A special New Year edition of the highly popular period drama series "Oedo Sosamo" will air on the TV Tokyo network on Jan. 2.
This year's instalment is called "Onmitsu Doshin Aku o Kiru!," which roughly translates as "Secret agents cut down evil!" The five-hour drama will start at 6 p.m.
The drama took about six weeks to shoot, and to get a closer look during the filming, this reporter went before the camera in late October in the role of an extra.
"Oedo Sosamo 2015" tells the story of onmitsu doshin, or a team of secret agents during the Edo period (1603-1867). They usually use their cover identities, such as a playboy or geisha, but in emergencies, they risk their lives to protect the people of Edo, the old name for Tokyo.
I was given the role of Oyoshi, a woman working at an archery range called a yaba, where people shoot at targets. The scene features the lead character Sanjiro, aka Jumonji Koyata (played by Katsunori Takahashi), the leader of the secret agents. He is shooting at targets with Sakakibara Choan (Tokio Emoto) when Inazuma Oryu (Norika Fujiwara), a female member of the team, hurriedly runs to him. That's how the scene plays out.
On the day of the filming, I arrived at Toei Studio Kyoto in Uzumasa, Kyoto, where I was dressed in a red kimono. A wig was then placed on my head. I thought the wig would completely hide my hair, but the hairdresser left the fringe near my hairline when she pinned up my hair. She then blended the fringe of hair with the hair on the wig. Voila! When I looked in a mirror, the wig looked exactly like my own hair.
According to the hairdresser, Rumi-san, real human hair is used for the wigs, and hairstyles and accessories are changed depending on the role. Women working at archery ranges are supposed to be more fashionable than ordinary girls in the town, so the accessories on the wig are a bit more flashy, she said. My face was then made up lightly and in little more than an hour, I became a yatori-onna, a woman working at a yaba.
After this, I went to the adjacent Toei Uzumasa Eiga-mura, or Toei Kyoto Studio Park. As soon as I arrived, I was told about the scene. Oyoshi's role is to call out, "Atari!" (Direct hit!) and beat a drum to bring additional vigour to the scene when the arrow fired by Takahashi hit the target.
As I had learned the lines by heart and practiced them many times, I had gained confidence. But my mind went blank as I received a series of instructions from the assistant director - on the way I held the drumstick, the angle of my sitting posture as well as my pronunciation.
Before I knew it, it was time for the real take. I had to totally concentrate on where my eyes should be focused and what expression I should use when other actors were saying their lines.
I was amazed at the rapid speed the staff members moved around the studio. There were many takes for the same scene, each time with a different camera angle. Before each take, the staff called out to each other, moved the set and checked the position of the lighting. Their movements were extremely efficient and neat. One makeup artist patted the oily shine that appeared on my face while the hairdresser fixed my loosening hair. I felt that I had a glimpse of the professional spirit of the staff members involved in the production.
The scene would last only two minutes or so, but it took about 90 minutes to shoot it. In the end, I left the set feeling nervous, but when Fujiwara told me, "You did a very good job!" I felt genuinely relieved.
Although I participated in only a tiny part of the five-hour epic drama, I really felt the mettle and strong determination of the cast and the staff to create a good work.