Akiko Kikuchi thinks you can go home again in nostalgic new flick


Staff Writer

In a restless country where it’s common to work overtime, a bit of the slow life is needed now and then, even if it’s via the silver screen.

There have been a lot of films so far this year that focus on the countryside, painting it with nostalgia and a tinge of melancholy like in “Kuchibiru ni Uta wo” (“Have a Song on the Lips”), “Umimachi Diary” (“Seaside Town Diary”) and “Saihate nite: Yasashii Kaori to Machinagara” (“The Furthest End Awaits”).

Bringing the memories to screens currently is Keisuke Toyoshima’s “Umi no Futa” (“Sea’s Lid”).

This film is an adaptation of Banana Yoshimoto’s novel by the same name. The director says he lifted one line from the book —”It’s never easy to open a store in your home town” — and uses it as the basis of the film.

The town in question is Toi, Shizuoka Prefecture, on the coast of Suruga Bay. Not too far out from the big city, but is still facing the problem of depopulation. Akiko Kikuchi plays the protagonist, Mari, who abandons a career in the art world to return home to the western Izu Peninsula, declaring that she misses rural landscapes. Once there, she opens a kakigōri (shaved ice with flavored syrup) cafe.

“Performing the role of Mari came pretty naturally,” Kikuchi says. “I grew up in a lonely countryside town and had a similar childhood, so I sympathized with her.”

Kikuchi spent her youth in the mountainous region of Gifu Prefecture, far from the coastal areas that Mari calls home. However, Kikuchi points out that the geography of “home” isn’t as universal as the mentality of “home,” which is what audiences are more likely to connect with. She has to have conversations with her stubborn parents, she relives parts of her childhood through nostalgic stories and shares her life experiences with a younger girl named Hajime (Azusa Mine) on visits to the beach — though you could replace the beach with a lake, a park or a forest and still capture the same feeling.

“I think we all get a bit nostalgic when we leave the city, even when we’re visiting a place for the first time,” Kikuchi says. “I even got deja vu when I was doing some of the scenes for the film.”

After a conflict erupts with childhood friend Osamu (Yukichi Kobayashi), Mari comes up with the idea to change the concept of her cafe, one that focuses on her desires, and caters to public demand. Is it the idea that you need to compromise in order to live the life you envision for yourself? Perhaps, but Kikuchi says Mari comes out on top and that she can picture her living in the small town happily into old age.

“I don’t think the film gives the audience complete closure,” Kikuchi says. “However, by seeing Mari struggle with her shaved ice shop and adjusting herself to the environment, I think that can give us some type of clue as to how she’ll handle the future.”

“Umi no Futa” hits cinemas nationwide on July 18. For more information, visit www.uminofuta.com.