Table Speech

“My Memoirs”

September 16, 2009

Ms. Ineko Arima

 The appropriateness of hereditary Diet members was a heated controversy during the last Lower House election. In the world of performing arts, such as Kabuki and Noh, it is essential to hand down the “artistic skills” of each family from generation to generation. When it comes to politics, however, I think it is a different story.

 Having said that, I must admit that I am one of those “hereditary actresses,” as my mother was enrolled in Takarazuka Revue Company in the early period under the same stage-name. When I joined Takarazuka, I was told to succeed to my mother’s name. Although I did not like the name at the beginning, I had no choice but to follow the order. The name “Ineko Arima” originates in the waka poem compiled in the One Hundred Poems by One Hundred Poets. The daughter of Murasaki Shikibu (author of The Tale of Genji) wrote this poem composed as a rebuke to a gentleman who decides to break up with a woman. It was only after I got to know the poet’s message and the meaning of the poem that I came to appreciate its mature wit and elegance.

 I think you all know the actor, Koichi Satoh, who is still young but puts on a superb performance. His father is Rentaro Mikuni, with whom I co-acted in the movie by Tadashi Imai “Yoru no Tsuzumi (Night Tabor),” based on the joruri (dramatic recitation) by Chikamatsu Monzaemon.

 The setting of the movie is the estate of a low-ranking samurai Hikokuro (acted by Mikuni) in Tottori han (feudal domain). I played the role of his wife Tane, who takes charge of the house while her husband resides in Edo (Tokyo) to fulfill his obligation of sankinkoutai (daimyo’s alternate-year residence in Edo). The time was set when the wars have receded, and people had to make their way in life besides martial arts. The family has an adopted son and decides to invite a live-in tabor master (acted by Masayuki Mori) from Kyoto for the lesson. Tane decides to host a banquet in March as a token of gratitude to the tabor master. Suddenly, Hikokuro’s fellow samurai breaks into the banquet and starts drinking heavily. This samurai is infatuated with Tane and he desperately tries to assault her, seizing the opportunity as the tabor master leaves his seat. Tane is at a loss, because she loves her husband. All she can do is to scream “wait!” Mr. Imai, the director, was not happy with my performance and we had to re-take the scene so many times. It was only after shooting for one full week that I got the OK clearance from the director. Later, it was named the “wait incident of Ineko Arima”. Ms. Sumiko Hidaka, another actress, also caused shooting to be suspended for 3 days before she got the OK from the director, so we gossiped that Mr. Imai might be a woman-hater.

 Now, Hikokuro, the husband, is on his way back home from Edo and gets wind of his wife’s adultery. He demands explanation from his wife day and night, to which Tane finally admits her immoral deeds.

 Let me rewind the scenes. After Tane screams “wait,” the tabor master comes back to his seat. The fellow samurai runs away mumbling “it was just a joke!” Now, Tane is deeply worried, as she thinks the master could have overheard the excuses she made to escape the assault. What she actually said was, “wait, have patience for now. I’ll try to make another opportunity, so until then, please wait.” Desperate to keep the master from talking, she goes to his detached house and makes him drink heavily. It was an unfortunate coincidence that Tane also liked drinking and gets drunk herself. Eventually, Tane and the master have an affair. All of this leads to Tane‘s answering “yes” to her husband.

 Going back to the movie shooting, Mikuni, the outraged husband, slapped me hard on the face. I asked him not to hit me that hard for the camera testing, but as he is a serious actor, my request was wasted upon him. I was slapped 10 times or so and my face got very swollen. I had to cool the bruise with ice for 2 hours before the final take.

 The beaten wife attempted suicide, and died by the fatal strike from the husband’s sword. Hikokuro set out to Kyoto for revenge, killing the man who had assaulted his wife. Mikuni is an excellent actor, but he is also very strict and demanding when it comes to acting. He insisted on using the real sword, instead of the bamboo sword usually used in action scenes, and chased after Mori (the tabor master) who was literally scared to death.

 Today, no director or actor can afford the time to suspend the film-taking for one week. My “wait incident” is a fond memory which recalls all the other interesting happenings that took place during a golden age of film-shooting.