Chapter Five— Meetings and Farewells

I miss the days when I had bodyguards. At the time, whenever I lost my temper I’d go on a rampage. I even got banned from NHK. It was because when I appeared on an NHK music program, I trashed one of their dressing rooms. In the few years leading up to when I appeared in “Fūrin Kazan¹, I didn’t appear on Kohaku Uta Gassen² at all. I was banned the whole time.

At the time, NHK had many music programs. When I appeared on one of them, in the middle of the rehearsal, even though I told the NHK staff member countless times, “Please give the sound cue at this timing,” he failed every time. I gave him some harsh words. “If you get the cue wrong, then we can’t perform, so make absolutely sure you get it right. I can’t have you getting it wrong in a live performance. Be a professional and do your job properly.” And then we started over and he got it wrong again. He got it wrong so many times that I asked, “Are we really going to be okay for the real thing like this?” and he said confidently, “It’s okay. I definitely won’t get it wrong during the show.” I warned him, “If you say that and then get it wrong, I’m going to lose it, you know? You haven’t succeeded once during the rehearsal, but you’re okay for the real thing?” and he said, “It’ll be absolutely fine,” and then the rehearsal time was up so I was forced to end it. And then of course he got it wrong during the show.

Banned from NHK

In the dressing room, where I had returned after the performance, the rage that I had been holding back exploded. I totally lost it and smashed every single thing in the room. The NHK staff ran to me and said, “You’re meant to appear again, so please come this way.” I exploded at them, “You guys can’t even do what you said you could. Not a word of apology. You don’t even bow your heads. And now you’re telling me to come because I’m meant to appear again? Are all you assholes fucking with me!?” and then the staff member who had messed up came to show his face. “Oh no, you see, that was…” he said, starting on some incoherent excuse. And then it ended up with all of them trying to shift the blame right in front of me. I couldn’t control my emotions toward their flippant attitudes and exploded further. “Quit fucking around, assholes!” I yelled, and went on a rampage and left NHK in the middle of the show. And the next day I got the notification that I’d been banned.³

From then on, I didn’t get any work from NHK. They had banned me. And I would have also refused. They thought I was completely mad. And then, some time after that incident, I suddenly got offered a role in “Fūrin Kazan”. NHK’s chief producer, who had come to see one of my concerts, offered it to me, saying that “GACKT is the only one for the role of Uesugi Kenshin”. At the time, I had begun working as an actor, but I hadn’t achieved anything of note. And yet he offered it to me. I decided to hear him out, thinking that it would be a learning experience, but in the middle of the meeting, when I asked, “Is this really OK, since I’m banned from NHK?” he replied, “There are different department heads for television dramas and music, so it’s OK!” and kept talking with a smile. So I ended up accepting the offer while thinking, “What is up with the world of TV?”

We began preparing for the filming. There were many times, each time another meeting piled up, when I thought, “NHK is the same as it ever was…” A few meetings in, there was the suggestion from them that I do it dressed as a monk with a turban, like how Kenshin is portrayed in textbooks. When I suggested in response, “I’ll do it with long hair,” they started with an academic explanation, saying, “In the portraits of Uesugi Kenshin…” Of course, since deciding to take the role of Kenshin, I had personally visited the Uesugi Museum in Yamagata and gathered all the materials I could in advance, doing quite a bit of study.

There’s a theory that Uesugi Kenshin was a woman. If you go to the museum, there is enough surviving material to make you feel it might actually be the case. It’s a very interesting thing. There were many other famous Sengoku era warlords, such as Nobunaga and Hideyoshi, but there aren’t many who have so much surviving material preserved in good quality. The things that Uesugi Kenshin left behind have been carefully stored ever since. When I went there, among the countless articles of clothing I was shown, that I was told are things Uesugi Kenshin wore at the time, many of them obviously had color schemes that were like what a woman would prefer, and the dye was also peculiar. It was a kind of dye that didn’t exist in Japan at the time. Also, during the war with the Hōjō clan, at the time, in a document written by his enemies, Kenshin is described as “having great physical strength that even men could not rival,” an expression that would never be used to describe a man. Perhaps he really was a woman… The mystery only deepens the more that you think about it.

