An annual reception to welcome new
staff and their spouses
from top left: Lt. Col. Marc Smith, Capt. Mark Welch and
Cmdr. Rob Dahlin; FBI Bureau Chief Larry Futa, Aletha
Gomez and Special Asst. to the Ambassador Janet Vulevich;
Suzanne & Mark Davenport and Chad & Nicole Richman;
Staff Sgt. Terry Grace and Sgt. Marshall Gentry of Yokotas
Final Approach jazz trio
Only 19, Aya Ueto is in hot demand
as an actress and celebrity spokeswoman
By Chris Betros
Every year, a new starlet emerges to be proclaimed by Japanese
magazines and TV wide shows as the new commercial
queen. At the moment, that title firmly belongs to Aya
Ueto, who turned 19 on September 14. That was a big week for
the squeaky-clean star, who not only was feted at a media
bash attended by nearly a thousand adoring fans, but launched
a photo book titled natural, and attended promotional events
from Shinjuku to Saitama.
Ueto, however, is nonchalant about her fame. I dont
think Ive changed much, she said at her party.
Born in Tokyo, Ueto sgot her start in 1997, when she won the
judges special award in the All-Japan National Beauty
contest for girls. In Japan, such an award guarantees the
winner countless product endorsements and guest appearances
on TV variety shows such as Matthews Best Hit TV (the
guy who was in Lost in Translation).
In 1999, she and some friends formed a pop band called
Z-1. She continued with her music career until 2001, when
TV and advertising work started to prove more lucrative. This
year, Ueto is advertising products for ten companies, including
a vitamin drink alongside Yong Joon Bae, star of the hit Korean
drama Winter Sonata. According to advertising agencies, Uetos
contract price is ¥45 million this year, with the biggest
deals coming from Otsuka, Kao, Nisshin and Fuji Photo Film.
In July, Ueto was also given the dubious title of Natto
Queen, and most recently fronted a campaign for National
Road Safety Week. Thats something I have always
been conscious of since I saw a horrific accident two years
ago, she said. Currently, Uetos beaming face can
be seen hawking Lotte chocolates on a 7-meter x 2-meter screen
near Shinjuku Station and promoting the Cocoon shopping mall
in Saitama. I used to go there often when I was little,
and now to see my face on those big billboards is really something,
gushed the 162cm-tall star.
While ads keep her busy, Ueto is concentrating her efforts
on her acting. Last year, she took on the difficult role of
a high school student struggling with a sexual identity disorder
in the TV drama Kinpachi Sensei. She followed that up with
her big-screen debut as the title character in Azumi, a violent
feudal-era drama that screened at the Sundance Film Festival.
Ueto played a woman raised from birth with nine other orphans
to become assassins, and has already completed the sequel,
Now that she has turned 19, Ueto said she cant wait
to become an adult (20 in Japan). I kind of look at
this year as the last year of my teens, she said at
her birthday party. Of course, I think Ill still
be the same me inside next year.
Credit: Oscar Promotion
|From the OL-Diary Project
series, by Nobara Hayakawa
A self-described student of The Royal Institute of Friendships
and permanent lecturer at The Institute of Mistakes and Indecision,
Colombian-born Nobara Hayakawa has a flair for inventiveness.
The 31-year-old artist (http://nobara-net.com)
first came to Tokyo in 2000 as a Monbusho scholar and has
since earned her masters in visual communication from
Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. Besides
her day job as an office lady, Hayakawa is busy preparing
for a joint show with her mother from October 10-16 at Akasakas
How would you describe your art?
Not very serious, not quite finished, mmm... not art. Its
more like a struggle between my desire to do things and the
awareness of the futility of what I do.
How did you end up as an artist?
I studied graphic design, thinking itd be an ideal way
to balance creation and survival. But somehow it seems easier
to me, both mentally and emotionally, to separate completely
those two aspects. So I work on my projects, and survive as
Why did you come to Japan?
Id say I was curious about my roots. But the truth is
I like seeing places. Any reason is good enough!
Whats it like being an office lady?
I was a housewife once and now I work in an office. I guess
Im fulfilling my childhood dream of being an actress
by exploring many ways of life. Any unknown situation is a
great source of inspiration and theres always something
to learn from it.
How does Tokyo compare to Bogota?
In Bogota I always know where the north is. And the bread
is always crusty.
Whats your dream show?
Id have to sleep on this one.
Tell us about your upcoming show.
Im having a little show with my mother, in a small gallery
in Akasaka. Weve called it Continuity. She
paints about seeds and rebirth. Im working on my roots.
Tell us about your mother.
Her name is Nobu Takehisa. She is Japanese but a long time
ago fell in love with Colombia, where she still works and
lives. Hers is an entire family of artists (her grandfather
was Takehisa Yumeji, who was a popular painter during the
Taisho period). In that sense I think Im a pioneer.
I might be the first OL in the family! TML