Falling in love

Longkong a fruit packed full of vitamin B and phosphorous

Longkong a fruit packed full of vitamin B and phosphorous

I found love while traveling. It was a fleeting summer’s love.
A relationship that I do not know how to end.

It only took me the briefest moment to fall head over heels in love, and I have since lusted after the love of my life every day. My love came to me in simple, beige attire, which when peeled away reveals glistening white skin; the sweet fragrance emanating from it sending me into a trance-like state.

It’s the first time I have experienced anything like this. I have felt tinges of infatuation in the past too, while traveling, but nothing like the sense of longing I felt this time. The love of my life is reserved, yet has strength of character combined with an inherent, inexhaustible gentleness, and a deep understanding of when it is time to leave. The sour-sweet memories of days spent with my love are tearing my heart in two.

There is not a single person in the world who is perfect. The object of my infatuation is no exception, whose body fluid is somewhat sticky, but the otherwise charming nature is more than enough to make up for this shortfall.

It was heartbreaking to have to part with the love of my life. Would we never be able to meet again after my return to Japan? Once again, I found myself wandering through town today, in search of signs of my love; sour-sweet, tender, yet with firm skin that I cannot forget.

The name of the object of my desire is, longkong. It is a tropical fruit with a taste that is like a cross between lychee and grapefruit. It is sometimes mistaken for longan, but they are not the same. It has an excellent taste and fragrance, and I developed an insatiable appetite for it, feasting on it three times a day. It is a wickedly addictive fruit. The fleeting moment we spent together was unforgettable, and a time of pure bliss.

TV Tokyo’s special drama, “Mohohan,” will be broadcast over two nights on Wednesday, September 21 and Thursday, September 22, starting at 9:00 P.M. I sincerely hope everyone is able to take time out of their busy schedule to watch it.

IQ246

Monkshood which contains a deadly poison in its root

Monkshood which contains a deadly poison in its root

The filming of “Mohohan,” which took place in Gunma, Ibaraki and Tochigi Prefectures in the intense heat, finally ended, and I am enjoying a brief moment of relaxation.

However, I will soon be starting the filming of yet another drama series; “IQ246,” a TBS Sunday Theater drama series starring Yuji Oda. Yuji Oda plays Sharaku Homonji, an arrogant and naïve man with a superhuman IQ of 246, who has more brainpower than he knows what to do with, and kills time solving one difficult crime after another despite being neither a law enforcement nor judicial officer. He becomes a constant source of bewilderment for Soko Wato, a bodyguard who is dispatched from the Metropolitan Police Department to keep an eye on him. In a rehearsal held the other day, Mr. Oda had already worked meticulously on building up his character for the phenomenal Homonji, and I too found myself being drawn into the story.

Soko is played by Tao Tsuchiya, and her sincere, charming character is reflected in her acting. She has incredible physical capabilities, which was unimaginable from her elegant facial features, and apparently, she is also studying anatomy, so I hope to talk with her about the mysteries of the fascinating human body.

Dean Fujioka, the heartthrob of ladies throughout Japan, plays Kensei, a butler who devotes himself to serving the Homonji family. They are descendants of a family of noble lineage, whose superior intellect has been passed down through the generations. Dean himself gives me the impression of being a very earnest and realistic person who never jumps to conclusions, but thinks carefully about everything before making decisions.

As for me, I play Tomomi Morimoto, a medical forensics specialist, who as a medical coroner investigates the truth behind incidents. People lie, but silent corpses are said to convey nothing but the truth. Tomomi is a medical examiner who loves dead bodies more than people, who are full of lies. Dead people never betray her. They quietly whisper the truth. She sympathizes with Homonji, who likewise is able to hear the words of dead bodies, so I hope to bring out an aura of perversion that is no less than that of Homonji in the character that I will play.

Cicadas continue to buzz relentlessly, but according to the calendar it is already autumn. I invite everyone to enjoy watching IQ246 for three months, starting October.

The End of Filming

A charming piece of everyday life

A charming piece of everyday life

The filming of the special drama, “Mohohan” ended yesterday. It was the first dramatization of the masterpiece by Miyuki Miyabe that has continued to fascinate readers since the first edition was published 15 years ago. We were blessed with favorable weather despite filming during the rainy season, and everything went smoothly with no injuries or accidents.

