Featured post

Spreadsheets masterlist

Just gonna make this a sticky post of the spreadsheets that I make. Still working on updating the ones I did previously with season information but the new ones I’ve listed have all that down. Any names down there that don’t have links yet means I’ve not quite made the data presentable yet, but they’re coming…soon-ish.

List after the jump.
Continue reading

#226 – Somakimi: Saito Soma & Uchida Yuma

Quick 30-min translation of a short piece with Saito Soma & Uchida Yuma regarding Saito’s variety show ‘Saito Soma no Wagokoro o Kimi ni’ (Saito Soma brings the Heart of Japan to You) aka Somakimi. The series, a spin-off from Eguchi Takuya’s Ore-Iya show, features Soma exploring the ‘Heart of Japan’ through various Japanese cultural experiences such as shrine visits, bonsai, sake brewing and so on.

Q: First of all, please tell us how you became friends.

Uchida: What…was it? Seems like we were always together by the time I’d noticed it (laughs)

Saito: Weren’t we introduced by Ishikawa (Kaito)-kun?

Uchida: Oh yeah, we were introduced by a mutual friend!

Saito: Before we met, I’d heard from Kaito-kun that ‘he’s fun and a really nice guy’ (laughs) And true to his word, he turned out to be a really interesting guy when I met him. Yuma-kun has always been very frank when speaking to me, which means I don’t have to put my guard up around him too much.

Uchida: After getting acquainted we started working together quite frequently and would often go for meals together…and that brings us to where we are today. We once spent around 5 hours at a restaurant, just the 2 of us (laughs)

Saito: Oh yeah, we did (laughs)

Uchida: I was just thinking that I’d like to talk to Soma-kun more – our schedules matched up, and we spent all that time talking. I admire Soma-kun as he possesses a lot of traits that I lack, and it’s really fun to be with him.

Q: Uchida-san, what do you like about Saito-san?

Uchida: He’s very logical, thinks about a lot of things deeply and is very passionate! He may look cool but he’s a guy who’s full of fire! When we stay together past midnight you can start to feel that passion flowing from him. He’s also a very genuine person and I feel at ease when I’m with him.

Q: Saito-san – what do you like about Uchida-san?

Saito: I think his smile is wonderful.

Uchida: Yes! (smiles dazzlingly)

Saito: (laughs) Yes, that smile encapsulates everything that is good about Yuma-kun; his pleasant personality, friendliness etc. Also, I love to see Yuma-kun eating! I discussed this with (Okamoto) Nobuhiko-san before as well – that it’s wonderful to see someone eating so much food so deliciously. When I’m dining with Yuma-kun, all I need to do is look at him eating and I am filled with bliss. He’s also a very considerate, good listener no matter what you have to say, which makes me think ‘What an incredibly kind person he is’.

Uchida: Woah, heeheehee, I’m glad.

Q: Let’s talk about the filming. For volume 3, the 2 of you took part in a wagashi (Japanese confectionery) course – what did you think of it?

Uchida: I had fun, but it was really tough…! This time, we tried to make nerikiri – I learned for the first time, just how intricate the process is. It takes a lot of time as you have to use your hands to make them one by one, and not by using a [pastry] mold. When I consider how much thought goes into each individual piece of wagashi, the importance of the history of our culture really hits home. I saw how big and broad the fingers of the (store owner) father who taught us how to make the confectionery were. From his fingers alone, you could understand that they were the fingers of one who had been making these sweets by hand for many, many years.

Saito: Through this programme we were able to observe various methods of creating [confectionery], and what I learned from it was that ‘no matter what you do, “100% fearlessness” is unnecessary, neither is “100% gracefulness”. In the making of wagashi, there are sections where you have to use a bit of strength. However, if you overdo it, the shape [of the wagashi] might crumble so you have to apply a gentle touch – both elements of power and subtlety are needed. Some of the techniques used are relevant in acting as well; in terms of how a performance changes depending on whether you apply too much or too little. My experiences here have taught me about flexibility in calibrating between 2 different types of approaches and I hope it will aid me in expressing myself in a way that suits a character or a story.

Q: In volume 4 we see you tackling ramen making at the request of Uchida-san. It’s surprising to see a link between the Heart of Japan and ramen. Why choose ramen?

Uchida: Why ramen, indeed (laughs). I think Soma-kun’s tried out a lot of Japanese ‘experiences’ so far so I wanted to pick something that hasn’t been done yet. I was looking up a couple of things when the thought ‘Ramen is a food culture that Japan should be proud of’ suddenly occurred to me. Ramen originates from Chinese cuisine but has evolved in a way that’s unique to Japan and should be considered Japanese now, in my opnion. I personally love ramen and was greatly interested in it so I was really happy when my request was granted!

Q: What are your thoughts now that you’ve tried your hand at it?

Uchida: It was tough… but, it was tasty too!

Saito: That’s a very Yuma-like summary.

Uchida: (laughs)

Saito: Ramen-making is so hot, in many ways. You need to boil the noodles and grill and sauté the ingredients in the kitchen at the same time so I was expecting it to be hot, but not quite that hot – the heat was from another dimension (laughs) But we saw how our mentor’s eyes sparkled as he remarked ‘it’s so fun to make (ramen) this way’ and I could see how ‘fiery’ he was. It was incredible watching how he multi-tasked efficiently and enjoyed himself so much.

Q: How did you like eating the ramen that you made yourselves?

Uchida: It was quite emotional… you do think, ‘I boiled this ramen with my own hands!’ or ‘I prepared this soup myself!’. You don’t only think that it tastes good – you start feeling a strange sense of attachment to your creation. We also got to learn about the toil that go into a (ramen) master’s work as well as seeing the overall process so while I was eating the ramen, I definitely understood how ‘it tastes so gentle as we know how tenderly the noodles were handled as they were drained’.

Q: What about your tsukemen, Saito-san?

Saito: I grew up in Yamanashi, and I never ate tsukemen there. It was only after I moved to Tokyo that I tried it for the first time. You know how there are foods that you’ll fall in love with the moment you taste them, while there are others that you’ll have to keep trying before you start to understand their appeal – tsukemen fell into the former group right from the start: It’s totally delicious!. And today, I was able to recall the impact I felt upon my first taste of tsukemen…that’s how delicious it was. Oh, and the kakuni (stewed pork cubes) was superb!

Uchida: That’s right! This shop’s kakuni is amazingly delicious.

Saito: It’s gotten me in the mood to go drinking sake with kakuni as a snack (laughs)

Uchida: That would be awesome!

Saito: I know right!?

Q: Lastly, please leave a message for people who are looking forward to the DVD.

Uchida: I had the chance to take part in various activities with Soma-kun. It was fun, wasn’t it?! It’s great to get to try out experiences that I’d never thought of doing before and I enjoyed being with Soma-kun. I wasn’t nervous and didn’t have to feel like I needed to try too hard – in fact, I was a little worried whether it was alright for me to behave the way I normally do (laughs) Please watch this DVD and I’d be glad if you could feel ‘the heart of Japan’ in your daily life!

Saito: Thank you for your continued support. Yuma-kun is the featured guest in volumes 3 and 4 of this DVD series. Both volumes feature experiences of making and eating food – I have always loved cooking and also enjoy eating with Yuma-kun so the proposal this time definitely allowed me to kill two birds with one stone. Plus, it was interesting that Yuma-kun and I were very much in sync today reaction-wise, which doesn’t normally happen.

Uchida: You’re right, our synchronisation rate was high! So in sync that it made me think ‘are we really that perfect of a fit with each other!?’

Saito: (laughs) I had a very comfy and fun time thanks to Yuma-kun being there, and it felt like we worked up a good sweat. This was the final session of filming for Season 2 of Somakimi as well…. We tried a lot of different things this time around when compared to the first season. The best thing about trying out these experiences with guests is that they can come up with ideas and thoughts that I never would be able to. I was able to experience a new ‘Heart of Japan’ thanks to everyone who took part in my show. If there are future opportunities to continue this series, I would be grateful if I could search for the ‘Heart of Japan’ with both my guests and the viewers. Thank you so much for supporting Somakimi!

#225 – Hoshiai no Sora Vol.4: Kobayashi Yusuke & Amasaki Kohei

It’s hard to use up all the vegetables on your own! Popular seiyuu Kobayashi Yusuke & Amasaki Kohei discuss ‘Daily Meals’

Vol.4 of Cookpad’s Hoshiai no Sora features, this time with Kobayashi Yusuke (Tsukinose Nao) & Amasaki Kohei (Ishigami Taiyo)

The bento of my memories: “Miso soup!?”

