The Production, part 8: Poetry
Perhaps the most beautiful and moving part of Pray for Japan is what Stu calls the “breathing spaces” in the film – short photo montages with Shinya Mizoguchi’s hauntingly melancholic melody serving as an aural backdrop for Sendai-born and incredibly talented actress Kyoka Suzuki reading Fukushima modern poet Ryoichi Wago’s succinct and ephemeral verses.
Kyoka Suzuki was born May 31, 1968 in Tohoku’s largest city Sendai, located in Miyagi prefecture. Known for her versatility and finesse, Kyoka is one of Japan’s most prolific and lauded actresses. Among her many awards, Kyoka won the Japanese Academy Award for Best Actress in 2005 for her role in BLOOD AND BONES, as well as Best Actress at the Yokohama Film Festival in 1998 for her work in WELCOME BACK, MR. DONALD, the Blue Ribbon Awards for KEIHO and at the 2011 Tokyo Drama Awards for SECOND VIRGIN. She has also been nominated for Best Actress by the Japanese Academy five other times including in 2010 for THE UNBROKEN.
Kyoka has acted in over 40 films, television shows, and stage plays including the 2009 Japanese adaptation of Alexander Payne’s film SIDEWAYS. In early 2012, she toplines the NTV hit drama IDEAL SON.
Ryoichi Wago is a poet who was born in Fukushima in 1968. He won the 4th Chuya Nakahara Prize for his first collection of poems, “AFTER” in 1998, was a finalist for the Jun Takami Prize for his second collection, “RAINBOW” and for both Gendai Shiika Tsubaki Prize and Bansui Prize for his second collection “Birth”.
Ryoichi also won the 47th Bansui Prize for his fourth collection “Earth Brain Psalms” in 2006. He was first introduced as a leading young poet in the Nikkei Shinbun and participated in the Kokonor Lake International Poetry Festival in China, 2007, as representative of Japan. The Toyonaka Chorale gave the first performance of “To Become the Cosmos” (music by Tokuhide Niimi/lyrics by Ryoichi Wago) at the Osaka Symphony Hall this past summer.
Lyricist, lecturer, radio personality.
Translations of Ryoichi’s Fukushima poetry can be found here.
His Twitter account (Japanese only) is here.