The heroine I play is Shigeko Maehata, a mediocre documentary writer, who is nowhere near being first class, but her ambition leads her to blindly stick her nose into an incident. She becomes caught up in a dilemma between her job as a journalist to expose the truth to readers, and the compassion she feels toward the family of the victim. She also becomes torn between her job and commitments at home. In the drama, her understanding husband is played by Tetta Sugimoto, and her pushy Chief Editor is played by Atsuko Takahata, while Isao Hashizume and Fumika Shimizu flawlessly act out the intense grief felt by family members of a murder victim. On numerous occasions during filming, I found myself unintentionally brought to tears by the performances of Mr. Hashizume and Ms. Shimizu. Ittoku Kishibe also gave a restrained performance of the detective following the series of atrocious kidnapping-murders that make you want to turn away in horror, while Shinnosuke Mitsushima and Yusuke Yamamoto play the parts of two young men who are involved deeply in the incidents.

The culprit who commits the series of grisly murders with a placid smile on his face is played by a certain actor, but after the final showdown with him yesterday, the phony, placid smile was wiped off his face, revealing his true nature as a tormented, warped person. Yes, his past had been dire, leading him to commit such murders in cold blood without a moment of hesitation. There can be no forgiveness for murdering someone, no matter what the circumstances, but I found myself more than capable of sympathizing with his past history, which had driven him to become desensitized to his own pain, let alone the pain of others.

As a drama that portrays the worst theatrical serial kidnapping-murders in the history of crime, from the perspectives of a variety of people, I am looking forward to seeing how the scenes in which I do not appear have been filmed.

I thoroughly recommend everyone to see “Mohohan,” which will offer viewers exhilaration and a heart-warming experience at the same time.

Grand Tea Ceremony at a World Heritage Site

Tea ceremony at Itsukushima-jinja Shrine

Tea ceremony at Itsukushima-jinja Shrine

The “Grand Tea Ceremony at a World Heritage Site,” sponsored by ITO EN, was held at Itsukushima-jinja Shrine of Miyajima, the pride of Japan.

Speaking of grand tea ceremonies, the Grand Kitano Tea Ceremony held by Toyotomi Hideyoshi at Kitano Tenman-gu Shrine is well-known, but in this event, the people who appear in “Oi Ocha” advertisements split up to hold tea ceremonies at Chuson-ji Temple, Nikko-Tosho-gu Shrine, Daigo-ji Temple, and Itsukushima-jinja Shrine, to where fans of the brand were invited and served tea.

It was my third visit to Itsukushima-jinja Shrine. I crossed the Seto Inland Sea to watch Tokasai (Peach-blossom Festival), the Noh performance held in spring, and Kangetsu Noh held every year on the night of the full moon in October. This time was slightly different though, because I was the host, and I was in the position of having to entertain the guests.

Recently, I had only been entertained as a guest at tea ceremonies, and I hadn’t served tea to others in a long time, which made me feel a little nervous. But I realized that the guests who had applied for participation in the event would probably be even more nervous in unfamiliar surroundings. I decided to forgo the rigid formalities, and put my heart into serving tea in a manner that would allow my guests to relax as much as possible, while also not worrying too much about making mistakes myself.

Since ancient times, tea has apparently been regarded as a medicine for preserving health, a stimulant and a sedative. Tea also brings people together, or when enjoying it alone it is like a warm companion that offers a moment of tranquility to sink deep into your thoughts, and this will no doubt remain unchanged forever.

First, the guests enjoyed the slight bitterness of powdered green tea, after which I served them tea made with iced water, and I cannot forget the smiles this brought to their faces.

I would like to thank all those who traveled so far in the heat to attend this ceremony.

In practice simplicity has never been a problem

Ryan Gander exhibition at Taro Nasu in Kanda

Ryan Gander exhibition at Taro Nasu in Kanda

The weather has been unbearably hot lately, but I hope everyone has been keeping well.

