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 PAST ISSUES
776: Streep talk
775: World of difference
774: Shocks and Bonds
773: Viva La Revolución
772: Jacqui Bayne
768: Beyond the universe
767: Yasuhito Endo
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765: Dr. Hidemi Akai
764: Badr Hari
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761: Patrick W. Galbraith
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658: Glitterball 2006
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655: Rob Hoey
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647: Top talent
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645: Joanna Roper
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602: Kicking Back
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598: Heart strings
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596: Subtitle subtleties
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594: Mother’s day
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592: A career kicks off
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584: Patrick’s day
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580: Gentle as a beast
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578: Devil of a time
577: In first Gere
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574: A star is reborn
573: In search of geisha
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571: In the Nic of time
570: Holding a grudge
569: Bourne again
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567: Alexander and friends
566: Oceans apart
565: A night at the opera
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547: Xterra Japan
546: Earth Celebration
545: Idée R-bar
544: Laforet Museum
543: Hara Museum
542: Fuji Rock Festival’04
541: Bunkamura Museum of Art

the scene

US EMBASSY
An annual reception to welcome new staff and their spouses

Clockwise 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 Yokota’s Final Approach jazz trio

 


star struck

Rising star
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 don’t think I’ve 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 Matthew’s 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, Ueto’s 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. “That’s something I have always been conscious of since I saw a horrific accident two years ago,” she said. Currently, Ueto’s 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, Azumi II.

Now that she has turned 19, Ueto said she can’t 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 I’ll still be the same me inside next year.”

Credit: Oscar Promotion

 

 


q&a

Nobara Hayakawa

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 master’s 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 Akasaka’s Gallery Saka.

How would you describe your art?
Not very serious, not quite finished, mmm... not art. It’s 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 it’d 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 an OL.

Why did you come to Japan?
I’d say I was curious about my roots. But the truth is I like seeing places. Any reason is good enough!

What’s it like being an office lady?
I was a housewife once and now I work in an office. I guess I’m fulfilling my childhood dream of being an actress by exploring many ways of life. Any unknown situation is a great source of inspiration and there’s 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.

What’s your dream show?
I’d have to sleep on this one.

Tell us about your upcoming show.
I’m having a little show with my mother, in a small gallery in Akasaka. We’ve called it “Continuity.” She paints about seeds and rebirth. I’m 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 I’m a pioneer. I might be the first OL in the family! TML

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