Shohei Otani continued his success in the world’s top baseball league, Major League Baseball, surprising his home country of the United States, but there are people in Japan who continue to run in two unexpected industries. Naoki Hasegawa, an actor who also appears in this year’s NHK Taiga Drama, “Shake the Blue Sky,” joined Marubeni Corporation, a major general trading company, after graduating from university. However, “I didn’t yearn for a life with a guaranteed future,” he said, and after one year, he abandoned his career as a top trading company employee to pursue a career as an actor. However, there he faced what may have been the first “wall” of his life. That’s when Mr. Hasegawa made the decision to become the one and only in Japan.
“When I was in high school, I went to the U.S. for a year as an exchange student, which has influenced my life to this day. It taught me that if I take action, I can make a difference.”
At first, I couldn’t understand “hamburger! At first, I couldn’t understand a word I said. At first, I couldn’t get through when I said, “Hamburger! Then he said, “You’re a foreign student, aren’t you? and the reaction of the people around me changed.
After returning to Japan, I started studying for the entrance exam in the summer of my junior year of high school, and when I was accepted to International Christian University (ICU), I studied abroad at the University of London. While at ICU, he scored 945 on the TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication), where 990 is the perfect score. This is because he traveled to 40 countries as a backpacker while he was in school and saw many countries that are not available in guidebooks in Japan.
He chose a trading company as his career path after graduating from university because he wanted to “gain business experience and be able to do something as an individual. As he had hoped, he joined Marubeni Corporation, a leading trading company. Before leaving the company, he was offered a position working overseas. The life I had hoped for and envisioned in my mind since I was a student had all taken shape through hard work. Mr. Hasegawa recalls.
Mr. Hasegawa recalls, “I was in charge of trading petroleum products, and the scale of the business was in the hundreds of millions, so it was a dynamic world that I would never have been exposed to as an individual. It was a dynamic world that I would never have been exposed to as an individual. It was all about computers, phones and social networking. I’m so happy! I didn’t feel like I was happy. I wasn’t interested in or longing for the security of being in one organization.
While his life was going so well that others envied him, Mr. Hasegawa decided to change his career because he wanted to be able to do something as an individual. He was 23 years old when he decided to become an actor.
It all started when I was 23 years old,” he said, “I was working at a trading company and my girlfriend dumped me. I had no time on the weekends. Then I remembered that the theater I had done in college was fun. At that time, I checked out a theater company for working people and went there, and I was hooked. I decided immediately that I had to do it. First, I had to develop my acting skills.
“He took the entrance exam for the seventh class of the New National Theatre Institute, and after an interview, a “monologue” performed by himself, and an acting test in which he had to move in response to the director’s requests, he successfully passed.
“He said, “I’m going to eat only as an actor, and I’m going to become a major actor.
I’m going to become a major actor. He was confident that he could make a difference, as he had been working hard since he was a student to achieve what he envisioned.
“But the acting business was different. When I went to auditions, there were many times I failed. There were times when I thought, ‘Why did he pass? There were times when I wondered why that person passed. Even in TV and movies, you are not chosen for your acting ability. It was a time when I thought that there was the power of the office.
It is said that a trading company employee is a high-paying job. Marubeni Corporation, where Mr. Hasegawa worked, is one of the five major general trading companies (Mitsubishi Corporation, Mitsui & Co., Itochu Corporation, Sumitomo Corporation, and Marubeni Corporation). The average annual salary is 14,528,000 yen (according to the annual securities report for the fiscal year ending March 2020), and annual income in one’s 30s can easily surpass 10 million yen, even today with the Corona disaster. Mr. Hasegawa closed that road himself and had to continue working part-time for almost five years after graduating from the training school. He also worked as a complaint handler at a call center.
“I can’t appear in outside productions because it’s a national training school. For three years, I lived on part-time jobs and scholarship money. The three years I spent acting every day for a week were a very rich time for me.
Before I knew it, I was over 30 years old. I can’t keep working part-time forever. As the eldest son of two older sisters, he made the decision to take over the family business.
“As the eldest son of two older sisters, he decided to take over the family business in Yaizu, Shizuoka Prefecture. I had no intention of doing it or being involved in it at all. I didn’t know anything about it even though it was the family business. (Taking over the family business) made me feel very defeated. I hated it.
“He resisted the common practice of taking a job as an actor, which is attractive but does not provide a stable income, and then coming back to the family business when it fails. But the reality was that the path to becoming a major actor was on the verge of complete collapse.
“I stubbornly believed that there was only one way to become an actor. But there are other ways to get there. There is no one who is a fisherman and an actor at the same time. I realized that there was no other way to live.
At that time, the new coronavirus began to spread. Mr. Hasegawa had been living a double life in Tokyo and Yaizu, but as he began to focus more on the family business, he moved out of the Tokyo house and set his focus on Yaizu. He goes to bed by 9:00 p.m. and wakes up after 2:00 a.m. every night. I finish my work in the early afternoon.
“It has become a job where I see the sunrise every day. It may look like the same job, but the way the nets are raised depends on the current, direction, strength and speed of the tide. After work, if I have an audition, I sometimes go to Tokyo in the afternoon. I am now able to face the fishing industry more closely, and this has made me more determined to be like this as an actor.
When he got married, his wife Ayumi moved to Yaizu. He then decided to make a film to present a new style as an actor. The title of the film is “The Color of the Sea is the Continuation of a Dream. He gathered professional staff by using social networking sites, going to see them in person, and asking for introductions. I planned the project myself. Everything was new to me. The main character is the son of the heir of a famous Yaizu “namaribushi” (dried bonito) factory. He has a family business, but he also dreams of becoming an underwater photographer. His dream is to become an underwater photographer, which is similar to the way Mr. Hasegawa lives now.
He said, “There are things I want to do and things I have to do in order to live. There are things you want to do and things you have to do in order to live, and I made this story about finding your own way of life.
Including extras, more than 100 people gathered for the film. The film was cranked up in July, the month of the Corona disaster, and was shot in Shizuoka Prefecture at a production cost of 2 million yen. “The production cost was 2 million yen. It will be completed at the beginning of next year. We shot on location at a local pub and on our boat. There is a lot of footage that can’t be shot even with a big budget. We are planning to ask several movie theaters to show the film and to submit it to film festivals in Japan and abroad. He is also planning to use crowdfunding.
He appeared in NHK’s historical dramas (episodes 2 and 5) before making the above film. He co-starred with Naoto Takenaka, Ryohei Otani, Mitsuru Hirata, Ikkei Watanabe, etc. After that, he made his own movie and realized something.
He said, “I’ve noticed that successful actors pay attention to everyone else in the film. Even if they made a mistake, they didn’t care, there was a sense of dignity. I think this also helped the people who made mistakes not to feel uncomfortable any more than necessary. This time, I played the lead role in the movie, but I didn’t have the luxury of doing so at all.
If you want to become a major player as an actor, you tend to want to “stand out,” but what I’ve learned through filmmaking is that what is required of actors is to “fulfill the roles they are given in order to make the story work. More than acting skills, I think it is important to have the human ability to make people think, ‘I want to work with this person again.
There used to be a saying, “He who chases two hares will catch neither,” and it used to be considered a virtue to give up one thing in order to master another. Mr. Hasegawa has not given up on his dream of becoming a major actor while taking over the family business, and in pursuing both, he has come to understand something. I wonder how Mr. Hasegawa will portray his son, the main character, in the movie to be released early next year.