I found a brief moment of freedom the other day to go and see an exhibition by Ryan Gander, a contemporary artists from the U.K. The exhibition consists of nothing more than 500 PLAYMOBIL® figures lined up in a pure white space, looking as though it could just as easily have been created by a child at kindergarten. But closer examination reveals that the parts of the figures of all different skin colors and occupations have been swapped, so that a man with a beard has a goldfish tail, a woman has been given the body of a male soldier, or a businessman in a suit is wearing a helmet, etc. The combination of different parts of figures, including the head, torso, arms and lower body, leave the observer feeling uncomfortable or puzzled. I felt disquieted, as if I had been reminded of the narrow-mindedness of looking at people with preconceptions, upon being made to realize that everything we like to categorize as we please may actually be completely meaningless.

Ryan, who has been bound to the wheelchair since early childhood, apparently injured himself when he fell off his wheelchair at a private exhibition in London, and he was unfortunately unable to come to Japan. Because of this, I will never know his true intentions, but I feel as though his plastic figures have taught me that I have no choice but to accept the diversity of humanity, while all people are equal at the same time.

I still cannot understand all the subtleties of art. There are times when I have difficulty keeping pace with the diversity of contemporary art, and there are also artists whom I cannot bring myself to like, no matter how much international acclaim they have won.

A milk fountain I once saw at Centre Pompidou in Paris was, as the name suggests, nothing more than milk spurting out of a white marble fountain. However, as this milk was recycled for the duration of the exhibition it turned browner by the day and began giving off a fermented smell. This fermentation had progressed considerably by the time I visited, and the room, with the exhibits of other young artists, was filled with a foul odor that was enough to make me want to cover my face. On other occasions, I have heard of a person in a town somewhere in Italy, who threw cheese and uncured ham into a room through a window, and claimed it was art, or a person who claimed that the dissection of the human body was a form of art, and put on a public performance. However, these are no doubt forms of art for as long as the artists claim that they are, regardless of what anyone else says.

I am not particularly interested in artists who try to gain attention through sensational works, but I feel strongly attracted to creations that quietly make their presence felt.

Ryan Gander’s exhibition runs through to July 30.

Ordinary People on the Street

Yamaajisai arranged by Taizando exhibited at Junrian in Ginza

Yamaajisai arranged by Taizando exhibited at Junrian in Ginza

I have been striving daily with the filming of the special TV drama, “Puppet Master (original title: Mohohan),” to be broadcast by TV Tokyo.

Miyuki Miyabe, author of the original novel, writes ruthlessly of the psychological torment of the serial kidnapping-murderer and the victims he ends up embroiling. It offers the reader the exhilaration of solving the crime, while simultaneously making one painfully aware of the vulgarity, ugliness and vanity of life. Atrocious murders that make one want to turn away in horror are committed one after another, but on the other hand, the reader is moved by the desperate efforts made by the families of victims, who struggle to piece their lives back together.

In this drama, I play Shigeko Maehata, the heroine who is a documentary writer. She lives at a small factory with her in-laws, and although she is far from being a first-class writer, she has managed to make a living out of writing. She resolves to get to the bottom of the crime when the body of a missing woman, whom she had reported on previously, is found. However, coming into contact with the families of victims, while pursuing the cunning murderer, who seems to take delight in people’s reactions to his crimes, she finds herself in a dilemma and begins to question whether she ought to continue covering the story, or if she might be able to shed some new light on the incident from a perspective unique to her.

The set, made under the supervision of Director Hidetomo Matsuda, was designed in a way that it accurately portrayed the character in the original story. In the past, the heroine had reported on traditional craftsmen, which was one of the reasons she became attracted to and married the second son of the factory owner, who had devoted his life to manufacturing, although this is not explained in detail in the drama. The TV in the living room is set on a Sendai chest of drawers, there is a low, circular dining table, and in the study are an old Japanese-style writing desk, a terakoya-style table and a glass fishbowl, indicating a family that is by no means well-off, but is filled with a warm ambience. I too, actually have a Japanese-style writing desk at home, which I bought at Antique Yamamoto Showten when I was 19. I still use it as a low table in front of the sofa, and I also treasure the wheeled chest of drawers I bought at the age of 20.

