his existence, and he came to mistrust people, dying in solitude.
In 2009, I saw Rothko’s series of pictures representing the darkness of his final years during the Rothko exhibition held at the Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art, and I cannot forget the suffocating sensation I felt in my heart then. The exhibition this time only had a few of his dark paintings from the final years of his life, but I was offered a peek into how Mark Rothko’s paintings evolved from the diverse works of his earlier years to those that came to epitomize him.
It is in these ways that a stroll through Vienna is always so interesting, but come to think of it, there are many wonderful art galleries and museums in Japan, too. I am currently pondering on which art gallery I should visit next.05.15.2019
Art installation on the scaffolding at Schillerplatz in Vienna by Katharina Cibulka
Filming for a new drama series begins today. It is an original drama series to be streamed on NETFLIX, which until now, I had only enjoyed as a viewer. The name of the drama is “Followers,” and it is directed by Mika Ninagawa who is a photographer and a film director. Should I say, it’s a drama about women, by women, for women. There are many new ways for women to live (watch the drama to find out more). It is no longer limited to the traditional way of becoming a housewife, having children and looking after the family, but women can pursue their careers, or choose to cherish both their careers and families, and there are even some who become withdrawn from society, showing no interest in having a career or a family. Yet others may choose same-sex marriages, or become asexual, or go even further to seek men for reasons that until now were unspeakable and frowned upon. Through the filming of this drama, I have come to realize the reality that times are not so much changing in a way that people are beginning to accept diversity, but it is more that they have no choice but to accept diversity in gender, taste, lifestyle, religion, etc., regardless of whether they are male or female.
I will be playing the part of the heroine and photographer, Rimi Nara, in this witty, multiple protagonist drama, which realistically portrays the lives of women, with a touch of venom, in the motley city of Tokyo. The women all had dreams in their younger days, and instead of ending them as nothing but dreams, they strive boldly in pursuit of realizing them with a sense of responsibility. And it is because of this great mental fortitude that the women also feel a tinge of anxiety and fragility, which they reveal throughout the drama. The drama is fictitious, but Rimi Nara is said to be modeled after Mika Ninagawa herself, and stories based on the real-life experiences of people around her have been scattered throughout the 10 episodes. I am truly looking forward to the days of working on the filming for this drama series, which will come shortly. It will be announced eventually, but I have been blessed with an attractive cast of actresses (and actors too, of course), which I think will allow me to open up my heart during filming.
Incidentally, the special feature article in The Nikkei last year described how NETFLIX does not publicize audience ratings. Instead, it relies on a system that displays recommended programs on the top page based on analyses of individual viewers, using an algorithm that only gathers data on their taste trends, regardless of their age or sex. As a result of their strategy, I too, have become hooked on NETFLIX, and I have been watching not only movies and dramas, but also a constant stream of documentaries.
“Followers” is planned for streaming at the start of 2020, and it will be simultaneously released in 190 countries around the world. I recommend everyone to check it out.03.20.2019
Best Wishes for the New Year
Happy New Year!
2019 is upon us already.
I am scheduled to start filming a new drama series this year, and preparations have already begun.
I am currently in Vienna, enveloped in a celebratory mood, where the launching of fireworks began at around 6 P.M. on New Year’s Eve, and continued through the night until a little while ago this morning.
The Japanese ski jumper, Ryoyu Kobayashi, has also been attracting a lot of attention in a ski jump race that people in Austria are highly passionate about.
Today, I have actually been given the opportunity to appear in the broadcast of the “2019 Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Concert” on NHK Educational TV, and I was asked to report live on the enthusiasm on-site from the Viennese Music Association building. During this customary New Year event, I hope to enjoy the cheerful and lively waltzes and polkas performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Christian Thielemann, while celebrating the New Year with everyone. The program will air from 6:45 P.M. until 10:00 P.M. I would like to call on everyone to join us in listening to the music brought to you from the Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein.01.01.2019
Announcement of My Marriage
I, Miki Nakatani, hereby announce my marriage to Thilo Fechner, a chamber musician from Germany. The viola is a musical instrument that is slightly bigger than the violin, but considerably smaller than the cello, and Thilo is a violist for the Wiener Staatsoper Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as the Philharmonix, an orchestral music ensemble.