I had them take the sword out of the showcase so I could swing it. It was missing the hilt and had no sheath. The more I investigated, the more I came to know that Kenshin was an incredibly interesting person. When he made an appearance on the battlefield, he was strongly aware of how to surprise all of the people there, whether they were friend or foe. He used a sword that, for the time, was unthinkably long for his height. It was a sword which under normal circumstances would be so heavy that it couldn’t be swung around, but Kenshin swung it around one-handed with ease. It was upon seeing it that the person from the Hōjō army wrote down, “Kenshin swings around a large sword that not even a man could wield.” The truth is that the sword has a trick to it. In order for Kenshin’s sword to be as light as possible, it was made in a highly-skilled manner with deep grooves on both sides offset from one another. He trimmed the weight to the absolute limit, that’s how particular he was about the show he was putting on.

The Enigma of Uesugi Kenshin

Then there’s the suikan which Kenshin is said to have worn. During the transition from the Muromachi Era to the Sengoku Period, he was particular about suikan and wore them constantly. It’s the garment that I was wearing in the Taiga drama and which you see worn at major shrines. There were not many people in the Sengoku Era who were warlords and wore suikan. He valued the old culture. The color of his suikan was dyed using special dyestuff. To prepare pink and reddish colors, he imported dyestuff all the way from Mexico. He was a person who was that particular even about colors. I felt that I needed to understand him deeply to express what an extremely interesting and intriguing person he was.

There are many historical circumstances piled up behind the theories that Kenshin was a woman, or that he was virilized. When the Sengoku Era ended and the Edo Era began, many new laws were enacted by the Tokugawa Shogunate. In 1615, the Tokugawa Shogunate suddenly enacted the Buke Shohatto (Laws for the Military Houses), which contained the new stipulation that “Only men may inherit castles”. Until then, it had not been rare for women to inherit castles. Kenshin had already passed away, but the Uesugi clan were Tozama— that is, considered to be former enemies by the shogunate. Therefore, there was a good chance that the Uesugi clan were to be crushed. Well, in modern terms, it’s like how people dredge up things from the past and pick fights in order to eliminate someone from society, even in that era, there was a definite chance that you’d be crushed over some trivial matter. It’s said that in order to protect the Uesugi clan, the family members at the time changed all of Kenshin’s history so that he was a man and erased the fact that he was a woman. This happened more than 400 years ago. History is always being faked to suit the convenience of many people with influence. No one knows what’s true and what’s a lie. But the stories surrounding Kenshin are all so interesting, and they ensnared me. Kenshin was more particular than anyone else about the art of war and performance, and the more that you investigate the literature, the more you come to see many inscrutable aspects that differ from the content in textbooks. For example, there are many instances in which, even on the battlefield, once a month for about seven to ten days he’d complain of extreme stomach pain and hide away in what you might call a tent and not come out. That probably sounds familiar if you’re a woman. Is there any imaginable reason besides period pain?

There are differing stories on this, but he refused women his whole life. If he was a woman himself, that would generally be the case. His children were all adopted. And he was devoted to his older sister. His sister was always by his side and they lived together. The more material you gather, the clearer the answer that is consistent with all those questions becomes.

Unflinching Strength

I was able to see a lot of incredible aspects in Kenshin. On the way to Kyoto, he stopped by a certain village. Because the residents of that village were rude to him, he burned it down right then and there. We showed it in the Taiga drama series, but when he was fighting against the Hōjō clan, there was a scene where he approached the enemy gates alone and drank sake within range of their bullets. He always believed that he “had the protection of the gods”, and was able to pull off many unimaginable feats that normal people would never be able to do. People who have strong faith are also unflinching. It’s the mental strength to easily do things that would normally make you fear for your life. They have no hesitation because they believe in themselves. Being unhesitant is the linchpin of strength. I was fascinated by his ability to take action in defiance of common sense.