In the drama, a certain actor plays the part of Shigeko’s husband. He devotes himself to the family business, while also showing understanding for his wife’s job, and he makes breakfast for his wife, whose days and nights are on the verge of becoming reversed. He plays an ideal husband, who even folds the laundry when the heroine’s reporting reaches a climax. The reality is that there are still not many husbands in Japan, who are so understanding. I too, actually found myself feeling a little sad watching the back of the actor as he quietly folded the laundry, while I continued writing. It made me realize that I too, must have fixed ideas about “what a man’s job is,” or “what a woman’s job is.”

Although we supposedly live in an age of “promoting dynamic engagement of all citizens,” I feel as though it is all at the expense of women. Things may change a little if a system were to be established allowing easier outsourcing of housework, and there was no shortage of places where children could safely be taken care of, but in reality, we still have a long way to go. I have the deepest respect for Miyuki Miyabe for her foresight in portraying not an exceptional career woman, but an ordinary woman on the street, more than ten years ago, who worries about and struggles to juggle work and her private life.

The long rainy season will end soon, and summer will finally arrive. Please look forward to this drama in which the story is portrayed accurately, yet on a grand scale, with the help of talented co-stars.

Izu Kogen Highlands

Visiting the atelier of Taizo Kuroda

Visiting Taizo Kuroda’s studio

The drama series, “Watashi Kekkon Dekinain-janakute, Shinain-desu (It’s Not that I Can’t Marry, but I Don’t Want to),” ended last Friday. I cannot thank people enough for their kindness in watching the drama series until the very end, and I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to them.

Yesterday, I visited the studio and house of Taizo Kuroda, who has continued making pure white porcelain ware in Izu Kogen Highlands overlooking the ocean. I passed through the stone gate built by Mr. Kuroda himself, using a power shovel to stack foundation stones of an unknown period from an old Japanese house that he had acquired from a dismantling operator. Then you enter the garden, which has a lush green lawn, trees left to grow naturally, an old stone water vase used to hold water lilies, and Indian cooking pots scattered here and there. And at the far end of this delicate, placid and nostalgic, yet modern garden is the navy blue ocean stretching out to infinity.

The new, white drawing room he had built close to his house, where he has lived for a long time, has been decorated with old wooden furnishings and furniture from Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, etc., giving the room a warm atmosphere, and I was greeted gently by evergreen magnolia flowers arranged casually in a vase made by Mr. Kuroda himself. As a person who has dedicated himself to being creative, his house and garden too, are part of his creations. It seems that spatial design is something else that is important to him in ensuring a balance between the displayed porcelain ware and its surroundings, and it is another form of enjoyment that he can engross himself in.

Laid out on the dinner table were white dishes made by Mr. Kuroda himself. The meal began with the serving of white asparagus salad, followed by lightly grilled Izu Beef, and freshly fried slender sprat fritters with blue cheese, the deliciousness of which was enough to melt away the tension of meeting for the first time an artist who has attracted the attention of people all over the world, including Sylvie Guillem and Eric Clapton

Perhaps it was because he had lived in Paris and Montreal of Canada in the 60s to engage in pottery, which was unusual at the time, but he took the initiative to serve the food and wine himself to his wife, daughter and my friends, who had gathered around the dinner table, for which I felt a tinge of manliness in Mr. Kuroda. Moreover, his pastry chef daughter had made special chai pudding knowing that I was holding back on sugar consumption, and it was delectable. Its spiciness combined with the sweetness of luo han guo offered me a moment of pure bliss.

Today, there are many industrial products available that perhaps attempt to imitate the creations of Mr. Kuroda, and he has undoubtedly become the object of admiration among not only collectors, but also potters. But until the age of 45, when he began specializing in white porcelain, he says he experimented with all kinds of techniques through trial and error.

After all, he had apparently been warned so many times by Shoji Hamada and Tatsuzo Shimaoka, folk craftsmen who had initially inspired Mr. Kuroda, that white porcelain would never be popular, and that trying to make a living from it would be difficult, leading to great hardship. But in spite of this, there had always been a nagging desire at the back of his mind to create things he really enjoyed making, and he apparently made a momentous decision in his 40s. When he arrived at his “pure white” concept, Tatsuzo Shimaoka, who had been fiercely opposed to the idea, told him, “You’ll no doubt work with nothing other than white from now on.”

