TOPRena Tanaka takes the stage at Meiji-za theater

Rena Tanaka takes the stage at Meiji-za theater

By Alec Jordan

Popular actress Rena Tanaka is set to appear in the stage production of Reiko Morata’s popular novel Kiri Kiri Mai at the Meiji-za theater this April.

A slapstick comedy set in the Edo Period, it features a number of well-known figures from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, including Tōkaidōchū Hizakurige author Jippensha Ikku, one of the most celebrated writers in Japanese history.

Tanaka plays the role of his daughter Mai, an energetic and rebellious young girl who is desperately seeking a rich man to marry. Every candidate she brings home to introduce to her drunken father, however, is rejected. That doesn’t stop Mai though, who is determined to find her perfect partner.

“She’s a really fun person to play,” Tanaka tells Weekender. “Bursting with energy, she aims straight for her goals without really thinking about the consequences. The one character trait that she doesn’t like about herself is that she is stubborn like her father and doesn’t listen when people advise her.

I think we are quite similar in certain aspects: for example, we are both very driven. With Mai nothing is going to stop her from getting married to a wealthy guy no matter how many times her dad refuses. For me it was all about becoming an actress.

When I was in junior high school I would constantly argue with my parents, trying to convince them I had to move to Tokyo in order to have a chance of making it in the entertainment industry. They wouldn’t let me live there, but I would still make the round-trip from Kurume in Fukuoka to the capital every week to try and fulfill my dream.”

They eventually agreed to let her live in Tokyo, but not until she graduated from high school. Prior to that she had already made a name for herself as ‘Nacchan’ in juice commercials (many people here thought Nacchan was actually her real name).

Soon after that she made her motion picture debut in Itsumichi Isomura’s critically acclaimed movie about a female rowing team in Ehime called Ganbatte Ikimashoi. Tanaka’s portrayal of heroine Etsuko Shinomura earned her rave reviews and a Best New Talent Award at the Yokohama Film Festival. She was later nominated for the Best Actress Award two years later after she starred as Satoka Aida in Tetsuo Shinohara’s emotionally-charged flick Hatsukoi.

Tanaka Whilst many Japanese celebrities rely purely on their looks to get them roles, Rena Tanaka is a genuinely talented actress who is very serious about her profession and has been for a very long time. She first started trying to imitate TV and movie stars when she was in elementary school. Back then, becoming an actress wasn’t just a dream though; she firmly believed that one day she would be following in the footsteps of the people she saw on both the big and small screens.

“My mum was very supportive when I was young,” she tells us. “She was always telling me ‘you can do it,’ which was great, but at the same time I think she just saw it as a kind of fantasy, that wouldn’t really materialize into anything. I, on the other hand was really determined to make it happen. From the age of five, I realized it was what I wanted to do and I guess it has gone quite well for me.

My main goal was to appear in movies and fortunately I have been involved in many over the years. It is something I really love doing, but at the same time you can get in a comfort zone doing the same thing all the time. I hope to continue doing films in the future, but at the same time I also want to branch out and try different things like theater. Performing on stage is both exciting and scary at the same time. Getting the chance to be part of this production (Kiri Kiri Mai) is a fantastic opportunity for me and I believe it will help me grow as an actress.”

For more information about how to get tickets to see Rena Tanaka in Kiri Kiri Mai please visit their website or call 03-3660-3941