Having that background, I was able to grasp beforehand from the materials that, if I were to portray Kenshin, it would not be as the monk-like image wearing a turban from the so-called textbooks, which was passed down in materials that arose from the imaginations of people in the latter half of the Edo Era. So I told the NHK staff, “Kenshin didn’t dress like a monk at the time. He only completely entered the priesthood after the battle of Kawanakajima had ended, and what I should do most of all is play the role of Kenshin in a way that I can express in my own style, or rather, in a way that only I can, a captivating, androgynous Kenshin with long hair.” They started on an academic explanation of why I couldn’t do it. When I said, “Wasn’t the reality actually like this?” and explained all the things I had investigated, the history expert at NHK said with irritation, “Well, it was a long time ago, we can’t know what really happened…”

My presentation was aimed at making them say that. “So, in other words, this isn’t a question of how I’m allowed to portray him. The important thing is not debating what’s correct and what isn’t, but what kind of Kenshin I will perform and express,” I said, summing up the conversation. In the end, I was told that they absolutely wanted me to do the scene with the first image of him in monk-like garb, so I gave them that alone and performed the rest in my own image.

The First Principle

When the production of the Taiga drama was first announced, initially there were a lot of antis and a lot of bashing. People said a lot of things about me looking different to the images in textbooks, such as “That isn’t Kenshin,” and “It’s visual-kei Uesugi Kenshin.” I was aware that those were stereotyped remarks, but the voices never stopped. In the midst of that, I decided to appear at the Kenshin Festival in Niigata before I first appeared in the drama. When I made my appearance at the Niigata Joetsu Kenshin Festival in my Kenshin costume from the Taiga drama, and actually riding a horse, it had previously been a small festival which 30,000 people attended over three days, but that year when “GACKT Kenshin” appeared, it became a large festival, expanding to 26,000 people per day. Starting there, and naturally with the people of Joetsu and Niigata, but also the many Taiga drama fans and history fans who came from all over Japan became allies of “GACKT Kenshin”. The winds changed. Until then, public opinion had been a storm of antis and bashing, but all at once from my first appearance, television ratings went up and it took a form that could shrug off the headwind. After the Taiga drama ended, I continued to appear at the Kenshin Festival for seven years, and if people saw me appear before their eyes, saw me riding around on horseback, and thought, “I guess Kenshin had this kind of atmosphere in real life,” then it was worth it.

There’s a temple called Rinsenji where Kenshin was raised when he was young. I became friends with the head priest and his mother. While they were showing me many materials, I was deeply impressed by a belief of Kenshin’s called “The First Principle”. That principle is “Hold righteousness above all else.” During the Sengoku Era, it was extremely commonplace to take land for your own country in battle, but based on the idea that the land belonged to the people, he didn’t steal land once. My unreasonable personality is probably closer to Shingen, but it became a great opportunity to make his belief a linchpin of my actions. But at the time I played him, while I managed to push through the headwind from antis, it was a period of time in which I constantly worried about my performance.

My Turning Point As An Actor

In that worrisome time, guidance came from meeting the man who was my teacher in spirit, and my father in spirit, Ogata Ken. Ken taking the role of Kenshin’s strategist, Usami Sadamitsu, was a big turning point in my life. It was because Ken was by my side teaching me many things and leading me that I was able to complete the Taiga drama.

I first met him when he came to see me rehearse. We were practicing a scene in which Kenshin’s retainers were gathered, and the actors were reading through their lines together on the tatami while moving around, with only the director, staff, and cameraman present. In the middle of that, the atmosphere in the whole studio suddenly changed. Wondering what had happened to envelop the studio in such an unusual tension, I looked toward the entrance, and he was standing there with his eyes fixed on me. I thought, “This person is amazing, he changed the atmosphere here in an instant,” and was taken with him all at once. The director had told me over and over, “Ken is a really difficult person, so stay away from him and don’t do anything unnecessary,” but I paid him no heed. I darted over to him and greeted him with a “Nice to meet you, I’m GACKT. I’ve really been looking forward to meeting you,” and he looked surprised, smiled and said, “Ah, a pleasure”.

