When science fiction author Taku Mayamura learned in 1997 that his wife had colon cancer, he began writing a short story for her each day. By the time she passed away in 2002, Mayamura had written 1,778 stories, which he later published as a book titled "Boku to Tsuma no 1778 no Monogatari" (1,778 Stories of Me and My Wife).
Mayamura’s book has been turned into a film starring SMAP singer Tsuyoshi Kusanagi as the writer Sakutaro and Yuko Takeuchi as his wife Setsuko, and directed by Mamoru Hoshi ("University of Laughs"). “It’s a story about death, but it’s also about the love the characters share. I was really struck with the commitment involved in writing a new story every day,” Takeuchi, 30, said of her first impression of the script. “When the doctor informed the husband that laughter boosts the body’s immune system, he used his flights of fantasy to write a new story for his wife every day. That’s amazing.”
The stories featured in the film are taken directly from Mayamura’s own works and feature eccentric characters like an alien turned newspaper collector and a man who leaves coded messages on people’s answering machines for a living. Takeuchi said Hoshi was painstaking in bringing the details of Sakutaro’s daydreams, replete with rockets and robots, to life on the screen.
In one scene, Sakutaro tells a friend that he may be writing not for the sake of his wife, but to escape from the reality of the situation. “Setsuko tries never to show her own sadness and anxiety,” said Takeuchi. “Perhaps instead of Sakutaro supporting her in this troubling time, it may be the other way around. At least, that’s how I tried to interpret it.”
A solid actress, Takeuchi – who was born in Saitama Prefecture -- worked on TV for a while before launching her movie career in 1998 with "Innocent World" and "The Ring." She won accolades for her work in "Sidecar ni Inu" (2007) and "Closed Note" (2007). She had a busy year in 2010, appearing in two acclaimed films – "Golden Slumber" and "Flowers." Takeuchi is also sought after for TV ads and can currently be seen in commercials for Suntory The Premium Malt’s and Shiseido’s Tsubaki hair care brand.
Last year, Takeuchi made a foray into U.S. television by appearing in two episodes of the sci-fi series "FlashForward," which details the lives of a handful of characters who are dealing with the psychic shockwave of seeing a glimpse into their own futures after a mysterious event causes nearly everyone on the planet to simultaneously lose consciousness for two minutes and 17 seconds on Oct 6, 2009. Takeuchi played the future love interest of Dr Bryce Varley. Episode 9 was devoted to her character, but her dialogue was all in Japanese. In casting Takeuchi, director Michael Nankin – who visited Tokyo -- said she was a big find and called her “Japan’s answer to Audrey Hepburn.”
Takeuchi said the shoot was a “very interesting experience” because it was something she had never done before. “Even though my dialogue was all in Japanese, I wish that I could have spoken English because it was hard to communicate on the set and I really wanted to be able to chat with other cast members and crew.”
A special "FlashForward" DVD box set will be released by Walt Disney Studios Japan on March 2 and include a special six-minute feature titled "Meet Yuko" that follows Takeuchi behind the scenes of the show. Takeuchi said she would like to achieve more exposure overseas, but acknowledged that she needs to master English first.© Japan Today