Although we live in Japan and Austria, countries on opposite sides of the world, it was a series of mysterious coincidences that brought us together in the fall of 2016, leading to the building of a relationship based on trust; a long story that I shall refrain from delving into here. Whenever we go hiking in the hills, he constantly adjusts his pace to suit mine, and prioritizes the happiness of others over his own personal enjoyment and interests, and I found myself drawn to his character. It is perhaps because he is a violist, who cherishes harmony by not asserting his own sound, but listening intently to the sounds of other instruments, such as the violin, that he was able to tame a person like me who loves to be free.
From now on, I shall work from Austria, and in doing so, I shall fluctuate between playing characters whose stories must be told, and being no one but my own self. However, I hope to continue putting my heart and soul into my work, and look forward to everyone’s continued support.
I would also like to kindly ask everyone to refrain from showering me gifts as there is a limit to how much I can send back to Austria, and I will unfortunately be unable to visit you to thank you in person.
Last, but not least, I would like to thank you all for your warm wishes and support.11.28.2018
Lion has decided to launch a foam version of hadakara, a body soap with moisturizer that won’t wash away, leaving the skin moist and soft, and I was forced to return to Tokyo for just one night to film a new commercial.
My skin is such that pimples erupt the moment I consume carbohydrates, and it is so sensitive that I come out in a rash when I use strong cosmetics or face wash. I have allergic tendencies, so when I become too engrossed in my work and go beyond my limit, I sometimes end up with hives or even shingles. /Dietary supplements based on orthomolecular medical and nutritional prescriptions relieve me of many of my symptoms, and in particular, since I began taking high 15,000 IU doses of vitamin D every day, I have been feeling well enough to almost make me forget that I have pollen allergy. But having said that, whenever I get bitten by a mosquito in the mountains where I am currently based, my body overreacts and it itches forever. In fact, I was walking beside some grazing cattle the other day, and I was unfortunately attacked by gnats when I wasn’t paying attention. My back and hands became so hideously swollen that I had no choice but to undergo intravenous steroid treatment from a fear that I would not recover in time for the hadakara commercial! I am so delighted to hear about the launch of the foam-type hadakara, which even a person like me can use safely.
I filmed a profound, heart-stopping story at a mission school caressed by gentle rays of light filtering through the trees. Thanks to the outstanding teamwork of all the staff members, everything flashed by in the blink of an eye, and even my first-ever shower scene was over after coating my skin with soft, creamy foam and running my hand through it several times. Luckily, I was allowed to take home a few of the numerous bottles of hadakara, which had been used as props during filming, and I stuffed my favorite bottles of floral bouquet and green fruity hadakara in my suitcase before jumping on the plane.
The foam type goes on sale on September 26. I thoroughly recommend everyone to check it out at a nearby store.08.17.2018
Salzburg is bustling with people because of the music festival being held, and it is experiencing an unusual heat wave. Fortunately, I have been staying in the mountains where it is relatively cool, and I have been able to sleep comfortably both during the day and at night, but the heat has become a matter of life or death for a lot of people living and working in the city. Japanese people are used to the humidity and heat at the height of summer, and every household has air conditioners and electric fans. However, although people here have a full range of heating equipment from radiators to fireplaces, they had no need for appliances to keep themselves cool until now. Many elderly people died as the result of a heat wave that struck Europe several years ago, and that too, was because they were unprepared. Wine shop owners have been spending many sleepless nights lamenting that although their expensive wines, stored in wine cellars, may be protected from the heat, the hundreds of bottles of table wines lining the shelves inside their shops will be damaged.
