• Film & TV

Meet Torako, the home tutor at your service

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ai Hashimoto as the protagonist Torako in “Kateikyoshi no Torako” (“Home Tutor”)

Ai Hashimoto plays the lead character in the drama “Kateikyoshi no Torako” (“Home Tutor”), which is broadcast on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on the Nippon TV network.

The lead character, Torako Nezu, is a home tutor who boasts a legendary 100% success rate of getting her students into competitive schools. Although such tutors are usually university graduates, she holds only a high school diploma and also enjoys cosplaying. Rather enigmatically, she requires each student’s family to have her spend the night as a guest at their house when she tutors.

Torako tutors three students, all of them different ages with different family backgrounds — the daughter of a working couple who want her to take a prestigious elementary school’s entrance exam; a single mother’s son who wants to go to a top-notch private junior high school; and a son of a wealthy family aiming for the University of Tokyo.

Each family has its own set of problems. “Torako not only tutors these children but also their families,” Hashimoto said. “She becomes involved in their issues. The process is so interesting.”

Torako does not scold her students at all. Instead, she encourages them to figure out how to be happy.

Depending on whom she teaches, Torako changes her outfit and uses different approaches. She can be gentle and elegant like Mary Poppins with one student, but act like a hot-blooded coach with another.

“At first glance, she seems affectionate and tolerant of people,” Hashimoto said.

In contrast to Torako’s outward appearance, deep inside she is angry at society and is especially strict about not wasting money.

©NIPPON TV
Hashimoto, right, in a scene from “Kateikyoshi no Torako” (“Home Tutor”)

“If I make one small misstep when I act, Torako might be misunderstood as someone with a bad attitude,” Hashimoto said. “So there is a bit of tension when I perform her.”

The script was written by Kazuhiko Yukawa, who is known for his popular show “Kaseifu no Mita” (“I’m Mita, Your Housekeeper”).

Yukawa’s dramas always depict “anger” as an underlying message, Hashimoto said.

Hashimoto has acted in two of Yukawa’s previous dramas, but in this third drama, she plays the lead character for the first time.

“For this drama, I felt that I needed more time than before to be able to understand anger, the driving force of my character, and incorporate that deep inside me,” she said.

A native of Kumamoto Prefecture, Hashimoto was born on Jan. 12, 1996. She entered the entertainment industry in 2008. Since 2009, she has been working as a model for magazines and as an actress. In 2021, Hashimoto appeared in NHK’s yearlong epic historical drama “Seiten o Tsuke” (“Reach Beyond the Blue Sky”), in which she portrayed the caring wife of the protagonist, Eiichi Shibusawa (1840-1931), who is known as the “father of Japanese capitalism.”

Hashimoto has been acting since she was 13 years old, essentially half of her life.

“I spent so much of my energy on acting that I became exhausted and felt it was more hard than enjoyable,” Hashimoto said. “But lately, I’ve finally become able to enjoy every aspect of acting.”

She defines a true master as a person who can constantly enjoy acting.

“I feel this show is the goal of the first stage in becoming a master,” Hashimoto said, looking forward to the next stage of her acting career, which lies beyond playing the lead of this drama.

Questions for Hashimoto

The Yomiuri Shimbun: What school subjects were you good at when you were a student?

Hashimoto: Japanese and P.E. I don’t remember studying Japanese very hard, but I think I always got good grades.

Yomiuri: Both you and Torako read a lot. What is the most interesting book you’ve read recently?

Hashimoto: It’s a book titled “Gendai Shiso Nyumon” (An introduction to contemporary philosophy). It is a very interesting book because it’s easy for beginners like me to understand. I’ve recently become interested in delving into philosophy. I want to learn things useful for acting, such as, “What does it mean to be human?”