“Les Misérables”, which began its run in Tōkyō in June, made it to the last fall of the curtain on August 26, thanks to your kind patronage. I’m thankful for all of you who braved the extreme heat on the way to to the theater.
This year is a special one, as it marks 20 years since this musical’s first showing in Japan. It was a great privilege to stand on that stage as I again contemplated the joy of being able to take part in a musical with such history and loved by so many people in every part of the world for decades.
This year is my fifth to play the role of Éponine, but like always I was pressed to my limits every time. I had presumed that spending a long time in the the same role would lead to an accordingly deeper understanding, but in reality the hurdles have only become taller, and I don’t yet consider myself accustomed to it. I’m certain that every time of growth brings some pain. That’s why my stubborn desire to overcome those hurdles became the energy to sustain my run, and I was able to take on this challenge without ever losing my focus. I think every time came with some small thing I could learn and absorb.
And as for what I prize the most from my fifth year of acting in Tōkyō…
Just between you and me—actually, this year was the first for me to glimpse that kind of “enjoyable” moment that bubbles up from the bottom of your heart. This is what I treasure.
But if I write something like this, it may give a negative impression and make you think, “Wait, so you weren’t enjoying it?” That’s not what I mean.
Ever since I saw it as part of the audience, this musical has been energetic and captivating in my eyes, and it never failed to empower me. On the way home I would hum “Do You Hear the People Sing?”, engulfed in a resolve to live life to the fullest, like those students.
Since I switched to the performers’ side, it’s become a place of ordeals where I am constantly tested not only as an actress, but also as a human being. In short, although it’s very trying, it’s taken on a deeper, more priceless existence to me than ever before as a place that has disciplined me and taught me much.
As long as I keep myself in this place I won’t see the end of this series of trials, but I know for sure that a refreshing view awaits me at the end of this precarious road, so no matter how many walls I come up against I can’t back out. I ascend one hill and gain something, and then move on to the next hill…. Even I can’t deny that this smacks of a disposition to self-punishment.
So you see that I’m always at the edge of my abilities, and frankly I would be lying were I to say that I’m blithely skipping along. My attitude is like that of athlete who competes in a tournament over several months—a cycle of keeping my body and mind in top shape, practicing, mentally rehearsing, and studying. Of course since I’m juggling other jobs, from opening day to closing day I haven’t the slightest chance to rest.
Until now this overwhelming pressure has left me with practically no freedom for heartfelt “enjoyment”. What I have felt was a sort of glowing “happiness”.
“Enjoyment” and “happiness” differ slightly. Partaking of the happiness that comes from the warm applause I receive from the audience, the shining aura of my fellow castmembers, and the beautiful melodies is a joy that has no equal, and it’s the most exquisite reward one could receive from this work.
“Enjoyment” is a somewhat lighter emotion than this. At times it comes unannounced as a stirring instant. Yet its lightness makes it none the less spectacular. It sparkles, like a necklace or bracelet, or like a dessert, and fills your heart with gladness. This year, I felt this sensation on the stage for the first time. I can’t find the right words, but this is how it is. This is another example of the scenery that I reached at the end of a road fraught with danger—scenery that makes me glad I stuck with it and came across this emotion.
This may be similar to the mountain climbers who climb because the mountain is there. Like them, I want to ascend that hill because it’s there, scale that wall because it’s there, and as I follow my ambition’s lead, I hope to put everything I have into playing the part of Éponine and living my life to the fullest.
Coming up are the performances in Hakata-za in Fukuoka during September and October. Fukuoka is a city very dear to me, so I’m looking forward to going.
Ahh, it would seem my training has yet to end…but I rather like being pushed to the edge like this…
I guess I really do enjoy punishing myself.
(The photos are from this February, when I went to New York to take notes on “Les Misérables”.)