People who work for companies normally tend to become conservative, longing for stability by the time they reach the age of 45, but instead, Mr. Kuroda decided to take on the challenge of pursuing “pure white.” And his challenge continues unchanged to this day, even after suffering a serious illness.

I have five years left until I reach 45. I too, want to continue being a person who is unafraid of taking on challenges.

The Final Episode

Boat cruise in Ayutthaya, Thailand

Boat cruise in Ayutthaya, Thailand

I have actually been in Thailand these past two weeks. I had been rushed off my feet, filming a drama series and performing on stage, so I treated myself to some rest and recreation, enjoying the freedom of being by myself and not having to speak up to anyone.

It was only in my younger days that I could afford to overwork without straining myself, filming deep into the night, or simultaneously working on different projects. I have reached the age now when I can no longer handle strenuous work unless I watch what I eat every day, take nutritional supplements, take naps whenever I have the chance, and rest my body even if it means borrowing someone else’s hand. I would love to pretend that I am a brainworker, an artist, if not much of one. And indeed the job of an actress may appear to be all moonlight and roses from the sidelines, but it is actually a grind; it’s more like rigorous manual labor.

I fasted lightly over two days while in Thailand, consuming nothing but juice made from fresh fruit and vegetables, finally giving my worn-out body a well-earned rest. For a long time, I have been refraining from consuming too much sugar or carbohydrates, eating unpolished rice instead of white rice, and cutting back on “udon” and “somen” noodles to eat “soba” noodles instead. But lately, I have been finding that even unpolished rice is too heavy, and I have switched to quinoa, the superfood from South America. Even while traveling, if I developed an appetite for green curry or gapao rice, I would be somewhat finicky and ask the hotel to cook up some quinoa for me. However, they obliged without hesitation much to my gratitude, perhaps because many overseas visitors in Thailand require a gluten-free diet or have to restrict their sugar intake.

Incidentally, many restaurants in Thailand do not use white sugar, but use palm sugar with a low glycemic index. I found this gentle on the body, because it limits drastic fluctuations in blood sugar levels. In fact, I even had some ice cream, which I hadn’t eaten in several years. It was a simple, yet rich ice cream made of nothing but coconut milk and palm sugar, and it melted gently inside my mouth.

In Thailand, there is a person called Nong, whom I trust highly. She is a physiotherapist, and I entrust my weary body to her every time I visit so that she can give me a stomach massage, known as Chi Nei Tsang. Her husband, Surachai, is also an outstanding Pilates instructor, and he supports me in my effort to make my body move the way I want it to move, despite it being difficult to straighten it for certain reasons.

These last few years, I have focused on loosening my fasciae. The fibers of the fasciae are said to become stuck together as they accumulate damage from past accidents and psychological trauma, and I feel so much better when they are loosened. This has led me to try Rolfing, treatment by physiotherapists, self-massages using balls and rollers, and a variety of other methods, but this time, Surachai introduced me to some new tools known as a Trigger Point QuadBaller and Massage Ball. They felt so good I bought them immediately. Both can be replaced with a tennis ball or a golf ball, but how can you resist when you’re told that you need these tools for optimal effects…. Actually using them every day, I have found that I feel pain in unexpected places, making me realize that all parts of the human body are interconnected. The greatest blissful moment in life is when my body feels completely relaxed, and I sink into bed, as if my horizontal body were being sucked into the earth. Add to that a nice meal and ample sleep, and immerse me in the beauty of nature and I cannot ask for anything more. But can it be that people cannot find true happiness unless they marry?

The drama series, “Watashi Kekkon Dekinain-janakute, Shinain-desu (It’s Not that I Can’t Marry, but I Don’t Want to),” will end with the airing of the 10th episode at 10:00 P.M. tonight.

Please watch it until the very end to find out where the heroine, Miyabi’s heart leads her as she meanders her way through life.

There Is No Way of Knowing Where My Heart Will Lead Me

Borobudur Temple Compounds in Indonesia

Borobudur Temple Compounds in Indonesia

How has everyone been spending their time?