He really was an interesting person. I was more drawn to him each time we met. Once, we were reading the script for a scene. It was the lead actor, Uchino Seiyou, Ken, the other actors, the director, the assistants and the cameraman around a table. In the middle of reading the script, Ken suddenly came to a stop. With a stern expression, he quietly asked, “Director, why did Kenshin say this line to Usami?” The director, flustered, said, “Um… Well that’s…” When I said, “Ken, it’s because Kenshin admires Usami from the bottom of his heart,” Ken looked around the table without the slightest change in expression. The silence lingered for some time. The tension was so thick that it was laughably painful. The other actors were still apart from their eyes, which were shooting the director looks as if begging him to do something. The director was looking at me with an expression that said, “Don’t run your mouth!” Ken’s expression suddenly changed from stern to gentle, and he smiled, “Is that so? I see…” The tense atmosphere finally dissipated. I loved him for being able to throw the place into disarray whenever it seemed that he had caused an unusual tension, and coming up with things at a timing no one anticipated. From next to him, I could feel that he was enjoying controlling the mood and atmosphere. When Ken started something, the atmosphere froze, and I would butt in, it was so much fun. On the overly-stuffy NHK set, Ken’s innocent and whimsically unreadable actions made me think with excitement, “Oh, he’s just evil,” and look forward to whatever he would do next, unable to tear myself away from him. He was also unique during script readings. He would always bring handwritten notes, extracting only his own lines to memorize by writing them in a hurried hand, and never opened his script on set at all.

One day, at a different script reading, the director’s assistant said, “Mr. Ogata, that line has been cut.” Ken paused for a moment, then said, “Oh, I see…” with no expression, and things moved along. We started reading the script again from the top. When we got to just before Ken’s line that had been cut, he said, “Hey, Director, why did you shorten this?” The assistant immediately jumped in with, “It’s for reasons of time. I hope that’s okay.” After a short silence, Ken again said, “Oh, I see…” and we went on reading. We started again from the beginning. Before Ken’s cut line, he again asked, “Hey, Director, why did you cut this?” with no expression and a sharp tone.

When he did, the director said apologetically, “Um, it’s for reasons of time…” and after a long silence, Ken said, “Oh, I see…” and we restarted. Everyone there was nervous in that frozen moment. Only I was excited, thinking, “Something’s about to happen!” When we finished the script reading and everyone went to stand up, Ken opened his mouth. “Director… Lines are an actor’s life. So in other words… you’re stealing my life ‘for reasons of time’…?” Frantic, the director babbled incoherently, “No, no, no, I’m not stealing anything!” My shoulders were vibrating as I held in my laughter, thinking, “This person is so goddamn funny!” No one knew how much of it was serious and how much of it was an act.

My Heart Is Unmoved

I couldn’t help enjoying myself during filming. I was always standing quietly next to Ken. Whenever I had time, I’d go to Ken’s dressing room to talk to him, “Keeen, what’re you dooooing?” “Oh, Gakkun, come in. By the way, what kind of things do you like, Gakkun?” “The things I like are~” I spent my time in his dressing room having conversations about nothing.

I only heard this after he passed away, but Ken was having intravenous cancer treatments immediately before appearing in the Taiga Drama. He’d leave the hospital quite early, and take on the challenging shoot. There were many days when he was ill and sometimes we waited three or four hours for him. Only the chief producer knew about it. I didn’t mind waiting for Ken at all, and always answered, “If Ken is ill, then let’s wait.” When he appeared on set I’d run to him and ask, “Are you okay?” and he’d answer with a smile, “Oh, sorry. I’m fine… I’m fine.” The truth was that at those times, even on days when he was so ill it seemed like he would be unable to get up, he told his manager, “Gakkun is waiting for me.”

This happened during one rehearsal. It was when we were doing the script reading for the “sanko no rei” scene, in which Kenshin goes to persuade the sworn enemy of his father, Usami Sadamitsu, played by Ken, and asks him to be his strategist. The character of Usami was originally the sworn enemy of Kenshin’s father who had thwarted him on many occasions. It’s the scene in which Kenshin goes to meet him in person for the first time to convey his wish for Usami to be his strategist. At the end of the rehearsal, Ken told me, “Gakkun, Taiga dramas don’t usually have love scenes in them. The way you’re doing it is like a love scene. My heart is unmoved by the words that you just said. Fix it before the filming.” In the five days between that and the filming, I practiced my lines again and again, everywhere and anywhere, but the more I did, the more confused I became.

