In 1995, 14-year-old Eriko Sato lost some friends in the Great Hanshin Earthquake. Her friends had dreamed of going into showbiz one day. “When they died, I realized how important it is to have my own dream like that,” says Sato who was born in Tokyo but raised in Kobe and Osaka. “Originally, I wanted to be a massage practitioner when I was a kid. I used to practice on my family and friends and they praised me for it,” she recalls.
But showbiz beckoned her. Sato took part in a radio program in which listeners vote for the voice they like. “At that time, I found it very difficult to make an impression only through my voice. Later, my mother told me that my father frequently called in to vote for me. I didn’t know he had done that, but it really motivated me,” she says.
Since then, Sato has gone to become one of Japan’s most versatile celebrities, having modeled for magazines, appeared in TV commercials (currently for Unicharm’s “SOFY,” Warner Music Japan’s “Lovely” and Asahi Breweries’ “SOKAN”), TV dramas, variety shows, movies and theater. Sato says she finds movies most appealing among all her endeavors. “Stories are very important for movies and scripts can take up to a year to create. That’s why I like movies.”
Indeed, Sato gained an international following after making “Cutie Honey” in 2004. The film version of a popular manga franchise, it made Sato a star as the outwardly ordinary girl who transforms into a pink-haired warrior to fight assorted villains. It was especially popular in France. “Last year, when I went to Cannes with my film ‘Funuke’ (Show Some Love, You Losers!), fans were asking me why ‘Cutie Honey’ was playing serious roles,” she recalls.
However, Sato says she has changed as an actor since then. “In the past, I often played young girls. So at that time, I tried to change dialogue to suit myself, but now I try to respect the original meaning of stories and the dialogue.” Her next project (from April 20-May 5) will be the stage production “Kuchu Buranko” (Flying Trapeze), in which she plays sexy nurse working with a psychiatrist trying to help a trapeze artist get out of a slump.
On her days off, Sato likes to shop at Daikanyama, Omotesando and Shibuya. She prefers a casual fashion style, but says her dad, who is a businessman, is always encouraging her to buy good quality formal suits. “Being interested in environmental issues, I often wonder if I should buy second-hand clothes, for example,” she says, adding she is an avid news reader and takes an interest in social issues.
If there are no early assignments, Sato usually gets up around 11 a.m. “I might go for a walk or jog. When I am at home, I like cooking, listening to music and reading books,” she says, nominating Yasunari Kawabata, Keigo Higashino and Haruki Murakami as her favorite authors. Sato says she would like to work overseas and hopes to improve her English. “I used to study at an English conversation school and I still have the textbooks. I don’t have much time to study now, so I try to listen to English radio programs and watch English-language TV programs. I think that in future, I will have more work opportunities if I have a better command of English,” she says.© Japan Today