Kento Nakajima embraces the night

Yuki Kashiwagi, left, and Nozomi Sasaki in “Kurofuku Monogatari”.

Taking on the challenge of a type of character he's never played before, Kento Nakajima, a member of the Johnny's idol group Sexy Zone, hopes the role in his latest drama will change perceptions of him.

This time, he plays the role of a "kurofuku," which literally means a man in black suit - a waiter in establishments such as hostess clubs whose tasks include bringing drinks to customers and assigning where hostesses should take their seats to serve customers.

"I admired dramas depicting nightlife, so I'm extremely thrilled to have a chance to play this role," Nakajima said.

Born in March 1994, Nakajima made his debut as a member of Sexy Zone, a pop group of the Johnny & Associates talent agency.

Apart from his activities in the group, he also starred in the TV drama "Bad Boys J" and the film "Gin no Saji: Silver Spoon," both of which are based on popular manga series.

The drama, titled "Kurofuku Monogatari" (The story of a black suit) and currently airing on the TV Asahi network every Friday at 11:15 p.m., revolves around Akira Ogawa, a cram school student aiming to get into university.

His life takes a sudden turn, however, when he falls in love with Anzu, the No. 1 hostess at a kyabakura (cabaret club). He visits the bar, called "Juliet," in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, but finds himself unable to pay for all the drinks he ordered.

Thus, he offers to work at the bar as a kurofuku waiter to settle his debt.

Having never been to such a bar before, Nakajima visited a kyabakura for the TV programme and had a chance to closely observe how kurofuku waiters serve customers.

"They always pay respect to their customers. I got great tips on [how to play the role]," Nakajima said.

Asked what kind of kurofuku waiter he admires, Nakajima said: "I find [the protagonist] Akira cool because he can straightforwardly make genteel remarks such as, 'I'll make you shine with all my being.'

I'd like to be a kind of kurofuku waiter like him who can support [his coworkers] like that."

Nakajima says he is trying hard to get inside the character even on his days off, always keeping the script by his side.

"This is the first drama I've done after turning 20. I want to change the perception my fans have of me," he said.

Nakajima, who celebrated his 20th birthday in March, said he likes champagne and wine.

"I enjoy drinking champagne at Italian restaurants, or kan-chuhai [canned shochu liquor with soda] at home," he said.

When asked which of the performers at Johnny's would be best suited to work as kurofuku waiters, he named such senior Johnny & Associates members as Noriyuki Higashiyama, a Shonentai member, and Masahiro Nakai, a SMAP member.

"Sexy Zone members might be fine, but it might be too soon for them," Nakajima said.

"Higashiyama-san would be perfect. I think he would act like a professional kurofuku right from day one," he said.

"Nakai-san would definitely look nice in the waiter uniform since he constantly woos viewers with the uniform he wears on [the popular TV variety programme] 'Bistro SMAP.'

I think he'd be good at 'tsukemawashi,' or deciding which hostesses have to sit next to which customers."

Nakajima said he's now gotten into watching DVDs of various films and dramas, not only for fun, but also to learn about acting. "American movies are very romantic. I'm taking that essence [into my acting]," he said.

In the drama, it all started after Akira fell in love with a bar hostess.

"We live in a society where people are starved for love. I hope people who watch this drama feel like they also want to fall in love like that," he said.

Nakajima and his drama help us virtually experience the glittering world of glamorous nightlife.