Life in Fast Forward: A Conversation with Megumi Okina on the Blur of Busy Years | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Life in Fast Forward: A Conversation with Megumi Okina on the Blur of Busy Years

Debuted in the entertainment world at the age of 13 and became one of the top young actresses of the 1990s - now she is continuing treatment for vitiligo, a condition with no known cure, and releasing a photo book for the first time in 15 years.

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“Back then, the entertainment industry had lax labor standards, and I worked like the adults around me. I just wanted more time to sleep. I would squeeze in work between classes, and after school, I’d go straight into filming until morning. It was a hectic schedule, like taking a short nap and then going back to school. I even joined the school trip halfway through, but perhaps due to sleep deprivation, I don’t have many memories of it. Looking back, it all went by in a flash, but it was definitely intense.”

Actress Megumi Okina (44) reflects on her extremely busy teenage years.

This month sees the release of a commemorative photo book for her 30th debut anniversary (Photography: Takashi Noguchi, Production: Kaori Oguri). In June, she is gearing up for her appearance in the second installment of the Nylon 100°C 30th-anniversary performance, titled “Memories of the Edo Period.”

At the age of 13, she made her debut in the entertainment industry. She appeared in dramas like “Pa★te★o” and “Uchiage Hanabi, Shita kara Miru ka? Yoko kara Miru ka?” (Fuji TV), quickly ascending the stairs of the entertainment world as a young, innocent star with cute looks and acting talent. However, what gnawed at her was the overwhelming workload that came with her peak popularity.

“The workload was immense, beyond my capacity, and I couldn’t keep up with reality. There was no room for mental ease, I was on the brink. Instead of thinking about the future, I often wondered if I was okay at that moment. It felt like I was just barely getting through each day.”

Balancing work and studies left her with only 2-3 hours of sleep. In her autobiography “Akai Toge” (Futabasha) published in 2008, she candidly describes her struggles at the time.

“At some point during high school, I remember rushing to the hospital. I was so unbearably sad, crying and screaming as if possessed by something, I became confused, and couldn’t breathe properly. (Omitted) Panic disorder, autonomic imbalance, depression. The diagnoses didn’t really matter.”

Having experienced retirement rumors and divorce, among other twists and turns in life, Okina reflects while savoring the memories.

“If I could talk to my past self, I would say, ‘It’s okay.’ Yeah, that’s it. ‘You don’t have to worry about anything. It’ll be okay.'”

Staying true to those words, in 2016, she announced her remarriage to actor Ryo Kimura (35). Currently, they lead a bustling yet fulfilling daily life as a family of four, with their two beloved daughters.

“Since my daughters were born, they have been my top priority. There are things you can only do with your children at that moment, so I try to approach work within reasonable limits. While there are peaceful moments, right now, life is busy, from morning to night, our schedule is packed. Some things never change, like having a hectic schedule (laughs).”

Having struggled in the adult world since childhood, she is particularly attentive to how she interacts with her daughters.

“I spent a lot of time among adults myself, and sometimes my own opinions weren’t heard. As a mother now, I make a conscious effort to treat my daughters as individuals before seeing them as children. I always remind myself to listen to what they want and be attentive to their words.”

From loneliness to becoming a mother and gaining her beloved family, Okunai’s life took a sudden turn when she was struck by a disease called “vitiligo.”

“I found out about the disease three years ago. I noticed that a part of my body was turning white and went to the hospital, where the doctor diagnosed me with vitiligo. It wasn’t just the disease itself, but also the reality that my job might be affected because of it, that left me speechless and unable to think. I couldn’t easily come to terms with it.”

Vitiligo is a disease known to have affected Michael Jackson as well, and there is still no fundamental cure for it.


“My condition is progressive, and it’s uncertain if it will be completely cured. There aren’t many treatment options available, so for now, I have to manage it. I use ointments, take medication, and undergo light therapy. Fortunately, I don’t experience worsening health, so I monitor the condition and adapt accordingly.”

She publicly disclosed her illness on her social media last year, which sparked significant reactions.

“To be honest, I didn’t intend to disclose it. I was hesitant because I’m frequently in the public eye, and I worried it might affect my work. But there was an opportunity to explain the cosmetics I produced, and it felt unnatural to sell them without mentioning vitiligo. I had been thinking about it for a while, and I decided on the day of the post. I received words of support from people struggling with similar illnesses, and I was surprised by the overwhelming response. Because vitiligo is still relatively unknown, some people face bullying or discrimination because of it. I felt it was important to raise awareness, and I’m glad I made the decision to disclose it.”

On April 3 this year, she released her first photo book in 15 years, “Okina Megumi” (Takarajimasya). The book, which includes bold cuts, has been attracting a great deal of attention.

“At first, when I was approached about the photo book, my initial reaction was, ‘Is it really okay for me?’ But after consulting with those around me, they encouraged me to give it a try. Due to the effects of my illness, there are limitations on what parts of my body I can expose, so I had to prepare myself. However, I believe this collection is more challenging than ever before.”

In her youth, she dedicated her life to the entertainment industry. And now, having accepted her illness, her “It’ll be okay” days continue into the future.

Before the photo book shoot, she was so thin that she had to train herself to gain weight by eating a high-calorie diet.
Kei Okuna, who is now in her 40s, says, “I’ve been so busy that I don’t remember those days ” (laughs).
Unpublished photo of Megumi Okuna, who is now in her 40s. “I’ve been so busy that I don’t remember those days ” (laughs).
Okuna, a first-year high school student, is the talk of the town as a “CM beauty” (October 6, 1995 issue).
At an event to celebrate the release of her photo book “Atashi” (April 28, 2000 issue)
At a press conference announcing the production of a TV drama series. She is full of adult charm (July 19, 2002 issue).
A gorgeous wedding ceremony with Susumu Fujita, president of Cyber Agent (February 20, 2004 issue).
She looks beautiful in a pure white wedding dress..! (Feb. 20, 2004 issue)
From her Instagram
From her Instagram
From her Instagram
From her Instagram
From her Instagram
From her Instagram

From “FRIDAY” April 19, 2024 issue

  • PHOTO Takehiko Kohiyama, Toshihiro Nakaikawa (wedding) costume LAGUNAMOON

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