mikachuu (Mika Noda)
●Where are you from?
I’m from Sapporo, Hokkaido.
●What did you do as a student?
I was pretty lazy! But I always had a consistent interest in movies which turned into an obsession since third grade of elementary school. I’m also really interested in music.
●What kind of club activities were you involved in?
When I was in junior high, I was the head of the drama club. My homeroom teacher in my first year had also been in the drama club, so when I wrote a script for the school festival, she saw it and suggested that we form a drama club ourselves.
●You were the head of the drama club!
I didn’t have anything to do, and I was bored, so I said, “let’s do it!” But one day, my teacher said, “If you’re going to do it, do it right!” and then, smack! She would slap me on both of my cheeks! She was a pretty teacher with curly hair like a croissant and she would tell me, “My nickname at my previous school was demon”. Maybe she really was a demon! The head of the department had never participated in a club activity before, and there were no older kids, so naturally, I had no senior students to consult. I was doing it on my own, thinking, “What should I do?”.
●How did you end up in the film industry?
My cousin was a music major at Nihon University College of Art, so I had a vague idea of getting into the film department of my school. Of course, I watched a lot of movies, and at that time, small theatres were very popular, so I would watch plays on TV. In high school, I joined the film club, and since I didn’t have any seniors there, I just did whatever I wanted to do!
●You’ve always carved out your own path!
Maybe there weren’t many film nerds in Sapporo? I thought there might be some friends in Tokyo who share my interests, so I decided to go to Tokyo.
●How did you find the film department at Nihon University College of Art?
When I entered the department, I realized that there was a wide range of interests in film and that I had many different interests. I liked David Lynch (*1), but of course, there were also others that preferred Jackie Chan. I made a friend in that class and we would talk about Lynch, and to this day, he is the only friend I have had since college!
※1 David Lynch
is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, and musician, best known for his work on Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive.
●Some Lynch lovers are eccentric, but many are true film geeks.
This friend of mine has been without a regular job for a long time and likes to make sure that he has three days off per week so that he can spend time on his hobbies such as movies, literature, and opera. Recently, he finally became an administrative clerk and started making money, but he keeps saying that he doesn’t want to be too busy!
●I believe there used to be a lot of independent movie theatres in Tokyo, did you manage to visit some of them?
I went to all of them! I just kept watching films. But even though I had a yearning to make a film, I couldn’t quite put it into action. I worked part-time at the Kawasaki Citizen’s Museum and would listen to music on my way to a record store called ‘DISC SHOP ZERO’ close to my school. I think you would be surprised at how little I did!
●It was a time when there was no such thing as Netflix or Spotify so you must have instinctively developed your own taste and keep coming back to it, right?
When I was in high school, we didn’t even have cell phones. We said, “Oh, there’s a computer!” Something like that. I don’t know…… what I was doing. I would watch movies at the theatre, or go and see my senior class’s training, participate as an extra in movies, or dig in record stores, and stuff like that. I don’t remember too much! And I didn’t really even have a part-time job.
●How were you able to survive?
Remittance from my parents?. I had a few part-time jobs, but my parents told me that if I worked part-time, I wouldn’t go to university. And my aunt who went to art college gave me the most important advice: “How to gain perspective that can only be gained during the moratorium period when you are a nobody before you become a working person.”
●Did you major in direction?
I majored in screenwriting. I had friends in the directing course and other courses, so we mingled in some way, but we were never allowed to write scripts for practical training, and I was a little bored. I asked a French professor to give me private lessons with my friends from the painting course, and we studied French. Well, I guess I was a bit of a blabbermouth overall, though I did take the French exam and a curator’s certificate.
●Were you able to pursue a career in film after graduation?
I wasn’t very passionate about job hunting, so I joined my professor’s production company and worked as an AD, but the company went bankrupt within a year……. When I told my father that I didn’t know this kind of thing happened, he told me that the company he joined also suddenly went bankrupt! My father and I got into a conversation about how hard it was for a company to go bankrupt in its first year.
●Was it hard to work as an AD?
Although I joined the company by chance, no one gave me any instructions on how to work as an AD. I was often told to “look and guess” and “learn by myself”. I had to work through the night and bring everything that was required of me outside of my directing skills to a point where there were no problems. So it was hard to think of answers for myself, and it was a social learning experience. However, my grandfather’s family motto was “don’t ask others, think for yourself,” and I have never wavered from that.
●When you were a student in the drama club, you were able to overcome the situation by thinking for yourself without any senior members, right?
