The first thing you notice about Meisa Kuroki is her gorgeous hair and skin—not surprising for one of Japan’s rising stars. Then as she starts to relax and chat, her smile widens and it is easy to see why the 21-year-old Okinawan singer-actress is so much in demand.
“When I was younger, I wanted to operate a cake shop because I used to bake with my three older sisters for Christmas and Valentine’s,” Kuroki says. However, at 14, she was scouted and by the time she was 15, Kuroki was acting in Tokyo.
The last six years have seen Kuroki appear in numerous films (“Crows ZERO” and its sequel, “Subaru”), TV programs (“Kaze no Garden”), TV commercials (Kirin, Toshiba, ANA, Tsubaki) and theater productions. This month, she is appearing as the title character in the play “Onna Nobunaga,” which looks at what might have been if the famous feudal ruler Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) had been a woman.
Kuroki displays her swordfighting skills (her profile lists “fight scenes” as one of her specialties). “I’ve been practicing swordfighting for about three years now, so I’m fairly good at it,” Kuroki says.
“Since many actors have played Nobunaga before, I did feel somewhat pressured, as I am probably the first actress to attempt the role. You know men assume that women are being hysterical when they are angry. Since Nobunaga was known for his violent character, I think a female version would be able to portray that part of him very accurately. I did some research into his personality, but in the end, I tried to create an original character.”
Kuroki’s other big venture this year was the April release of her debut album “Hellcat,” even though she had not released any singles previously. The CD, a blend of hip hop and R&B, debuted at #5 on the Oricon chart. Kuroki says she started writing songs about a year before the release of the CD. “There wasn’t an official release date, so I continued writing until I was satisfied. The end product was eight songs that reflect my current thoughts. Rather than choose one song out of those eight for a single release, I decided to release them as an album.” Kuroki adds that she has always liked music and dancing and was inspired by Janet Jackson after seeing her perform on TV.
Always fashionable, the 165-cm-tall Kuroki says she prefers monotone colors like black and white, nothing too bright, and likes shopping in Daikanyama. When she is out and about, Kuroki has to beware of overeager fans. “I wear a hat, but people still take photos of me on their cell phones. Shibuya is especially scary because I’ve had people actually tug my arm asking me ‘You’re Meisa, right?’ I always excuse myself and run away.”
The days can be quite long depending on what Kuroki is doing. “Lately I’ve been finishing around 9-10 at night. I go straight to bed when I get home,” she says. Whenever she has time, Kuroki goes bike riding. “I typically go for about an hour. Cycling in the morning and coming back with a cup of coffee is very refreshing. I’m still practicing cooking…I’m good at baking cakes though.”
Kuroki receives a lot of questions from fans on her blog. “They ask me about makeup, fashion, cooking. I try to answer as much as possible. The ages of my fans range from middle school to women in their 40s and 50s.”
And what sort of man is her ideal? “Guys who have just the right amount of muscle…someone like Usher. But I definitely feel that people who possess qualities that you don’t have are attractive. Contrary to how I may seem, I have difficulty getting to know new people. I think people who are naturally social are very attractive.”
Kuroki says she takes a keen interest in the news. Having grown up in Okinawa, she feels there are many sides to consider regarding the U.S. bases issue. “Despite the negative incidents, there are also positive aspects to their presence that need to be considered as well,” she says. “What concerns me most now is the dark period Japanese society is in—the economic downturn as well as poor public safety. I hope that in the long run, we’ll be able to look back and view the present as a brief dim period.”