Q: This series focuses on the story of a soft tennis club so this is a question related to that – what ‘memories of club activity meals’ do the 2 of you have?

Kobayashi: I have memories of the bento boxes served during tournaments as being insanely delicious. It was just the normal nori karaage (fried chicken with seaweed) bento box but somehow, it tasted really good.

Amasaki: Noriben is tasty, isn’t it? The balance between seaweed and okaka (bonito flakes) is great. I was in the swimming club and I’d always get super nervous so I could barely eat during competitions. My mother would make me bento boxes but I just couldn’t eat anything…

Kobayashi: What would she make for you?

Amasaki: Things like miso soup.

Kobayashi: Eh! Miso soup?

Amasaki: She was thinking of foods that I could eat even if I was feeling jittery, so she’d put rice and miso soup in vertical thermal lunch boxes that had heat-retention functions.

Kobayashi: Thermal lunch boxes had gone mainstream already!? They didn’t exist during my school days…ah, how times have changed (laughs)

Q: Hoshiai no Sora features scenes of Maki cooking – do either of you cook regularly?

Kobayashi: I haven’t made anything too fancy lately but when I first started living alone I’d cook dishes like beef stew and nikujaga (meat & potatoes). I liked to invite guests over so I’d ask them what they liked to eat in advance and then attempt to make the dish.

Amasaki: Amazing! You’re at an advanced level. Since I started living alone in Tokyo I’ve been cooking diligently, in order to keep my food costs down. Unfortunately, it’s tough to use up all the vegetables when you’re living alone…

Kobayashi: That’s true, I know what you mean.

Amasaki: That’s why I’ll chop up vegetables into ready-to-cook portions and put them into storage bags to freeze. But I wasn’t so good at it in the beginning.. Ingredients that have been frozen will never taste as good as when they were fresh. It was disappointing, so I’d look up books to find out which ‘vegetables are suitable for freezing’ and packed those away. I’d heard that electricity bills can be reduced if you pack your freezer to the max, so I just shoved as much food into it as I could (laughs)

My mapo tofu failed because…?

Q: In the anime, Maki whips up some Chinese dishes. Do either of you cook Chinese food?

Kobayashi: I often cook mapo tofu. I recently tried making it from scratch without using ready-made ingredients but for some reason it didn’t taste so good. I wonder what went wrong…

Amasaki: Was it too spicy?

Kobayashi: Nope, I didn’t want it to be spicy so I didn’t add any spicy seasonings. Maybe that was the problem?

Amasaki: That must be it. I like dishes that are so spicy they make my tongue tingle & recently, I’ve been looking to eat dishes that contain Sichuan peppers. But of course I can’t make it at home myself – fried rice is the extent of my Chinese cooking skills.

Kobayashi: Fried rice is easy and good.

Amasaki: I’m quite picky about my fried rice and have been researching for a while on how to make fried rice that’s not clumpy. To drain the moisture from the rice I use frozen rice that’s been shaken loose, and I also adjust the time and amount of heat used.

Kobayashi: That’s amazing (laughs)

Q: Lastly, please leave a message for Cookpad News readers.

Kobayashi: Hoshiai no Sora is an anime about soft tennis but it is not just about that – it’s a series that focuses on home environments. When I first read the scripts my honest thoughts were ‘I wonder if there truly are people from such family backgrounds..?’ but when I spoke with people in their early 20s, I realised that there were actually many such families and it surprised me. This show gives us an opportunity to think deeply about the root cause of these issues and what we can do about it. I wish for all age groups; be it the generation that will become parents in the near future or the generation that already has children, to watch this series.

Amasaki: We’ve been discussing food in this interview and it’s allowed to me realise once again how important ‘meals’ are. Recalling food I used to eat brings back memories and feelings from days gone by, filling me with nostalgia and reminding me how nervous I used to be. Scenes depicting mealtimes occur quite frequently in Hoshiai no Sora so I’d be grateful if you could watch the series while reminiscing about your school days and the food you used to eat when you were a child.

(Text: Kawano Yumiko)

#224 – Okamoto Nobuhiko

Livedoor feature with Okamoto Nobuhiko from earlier this year about all things yakiniku.

Why Okamoto Nobuhiko loves meat so much: ‘Yakiniku’ makes life worth living

Today is the 9th of February aka ‘Meat Day’ (2-9/Niku no Hi). The enticing smell of sizzling meat, the feeling of juices overflowing in your mouth, the taste of umami that spreads across your tongue as you chew….The mere thought of ‘meat’ alone is enough to make one drool and there is without doubt, an army of ‘meat’ lovers out there.

Popular seiyuu Okamoto Nobuhiko voices many characters including Boku no Hero Academia’s Bakugō Katsuki, is one of those who’s fascinated by ‘meat’. In fact, he loves a certain meat so much that his ‘dream is to run a restaurant’ serving ‘yakiniku’. Whenever he gets wind of any trendy new eatery, he’ll be there in a flash.

I wish to listen to Okamoto-san discuss his beloved ‘yakiniku’ while actually eating it! So we decided to meet at a restaurant that Okamoto-san frequently patronises.

Photography: Niizuma Kazuhisa, Interview & Text: Omagari Tomoko
Styling: Asai Naoki (Vigroo), Hair: Takahashi Ayumi

Featured Restaurant
Namaiki (生粋)
Address: 2F, 6-13-7 Sotokanda, Chiyoda, Tokyo
Phone no: 03-5817-8929
Business Hours: 17:00-24:00 (last order 23:00). Reservations can be made for 15:00 onwards

It’s common sense to not drink alcohol when consuming delicious food

Our meeting place is ‘Namaiki’, which is within walking distance of Suehirocho Station in Tokyo. Okamoto-san often comes here in a private capacity, and it’s famous among foodies as a place where you can barely get a reservation.

According to Okamoto-san, ‘Eating delicious foods always has me feeling exhilarated’ and he’s in great spirits today too. With greetings out of the way, we make our way into the restaurant.

Q: Do you often visit this restaurant?

A: The first time I came here was for a meat party with Sugita Tomokazu-san. Sugita-san’s a massive meat lover and he thought it’d be a good chance to take us to a good place that was hard to get hold of reservations for, and it turned out to be ‘Namaiki’.

I have come here many time myself since, with my parents and also for a friend’s birthday party.

Q: What kind of place is this?

A: Namaiki is a yakiniku restaurant that follows in the footsteps of the famed Yoroniku in Omotesando, Tokyo, and everything on the menu of this particular sister store is delicious.

The restaurant also has an elegant ambiance and would greatly please any guests you bring. Apart from ‘Namaiki’, I often patronise ‘Misuji’ in Akasaka as well. I’ll always order a course menu.

Menu – 6300yen Course

  • Kimchi 3 types, Namul 3 types
  • Lean sashimi
  • Salad
  • Yukhoe bruschetta
  • Heart, lean meat, tongue, konbu
  • Lean meat
  • Soup
  • Torched wagyu nigiri
  • Fillet silk-loin
  • Dashi misuji (shoulder blade cut)
  • Zabuton (chuck) sukiyaki
  • Sōmen
  • Shaved ice

Q: The ambiance of this restaurant is also its selling point.

A: They use a very different type of roaster. The ones you usually see in casual-style eateries have a duct attached to the table that sucks up the smoke. There’s another type of roaster that pulls down the smoke beneath the table and that’s what is used in high-end restaurants like Namaiki, to reduce the amount of smoke emitted.

I do like the bustling shops that use the exhaust duct up top but let’s be honest: that type of roaster will always result in smoke and oil clinging to your clothes and bags, while the noise of smoke being sucked out is so loud that it blocks out conversations. Now that I’ve learned of the appeal of smokeless roasters, I definitely favour going to places that use them.

Q: Is beer the perfect companion to yakiniku?

A: I can’t hold my drink very well so once I’m drunk I won’t have a clue what anything tastes like (laughs). It’d be a waste for me to go to a high-end restaurant and not remember what I’d eaten. Which is why I tend not to drink, though I’ll have a glass if everyone’s having one when we’re out celebrating somebody’s birthday.

In terms of specific drinks, I usually go for makgeolli or a strongly-diluted rum & coke (laughs). I’ll stick to the Perrier for today!