My parents always told me to think for myself, but that didn’t help me with my math! I couldn’t figure it out no matter how much I tried. Then I realized that everyone was learning math at cram schools! (after school learning). I’ve never actually studied sitting at a desk, I’ve always studied for tests lying down with my elbows on the floor. That’s also how I studied for the sommelier exam! For about seven hours and a half each day! Shin-chan*2 said to me, laughingly “Your elbows are all bruised!”. My editor friends also read a lot every day and I noticed they also have really dark elbows! I don’t mean that in a negative way at all, but you have to be sure to moisturize though!
Shinichi Takahashi, owner of Human Nature.
●It seems that the family motto “Think for yourself” has had a great impact on your life!
I had no choice but to discard the things I had no talent for! I took the university entrance exam with only Japanese and English, and it’s a miracle that I was able to come this far with such a way of life. Well, I guess it’s because I met a lot of good people! I’m curious, so I just want to talk to people and get smarter and smarter!
●What did you do next after working as an AD?
One of my university juniors who worked at a film advertising company introduced me to a part-time job delivering ads from designers to film companies by bicycle. From there, I became interested in advertising and immediately moved to the advertising department. The department was completely vertically-divided, so I was under pressure not to make any mistakes. I had to deal with the media and schedules and was completely responsible. I had to make appointments over the phone, carry materials all the way to the office, and prepare a list of sales contacts by myself. I went around to magazine companies, TV stations, radio stations, and so on – I just dove straight into it. I was often pressed by clients, and this was the last era of the incomprehensible saga of movie publicists and their ‘drinking while communicating’ skills. There were a lot of interesting writers and dense advertising people.
●I think I saw a special feature about the difficulty of being a publicists on Tamori Club (※3).
Everyone was flinging themselves desperately, like bungee jumping. There was even a summer where I had to wear an Anpanman(※4) costume! In those days, being a publicist involved a lot of hard work, so different from my past work as an AD. But when I was wearing that Anpanman costume, I felt something that I never felt living as myself. Everyone looks at you like a hero, shouting, “Hero! I love you!” I love you!” It was actually a very pleasant experience. After that, I was given an opportunity to work on the promotion of a Japanese movie, which starred Ryo Kase, which led me to enter the entertainment management business.
※3 Tamori Club
A late-night variety program hosted by comedian Kazuyoshi Morita, better known as Tamori.
Japanese children’s superhero and picture book series written by Takashi Yanase.
●What was it like promoting films in Japan?
I was involved in the promotion of a film called “Antenna”, where I met the lead actor, Mr. Kase. We talked about Clint Eastwood’s “Mystic River,” which was having an all-night screening at a movie theater in Shinjuku at the time. He was a wonderful actor who loved movies. At the time, I never imagined that I would end up on the set of Eastwood’s “Letters from Iwo Jima,” but two years later, I did. A miracle!
Mr. Kase was working at “Anore”, the office of Tadanobu Asano, and I guess he heard a rumor somewhere that I was quitting my job as a publicist, so his manager at the time contacted me and said, “You and the president seem to be a good match.” And that’s how I became a manager.
●Was it difficult to be a manager?
It’s important to have a good “sense of communication”. I felt like there were only a few people with that type of quality. The president who took care of me was a unique and free person, and he was like a father to me after I entered the workforce. He taught me many important things about work from the very beginning and allowed me to work very freely. I think I caused him a lot of trouble! When I think about it this way, I realize that I never actually looked for a job, but rather just landed jobs through other people.
●Was there anyone who left a lasting impression on you?
The overseas publicists and agents were amazing. Madonna’s agent was a real sensation. When I introduced her to a store while she was in Japan, she said to me, “Mika, I get it. A restaurant that only has Japanese menus is better than one that has everything written in English!” The overseas agents that I met were all so insightful and curious. Even though they could not speak Japanese at all, they were able to absorb the culture through their powers of perception and their ability to take action. It really left a lasting impression on me!
●I heard that you were also Rinko Kikuchi’s manager.
Yes, she went out into the world with “Babel”, and I think that the experience of working with such top-notch people in the field is irreplaceable for actors. It was very inspiring to be able to see these wonderfully talented and courageous actors shine through the friendly competition with the love of the staff.
●Do you ever get that same feeling in Kabutocho?
I’ve been watching movies since I was in elementary school. They would always explore the internal aspects of being human, like emotions and things like this. But I’ve always felt that this has been covered before in our information-rich world, so I just never found that type of story-telling necessary. But now in Kabutocho, I can feel these human connections and emotions and I can understand the want or need to expand on these thoughts and emotions.
●Do you find that many sympathetic people come to Human Nature?
Kabutocho may be a bit bizarre, but there are a lot of fascinating people here. Since I’ve been here, I’ve been talking to a countless number of people, so I can suddenly talk to a variety of people wherever I am, just like at a restaurant. I casually talk to strangers, like the small talk of a youth group in a neighborhood association. The comfort of Kabutocho, where you can talk to people in a friendly manner, feels like a community with a certain vibe. It can give you a feeling of culture shock!
