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star struck

Prime time
Newscaster Yuko Ando brings 25 years of experience to the job
By Chris Betros

A&A Associates

For many TV viewers, Yuko Ando is almost like one of the family. From 5-7pm each weeknight she presents Fuji TV’s Super News, which she has been doing since 2000. An accomplished author and essayist, Ando is very different from most Japanese news presenters. For a start, she rose from the ranks of reporter and has been in the business for 25 years. Fluent in English, Ando also moved around from TV Asahi to TBS to Fuji TV.

Born in Chiba, Ando spent a year as a high school exchange student in Michigan. Her break into TV news came while she was still a student at Sophia University. “I was working part-time as an elevator girl in a department store. One day, a TV Asahi producer stepped in and asked me if I would like to audition for a job. I said no, but he kept coming in every day, so I finally said yes. My first assignment was to go on a 28-day Greyhound journey across North America.”

Ando has covered some dramatic stories in her career, among then the birth of solidarity in Poland, the coup d’etat in Russia, US presidential elections, 9-11, the war in Iraq, Japan-North Korea summits and many more. Among the numerous high-profile interviews with politicians and celebrities, she says Bill Clinton was one of the best because “he was a great listener.” She finds it easier interviewing in English. “It is much more direct and expressive,” she explains. “In Japanese, I can’t go straight to the core of the question.” The person Ando would most like to interview is North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. “I have one simple question for him: ‘What are you going to do with your country?’ ”

Ando’s day usually starts around 6am. The first editorial meeting at the station is at 1pm. Ando has a lot of input on the show’s content. When she is not working, she works out at the gym or cooks. Even on weekends or during holidays abroad, she is constantly on alert for news. “I have to be ready 24 hours a day, so it is hard to switch off. For example, I was abroad on vacation when Princess Diana died and had to come back.”

Ando has built up a loyal following among viewers over the years. She gets lots of e-mails, letters and phone calls. “Some write to me about their personal problems. Others want to know about my suits or lipstick brand and things like that. People stare at me in the supermarket. They look in my shopping basket to see what I am buying. As long as they are not rude, I don’t mind. Sometimes I think I am a panda.”




the scene

Womb Anniversary
Shibuya nightclub celebrates five years of partying


Clockwise from top left: Womb Executive Director Sabi Takahashi; DJ Aki; Promoter Shinichiro Iwanami and DJ Torsten Feld; DJ Takkyu Ishino; the cavernous dancehall was full to capacity
Photos by Mark Oxley www.higher-frequency.com

 

 

Q&A

Hüleya
Shaking it up Middle Eastern style

Hiromi Kuroyama got her first glance at a belly dancer in Brazil when she was 16. Now she dances under the name Hüleya with the Samanyolu (www.samanyolu.jp) ensemble that performs at Tokyo Salon usually on the first Sunday of every month, and at Turkish restaurant Marmara on Tuesdays, Thursdays and some Sundays.

How did you get interested in belly dancing?
I grew up in São Paulo. There was a famous belly dance tea house near my home. My first impression was “wow!” It was sexy and beautiful.

Is that when you decided to become one?
No, I wanted to be an action movie star. I was a big fan of Jackie Chan. I started learning belly dancing in Tokyo after I met this beautiful exotic dancer named Mishaal. She is my master. I also went to the US, Cairo and São Paulo to learn dancing.

How are you different from Middle Eastern dancers?
Japanese dancers are thinner and smaller. We also create our own style, for instance, dancing to electronic music. Belly dancing for Middle Eastern people is not mysterious. It exists in their daily life, more like a Bon dance for the Japanese.

Are you full-time?
Yes, I dance with the Samanyolu ensemble under the direction of Mishaal. There are 10 dancers in the group, all Japanese except for Mishaal. Our first DVD is coming out soon.

Do you get some weird looks when you dance?
Sometimes, especially when women are around. They try not to look so interested. But belly dancing is a woman’s art of expressing femininity and not about being too sexy, so please relax and enjoy our show. CB

Would you like to comment on this article? Send a letter to the editor at letters@metropolis.co.jp.

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