Yakiniku: A childhood ‘reward’ for a job well done

Q: Have you always loved meat since you were young?

A: I’ve loved it for as long as I can remember! For example, my parents would ask what I wanted to eat as a reward when I’d won a badminton tournament in junior high or when I got into my desired high school – the answer would always be ‘Yakiniku’!

My father is somewhat of a food connoisseur as well so he’d sometimes take us to a hotel buffet or a Michelin guide-featured restaurant when I was young. Of course, I was just a kid so I couldn’t tell whether something was delicious or not (laughs)

Q: And yet, you already had an interest in consuming delicious food when you were a child.

A: It’s true that I’ve always loved yakiniku, but it wasn’t until I became a seiyuu that I started eating for pleasure. A producer working on my travel programme ‘Okamoto Travel’ is a foodie and one day, he brought me to a yakiniku restaurant: the experience was so amazing that it inspired me [to pursue food].

He brought me to a certain famous yakiniku restaurant in Asagaya and I was stunned to discover that such an incredible restaurant existed in this world – that served to ignite my ‘gourmet fever’. I then looked up various popular yakiniku places online with the intention of paying them a visit and that’s how it all started.

Q: How often do you eat yakiniku?

A: I think I eat meat on average about 3-4 times a week. Mostly yakiniku, but I’ll switch it up and go for steak or other meat dishes sometimes.

Q: What’s your mindset like on the days when you know that you’ll be going to eat at your favourite places?

A: Work definitely seems to go smoothly from the morning (laughs). No matter how tired I am, I feel like I can give my best with the knowledge that ‘meat awaits me at night!’

I’ll consume jelly drinks and fish sausages during recordings to stave off just enough of my hunger to prevent my stomach from making any sounds (laughs). When it’s time to head to the restaurant my stomach will already be growling – I’m starving!

Genres, areas, specialities. The seiyuu world’s ‘Meat’ Club

Q: The lean sashimi is here. Let’s eat!

A: Wow, the colour of the meat is so beautiful, so inviting. When you see meat like this, it’s important that they’re served on appropriate dishes. No matter how good a food is, having it served on a paper dish would be doing a disservice to its quality.

Oh and by the way, Kimura Ryohei-san is someone who’s interested in tableware. When we’re eating together he’ll often remark on how ‘that plate is cute!’ – I’ll imitate what he says too but it’s only recently I’ve come to understand the importance of tableware.

Q: You mention Kimura-san – is he someone you often eat yakiniku with?

A: We have a ‘Meat Club’ community where the meat lovers gather. We all have our own specialist fields – for example, Ryohei-san is an all-rounder whose knowledge stretches beyond yakiniku and covers a lot of other ground. He knows a lot of French and Italian places that I’m not familiar with.

We also have Yasumoto Hiroki-san who loves yakiniku but his forte lies in knowing places where alcohol lovers meet to eat yakiniku, like a certain stand-up eatery under the train tracks in Kanda, and so on. I’m more familiar with the Asagaya area so we’ll mostly take turns making reservations.

Q: I’m surprised that there’s such a thing as being a specialist by area (laughs)

A: There are places where it’s tough to make reservations as they tend to decline first-timers. Speaking from personal experience – there was this restaurant I really wanted to go to but I was turned down all 3 times I went to negotiate with them directly (laughs). The yakiniku restaurant that I currently patronise most often too, required frequent visits to build up a relationship.

So you can pretty much see how we’ve all developed our own little niches and we’ll invite others and receive invitations too, saying ‘shall we go to so-and-so if I can get a reservation?’.

Seiyuu love meat because it’s ‘good for the throat’?

Q: Simple question here – why do seiyuu love meat so much?

A: I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it’s said that meat is good for the throat. Lean meat in particular. They say that if you eat a lot of meat when your voice is in bad shape, the protein will help to repair your throat.

Thus, when you’re feeling unwell or screamed too much you should eat meat. All the youngsters in training school who are hoping to become seiyuu – when you’re feeling ill or find yourself being unable to shout properly: please eat meat. I’m glad I love meat too!

Q: Do you do most of your research online?

A: It’s mostly through word-of-mouth nowadays. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve acquired knowledge from a producer foodie, my seiyuu colleagues and manga authors as well.

There are restaurants that have low ratings on gourmet information websites but are actually very good, so I don’t trust the internet that much. Plus, I have fairly child-like tastes so even if I went to check out certain places, I sometimes end up thinking ‘I’m not old enough to understand this kind of taste’ (laughs wryly).

Q: What do you mean by ‘child-like tastes’?

A: I suppose you could say that my preferences are fairly immature – I don’t like tough meat, for example (laughs). Just recently, we did a segment on the Meiji Tokyo Renka radio show that involved comparing 100g of 400yen roast beef with a 100g portion of 1000yen meat and I favoured the cheaper meat.

The  expensive meat was thicker and tougher while the cheaper one was tender and easy to chew…. I love meat that’s melt-in-the-mouth!

5: heart, lean meat (tsuchinoko), tongue. 6: lean meat (shinshin/cut from thigh). 7: torched wagyu nigiri. 8: fillet silk-loin

Arguing over how to grill meat? Seiyuu’s personal yakiniku rules

We finally enter the yakiniku portion of the course menu. The Namaiki staff grill the meat to perfection, with Okamoto-san watching intently. There is much that he is curious about due to his keen love for meat. Does having so much love for meat lead to specific preferences about grilling and eating methods? Let’s find out his Rules Of Yakiniku.

Q: Do you have any rules when it comes to eating yakiniku?

A: I must always eat white rice! I like to order rice from the beginning of the meal to go with the meat.

A course often starts off with tongue but when rice doesn’t come with the tongue, I’ll have a word with the staff and ask them to bring the rice (laughs) I’m the type who likes to eat beef tongue with rice.

However, when I’m eating a course meal in a place like Namaiki, rice-based dishes will emerge at a timing that the chef deems suitable so I’ll just go with the flow.

Q: What about any rules when it comes to grilling meat?

A: I’d like to eat the rice before it cools down so I’ll often order a ton of meat and grill it all at once but…this method makes Ryohei-san mad (laughs) He’ll say ‘Eat it slowly and savour the taste!’. I’ll say “Sorry~~”, but continue to grill the meat anyways (laughs)

Q: Everyone has their own specific preferences.

A: That’s right. Ryohei-san is a lot more nitpicky. Even when it comes to yakiniku, he’ll be going ‘the grilling net should be half-salt and half-sauce’. So that the flavours won’t mix – grill on the salt half if you want salt flavour and on the sauce half otherwise.

Q: Do you go for yakiniku alone?

A: I do that quite often! I’ll go to chain restaurants or solo yakiniku restaurants quite regularly. I’ll eat silently and quickly slip away when I’m done.

Q: I see. So what do you order when you go for yakiniku?

A: First up, tongue. If they have yukhoe then I’ll have that for starters as well. After that comes the loin, skirt and ribs. I’ll request for fillet at the end. Loin and ribs are the most popular items that customers order so you can easily tell the quality of a restaurant from those two cuts. ‘What kind of meat will they serve?’ is the thought that’s in my mind when I make my order.

‘Eating is Life’. Opening a yakiniku restaurant is my dream

Q: Did you take down any notes for all the restaurants you’ve eaten at so far?

A: I’ll definitely take notes on my mobile phone not only about the restaurant, but about the origin or the specific cut of meat whenever I eat something that makes me think ‘this was amazing!’. If I can’t recall the details then I’ll take photos. Ryohei-san uses an app to record video specifically, but I prefer to leave with photos.

Q: Because you wish to record the delicious memories?

A: Maybe because it’s a pleasure to eat. It makes life worth living (laughs) I place a lot of importance on eating so I want to maintain some kind of record.

Q: That kind of curious mind is great.

A: When I was in school I worked part-time at a fast-food restaurant and I’m thinking how great it would be if I worked in a yakiniku restaurant now. Wouldn’t the staff meals be superb? And you’d get paid for working there….it’d be bliss.

Q: If you love it so much, why not run your own yakiniku restaurant?

A: I have actually thought about it for a bit. It’d be great to create a yakiniku restaurant to suit your ideals. In fact, I do still think that ‘It’s okay to make mistakes, let’s give it 5 years with the aim of not going under’. There are celebrities who run yakiniku restaurants but no seiyuu have done it yet, so I do want to give it a shot.

Still, looking into aspects such as the meat procurement process makes me realise how difficult it would be… and allows me to appreciate just how amazing yakiniku restaurants are.