“To perform is not to perform.” “Acting is the skill that you use to express it.” Ken had always been saying these things to me, but I had never understood them. Every time he said it, I’d fret over, “What on earth does that mean?” When I was practicing these lines, a thought crossed my mind. “Is it that to act is not to don a role that you’ve been given, but to express through your role the thoughts and feelings from the experiences that you have personally accumulated?” By this time I already admired Ken from the bottom of my heart. I thought about it for a while. I decided, “Rather than convey the ‘meaning’ and ‘content’ of Kenshin’s lines to the character he’s playing, I’ll put my own honest feelings towards Ken into these lines, and convey those feelings directly.” Although usually we would go from the camera rehearsal to the movement rehearsal and the pre-filming before actually filming , on the day we filmed this scene, I told the director, “As soon as we finish the camera rehearsal, I want you to film the real thing.” I didn’t think I’d be able to do it over and over. Ken replied, “If that’s what Gakkun says, then let’s do it.”

The Happiness Of Doing Work For The Sake Of One Person Alone

There were several cameras lined up behind Ken, and all of them were pointed over his shoulder at me. Only Ken’s back was in the shot. We begin filming. I deliver my feelings towards Ken honestly through Kenshin’s long lines. In the middle of my dialogue, Ken’s stern expression suddenly changed to an impressed one. I finished saying my last line. The director hadn’t said cut yet. With a grin and a thumbs up in a way that wouldn’t be seen by the camera, Ken gave me a broad smile.

At that time I gained awareness of a new kind of joy. “I’m here for no other reason than to make this person happy with me…” Until then, work had been something that I did entirely for the sake of my fans. My own emotions were completely irrelevant and I thought that it didn’t require personal feelings. On that day I was surprised by a feeling that I’d never had before— “I’m acting just so that Ken will be happy with me…” It made me realize for the first time, “It’s such a happy thing to do something just so that one person will be happy with you.” I realized that, the whole time I had been struggling and losing my way in acting up until then, Ken’s kindhearted smile had always been serving as my guide.

The Meaning Of Conveying Love

The quality of my acting changed completely between the first half of the Taiga drama and when Ken started participating. Ken was always pulling me forward. “Gakkun, do this bit like this.” “You should do this part like this.” So he led me. “Got it. I’ll give it a try.” I responded with everything that I had. He taught me the fine nuances of facial expressions. He’d tell me, “Gakkun, try making this face,” and when I tried it, he’d say, “That’s too tense, how about trying an expression just one step down from a smile?” When I showed him that expression, he said, “Yeah, that expression will get it across. I like your eyes,” praising and teaching every little detail. He was exactly like a father to me.

This happened when we were on location in Nagano in the middle stages of filming. I was resting in my car during my lunch break, when Ken suddenly opened the door and said, “Hey, Gakkun, want to eat some shiitake mushrooms?” He was frying shiitake mushrooms in a frying pan on a portable gas stove. He said, “I don’t eat bento boxes. No matter what, I always eat things that I’ve cooked with fire then and there. Eating convenient food shortens your life…” We sat around the frying pan and ate together. I don’t know why I chose this moment to say it, but I said to Ken, “Ken… If you ever think there’s something wrong with my performance, please make sure to tell me…” When I said that, he stopped still and his face suddenly turned frightening.

He stared at me. The silence lingered. Ken slowly put his chopsticks down and began to speak. “You know, Gakkun… I’ve already said everything that you need to do. The people around you might say this or that about your performance. But… I, Ogata Ken, will say this. No matter what the people around you say, you’re doing it right.” With an incredibly stern face, he conveyed those words to me slowly, one by one. And then he suddenly smiled, said, “It’s okay. Papa is with you…” and picked up his chopsticks to eat mushrooms again. At those too-kind words that he gave to me, my chest was filled with the emotion, “This person has been looking out for me all along…” The feelings that had been trapped inside me spilled over like an avalanche. Before I knew it, I was shedding tears. I said, “Thank you… thank you…” over and over, crying the whole time. I wondered, “Has anyone ever conveyed this much love to me before in my life?” I had been a stranger to affection, and it was the first time in my life that I’d deeply felt love from another person. It was a big turning point in my life. I learned the meaning of delivering selfless love to another person. I felt, through physical experience, that there are so many people in the world who can be saved by delivering love to others. I understood from deep in my heart that sometimes you can be saved by the other person’s nonchalant smile. I still remember what happened that day as vividly as if it were yesterday.

