Sairi Ito in ‘Tora ni Tsubara’ Can Not Only Handle the Pressure as Lead Role — She Enjoys It

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Sairi Ito

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

“Maybe I’m tensed up, even though it’s fun to have people and cameras watch me for long hours every day,” Ito said, laughing heartily. Then she uttered some bold words: “But you need some tension when you’re working. I can’t be doing things like a wimp.”

“Tora ni Tsubasa” airs from 8 a.m. on Mondays through Saturdays on NHK-G, and from 7:30 a.m. on Mondays through Fridays on the public broadcaster’s 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 set up by her mother, she goes to the first Japanese school teaching law to women and becomes a lawyer. After World War II, she becomes a judge and works hard to establish the country’s first family court.

Courtesy of 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. Going on to also become a judge, she shattered the glass ceiling of the male-dominated field of law.

Ito’s initial impression about Mibuchi was just that she’s a “cool person.” But then she heard an anecdote about Mibuchi entertaining her subordinates with plenty of sweets when she was the head of a family court.

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

As Ito faced the script, she began looking at law differently from before.

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

In Torako’s days, there were many prejudices against women’s advancement in society. Torako and other women who went to the law school were bad-mouthed behind their backs.

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

“Today, strangers’ comments easily reach you unfiltered, and sometimes you find yourself showered with opinions that don’t give you any motivation. But if you swallow them all, then you become unable to do what you want to do. You’ve got to be able to repel them,” she said, boosting her own morale.

Born on May 4, 1994, Ito, a Chiba Prefecture native, made her debut as a child actress when she was 9 and came to notice in NHK’s serial morning drama “Hiyokko.” She has since appeared in the TV miniseries “Shikkou!!” on TV Asahi and the film “Chotto Omoidashita Dake” (“Just Remembering”) among other works. Her elder 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 if I think, ‘Argh,’ then I become like, ‘It’s fun!,’” she said light-heartedly.

This way she can tell even a serious story in a very cheerful way.