Q: It appears that loving meat can open up other job opportunities too.

A: Yakiniku knowledge can prove to be a very useful communication tool with older people as well.

Some of the senior seiyuu veterans have shared information about good restaurants. Sometimes I’ll even ask if they can take me with them! (laughs)

Sugita Tomokazu and Uchida Yuma too – the seiyuu yakiniku circle

Q: When you’re at yakiniku restaurants with other seiyuu, does the conversation revolve around work?

A: Actually, no. We’ll mostly be exchanging food tips, talking about how ‘that place is really good’ etc. We also discuss real-life issues like ‘how are you managing your money?’ or ‘what are you thinking of pursuing in the future?’ (laughs)

If we wanted to discuss acting we’d be more likely to do it in a casual izakaya. We’d get all heated and debate about how ‘your acting is so on and so on~’ – if we were to come to a place like this we’d probably want to concentrate on eating the delicious food (laughs)

Q: How is the bill handled on such occasions?

A: I’m a little bit older so I’ve not only been splitting the bill 50-50; I tend to pay for my juniors more nowadays too.

Oh, but when I came to Namaiki with Sugita-san, he picked up the tab by himself. Sugita-san will always foot the bill whenever we go for a meal together. He’s like an older brother who’s always looking out for me.

Q: Who amongst your seiyuu juniors then, are promising yakiniku enthusiasts?

A: I often invite Uchida Yuma to come along. He loves meat and whenever we go for a meal together, he eats so much that it makes me happy just watching him.

Once, around 6 of us went to a shabu-shabu place in Yoyogi and we ended up eating 10kg of meat, with most of that being consumed by Yuma-kun (laughs). When we were doing Starmyu together we’d go for yakiniku at lunchtime if recording had finished early and then we’d head straight to our next recording session from there.

If you were to eat with me, I’d like someone who eats lots

We’ve arrived at the main dish on the course and the yakiniku portion is about to come to an end. Thanks to Okamoto-san’s ability to naturally answer any question thrown at him, the interview has proceeded smoothly. Fun times are sure to be had whenever Okamoto-san eats yakiniku with his friends. With that in mind, we move on to the next topic. If you were to eat yakiniku with someone, what kind of person would you prefer? Would you go for yakiniku on a first date? We research Okamoto-san’s views on dating through the lens of ‘yakiniku’.

Q: What’s your opinion on going for yakiniku on a date?

A: It’s an option, isn’t it? I’ve got this image of girls actually being the ones who prefer yakiniku these days.

Q: What about yakiniku on a first date – is it a possibility?

A: Eh, would you consider it impossible? They might dislike the fact that the smell of smoke clings on to their clothes but if you were to pick a smokeless roaster place like Namaiki then I think that it’s definitely an option.

Also, it’s better for the guy to grill the meat on a yakiniku date. If a girl handles the grilling, there’s always a chance that the sauce might get onto their long hair and clothes.

Q: That’s kind of you. Would you get disillusioned though, if your partner on a yakiniku date ended up eating most of the meat?

A: Not at all. That would be awesome. In fact, I’d welcome it! On the other hand I might get a little sad if they said ‘I’m full now, that’s me done for the night’; I’d be thinking ‘but it’s so tasty….’. Especially since the main dish comes out towards the end of a course meal. So I’d definitely be happy with someone who eats loads when we’re out for a meal together.

Q: What gestures would you look out for from your partner when you’re on a date?

A: I think it’s wonderful when you see someone showing consideration for the staff members in a restaurant. I have much respect for restaurant workers so I definitely wouldn’t want them to be disregarded. This applies to both women and men.

Eating makes life worth living. The reason why Okamoto Nobuhiko is particular about food

Q: We’ve discussed various topics so far but let me ask this: if you eat such delicious food regularly, won’t you run up fairly substantial food costs?

A: You’re right (laughs). However, everyone has differing views on how one should choose to spend their money, be it on clothes or living somewhere nice – for me, it goes on ‘food’ and ‘travel’. If I had to pick between clothing, food and shelter I would always choose food! (serious face)

Q: You have no preferences when it comes to fashion?

A: Amongst my generation of seiyuu, I’m the one who rarely ever buys clothes. Maybe only 20% of what everyone else purchases. I have little interest in fashion itself, and I’d be fine with wearing anything, to be honest.

However, fans would notice it if I always wore the same shirt so I try to buy 2 new ones every season. If it were up to me I’d wear a uniform every day (laughs)

Q: You mention that you eat yakiniku 4 times a week – what do you eat on the other 3 days?

A: I’m completely useless at cooking so I’m often cutting corners when it comes to food. Sometimes I’ll be like ‘I’m eating good food tomorrow so I’ll just make do with vegetables and gummy sweets today!’ (laughs) I usually end up at convenience stores during lunchtime or go to soba chain restaurants near the train station.

Q: What are your thoughts now that we’ve come to the end of the meal?

A: I’ve had a very wonderful time! Ah, Namaiki’s silk-loin is definitely my favourite dish – but the tsuchinoko (tender cut from the short rib) was really tasty too.

I love the ‘melt-in-the-mouth lean cut’ but when you think about it, ‘melt-in-the-mouth’ and ‘lean cuts’ are contradictory aspects. Yet, it’s a reality here! I was surprised to find that there are cuts of meat other than the fillet, that melt in the mouth

Q: Okamoto-san’s respect towards yakiniku is clear to see.

A: I’m truly thankful. I’ll be heading to the studio for recording afterwards so this meal has given me plenty of energy!

I’m glad to be able to visit a yakiniku restaurant for work and for it to take place at an esteemed establishment such as Namaiki has proved to be a valuable experience. I would like to relay my gratitude to the staff of the restaurant. I’ll be visiting you again in a private capacity soon!

#223 – Uchitama: Shirai Yusuke x Umehara Yuichiro

Livedoor interview with Shirai Yusuke and Umehara Yuichiro, two of the cast members from the upcoming winter 2020 anime Uchitama!? by MAPPA & Lapin Track, which is based upon Tama & Friends, a series of mascot toys from the 80s. The first part of the Uchitama interview series was with Saito Soma which I might (or might not) do….

The popular ‘80s character ‘Tama & Friends~ Do You Know Our Tama?~’ is getting an anthropomorphic anime that will be broadcast on TV from January 2020. Livedoor News previously interviewed Saito Soma, who voices the main character Okamoto Tama and this time, we speak to Shirai Yusuke, who voices the playful Kiso Tora and Umehara Yuichiro, who voices the hot-blooded Mikawa Kuro.

A few years separate their respective seiyuu in terms of debut years but these two made their breakthrough at the same time and have frequently co-starred; their relationship is fairly open and both speak of a ‘trust between them’. Known as cat lovers, the two of them discuss everything from cats to recording sessions to their first impressions of each other.

Photography: Kawano Yukika, Interview & Text: Sakuma Yūko, Production: Anfan
Hair: Sugimoto Yōko (Shirai), Yazaki Mai (Umehara)

They both kept goldfish caught from goldfish scooping games as pets

Q: The two of you co-star in the TV anime Uchitama?! which has a cat as its main character, and this photoshoot features Momiji-chan the cat. Let’s hear your thoughts on the cat.

Umehara: Calico cats are cute, aren’t they? It has good style.

Shirai: Just what you’d expect from a cat model.

Q: It posed perfectly for the camera.

Umehara: I’ve had a couple of photoshoots with cats but this has been most obedient, easiest cat to work with.

Shirai: I’ve got a monthly cat café show called Nekorobi Danshi and Momiji is one of the friendliest cats I’ve seen.

Q: Uchitama!? features dogs as well. Have either of you had pet cats or dogs?

Umehara: I personally haven’t.

Shirai: Me neither. I was one of 3 siblings so our household was pretty lively and we never thought about getting a pet dog or cat.

Q: Have you experience of keeping any other pets apart from dogs and cats?

Shirai: I’ve never kept any pets since I lived with my parents. When I was a kid I did go insect collecting and kept beetle larvae, that was the extent of it.

Oh, and goldfish. My brother came home from the festival stalls with a goldfish that he’d gotten from goldfish scooping and we named it Mint. It didn’t live very long but I was just a kid and it made me sad. I remember that we all helped to make a grave and buried it there. I still recall the shape of its fishbowl clearly.

