Akari Nakatani is flying the Vietnamese flag in her home country, helping to spread the word about Việt Nam to a Japanese audience.
And now this HCM City-based influencer is preparing for her biggest challenge after landing the role to play the love interest of legendary Vietnamese musician Trịnh Công Sơn.
Akari’s love of Việt Nam really happened by chance. And when she first came here never in her wildest dreams did she think she would become a movie star.
The 29-year-old became close friends with a Vietnamese student while at university in Japan, and attracted by her pal’s warm and friendly nature, decided to learn more about the country.
So much so, she decided to up sticks and move here lock, stock and barrel. And now she’s happy to call this country home. Why?
“Because I love Việt Nam and its people,” she said.
For the past six years, she has lived in HCM City and runs a YouTube channel about the country’s lifestyle, culture and cuisine.
But before she arrived here, she knew little about what life was like.
“While at university, I met my best friend Phúc, a friendly Vietnamese student,” Akari said.
“She told me a lot about her country, which piqued my interest in Vietnamese culture.”
Akari visited Việt Nam a few times before deciding to start her career here in 2016.
She added: “That was the right decision at the right time. I was impressed with life in this country and also wanted to challenge myself.”
During the first year, Akari studied Vietnamese at Tôn Đức Thắng University to be able to communicate with people. She also writes about her experiences for travel websites and travels to different provinces and cities.
Despite having been exposed to a variety of cultures and languages since childhood, the influencer admitted that learning Vietnamese is still a challenge.
“Vietnamese is very complex and diverse, both in terms of speaking and grammar,” she said.
“I tried to study Vietnamese wherever I could, including at school, via friends, and on the internet.”
Now she is able to speak Vietnamese fluently and has received many compliments for her Vietnamese singing videos on her YouTube channel – aNcari Room.
She added: “The journey in Việt Nam has completely changed me. From being an introvert and shy person, I gradually gained confidence and was willing to try many new things that I never did before, including becoming a YouTuber.”
Her latest project is a film called Em và Trịnh, which depicts the life of the late legendary Vietnamese musician Trịnh Công Sơn.
Akari said she was overwhelmed when received an invitation to audition for the role of Michiko Yoshii, the ex-lover of Trịnh Công Sơn.
“I had no acting experience at that time and also felt quite nervous when I learned that this is a big movie project about a Vietnamese music icon,” she said.
Following the release of the movie trailer, many viewers commented that Akari has a great resemblance to Michiko Yoshii.
The love story of Sơn and Michiko was once likened to John Lennon and Yoko Ono.
The pair first met in Paris in 1980. Later, Michiko decided to go to Việt Nam to see the musician she respected and finish her master’s thesis on music.
They quickly fell in love and even considered marriage. The wedding, however, was cancelled due to disagreements between the couple about wedding customs and ceremonies.
Akari shared that she had to take an acting class and even practise singing Trịnh Công Sơn’s songs to prepare for her debut role. However, it was the film producer’s encouragement that helped her gain confidence.
“I am truly grateful to the film’s cast and crew for their unwavering support,” Akari said.
“As the only foreign actress, I never felt lonely or difficult to get along with.”
Talking about future plans, Akari hopes that there will be more opportunities for her in film and her YouTube channel can bridge the cultural gap between Việt Nam and Japan.
She said: “One of my ambitions is to use media to build a culture bridge between the two country. YouTube is one of those tools that can be used to reach both Vietnamese and Japanese audience. I’m using it for both Vietnamese and Japanese people to learn about each other’s culture.” — VNS