I thought I recognized the owner of the Iheya Kanko Hotel, her face fleetingly recalled as it passed over the screen at a Shinjuku showing of the 2012 film "Karakara."
Written and directed by Canadian, Claude Gagnon, and starring the seasoned actor Gabriel Arcand, it also features Yuki Kudoh, known for her leading roles in productions that include "Mystery Train" (1989) and "Snow Falling on Cedars" (1999). It seems that key members of the crew stayed at Iheya Kanko Hotel, a minshuku (guesthouse) on Okinawa's Iheya Island. It was difficult to picture such internationally established actors putting up with the sparsely furnished rooms, with threadbare futons and mat floors that had clearly seen better days — but the warmth and hospitality of Okinawans, and the fresh local food served at these modest accommodations has a wonderfully leveling effect, reputation and social standing tending to melt after a couple of glasses of liberally provided awamori, the local liquor.
A long, narrow, nondescript building, rather like a barracks, the minshuku had been hard to find, though it was located opposite a gasoline stand only a few steps from the main port and village of Maedomari. On arrival, Tsukasa Maeda, the real owner of the inn, showed me to my four-mat room, looking out onto a shambolic flower garden and a mash of small port facilities. Maeda, I now recalled, had served coffee in one of the scenes in the film, while her son played the sanshin, a three-stringed Okinawan instrument.