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Sairi Ito in ‘Tora ni Tsubara’ can’t just handle the pressure as the lead – she enjoys it


The Yomiuri Shimbun
Sairi Ito

Six months after shooting began for “Tora ni Tsubasa” (“The Tiger and Her Wings”), NHK’s April morning drama, Sairi Ito, who plays the main character, looked a little sharper around her cheeks.

“Maybe I’m tense, even though it’s fun to have people and cameras watching me for hours every day,” Ito said, laughing heartily. Then she said a few bold words: ‘But you need some excitement when you work. I can’t do things like a wimp.’

“Tora ni Tsubasa” airs Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. on NHK-G, and Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. on public broadcaster satellite channel NHK BS.

Tomoko, played by Ito, graduates from an all-girls school in the early years of the Showa era (1926-89). After rejecting an arranged marriage from her mother, she attends the first Japanese school to teach women’s rights and becomes a lawyer. After the Second World War she became a judge and worked hard to establish the country’s first family court.


eiji POP photo Sairi Ito
Thanks to NHK
Sairi Ito plays Tomoko, also called Torako, in “Tora ni Tsubasa”

Tomoko, also called Torako, is modeled after Yoshiko Mibuchi, one of the first Japanese women to become a lawyer. When she later became a judge, she broke the glass ceiling of the male-dominated legal field.

Ito’s first impression about Mibuchi was just that she is a ‘cool person’. But then she heard an anecdote about Mibuchi entertaining her subordinates with lots of sweets when she was head of a family court.

“She is a fantastic person with a perfect balance between being cool at work and charming outside of it. I would like to convey that [to viewers],” said Ito.

When Ito faced the script, she began to look at the law differently than before.

“I used to take them for granted, but there were hard times before the laws that protect us now came into effect, and there were people who fought for them. It was great to learn more about that in my own life,” Ito said with a smile.

During Torako’s time, there was much prejudice against the advancement of women in society. Torako and other women who went to law school were bad-mouthed behind their backs.

It reminded Ito of her own experiences of being tormented by comments on social media.

“Nowadays, comments from strangers easily reach you unfiltered, and sometimes you are inundated with opinions that give you no motivation whatsoever. But if you swallow them all, you won’t be able to do what you want to do anymore. You have to be able to fend them off,” she said, boosting her own morale.

Born May 4, 1994, in Chiba Prefecture, Ito made her debut as a child actress when she was 9 and stood out in NHK’s morning drama “Hiyokko.” She has since appeared in the TV miniseries “Shikkou!!” including TV Asahi and the film “Chotto Omoidashita Dake” (“Just Remembering”). Her older brother is comedian Shunsuke Ito.

Sairi Ito played a supporting role in ‘Hiyokko’, but this time she is the lead in ‘Tora ni Tsubasa’. Is she overwhelmed by the heavy pressure?

“Even when I think, ‘Argh,’ I think, ‘It’s fun!’” she said lightly.

She can even tell a serious story in a very cheerful way.

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