Umehara: I did keep goldfish a few years ago too. I brought them home from a goldfish scooping game and they died the next day. I was so sad that I bought 2 more and tried to raise them properly. I got an aquarium and a starter kit but they both died within about 6 months… Yeah, I did get sad about it after all.

Q: So which do you prefer, dogs or cats?

Umehara: Cats by far.

Shirai: Have is always been that way?

Umehara: Yeah I’ve always preferred them from the start.

Q: Any reasons for your strong stance there?

Umehara: There was a cat in my grandmother’s house a long time ago and that’s shaped my views. I haven’t had many opportunities to get close to dogs so I guess it’s a natural decision.

Q: What do you like about cats?

Umehara: I like how they’re independent; you don’t have to take them for walks and you can just leave them alone. It’s cute that they’re so feisty. I actually like how humans are the ones who have to approach cats and get their attention.

Q: How about you, Shirai-san?

Shirai: I think I originally preferred dogs. But after I started working on the cat café show, I’ve switched to being a cat lover.

Dogs are more, ‘Look at me! Take me for a walk!’ – thought that’s quite cute too. You’ll never see that coming from a cat though. You can leave them to their own devices. That kind of distance makes them easy to deal with.

‘Cat boys’ dislike being controlled. Their fickle nature is a trait they share in common

Q: The main character in Uchitama!? is a boy named Tama; do you see any of those characteristics applying to you two ‘cat boys’? For example, cat boys are known to have traits such as ‘disliking being controlled’, ‘tsundere’, ‘fickle’ and ‘shy’.

Shirai: That describes me to a tee. Except for tsundere.

Umehara: Aren’t you tsundere?

Shirai: Deredere…that’d be weird too (laughs) I’m neither tsun nor dere. Just normal!

But I wouldn’t like being restricted. I wouldn’t like to be controlled or having to put up with what other people say. I’m shy as well, though I’m more moody than fickle, I’d say. I suppose I resemble a cat in that sense?

Umehara: I don’t like being controlled either. As for whether I’m a tsundere, I’m not sure…

Shirai: Oh yes you are. A tsundere.

Umehara: Am I a tsundere? (laughs)

Shirai: You are a tsundere.

Umehara: I see. Okay, I’m a tsundere (laughs) And yeah I’m shy and fickle too. I suppose I’m a ‘cat boy’ if we look at those criteria. On the other hand, what’s a dog boy?

Shirai: Someone friendly? Who’ll wag their tail at anyone?

Umehara: Ah, I see. Then that’s definitely not me. I’m a cat.

Q: The two of you share unexpectedly similar personalities.

Umehara: That’s right. We never chat idly when we’re together. Both of us are basically quiet types.

Shirai: It’s the same when we’re in the dressing room. But then Ume-chan will start deliberately shooting rubber bands across the room (laughs)

Umehara: Yes, I shoot rubber bands (laughs)

Shirai: And he puts rubbish into other people’s bags (laughs)

Umehara: Oh that happened too (laughs)

Q: Does that desire to pull pranks come impulsively?

Umehara: I do actually have my own reasons, Shirai-san’s dressing room…

Shirai: Er, my dressing room?

Umehara: His stuff was strewn all over his dressing room table. That’s why I ended up doing that.

Shirai: You tidied it up!? I see. So you did have your reasons (laughs)

Umehara: Yes. I was tidying things up.

Shirai: But you put some rubbish in there too? (laughs)

Umehara: Yes I’d mix the rubbish in (laughs)

Q: Do you see any ‘dog boys’ among the Uchitama!? cast?

Umehara: That describes Uchida Yuma-kun (voice of Kawara Beh) perfectly, doesn’t it?

Shirai: That’s true, despite him voicing a cat.

Umehara: (Ono) Kensho-san (voice of Yamada Pochi) is similar too. He’s friendly…or sociable, rather.

Shirai: Maeno (Tomoaki)-san (Kuramochi Bull) doesn’t really resemble a dog.

Umehara: Yeah he’s not much of a dog. But he doesn’t feel like a cat either.

Shirai: Hatano-san (Wataru, voice of Noda Gon) is more like a dog, if I had to pick.

Umehara: True, he’s more dog-like.

Shirai: He’s always cheerful no matter who he’s dealing with. How about Kaji-san (Yuki, voice of Nora)?

Umehara: Kaji-san’s probably not a cat.

Shirai: But he’s not a dog either. (Saito) Soma-kun is kinda like a cat pretending to be a dog? He’s definitely friendly, but he does have cat-like sides to him. A dog-like cat!

Umehara: What the heck is that (laughs)

Shirai: I have no idea (laughs)

Battles in the recording studio: ‘Being cute!’ and ‘Trying to be cute!’

Q: What were your thoughts when you found out about your casting in Uchitama!?

Shirai: It’s a series that I’ve been familiar with since I was a kid so it felt strange at first. There was a sense of joy in knowing that ‘I’ll be appearing in a show that I watched when I was young’. I knew most of the cast members as well, so I was sure that it would be a fun show to work on.

Umehara: Initially, I was curious about what kind of story it would be and how the anthropomorphised animal characters would speak. Would it have a different flavour from the original series or would it follow in its footsteps and have a light-hearted, retro style?

Q: Recording has already started – how has it been?

Umehara: The animation switches between ‘anthropomorphic figures’ and actual models of ‘cats and dogs’. That was what surprised me the most when I first watched the rehearsal video. You’d jump into scenes with cats and the next cut would have humans instead. I’m curious to see how this will transmit to viewers when they watch it on TV for the first time – I personally found it interesting.

Q: Do your performances have to change alongside the switch between anthropomorphised characters and animals?

Shirai: When in animal form, we don’t speak the human language.

Umehara: We express ourselves using animal sounds.

Q: Are there any differences compared to voicing normal humans?

Shirai: They may resemble humans but they’re originally animals so I voice the character as I would a cat.

Umehara: Yeah. They’re conversations between dogs and cats so there’s no sneakiness and words exchanged are straight to the point. So I hope that viewers will accept what they see as it is. It’s only Kaji-san’s character Nora that has a different fur colour too (laughs)

Shirai: You’re right (laughs)

Q: He seems to have quite the history.

Umehara: I’m definitely curious about that part. The other characters’ conversations are straightforward. This is the kind of series that you can sit back and enjoy even when you’re tired.

Shirai: That’s right. There are many scenes with a comedic touch and you can relax and enjoy the story of their daily lives. The staff members mentioned that they wanted to make a series that would provide relief to those who come home tired from work.

Q: It hasn’t been long since recording began – how’s the mood in the studio so far?

Shirai: It’s really fun.

Umehara: Many of us have worked together before.

Shirai: Yeah. Our seniors are all kind and fun people so we’re able to relax. Everybody’s already laughing by the time we’re doing tests.

Q: Is that because of the performances?

Shirai: Yeah. The bull character voiced by Maeno-san is amusing, right? (laughs)

Umehara: He’s the gag character after all (laughs)

Shirai: Bulldogs are really active, aren’t they? Maeno-san’s having the time of his life playing this role and it shows.

Umehara: It’s almost like…a character who suffers from chunibyo disease.

Shirai: Yeah, he seems a little drunk.

Umehara: He looks scary so he tends to be shunned by others, but he’s actually cute on the inside. But hmm…maybe cute isn’t the right word… (laughs)

Shirai: A bit of a show-off but really, he just wants to get along with everyone else.

Umehara: Yeah, yeah. But he doesn’t want to be treated like a fool so he puts on arrogant airs. He’s a character with a cute contrast between his two sides.

Shirai: When he first laid eyes upon the cat (Hanasaki) Momo-chan (CV: Hanazawa Kana), that one-liner from Maeno-san was… (laughs). What a ‘cute’ line from Maeno-san, or rather, from Bull.

Umehara: That one line was pretty much Maeno-san personified anyway (laughs)

Q: What about Saito Soma’s Tama or Ono Kensho’s Pochi?

Umehara: Both Soma-kun and Kensho-san are using their higher registers in their performances. It’s quite tough for adult men to produce high voices but Soma-kun did comment ‘my throat is in really great condition today’ at the end of episode 1’s recording.

Shirai: Oh!? I didn’t know that.

Umehara: We were chatting about how it might get a lot tougher in future if we were going to use episode 1 as a barometer.

Shirai: Yeah I remember that he was being effortlessly cute. Kensho-san though, was repeating ‘like this!’ to himself…

Umehara: He was going, ‘I’m cute!!’, trying to fire himself up (laughs)

Shirai: ‘I’m gonna make him cute!’ as well.

