Haruka Fukuhara fulfills dream by landing role in the drama “Soar High!”

Courtesy of NHK
Haruka Fukuhara acts in the drama “Maiagare!” (Soar High!).

“It was my dream for a long, long time,” Haruka Fukuhara said of making her debut as the lead in an NHK serial morning drama. Her dream came true in “Maiagare!” (Soar High!), which airs on NHK-G from 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

“It’s really fun playing [this role]. I’ve been working really hard partly because I wanted to appear in an ‘Asadora’ [a nickname for NHK’s serial morning dramas]. I’d like to give my best,” Fukuhara said.

She speaks serenely and slowly, yet you can sense how passionately she feels about the drama.

NHK’s morning drama slot dates back to 1961. Over the years, the semiannual dramas have depicted women and families who live their lives during different eras. “Maiagare!” is the 107th drama to appear in the slot.

The drama tells the story of Mai Iwakura, the daughter in a family that own a small factory, who pursues a dream of flying high as a pilot. The story is set in Higashi-Osaka, a manufacturing town in Osaka Prefecture, and the nature-rich Goto islands in Nagasaki Prefecture. Mai, played by Fukuhara, becomes involved with airplanes, receiving support from her loving family and friends.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Haruka Fukuhara

“She’s a shy girl who is more worried about the happiness of others than her own feelings. She is very perceptive about other people’s feelings, so she couldn’t express her opinions very well when she was a child,” Fukuhara said in analyzing the character.

“Mai-chan realizes that if she works hard, she can definitely do many things, and she transforms into a forward-looking woman,” Fukuhara said, adding that she pays close attention to the details in her acting so she can show the detailed process of Mai’s personal growth.

“Mai has a dream and as a person becomes stronger and stronger. I, too, receive courage from her character,” she said.

Born on Aug. 28, 1998, Fukuhara comes from Saitama Prefecture. She became very popular when playing the lead character in the children’s cooking program “Cookin’ idol I! My! Mine!” on NHK-E when she was in the fifth grade of elementary school.

There were times during her junior high school days when she was a bit worried about combining school and work. But she seriously started thinking about making a career of acting at the time after watching the NHK morning drama “Ohisama” (The Sun). The forward-looking protagonist gave her encouragement, and Fukuhara’s long-term goal is to be like Mao Inoue, who played the lead character.

“I’d also like to give many people courage, smiles and positive messages,” said Fukuhara, who now juggles her acting career with voice acting, singing and modeling.

She hopes that “Maiagare!” will become a drama that provides a gentle pat on viewers’ shoulders.

“Maiagare!” also airs on the satellite channel NHK Premium, from 7:30 a.m. Monday through Friday.

Quick questions for Fukuhara

The Yomiuri Shimbun: How do you find Osaka?

Haruka Fukuhara: My impression of the people in Osaka is that they’re cheerful, energetic and awesome. They can also be more open and unreserved.

Yomiuri: What have you cooked recently?

Fukuhara: I’ve made tomato soup. I cook other things, too, and make it a rule to bring my own food in a bento box when filming.