by Chris MaGee
I remember sitting with "Tokyo Sonata" producer Yukie Kito at this year's Nippon Connection in Frankfurt and talking about our mutual admiartion for actress Kyoko Koziumi. Not opnly did she take home the Kinema Junpo Award for Best Actress in 2008 for her performance as the mother in the fractured family of Kiyoshi Kurosawa's critically-acclaimed drama, but she's consistently brought a realness and charisma to the screen in role after role. Kito quoted Kurosawa who said that Koizumi has eyes that are always looking off into the distance and it's that that adds her own special depth to her performances.
So being a fan of Koizumi I was looking through YouTube to track down any trailers or new news on her when I discovered a whole history that I have to admit I am embarrassed to admit I knew nothing about. While it's not unique in Japan where entertainers are called on to do just that, entertain - by acting, singing, telling jokes, hosting TV shows, etc - I was surprised to see that the 43-year-old actress got her start as a pop star. That's right, Koizumi began her singing career in 1982 under the nickname "Kyon Kyon" and has been releasing albums right up until 2003. Check out the top video for a 1984 performance of a song titled "A high collar doll of sea side" taken from Japanese TV.
What really caught my eye during my search though was the second video. It's taken from a Japan kids show and features Koizumi dressed as a cute monkey (between two not so cute gentlemen also dressed as monkeys) playing a game of Russian roulette with hanami dango sweets, most filled with sweet red bean paste, but some filled with pure macha (green tea) powder. Keep an eye on Mr. Monkey on the left who seems to like to keep smacking Koizumi on the bum with his tail... the dirty bugger.
All I can say is, "Who knew?"