Parting With A Smile

Filming continued without incident, and the last day was approaching. Coincidentally, Ken’s last day was the same as mine. I suppose the chief producer took care to do that for me. As filming proceeded on the second last day, my mood rapidly declined. I went off and got myself all depressed, thinking, “I guess I have to part with Ken now…” During a break in filming, the chief producer called out to me. “GACKT, what happened? You’ve got such a gloomy face.” For some reason, I answered honestly, “Oh… I just suddenly get lonely when I think about having to part with Ken.”

A short time later, the chief producer brought Ken over to me, grinning all the while. Ken sat down next to me and said, “Hey, Gakkun, filming is going to be over tomorrow.” I answered, “Yes, it’s a lonely feeling…” and with a gentle smile, he said, “You know, Gakkun, it’s not over when we stop filming tomorrow… It’s finally starting tomorrow. The purpose of you and I meeting is finally going to come to life. There’s nothing lonely about that at all, right?” I looked at his face and replied, “Is that so?” and he said kindly, “Tomorrow, let’s both welcome the new start with a smile.” Filming had finished for the day, but a special feeling towards the next day’s filming grew inside me and I couldn’t sleep at all.

On the last day of filming, I remembered Ken’s words from the previous day as I entered the set. “He’s right, it’s not a lonely thing. He told me we should greet it with a smile. I’m going to say thank you to him with a smile at the end.” When I looked at the schedule board, I saw that Ken’s last scene was a little earlier than mine. I watched all of his last scene from next to the camera. They got the final take of Ken’s last, gentle line. “OK! Well then, it’s been a long shoot, but with this scene, Ogata Ken has finished filming!” At the assistant’s voice, everyone in the studio applauded. “In any case, I want to send Ken off with a smile, until the end,” I whispered inside my heart over and over. Ken said his goodbyes, and people began preparing for the next scene. After saying my goodbyes to Ken in the studio, alone in the hall, I sat and stared into space.

After a while, the chief producer came and sat next to me. “GACKT, you’re finishing soon too. How does it feel?” he asked, and I replied, “Ken told me to do it with a smile yesterday, so I’m going to smile to the end.” When I said that, Ken came walking out from inside, and the chief producer called out to him, “Thank you for your hard work! It was a tough shoot, but we got through it.” Ken pointed at me and said, “ Because he was here… It’s because he was here that I was able to come this far! Because he was here…” He stumbled over the words and began to cry so hard that it surprised me. I said to him, “Didn’t you tell me to smile? Thank you so much for everything up until now,” and bowed deeply. Ken slapped me on the shoulder over and over.

When I finished filming the Taiga drama, it happened that I had to immediately head to Romania to film a Hollywood movie. At the same time, Ken started a shoot in Hokkaido. It would become a posthumous work for him. During breaks in filming, we were always sending messages back and forth on LINE. A message would come saying, “Gakkun, how are you?” We chatted casually. We talked a lot about going out to eat together when I finished filming and returned to Japan, and it was my one salvation when I was exhausted from the harsh filming schedule. “When I finish filming, let’s go eat soba in Japan together.” “Oh, soba? I love soba.” We had conversations about nonsense.

I finished the shoot in Romania and returned to Japan. I immediately began preparing for rehearsals for my next concert tour, “Requiem Et Reminiscence II”. I spent my days in a rush as time flowed by. Exactly two weeks before the day when I had promised to go out to eat with Ken, I suddenly got a call from his manager. I don’t know why, but the instant I looked at my phone, I had a premonition, “He’s passed away.” I picked up the phone and when I asked, “Did he pass away?” she told me, “He’s just passed…” in a tearful voice that could barely form words.