●How did you come to Human Nature?
I had been helping out at a restaurant after my managerial job, and I’ve always been a natural wine lover. I was introduced to Shin-chan by the organizer of a wine event called “One Love, Wine Love,” which was held at the Farmers Market at the United Nations University. I am very grateful for the interesting invitation and Shin-chan’s heart and spirit.
●It was the same with my time in the film industry, whenever you see the first signs of a lively scene, you’re always in the circle before you know it.
Maybe it’s a life of always moving toward the sound of music at a festival. I naturally move towards things that seem fun or enjoyable. But instead of jumping into a situation where the festival is at its peak, I think I was more interested in creating that situation. Maybe that was part of my job as a manager.
●How were the results of your J.S.A. sommelier exam?
I passed! Yay! But there was a part of me that took on the challenge because I wanted to focus on myself rather than being driven by a punk spirit. The exam only comes around once a year, so I studied hard every day from March to October until my elbows turned blue!
●Have you experienced any changes since then?
More than food pairings and the taste of wine, I enjoyed the sense of expanding my horizons, or rather the unspoken channels of the world’s history, climate, and culture through wine, as a result of my studies. When Covid comes to an end, I would like to visit Italy and Europe where Shin-chan was, and after all, I would like to have an actual experience related to wine, not just as an object.
●How would you compare the quality of wine to a movie?
I like the fact that they both have elements of image and story. Wine is an agricultural product and a love of people, and it can be a medium to connect people. The taste can’t be recreated once you drink it, but it stays in your mind. Both are emotional.
●How do you think about your life so far?
Someone once told me that human history is also a history of objectivity. By looking at the cruel side objectively, we can finally calm down and look at ourselves. I’m sure that’s how movies have passed down through history. But when I talk about it objectively like this, it’s a life of laughter! One step ahead there could be a cliff, but I don’t want to have this fear of falling off. I want to be carefree and have fun chasing music as if I’m at a festival. I want to create something fun and exciting, but not something that’s already been done before.
●What is your role in Human Nature?
I think that art, music, and film also have a role to play, but I enjoy connecting with people. Now that I’m free from responsibility, I’d like to be able to talk openly with the people who come here, my friends, and make them feel better, have fun, and create a memorable time with the help of wine. I’m interested in expanding that experience. I once heard Patti Smith singing “Holy Holy Holy” (a poem by Ginsberg ※5 called “Holy”), and it kind of stuck in my ears. People are made up of all of these things. Even if it’s just a sip of wine.
Allen Ginsberg is an American poet who, along with Jack Kerouac, represents Beat literature.
●What are your goals for the future?
I’m already feeling a bit nostalgic about being alive, and with Covid and the recent death of my favorite aunt. I’m already feeling like I have a lot of life left in me. Thinking about my future travels to the stars, I’d love to make a movie before I die. I’m also interested in making music too. At a carnival in Rio, I was dancing the samba in a sweat, and in the heat of the moment, a guy who looked like Duke Togo (※6) popped me right in between my eyebrows, and the green feathers on my samba costume flew off in the wind! It’s impossible to describe, but I’m looking for something fun and unimaginable. I want to live an honest life.
※6 Duke Togo
Common name (self-proclaimed) of the super A-grade sniper who is the main character of Duke Togo’s “Gorgo.13
●Where do you think the next festival and music will come from?
Recently, I feel like I can hear the festival music from the tea area. If it is human nature to discover something new while getting drunk through the medium of alcohol, then it would be wonderful to see something born from the peaceful drunkenness of tea. I think it’s hot to create a rich time for people who don’t drink alcohol, regardless of generation or occasion.
Born in Sapporo, Japan. She has been fascinated by movies since she was a child and went on to study film at Nihon University. She entered the world of production, but a chance encounter led her to become an entertainment manager. After gaining experience at Anore, an entertainment agency for more than ten years, she changed places and entered the world of wine. In 2021, while working at Human Nature, she passed the J.S.A. sommelier exam. She continues to delve into her interest in wine while working at the store, and her cheerful personality keeps the place lively day and night. And there was a summer where she dressed up as Anpanman, but that’s just between you and I.
Text : Jun Kuramoto
Photo : Naoto Date
Iterview : Jun Kuramoto
norm tea house
Interesting people in Kabutocho
norm tea house – Ai Hasegawa
I like natural wine, but I also like tea. Ai is a tea master who opened a tea store in Kuramae recently and who also visits Human Nature as a customer. I would like to ask her about tea and the connection with the elderly and children.