Umehara: Ah yes, he did say ‘I’m gonna make him cute!’ (laughs)

Shirai: And the results were really cute, I think!

Shirai-san, who never forgets the heart of a child & Umehara-san, who’s clumsy at times

Q: We hear that you bring cola and beef jerky to the recording studio, Shirai-san. Do you still maintain that habit?

Shirai: Yes I do. I drank cola during recordings for episode 1 too. Whenever I’m feeling that ‘I need to be on my game today’, I’ll always drink cola.

Umehara: …how ‘bout today?

Shirai: Hmm? Today’s not about being ‘fired up’; I’m here to have a soothing photoshoot with a cat (laughs)

Umehara: Ah, I see (laughs)

Q: So cola fires you up?

Shirai: Somehow…it’s like a switch for me? And I’ll always have beef jerky in my bag.

Q: All the time!?

Shirai: All the time. But recently, I’ve stopped myself from eating it every day for the sake of my health. The salt content is pretty high after all. But I still drink cola every single day. Though I’m thinking of limiting myself to 1 per day.

Q: What’s your record…?

Shirai: When I’ve got events going on all-day long, I can go up to about 3 x 500ml bottles. It does help fire me up.

Q: Umehara-san, is there any food etc that you always bring to recordings?

Umehara: Something that I always have….probably lozenges?

Shirai: Wow, how responsible!

Umehara: Well, it’s only cos I tend to get a lot of phlegm… but I’ve got nothing like cola, nothing that’s a must-eat

Shirai: Maybe you have to work out before going out?

Umehara: Whether I work out or not depends on the type of character I’m voicing the following day (laughs)

Shirai: Eh, really!?

Umehara: ‘cos my voice will change.

Shirai: Are you for real!?

Umehera: Yeah, though it’s just my own perception. I feel like my voice gets deeper the day after I work out so I think I’ll skip the gym on days before Uchitama!? recording sessions.

Q: Because it’s important to be ‘cute’.

Umehara: Yeah. I do have to think about that; the fact that I would sound out of character if my voice gets too deep.

Q: Do either of you see yourself resembling your characters Tora and Kuro?

Shirai: Tora is an innocent, playful boy and I was probably similar to that when I was a kid. I do like fooling around now, but I think Tora is a character whose young image is a good fit for me.

Tora tries to play it cool sometimes and usually ends up running around in circles. I’m voicing the part thinking of how cute he is there. He’s a character who does whatever he thinks is fun without thinking too far ahead.

Q: Umehara-san – do you think Shirai-san and Tora are similar in any way?

Umehara: Hmmm…I wouldn’t say he’s mischievous, but Shirai-san’s quite the entertainer and understands the heart of a child – they’re similar in those ways.

Q: What about Kuro and yourself?

Umehara: I don’t think Kuro’s personality and ideals are at all similar to mine. I’m not the type whose emotions are written all over my face and I’m not like an older sibling who’s good at taking care of others… Ah, though we might share that trait of running around in circles when we’re trying to do something.

Q: Do you often find yourself running around in circles?

Umehara: How should I put it…I find that if I tell myself ‘I’m gonna do this’, I end up not being able to do it. Most of the time, I function better if I don’t put too much thought into things. Whether I’m just chasing rainbows or overthinking, I realise that everything seems to go wrong when I try too hard (laughs)

Q: Shirai-san, do you think Umehara-san is similar to Kuro in any way?

Shirai: Well it seems like Kuro’s a very hot-blooded character, isn’t he? And [Umehara] is the exact opposite (laughs). When you look at Ume-chan’s credits list, you don’t see too many of these hot-blooded types. It does feel fresh.

However, Kuro is also rather clumsy. Ume-chan’s a bit clumsy at times too.

Q: When?

Shirai: There was one time where we were trying to ascend an elevator and we found out that only Ume-chan had gotten on the one going down. Very occasionally, he slips up and does something like that. It made me feel like I’d stumbled upon something really rare (laughs)

The gap between us was bridged after a location shoot

Q: What were your impressions of each other when you first met?

Umehara: My first impression of Shirai-san was ‘I don’t get this guy’ (laughs) Both of us are men of few words.

Shirai: Hahaha (laughs). Hmm, what about Ume-chan…. Maybe ‘This guy doesn’t seem interested in other human beings?’

Umehara: (laughs)

Shirai: He’s very quiet so I started to wonder if he could even talk. Or if we would actually get along.

Q: What brought you closer?

Shirai: We spent a lot of time together during events and livestreams for Boeibu LOVE!, the first series in which we co-starred, so it kinda happened somewhere along the line…there wasn’t any specific factor; we’d already become friends by the time we’d realised it.

Umehara: What I recall is that when we went for a location shoot, it occured to me that ‘Shirai-san’s a lot more interesting when you push his buttons’.

Shirai: Oh? (laughs)

Umehara: I think we started getting a lot closer from that point. Up ‘til then I’d been thinking that he’s my senior and older than me so it’s not a very good idea to tease him too much…

Shirai: Really!? You don’t think that at all right now, do you?

Umehara: Nope, I don’t (laughs)

Q: So you had your reservations at first, but they flew away over the course of filming.

Umehara: That’s right. I came to think that he shines more when he’s provoked so I started teasing him (laughs) Shirai-san has a big heart and is forgiving; for that I am grateful.

Shirai: That’s totally true. I love being teased.

Umehara: Is that so?

Shirai: Yeah, that’s why I was happy (laughs) I think I’m a pretty forgiving guy which is probably why it’s fine to play the fool with me. Feel free to tease me more and more.

Q: Have your impressions of each other changed?

Umehara: Nah, I still don’t really get him (laughs)

Shirai: What, really!? (laughs)

Umehara: He’s basically kinda weird so I still haven’t quite gotten てぇ measure of him but at least, that initial feeling of stepping into the unknown has gone. I think Shirai-san is a mature, kind person.

Shirai: Ume-chan’s someone who likes to fool around. It took me by surprise when I first noticed that side of him. And as you can see, he plays tricks on me. I hadn’t pictured him to be that kind of guy so it did make me realise that he does indeed possess human characteristics.

Umehara: Just what did you think I was? (laughs)

Q: Is there any aspect of each other that you think, ‘I wish he’d fix this’?

Shirai: I run into Ume-chan sometimes near studios or out on the streets, but he deliberately pretends not to see me (laughs)

Umehara: (laughs)

Shirai: Even if I’ve spotted Ume-chan and try to wave at him he’ll take one glance and just disappear. I feel like I should just ram into his shoulder and run away (laughs) Please stop that.

Q: Did he begin doing that after you’d gotten closer?

Shirai: It’s because we get along well that he thinks such pranks will be forgiven. Nowadays I’ve switched to staring at him silently before walking off. But well, it’s fine now…but it did actually make me feel a bit sad at one point (laughs)

I suppose that equates to teasing on Ume-chan’s part. He looks cool, and he seems to enjoy it. And of course he’ll start horsing around backstage and put stuff into my bag.

Q: Did you only notice it when you got home?

Shirai: Nope, I found out before I got home (laughs) His pranks are easy to figure out. Shooting the rubber bands he gets from bento boxes after he’s finished eating; childish tricks like that…

Q: Sounds like a primary school boy (laughs)

Shirai: Yeah he does resemble a primary school boy sometimes (laughs) That’s why I’m never bored when I’m with Ume-chan.

But of course he’s an upstanding member of society! Ume-chan may look like this but he’s aware of his surroundings. Ah don’t misinterpret the ‘he looks like this’ part! (laughs)

Umehara: So true! (laughs)

Shirai: Ume-chan has a very objective view of things and often, remarks he makes offhand end up being helpful and help to liven things up. He’s also good at backing others up and that makes him a reliable work colleague.

Umehara: Obviously I would say the same of Shirai-san; he’s the type who gets things going during events and keeps the discussions flowing – definitely a guy who’s always hitting it out of the ballpark. I’m not good at being aggressive with jokes but Shirai-san is someone who can do that. He’s someone who’s always good at lightening the mood.

Q: On the other hand, is there anything you’d like to ‘fix’ about Shirai-san?

Umehara: Hmm…I wouldn’t say I want him to ‘fix’ it, but I tend to see him as someone who’s always playing mobile games. He seems to spend endless hours looking at his phone. Maybe he should cut it down a bit? He’s always in his own world even when we’re backstage so perhaps…moderate it a little… (laughs)

Q: In what way do you think you’ve both grown compared to when you first met?

