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 PAST ISSUES
776: Streep talk
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the scene

DIMENSION K

DJs, dancers, aerial performers and more let it for fly "Zoom" at Ageha@Studio Coast

Clockwise from top left: DJ Danny Rampling, an aerial performer, Reiko Yuyama and Minet Kitagawa with party organizer Monty, DIMENSION K director Daisuke Kawase and actress Mayumi Tomiyama, Giles Walker of Mutoid Waste Company
Photos by Juan Barrio

 

 

 

 


star struck

Live and learn
A little English goes a long way with actress Yumiko Shaku
By Chris Betros

Like most Japanese, Yumiko Shaku had an aversion to learning English when she was in high school. Her classes were boring and she was afraid to speak out loud. But now the 26-year-old actress has put her fears behind her as she co-hosts NHK's popular Monday night program Eigo Shabera Naito (You Should Speak English) along with Patrick Harlan, Kazuya Matsumoto and navigator Jon Kabira.

The 30-minute program features the happy-go-lucky group chatting with Japanese celebrities who can speak English about their experiences overseas. Foreign movie stars and singers visiting Japan often make guest appearances. Shaku's first test came last year shortly after the show debuted when producers asked her to interview Cameron Diaz in English about Charlie's Angels. "I was so nervous, but we managed. Diaz came back this year for Shrek 2 and was amazed at how much my English had improved. At least I don't have a complex about it anymore," said Shaku, who most recently enjoyed hamming it up with Will Smith when the actor planted ten kisses on her at the premiere of I, Robot.

Shaku is constantly cheerful during this, her first interview with English media. Born in Tokyo, she got a taste of English when she had a one-month homestay in Oregon at 14. Her desire to get better at English piqued when she starred in the 2001 Hong Kong movie Princess Blade. "I could understand what the director was saying to me, but I couldn't really express myself," she said. After starring in Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla and the fantasy TV series Sky High, Shaku was approached to be on Eigo Shabera Naito, now in its second year.

"I was concerned at first, but knew I would have no better opportunity to learn English, and it's such a fun team," she says of Harlan and Matsumoto. "We get a lot of feedback from viewers of all ages. At first, many said their English was the same level as me and they were really enjoying the chance to improve by watching the program. It's like they were studying together with me. A lot of viewers commented on the program we did on location in South Korea."

Shaku says she like alternating between movies and Eigo Shabera Naito. "Movies are make-believe; this program is more natural, I can be myself," she explains. When she's not working, Shaku likes to pursue her hobby of jazz dancing. One growing area of interest for her concerns children's issues, which stems from Sky High. "I played the gatekeeper at a celestial world where the souls of those who were killed by another or committed suicide were sent. I had to decide whether they go to heaven or hell. The series made me think more about life and death, especially the appalling increase in violence toward children in Japanese society."

Photo credit: Chris Betros

 

 


q&a

Owen Jones

A technology specialist based in Tokyo since 2001, Owen Jones has long dreamed of trekking to the South Pole. On October 26, the 44-year-old Englishman will make that dream a reality as he leaves Japan for Punta Arenas, Chile. From there, Jones and his four teammates will fly to Patriot Hills, an icy airstrip near the edge of Antarctica, before commencing their 1,170km journey across the frozen continent. Once the trip is under way, Jones' progress can be monitored at www.duesouth.jp.

How long, and how, have you trained?
I've been training since November last year, back-country skiing in Hakuba, and doing general fitness training on the Nordic Track ski machine, working out in the gym, and hiking Mount Fuji and the Tanzawa trail numerous times. For the last three weeks I've been pulling car tires every morning around my local neighborhood in Nishi-Azabu.

What is the attraction with Antarctica?
I first remember being interested in Antarctica about 20 years ago-I recall being very envious of a friend who managed to over-winter at one of the British bases there. In 1997, commercial tours to Antarctica became available, and I went to the Antarctic peninsula on my honeymoon. I determined that I would return at some point, although I certainly didn't imagine then that I would undertake a walk of the magnitude I am now preparing for.

How will you celebrate upon reaching the South Pole?
By planting some flags made by my children. I also hope to have a shower at the American base there. After 60-70 days working hard on the ice in the same clothes without any way of cleaning ourselves, we will probably be rather smelly.

What's your favorite Antarctic creature?
It has to be the Emperor Penguin. The males incubate the eggs while standing huddled together in the bitter cold of the Antarctic winter-they don't eat and lose half their body weight. They only get relieved when the female returns to feed and raise the newly hatched chick three months later.

You are also doing this to raise money for charity. What organizations will benefit?
I'm raising money for Save the Children, ActionAid and Friends of the Earth.

What will you miss most about Tokyo while you're gone?
Sleeping on a comfortable futon and not having to pull a 70kg sled every day! CN

Photo credit: Ruth Davis

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