Thursday, September 10, 2015

Red Brick - 赤レンガ + Thoughts in Hiroshima

I just logged on here and realized it's been months since my last post!  A lot has been happening this Summer.  Big surprises to reveal, the completion of a new album -- but more on these later -- I promise!

I've just read through all of your beautiful comments on my After The Rain post about the smells that remind you of home, or memories.  They were all so touching.  Reading each one brought me peace and calm.  If you missed the post, or would like to read the other comments, you can find them here:  After The Rain.

The NHK movie "Red Brick" is premiering in the Chugoku region of Japan today, September 11th!
Watch the Trailer

I spent most of June in Hiroshima shooting a made-for-TV movie for NHK, entitled "赤レンガ" [Red Brick].  I played the role of a Japanese-American singer-songwriter who travels to Japan for the first time to search for her Grandfather's 1st true love, only to learn the truth about their complicated love and the devastation caused by the atomic bomb in Hiroshima.  Being an actress was really never something I ever considered seriously pursuing.  But the Director and Writer, Mamoru Ohashi, has been a friend and supporter of mine for the past few years, and after hearing the message of the story, it was hard for me to say "no", despite all of my anxieties of being an actress!

Besides my fear of acting, as a Korean-American, who's Grandparents were actually affected by WWII in a nation that was once colonized by Japan, I did have some other real reservations in playing this part.  After explaining the story to my Mother (who is Korean), she gave me her blessing by assuring me this film had a good message in the end.  And she is right.  No matter what the complicated history is, the most important thing is how we can spread peace and shed positive light on today, for a better tomorrow.

I will be honest... it wasn't easy in the beginning.  Every morning I would get a Japanese newspaper in English delivered to my hotel room.  I mostly carried the paper around with me to work on the crossword puzzles in my downtime, but it was hard to ignore some of the front page articles dealing with the ongoing ill feelings between Japan and South Korea.  It actually hurt my heart to read about the endless back and forth between the two countries... which really, for all their differences, have just as many similarities.  I know this to be true, because I have friends in both countries who are open minded, kind, and compassionate people, and don't think in terms of black and white, as these newspapers were sometimes conveying.  (I also know that the Korean newspapers publish very similar feelings and points of view, similar to the Japanese papers)

I was having a hard time digesting all these feelings as I walked around the city.  I'm used to staying in bigger cities, like Tokyo and Osaka, where a tourist on the street is no big deal.  But Hiroshima is a bit different.  Most of the tourists who are there, are there to visit historical sites that have been left standing as a reminder of the atomic bomb.  People are there to pay their respects, or to learn more about a dark part of our history as mankind, or just out of curiosity... but it all revolves around one thing pretty much.  So as a Korean and an American... it was a strange feeling for me.

Hiroshima Castle

One night, the Director took some of us to his favorite okonomiyaki restaurant.  Okonomiyaki is a specialty in Hiroshima.  Usually it's made with meat or seafood.  The chef at this place knew I was vegetarian, so he generously prepared a very special meal just for us.  The first thing I saw when we entered the restaurant was that all the seats were ready for us around the teppan, and at each seat, there were little dishes of Korean kimchee!  I was so moved by this gesture.  This chef had just bridged a painful gap in my heart, simply by setting out kimchee for us.  And this wasn't any ol' kimchee.  This tasted like real, authentic kimchee!  At the end of the meal, he made us rice porridge (something my Mom always made for me when my tummy wasn't feeling well), with radish kimchee and umeboshi (pickled plum - another Japanese food favorite of mine).  After the first bite, I actually almost cried.  I had to fight to keep the tears and overwhelming emotion in.  It was the ultimate comfort food to heal my heart and settle the complicated feelings I'd been working out in my stomach.  I will never forget this meal, or this Japanese man's kindness on this night.  From that meal on, I was able to feel more at ease at just being myself, knowing that whatever the history has been between South Korea and Japan, or Japan and the U.S., when we get down to it...we're not a world made up of countries.  We're a world made up of people.  Human beings with hearts and individual stories.

Goichi-san ~ the Chef, and I, after my life-changing meal!

But making this film wasn't all complicated feelings!  It was a great experience in which I made a lot of new friends and worked with amazing people, and actually had fun acting!  I was surprised at this last part.  Even though I was nervous every day, I actually enjoyed playing a "character".  I can't say if I was any good at it, but I had fun doing it!

Akira Takarada plays my Grandfather.
He starred in the original "Godzilla"! 

Shinobu-san is always making sure I stay out of the sun and stay hydrated. :)

My adorable translator, Mirei Yamagata, enjoying soondooboo jigae with me.

Inside the Red Brick building.

Tomoko Naraoka plays my Grandfather's 1st love.
She has such a strong spirit.  She was very patient with me, and taught me a lot!

This was the hardest scene for me!
I had to lead the cast in a march as we each said meaningful things in Japanese, at a certain pace of walking.
I kept messing up!!!  Too much pressure!

Yuichi Fujisawa, amazing hammer dulcimer player who is featured in one of the songs I wrote for the movie, and my co-star.
Here we are enjoying some after-work veggie okonomiyaki and ice cold beverages.

On our day off, some of us visited the gorgeous and healing island of Miyajima.
I hope to return here again one day.

My favorite, karaimen from Karabu!
I got up to #18 on the spice chart!

My Director, Mamoru Ohashi, enjoying a delicious green tea ice cream cone on one of the very few breaks he had.

From bottom left:  Reika-san, my hair and makeup artist; Mirei-san, my translator; Sayaka-san, wardrobe artist; myself.
Day off bowling!  

The most wonderful and amazing
and hard working crew!!!
I still miss them all!

Anyway, this post has become so long.  Maybe that's why I've been avoiding writing it.  But I wanted to share this with you all.  I know our world is filled with painful history, and cultural and religious differences.  But I also know that our world is filled with individual people, all made up of the same blood, bones, joys, heartbreak, fears and dreams.  No matter what is going on politically, or what has happened in the past.... I believe in each and every one of us.  We make up the energy of this world, of this life.  I promise you that I will teach my children to love and respect your children no matter where we come from.  And one of the best ways I know how to do this is by setting that example.  Thank you to everyone around the world who has shown me such kindness and acceptance, whether it was by helping me find my way in a new city, supporting my music, or setting out a small bowl of kimchee to make me feel more at home.  Thank you for inspiring me, and reminding me of how we are all in this together.

p. a.