Umehara: He hasn’t changed at all and I mean it in a positive way: Shirai-san is a person who really gives his all at everything without a single word of complaint.

When the mood in the studio is a little low, he has the capacity to reproach someone in a mature way but will also be positive and says ‘let’s do our best’. He doesn’t simply say ‘let’s do our best’; he finds the right words to say at the right time that gives you reassurance and makes you feel respect for him. He’s the kind of person who can gauge other people’s emotional states and knows when and how to act.

Shirai: Ume-chan’s a man who sticks to his own principles. He equips himself well or rather; he never allows himself to be shaken by trivial matters. He’s self-assured and isn’t affected no matter what people say to him. I’ve been working with Ume-chan since his debut and his trustworthiness is something that has not changed.

Answer at the same time! Shirai x Umehara’s In-sync Quiz

Q1: If Shirai-san was an animal what would he be?

A: Shirai – mouse, Umehara – mosquito

Shirai: OII! (laughs) A mosquito’s a bug!

Umehara: I’m writing this ‘cos you imitated a mosquito before.

Shirai: I did~ I thought I’d be some small animal. My face is kinda like a mouse’s.

Umehara: Rodent-like?

Shirai: Yeah yeah.

Q2: If Umehara-san was an animal what would he be?

A: Shirai – shoebill, Umehara – sloth

Umehara: Shoebill…

Shirai: Maybe it’s your eyes?

Umehara: Ahh~

Shirai: Also, shoebills are known for staying stationary. It feels like they’re always poising themselves for something.

Umehara: Sloths are pretty much the same. They don’t want to move.

Q3: What’s Shirai-san’s favourite phrase?

A: Shirai – ‘nah, no way’, Umehara – Oi! (or something)

Shirai: Eh, do I seem like a tsukkomi character?

Umehara: …it was when I was shooting rubber bands.

Shirai: …well, anyone would go into tsukkomi mode if they had rubber bands flying at them! (laughs) Maybe I only do that to Ume-chan since he’s always playing tricks. My ‘no, no way’ is the humble type. In a shy way.

Umehara: I’ve never heard you say that though? (laughs)

Q4: What’s Umehara-san’s favourite phrase?

A: Shirai – ‘Huh? (or something), Umehara – ‘Huh?’ (to Shirai-san)

Shirai: A match at last!

Umehara: I didn’t expect it to happen here.

Shirai: But you say that to everyone, not just me.

Umehara: Yeah. To Eguchi (Takuya)-san and so on (laughs)

Shirai: It’s definitely a habit he has.

Q5: How many times have we argued?

A: Shirai: 0, Umehara: 0

Umehara: Well, yeah.

Shirai: Yeap. We don’t.

Umehara: We’re not the type.

Shirai: We don’t get close enough to other people to want to fight with them.

Umehara: We don’t get along well with anyone else to even have people to fight with.

Q6: A place of memories for us is…?

A: Shirai – Toilet, Umehara – Yomiuri Land

Umehara: Eh, why the toilet?

Shirai: Uh…I wonder why? (thinks hard) Ah~! Yomiuri Land~!

Umehara: Yeah. I went there with Shirai-san recently for an event.

Shirai: So that’s why the answer came to you so easily~.

#222 – Hoshiai no Sora Vol.3: Toyonaga Toshiyuki & Sato Keisuke

Milk battles in class! Popular seiyuu Toyonaga Toshiyuki and Sato Keisuke discuss their ‘memories of delicious school lunch’

Vol.3 in the Cookpad Hoshiai no Sora series continues with Toyonaga Toshiyuki (Soga Tsubasa) & Sato Keisuke (Takenouchi Shingo). This is Sato’s debut anime appearance – he’s a junior actor attached to Toyonaga’s Super Eccentric Theater group.

Q: This series focuses on the story of a soft tennis club – do the 2 of you have any memories of club activities?

Toyonaga: I was in the basketball club in junior high and in the school band in high school. The latter wasn’t a club officially, but we’d gotten permission to use a music room for practice and members would gather there during lunch breaks to talk about music games we were playing at the time. Ah, that’s youth~ (laughs). What club did you join, Keisuke?

Sato: I was in the basketball club during junior high too. For high school I was in the Going Home club but for the sake of entering a Mamachari bike race I would join in the bicycle club activities once a week.

Toyonaga: A Mamachari race? Even though you’re not a mama??

Sato: Well, it’s not a ‘Mama’s bike’ race, it’s a ‘Mamachari bike’ race (laughs). There was a tourney that rented a proper circuit for it. I only went to practice once a week but I soon got bored of talking about bicycles the whole time during club activities. For some reason, our gathering place was in an art room.

Toyonaga: How many club members were there?

Sato: 3.

Toyonaga: So 3 members plus an advisor? That’s pretty sad (laughs)

Q: In Hoshiai no Sora, cooking scenes play a key role in the story – do either of you have any fond memories of food you ate during club activities or in school?

Toyonaga: I loved the ‘kinako fried bread’ that was served in my primary school lunches and back then, I’d try to make it to school no matter what. I also loved ‘meat sauce’. The balance between the meat sauce that accompanied each portion of pasta would have to be perfect or else they’d run out of pasta when it came time for seconds. Talking of seconds, ‘milk’ was really popular in my class and it was always a battlefield. We used to play a game that resembled Menko with the milk bottle caps and us kids ended up drinking lots of milk as we attempted to hoard as many bottle caps as possible for our collection.

Sato: Milk was popular in my class as well. We were given milk in paper cartons that came with straws, and there were different flavours like strawberry and coffee.

Toyonaga: Eh! You didn’t get them in bottles? And you mean there were different flavours too? There was no such thing during my time. Ah, I can feel the generation gap now~ (laughs)

Sato: It was revolutionary when they introduced different milk flavours, and that led to fights as well.

Toyonaga: Seems fun. You were born at a good time.

Sato: When I was in junior high I had a lot of second helpings of the ‘school lunch curry’. It was first come first serve and I’d always win. That’s why other kids would start to chant ‘Ike Ike Keisuke~!’ (Go go Keisuke) and I became the ‘Hero of the School Lunch Hour’ (laughs). Those were really fun times.

Q: Hoshiai no Sora features scenes of Maki cooking – do either of you cook regularly?

Toyonaga: Only to the extent where I make something simple like vegetable stir-fries. My favourite food is ‘soy sauce’ so I often look up soy sauce-based dishes on Cookpad.

Sato: You favourite food is ‘soy sauce’?

Toyonaga: Yeah (laughs) No matter whether it’s a sweet and spicy dish or Japanese food, I love anything that’s soy-sauced based! What do you usually cook, Keisuke?

Sato: I cook once every 2 days or so and most of my dishes are miso-based.

Toyonaga: Soy sauce vs miso!

Sato: Miso is versatile so if you look up recipes you’ll find all sorts of things. I recently made miso-glazed imomochi (potato mochi) but with pumpkin.

Toyonaga: What? Isn’t imomochi made from potatoes? You should just call that ‘pumpkin mochi’!

Sato: Oh! You’re right (laughs)

Q: Lastly, please tell Cookpad News readers what the highlights of Hoshiai no Sora are!

Toyonaga: On the surface, this appears to be what people typically describe as a youth-oriented, school-based anime but the stories featured within are quite heavy and the individual characters’ family situations and mental conditions play a significant role. Look forward to seeing how the story develops in relation to soft tennis! And of course, there will be fun cooking scenes in addition to the serious parts. All the dishes look delicious and gorgeous, so do please pay attention to that too.

Sato: I think we’ll have gotten through some fairly heavy content by this point but do be soothed by the cooking scenes. The parts featuring Maki-kun’s cooking are depicted beautifully and with ever-loving care so please pay attention to them. I hope many people will see this show. Thank you!

#221 – Hoshiai no Sora Vol.2: Matsuoka Yoshitsugu & Sato Gen

Popular seiyuu Matsuoka Yoshitsugu & Sato Gen’s recommendations! The best ‘food + alcohol’ combination

Second volume of the Hoshiai no Sora interview series, featuring Matsuoka Yoshitsugu (Ameno Itsuki) and Sato Gen (Futsu Rintaro).

The unforgettable taste of ‘onigiri’

Q: This series is a story about a junior high school soft tennis club – do either of you have any experience joining a school club? Do please share any food-related stories; ‘club meals’ that you have fond memories of.

