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Sakura Ando plays against type in new drama ‘Manpuku’

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Sakura Ando smiles on set for the drama “Manpuku” in Osaka.

By Miku Sawano / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterSakura Ando’s beaming face reminds one of a sunflower. The attractive smile is so fitting for the heroine of one of NHK’s serial morning dramas, which are nicknamed “asadora.”

She currently stars in “Manpuku,” the latest asadora that started on Monday, playing the role of Fukuko, the wife of the eventual inventor of instant ramen.

Fukuko gives an impression that is the polar opposite of the serious demeanor of the mother Ando played in “Manbiki Kazoku” (Shoplifters) directed by Hirokazu Koreeda, which won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.

“Fukuko is a woman who stands up straight, physically as well as as a person. I naturally straighten up my posture in front of the camera and I have a feeling that maybe I can transform into a very nice creature,” Ando said, adding that the role feels fresh to her because she often played characters with a twisted personality.

The drama tells the story of Fukuko and her husband, Manpei (played by Hiroki Hasegawa), who go through numerous business failures in Osaka before and after World War II, until eventually inventing the world’s first instant ramen. The couple are modeled on Momofuku Ando, the founder of Nissin Food Products Co., and his wife, Masako.

The drama is broadcast on Mondays through Saturdays from 8 a.m. on NHK-G. The broadcast is preceded by BS Premium, one of NHK’s satellite channels, from 7:30 a.m. The title means “full stomach.”

Ando was born in 1986. The actress comes from Tokyo and made her acting debut in the 2007 film “Kaze no Sotogawa” (Outside the wind), which was directed by her father, actor-director Eiji Okuda. She has won numerous acting awards, including the award for best actress at the 39th Japan Academy Film Prize awards for her role in “Hyakuen no Koi” (100 Yen Love), a film directed by Masaharu Take.

Ando gave birth to her first daughter in June last year.

“I used to think a mother ought to devote herself to caring for her child,” she said.

But she was encouraged to appear in the drama by her husband, actor Tasuku Enomoto, and the rest of her family, who all work in show business.

“They asked me nonchalantly, ‘Why don’t you do it?’ I found it very encouraging,” she said.

Since becoming a mother, she feels she has gained more power as an actress.

“I became a mom, and I’m filled with energy. I’m surprised at that myself. I feel this is a role I can play only now,” she said.

NHK’s morning drama is extremely popular and watched by many people throughout the country. As Ando has been to various places in the country for film and drama shoots, many local people have helped her. Now that she appears in the morning drama, those people can watch her every morning.

“Maybe I can return the favor to them,” she said.

Ando now lives in Osaka for the production. Asked about her impression on the city, she said: “People in Osaka are so open and kind. I was holding my daughter when it started raining the other day, and a complete stranger gave me an umbrella.”

Ando is the first mother to star in an asadora. Her spirited performance is sure to become popular throughout the country.Speech

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