Woman of substance
From BEWITCHED to THE DA VINCI CODE, actress Ryoko Yonekura
leads a busy life
By Chris Betros and Chie Masuda
Ryoko Yonekura often gets fan letters from young
women who wish they could be strong like the characters she
is famous for playing in TV dramas. You have to be strong
to work in the entertainment industry, says the 29-year-old
actress, because there are always going to be paparazzi
and people talking behind your back. Besides her dramas
and variety shows, Yonekura makes TV commercials (currently
for Nissin Asian noodles) and numerous promotional appearances.
She also spent a year from July 2003 as goodwill ambassador
between Japan and South Korea.
Today, she is cheerful and confident for her first interview
with English media. Born in Kanagawa, Yonekura studied ballet
from the age of four and seemed destined for a dance career.
However, in 1992 she won membership in the Bishojo Club, a
troupe of starlets with celebrity potential. I had to
give up ballet because I had to go all over Japan for a campaign
for Kirin beer. In recent years, she has concentrated
on TV rather than movies. I have to be a little pickier
about taking roles in movies rather than soap operas because
movies are either hit or miss, she says. Last year,
she scored two successes with the Japanese version of the
popular 60s-70s US comedy series Bewitched and
Kurokawa no Tetcho (in which she played a Ginza hostess club
owner). For Bewitched, I watched the whole American
series. I tried not to imitate Elizabeth Montgomery because
we are different in race, culture and character, and there
is no way I can be like her.
One of Yonekuras latest interests is The Da Vinci Code,
which she hosted a special about for Fuji TV. She has a big
picture of the Last Supper hanging in her bedroom, and as
a true Da Vinci Code fan, she has been looking more closely
at it to see if there is a woman hidden in the scene. Although
she is not religious, Yonekura said: I recently went
to a church in New York, and was impressed that lots of people
were so devoted in their prayers. Christ is dead now, so how
do people know he is God?
Beyond showbiz, Yonekura has become interested in Japan-Korea
relations. When I was a goodwill ambassador, I met the
South Korean president. Although I cannot do anything about
politics, maybe I can do something to make the relationship
better at a grassroots level. When I talk to Korean people,
I feel we are communicating, so I wonder why we cant
do the same thing at the governmental level.
In the future, Yonekura hopes to do musicals and resume her
dancing. I feel alive when I dance, she says.
Typically, Yonekura begins her day quite early. If she is
shooting a drama, she has to be at the studio as early as
5am some mornings. When shes not filming, she goes to
the gym, enjoys the theater, and plays with her puppy. She
also likes cooking and loves sweets. I love anko. But
Ive been trying not to eat any chocolate, and its
been more than a month. If I get to heaven, the first thing
Im going to ask God is: Do you serve good food
Up from Down Under and Ready to Bite
Crocmasters Dingo and Taipan are in Japan hoping to break
into the pro wrestling circuit.
Where are you from?
Darwin, Australia, but weve spent a lot of time going
walkabout in the bush, wandering around and wrestling crocodiles.
So I think you could say we are from everywhere and nowhere.
When did you start wrestling?
Weve been fighting and wrestling all our lives. When
you grow up in the harsh Australian swamps you pretty much
have to fight just to get food, so its something that
is like second nature to us. A Japanese wrestler saw us in
Darwin and said we would be great in Japan as pro wrestlers.
We thought Hell, why not, mate? So here we are.
Have you been in Japan before?
This is our first time here, so we want to show that we can
wrestle with the best of them in Japan. We dont have
a set date for when were leaving; well be here
as long as it takes to be seen by a major wrestling company
or whoever wants to give us a chance.
Do you like it?
We love it, especially the raw fish. Thats what we live
on back home. We would catch a live barramundi with our bare
hands and just eat it. Yum, mate. Were big on spirituality
and aboriginal culture back home in Australia, and were
also part of the Zulu Nation. We know Japan has a lot of history,
so we would like to see the temples.
How do you prepare for a fight?
Just like when we wrestle crocs, we meditate before going
into battle to become one with our spirit animals and the
Tell us about your names.
Dingo and Taipan were given to us at birth. They represent
our spiritual animals. Everyone has a spiritual birth animal;
you just have to seek it out.
What philosophy do you live by?
We eat hard, we drink hard, we train hard and we wrestle hard.
Just try stopping us!
Tell us something surprising that people dont know
Dingos thighs are stronger than Bob Sapps. Hahaha,
its true. Hooowwwl, its Croc and Rock time, mateys!
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