A Broken Faucet

After that, his family made special time for me. They made time for me to be alone with him. Sleeping in his coffin, Ken had a peaceful expression. I looked at his face, and told him, “You’re really an amazing person. It must have hurt the whole time you were filming, you must have been suffering… and yet you were always smiling.” Of course, no matter what I said, he would never respond. He had devoted his life to performing, and I told him, “Thank you for your hard work,” with a smile. He told no one that he had a severe illness, and though it must have been tough doing the harsh Taiga drama shoot immediately after undergoing an operation, he acted dauntlessly and was always smiling. He had the peaceful final expression of one who had lived to perform. I honestly felt, “I want to be like him.” I set my mind to keeping a smile on my face, so that I could see him off with a smile. After I had said farewell to Ken, I greeted his family who were waiting for me in the foyer. “Thank you so much for making time for me like this. Ken really saved me. He was like a father to me.” The instant I said that, my tears suddenly spilled over like a broken faucet. I tried to hold them back, but I was crying far too much to stop. For the two weeks following that, I was completely broken, and couldn’t do anything. After two weeks, when I was staring at a photo of myself with Ken in the lobby of my house, I thought I suddenly heard a voice. “How long are you going to keep crying like this? Move forward.” Memories raced around inside my head. “You’re right, I have to move forward. What am I doing, coming to a standstill like this despite everything Ken left to me? My memories of Ken won’t disappear. The things I got from him won’t disappear. I have to deliver each one of the things that he gave me to as many people as I possibly can. It’s my turn to pass them on.” And then I began writing a song as if in a trance. We began rehearsing for the tour the day after I finished the song.

A few years later, I heard several things that made me happy. Naoto’s (Ogata Ken’s son) son, and Naoto’s older brother’s son sent me DMs on Instagram. “I’m the son of Naoto, grandpa’s son…” I was surprised by the suddenness of it. “Thank you for visiting his grave each year. I’m studying to be an actor now too!” “Is that so? Are you working hard? I sincerely hope that you become a wonderful actor to rival your grandfather and father.” It was a trivial conversation but it made me happy from the bottom of my heart. Of course, I am not connected to Ken by blood. But he cared for me like I was his own son. It may be presumptuous for me to say this, but he was truly “my father in spirit”. 

I’m Still Doing My Best

“The things I received from Ken. I want to deliver them to as many people as possible.” That is still my entire reason for continuing to act. His last gift to me. I don’t want to stop it.

Every year I go to his grave and report to him, “I’m still doing my best, next I’m going to appear in a production like this.” Maybe it’s just that I want to tell him that I’m still doing my best with a smile. That said, it’s because I met him that I was able to get through the Taiga drama. It’s precisely because I’ve continued acting that I’ve encountered many wonderful productions such as “Tonde Saitama” (Fly Me To The Saitama). There is great meaning in meeting people, and life itself is learning through the drama born from meeting people over and over again. There are many meetings and many farewells. Including Kitsutaka and Momose and Ken, those who were the key at a junction in my life gave me much meaning and many lessons in living, and that is all connected to my present self.

  1. ““Fūrin Kazan” was a 2007 historical drama TV series in which GACKT played the role of Uesugi Kenshin. [^]
  2. Kohaku Uta Gassen is an annual music show broadcast each New Year’s Eve. [^]
  3. For those wondering if he literally used those curse words in Japanese— no, he just said it in a very impolite and hostile tone, the spirit of which is best conveyed in English with cursing. [^]
  4. “Taiga drama” is the term used to refer to the historical drama series produced by NHK every year. [^]
  5. 男性化 (virilization, masculinization) refers to the biological process of developing typical male traits, such as facial hair and a deep voice, due to hormones, whether this happens naturally as a boy grows up, to a woman due to hormonal imbalance, or is medically induced when a person transitions. Given the context, I imagine the theory suggests that Kenshin was born female but developed a masculine appearance. [^]
  6. Takeda Shingen was another warlord who was a major rival of Uesugi Kenshin. [^]
  7. Sanko no rei, literally “three times courtesy” is an allusion to an event in the Romance of Three Kingdoms and means extending special courtesy or making a special visit to someone in order to persuade them to take a post. [^]