I have been enjoying myself relaxing, which I hadn’t had the chance to do much of lately. I was hoping to devote myself to reading or watching movies; something I hadn’t done in a long time. However, as I took my time to do stretching and Pilates exercises every morning, I found myself growing drowsy by the time I finished eating lunch, and all I could do was take naps, making no progress in reading my book. It was the same with watching movies. I have vague memories of watching opening scenes, but I found myself inadvertently nodding off, only to wake up during the credit rolls. I have been relieved of my duties filming dramas and performing plays, so you will have to excuse me if I am living an extremely lethargic lifestyle at the moment.

Speaking of dramas, the 9th episode of “Watashi Kekkon Dekinain-janakute, Shinain-desu (It’s Not that I Can’t Marry, but I Don’t Want to)” will air at 10:00 P.M. tonight.

In the 8th episode, Miyabi found herself faced with the harsh reality of being on the verge of turning 40, but not having a steady boyfriend, when the effeminate Ryotaro suddenly expresses his desire to split up, just at a time when she was starting to fall for him in spite of the age difference. Being completely helpless, it seems that all she can do is devote herself to work, when out of the blue, and in between dates with Ryotaro, her true love and high school heartthrob, whom she had neglected for a while suddenly confesses, telling her, “I’m not interested in marriage, but I want to go out with you.”

Just a few days prior to this complicated situation that Miyabi has difficulty rejoicing from the bottom of her heart, she had received an unexpected kiss from Sakurai. But at the time, she had been engrossed in trying to restore her unstable relationship with the effeminate Ryotaro, and she had forgotten to reply to a text message she had received from her true love, Sakurai. As a result, she ended up accidentally deploying a technique put forth by Tokura according to his “AKKKNM theory.” This “AKKKNM” stands for “Are? Kore moshikashite kekkateki-ni kakehiki-ni nacchatte-masu? (What? Has this turned out to be an effective strategy?)” According to this theory, you gain the upper hand in the tug-of-war of love with the person you want to attract the attention of by ignoring his or her phone calls and messages on purpose. Miyabi had deployed this tactic unintentionally, but it led to Sakurai taking the initiative in approaching her himself. But even so, his deal is that he has no intention of marrying.

Meanwhile, Miyabi’s mother, played by Mari Natsuki, does her utmost to try and marry her off. She behaves in front of Sakurai, as advised by Tokura, and they are also joined by Sakurai’s forceful older sister, played by Misako Tanaka, leading to complete chaos.

There are only two more episodes left. What will happen to the relationship between Miyabi and her true love? Perhaps you can look back on your own love life and see how it compares to Miyabi’s, and in doing so, I hope you enjoy a good laugh.

To Set Out on a Journey across Uncharted Waters, or Conquer Mt. Everest

A beach at low tide in Goa of India

A beach at low tide in Goa of India

The 8th episode of “Watashi Kekkon Dekinain-janakute, Shinain-desu (It’s Not that I Can’t Marry, but I Don’t Want to)” will air at 10:00 P.M. tonight.

In the previous episode, the heroine gets a new temporary boyfriend, played by Koji Seto, who is more than a dozen years younger than her, following the advice given by her love counselor, played by Naohito Fujiki, in an effort to attract the amorous attention of her old high school heartthrob.

However, she discovers that she feels more comfortable in the relationship than she ever imagined, and warms up to the idea of deepening the sweet and uncomplicated relationship with her effeminate boyfriend, rather than go out of her way to try and win the heart of her true target of desire. On the other hand, she cannot help but feel the age barrier, which she cannot seem to overcome. She struggles in her effort to adapt to the ways of the younger generation by mingling with them and striving to have fun, but has difficulty bridging the generation gap. Just as she begins to lose hope with her effeminate boyfriend’s irresponsible attitude of confessing his desire to marry, despite having no concrete plans for the future, and giving no consideration to Miyabi’s standing, she receives a surprise kiss from her old heartthrob, played by Yoshimi Tokui.

Miyabi is on the verge of turning 40. Is she going to wait for her true love, who appears to be beyond her reach? Or will she choose the person, whom she could easily marry? Is she going to set off on a journey across uncharted waters with her effeminate boyfriend, or is she going to aim for the Mt. Everest of men, whom she could be close to conquering? That’s the great dilemma faced by Miyabi’s heart. Find out what happens in tonight’s 8th episode.

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