Sato: I was in the kendo club and we’d eat ‘onigiri’ whenever we had matches. It was important to eat in order to build up our strength, so we’d be provided with 2 types of onigiri suitable for this purpose: ‘onigiri with fried chicken’ and ‘onigiri with umeboshi’. I recall that during normal practice, I once managed to eat a super-sized serving of curry, menchi katsu the size of my fist and 3 hot dogs, all in one sitting. I had to work hard to build my body up…it was tough.

Matsuoka: I haven’t got any memories of such ‘club meals’. I was in the brass band so when we had band practice on weekends, I’d bring my own onigiri from home.

Sato: What were the fillings?

Matsuoka: I’m from Hokkaido, so it was salmon. Not just salmon but salted salmon, so it was like I was eating salt itself (laughs)

Just stir-fry! Easy is the best!

Q: The show features scenes of Katsuragi Maki cooking – do the two of you cook on a regular basis?

Sato: I’ve been cooking forever and tend to go for dishes that can be whipped up easily. Fried rice is something I cook often. And I’ll grill meat too. First off, place the meat in a shio koji marinade and refrigerate for 3 hours. I’ll pickle the meat before I go to work and grill it when I come back – it’s simple. I like making dishes that only require that little bit of extra work; anything that’s ‘just grill it’ or ‘just stir-fry it’.

Matsuoka: I’m a frequent user of Cookpad. Most days you get stuck wondering ‘what should I cook today’, right? That’s when I’ll make use [of Cookpad]. My motto is ‘simple to make & delicious to eat’; I’ll search for dishes with short cooking times based on the ingredients on hand and the results will come up.

Sato: Simple is good.

Matsuoka: Ideally 15-minute dishes. For time-consuming dishes, making them once a week is about enough.

Q: Do you have any signature dishes?

Sato: Fried rice. I like Chinese food as you can whip it up relatively quickly. I can relate to Maki’s feelings when he makes Chinese food in the anime. It’s simple, and changing the seasoning is easy.

Matsuoka: Vegetable stir-fries for me; I do a lot of stir-frying in general. You can get it done within a short amount of time. When I have more time to spare, I’ll make Hayashi rice. The version where you don’t use water but rely on the moisture in the tomatoes. I tried cooking it once and discovered that it tasted as good as what you can find in a restaurant. Personally, I think that a frying pan and a kitchen knife is all you need to cook. It’s probably about a year ago that I stumbled upon a magic frying pan!

Sato: Magic? You mean a fried egg pops up out of nowhere?

Matsuoka: Nah, it’s just that it heats up quickly. I boil pasta in that frying pan too. Plus, it never spills the contents of whatever’s inside!

Sato: Ohh? I really want to have one too!!

Matsuoka: The way I cook has changed ever since I found it. My vegetable stir-fries are no longer mushy; they retain their crispness when I dish them up.

Sato: I’ll definitely get one!

Q: The two of you voice Ameno Itsuki and Futsu Rintaro, who show off that they’re the ‘best pairing’ in the anime. Do you have any food pairings that you believe are ‘the best combination’?

Sato: I’m still only 22 but I believe that sake and shiokara (fermented squid) is the best (laughs). Also, shio koji and meat. It’s like a revolution to me. Just pickling [meat in shio koji] makes it so tasty!

Matsuoka: Negitan (beef tongue with green onions) and a highball for me. Speaking of the shio koji and meat combo – I’d like people to try cola and pork. When I make shogayaki, I’ll soak the pork in cola for 30 minutes.The meat will turn out so tender you’ll be going ‘Oh my god! This can’t be?’.

Q: Lastly, please tell us about the highlights of the anime and leave a message to Cookpad News readers.

Sato: Soft tennis may be the theme of this series but the extreme complexities of human nature are depicted in great depth in this show, so it can be enjoyed not only by soft tennis players but also everyone else who hasn’t experienced the sport. I want people from all walks of life; those of you who are or were involved with club activities and those who never joined a club in school, to watch this show. Some really delicious-looking dishes do appear in the anime as well so please look out for that.

Matsuoka: The kids who are gathered at this club all face their own individual troubles and are working hard to move forward. This is the type of series that will move the hearts of people across all ages and it’s also a work that makes one contemplate their ideals in life. As the story progresses, we will see key aspects being elaborated upon and I’d be pleased if you could watch and reflect upon the stories of each of the characters.

(Text: Kawano Yumiko)

#220 – Hoshiai no Sora Vol.1: Hanae Natsuki & Hatanaka Tasuku

I miss my school days! Popular seiyuu Hanae Natsuki & Hatanaka Tasuku discuss their ‘memories of club activity meals’

First of a series of food-centric interviews by recipe sharing platform Cookpad with seiyuu from the fantastic original anime Hoshiai no Sora, featuring leading men Hanae Natsuki (Katsuragi Maki) and Hatanaka Tasuku (Shinjo Toma).

A dish I cooked recently: “Sunny-side up egg’!

Q: The anime features scenes of Katsuragi Maki cooking – do either of you cook?

Hatanaka: I do! And that is when I can make use of the recipes posted on Cookpad.

Hanae: I don’t really cook. There was a point in time when I was obsessed with smoking foods; I’d do research on how to make bacon and actually smoked some for myself.

Hatanaka: Eh! Really?

Hanae: I love the smoked chicken that you find in convenience stores and I wanted to eat loads of it. But it’s a little expensive, right? Which is why I ended up smoking it at home myself.

Hatanaka: Isn’t it more expensive to buy a smoker? (laughs)

Hanae: It was around 3000yen. But the cost of a block of meat was pretty cheap at the butcher’s near where I used to live; about 500yen per portion , so I thought it’d be better value-for-money.

Hatanaka: You were being economical.

Hanae: That’s right. When I was poor, I often used to cook ‘ingredient-free fried rice’.

Hatanaka: Fried rice – me too! You can whip it up with whatever you have in the fridge and season it with salt and pepper – easy peasy. Come to think of it, my cooking mostly consists of ‘stir-fries’. I barely ever simmer or fry anything..

Hanae: Simmering foods is definitely tough. In the anime, we see my character Maki making spring rolls – Chinese food is a hurdle too high for me.

Hatanaka: That’s right. Also, I recently made a ‘sunny side-up egg’ by referring to a recipe on Cookpad. I found a really simple recipe! Crack an egg into a frying pan and add water, put the cover on and that’s it.

Hanae: …isn’t that just how you’d do it normally?

Hatanaka: You don’t add water halfway through, you do it at the start! It didn’t get burnt and it was delicious.

Q: One of the main themes of this anime is how friendships are cultivated through ‘club activities’ – there’s a scene where ‘food’ plays an important role in this. Did either of you join any clubs in school and do you have any fond food-related memories in relation to club activities?

Hatanaka: I was in the basketball club so we worked out a lot. We’d always be hungry by the end of club activities and we’d go to eat ‘Hiroshimayaki’ together. The place we used to go to would charge a flat rate of 600yen for whatever amount of yakisoba you consumed; whether 1 portion or more than 5! I’d always eat 4-5 bundles of noodles. If you couldn’t finish what you’d ordered you’d have to wash dishes as a punishment so I have fond memories of all of us trying to shovel down as much food as we could (laughs)

Hanae: I was in the soft tennis club…

Hatanaka: Wow, that’s the same as Maki!

Hanae: …but I wasn’t so good at it… (laughs) When club activities were over we didn’t really go for meals either. I’d just eat my bento box during lunch and the onigiri that we were provided with for club activities. That was about it.

Feel the emotion in the hearts of these boys

Q: Lastly, please leave a message for viewers who are looking forward to Hoshiai no Sora’s broadcast.

Hanae: This is a refreshing series with soft tennis as its foundation – you’ll also see the detailed depiction of the worries that junior high school students face and as well as the domestic troubles that each individual goes through. There are a lot of different elements packed into this anime so I hope that the viewers can find something that they can relate to within the show. Earlier, Maki’s cooking scenes were mentioned and we do get to see how some problems can be solved through cooking, so be sure to pay attention to that.

Hatanaka: How will this group of boys with wounded hearts traverse life with soft tennis and their friends by their side? This is an anime that has a distinct take on the emotions of the heart, so do pay attention to those parts. And of course, you’ll get hungry watching those eating scenes. Seeing the boys eating with such gusto will give you energy as well so I hope that you’ll look forward to it.

(Text: Kawano Yumiko)