The tap water in my house is supplied by underground water pumped from the mountains, and this precious water supply is shared among several of my neighbors. So, contrary to Western Japan struck by tragic floods, the amount of rainfall here is limited, and I tend to hesitate before watering my plants. But in spite of this, the raised bed of the hugelkulture farming method I am trying for the first time this year has been a huge success, resulting in bountiful harvests of leaf lettuce, arugula, tomatoes, Japanese basil, etc. The method involves putting down a layer of stones for drainage, layering branches and logs that had been left to dry for several years over the stones, and further putting down a layer of twigs and leaves on top of that, then covering it with fermented kitchen garbage from the composter and biosoil. It is watered as necessary, but the good drainage combined with fermentation by microorganisms and soil improvement by worms allow crops to grow well. Thanks to this method, my leaf vegetables have been growing well enough to allow me to enjoy harvesting them every day before meals, and I no longer need to buy them at the market or supermarket. Freshly picked, pesticide-free salad is surprisingly tender, and I have been eating it every day with all kinds of dressings made from argan oil, avocado oil, olive oil, linseed oil, pumpkin seed oil, etc., combined with white balsamic vinegar, local rock salt, miso, sweetfish sauce, and so on. As for basil, I have been harvesting it just prior to eating it to make Genovese sauce, which is tossed with ancient grain spaghetti. With sage, I have been making saltimbocca, and with coriander, I have been making kung op wun sen with Thai-style glass noodles and shrimp, and larb moo using minced meat. As for the Japanese basil, I had given up on trying to grow it because of restrictions on bring the seeds into the country, but fortunately, I was able to get hold of some seedlings here, and I have been enjoying eating it in prawn spring rolls and as a herb in hand-rolled sushi.
Here in Salzburg, people also avoid using screen doors for aesthetic reasons, so I have been forced to live with flies, bees and mosquitoes, but I have actually been finding this unexpected life of self-sufficiency quite pleasant.
Tomorrow, I plan to go into town to attend the concert, “Thus spoke Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss, who left an unforgettable impression on me in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”08.04.2018
Would You Like a Drink of Tea?
Filming for the drama series, “Anatani-wa Kaeru Ie-ga Aru (You Have a Place to Go Home to),” finally finished and I have been spending some time in Salzburg regaining my daily rhythm.
All the members of the staff were wonderful, including Masanao Takahashi of TBS, who has been offering me compelling proposals for the past two years, Mahoko Takanari, whom I met for the first time in many years, and Director Shunichi Hirano whose masterly direction gave the story its dramatic structure. There was also Hiroshi Tamaki, who gave an unrestrained and comical performance, with exquisitely executed timing, of my hopeless husband, who was a mixture of gentleness and weakness. Meanwhile, Yusuke Santamaria gave a rich and yet acutely sensitive performance of a pitiful, sad, cuckolding husband who was twisted in his domination of women, and Tae Kimura gave a superb and well-controlled performance in acting out the fragility, seductiveness and even the luridness of women. I was blessed with such a dependable cast. In acting the part of a working wife every day, I struggled with the realistic, down-to-earth and tumultuous script written by Satomi Oshima. I strived to cast aside my sense of shame and self-esteem, and free myself of all inhibitions in my effort to act out the capriciousness of my character, Mayumi.
Incidentally, I have been devoting myself to doing nothing all day but mowing the lawn, transplanting vegetation, and planting vegetables and herbs while in Salzburg. The days just speed by, and I am beginning to feel as though I am busier now than I was during filming. As I devote myself to the farm work, covering my head with the hood of a UNIQLO UV-cut parker, and further protecting myself with a wide-brimmed straw hat, I forget that I was playing someone else only the other day, and find myself returning to being just another human being.
While spending my days in such tranquility, I had an exciting experience today. I have been working with Ito En for many years, but they booked an entire Nanagatsu Okabuki show which is currently being performed at Kabukiza Theater, to which their valued fans and clients were invited, and I was assigned the vital role of serving them tea on this celebratory occasion.
I have been drinking Oi Ocha almost all my life, since my teenage years, to the point that I can almost say “I have Oi Ocha, not blood, flowing through my veins.” Ito En has been making sweet and pleasant-tasting matcha tea known as “Gunkaku-no Shiro,” and I served the tea in aka-raku tea bowl and other such bowls made by the 10th Kichizaemon Tan-nyu of the Raku family. This was all made possible thanks to the support of all the people of the Tea Ceremony Club at Ito En. The brief time I was able to spend with the 300 or so customers who came, had tea, and left, is an experience that I shall cherish and etch into my memory.
It may seem as though I am rushed off my feet, but I am once again off to Salzburg, as I pray that it has rained and my Japanese basil seedlings are doing well….07.09.2018