Friendship Envoy

Satomi Kobayashi

1 top photo Satomi Kobayashi

PROFILE

Satomi Kobayashi was the leading actress in “Kamome Shokudo” (“Ruokala Lokki” in Finnish) in 2006, directed by Naoko Ogigami. Although it started as a mini-theater film, it caught so much popularity to become a long-running hit nationwide.

Many Japanese tourists, mainly young women, travel alone to Finland, wanting to experience the “everyday life” of the main character Sachie (played by Kobayashi). Although it has been more than 10 years since it was first released, many Japanese still talk about the film as the reason for travelling to Finland.

I love how the Finns “burst” and try to have fun from the bottom of their hearts when they decide to do so.

  • The mini-theater film “Ruokala Lokki” which Kobayashi starred in became a nationwide hit, and many tourists talk about the film as the reason for visiting Finland.
    ©Kamome Shokai Photo: Yoko Takahashi
  • Kobayashi relaxes in Tammisaari, a small town located in Southern Finland. Photo: chat chat corporation

INTERVIEW

You went to Finland to film the movie “Ruokala Lokki” in 2005. Had you been to Finland before that?

I first went to Finland about 15 years ago, to make a TV program about trekking in Finnish forests. We stayed mainly in the lake district, and at the end went all the way to Rovaniemi. Several years after that I stayed in Helsinki for about a month to shoot the film.

I heard that you’ve been to Finland many times since then.

When you stay for a month it feels like you’re actually living there, and it felt so comfortable. Although Helsinki is a city, it’s laid-back, and if you go just a bit further there is nature. Finns are not too intruding nor cold, and the distance taken between people felt nice. I’ve been to Finland five or six times already, both for work and privately.

Do Finns notice you when you’re walking on the streets in Finland?

No, they rarely notice me. On the other hand, there are so many Japanese tourists nowadays. And of course, many came to Finland because of the film, so I’m often taken by surprise to be noticed there more than in Japan.

It has been more than 10 years since “Ruokala Lokki” hit the theaters, but as you mentioned, many Japanese tourists talk about the film as the reason for visiting Finland. How do you feel about this phenomenon?

I was so surprised, the influence of the film was over my imagination. Maybe the Nordic design boom had a synergetic effect? I’m no longer able to travel freely without being noticed, but it’s great that the film acted as a catalyst for Japanese to realize the charm of Finland. I hope many go beyond Helsinki and experience also other aspects of the country.

Could you share with us some memorable moments during the shooting?

One day, the Finnish assistant director said “I’ll take off tomorrow since it’s my mother’s birthday”. We were like “what, you’re not working because of that?” but the Finnish staff were all like “okay” and didn’t make a fuss. The way how Finns worked felt nice; the fact that there were different values other than “work is the top-priority no matter what” seemed wonderful.

I think Finns have a great way of dividing work and private life, a nice way to do away with feelings and move on. Finns have their own pace and style. They don’t do things just because the others are doing it, and I empathize with that. Even children look dignified. Gender-equality is widespread too. The boats I got on were all led by women, and they looked grand.

Have you tried to change your style into a more relaxed, Finnish way?

Well, I’m rather laid-back already (laugh). But I love how the Finns “burst” and try to have fun from the bottom of their hearts when they decide to do so.
- My friend residing in Finland took me once to a farm in the rural area, and they prepared an outdoor bathing tub for us. Now, my friend is a type of person who would jump into the lake naked. But when I’m in Finland, I’m not embarrassed to be naked either… So after taking the bath, we played with a homemade zipline (with both ends tied on two trees), sliding like a tarzan naked.

Food plays a big role in the film. What kind of food do you like in Finland?

I became a big fan of cinnamon buns. I love the aroma of cardamom. I ask for cardamom sticks when I get souvenirs from Finland, and make cookies at home. But I don’t bake cinnamon buns. I’d rather enjoy them in Finland.

We celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations in 2019. How do you view the future relationship between Finland and Japan?

Since I’m an actress, I hope to be involved in cultural exchanges of the two countries through movies and theater, and further deepen our understanding about each other.
- The main actors of “Ruokala Lokki” were Japanese, so if there is to be another film it would be interesting to make it also with Finnish main characters. How about focusing on the lifestyle that Finns regularly enjoy, like making a campfire to grill sausages and make coffee? Or, going into sauna or jumping into a lake naked? We hear about these episodes, but I don’t think there have been much visual artworks.

That’s a wonderful idea! There are also great Japanese films depicting everyday lifestyle. If we could make a cultural exchange film together, that could be fun.

How about a story of “cultural gap?” It might be interesting to make a story about how Finns and Japanese live together and how they are mutually astounded by the other’s strange cultural habits?

Meanwhile, Finns and Japanese are also said to be similar. Where do you feel the similarities?

Maybe in the nature of the people. We’re both not aggressive, respect others, are humble and thoughtful. Like, the family hosting the farm I stayed in didn’t overdo with the services, but I could tell they were looking after me. And I can feel this in restaurants, anywhere in Finland. I can interact with people the same way I would in Japan, and that feels cozy.

You mention in one of your books that you might like to live abroad in the future? Have you ever thought of living in Finland?

Of course I have. But how is winter?

“Proper” winter in Finland is wonderful. Please do visit Lapland during wintertime, and enjoy the whiteness of the snow and the crispness of the air. There is no wind or humidity, so even if it’s 30 degrees below zero, it’s not that bad.

Ahh yes, if I truly like Finland then I should definitely experience its winter!

INTERVIEW

You went to Finland to film the movie “Ruokala Lokki” in 2005. Had you been to Finland before that?

I first went to Finland about 15 years ago, to make a TV program about trekking in Finnish forests. We stayed mainly in the lake district, and at the end went all the way to Rovaniemi. Several years after that I stayed in Helsinki for about a month to shoot the film.

I heard that you’ve been to Finland many times since then.

When you stay for a month it feels like you’re actually living there, and it felt so comfortable. Although Helsinki is a city, it’s laid-back, and if you go just a bit further there is nature. Finns are not too intruding nor cold, and the distance taken between people felt nice. I’ve been to Finland five or six times already, both for work and privately.

Do Finns notice you when you’re walking on the streets in Finland?

No, they rarely notice me. On the other hand, there are so many Japanese tourists nowadays. And of course, many came to Finland because of the film, so I’m often taken by surprise to be noticed there more than in Japan.

It has been more than 10 years since “Ruokala Lokki” hit the theaters, but as you mentioned, many Japanese tourists talk about the film as the reason for visiting Finland. How do you feel about this phenomenon?

I was so surprised, the influence of the film was over my imagination. Maybe the Nordic design boom had a synergetic effect? I’m no longer able to travel freely without being noticed, but it’s great that the film acted as a catalyst for Japanese to realize the charm of Finland. I hope many go beyond Helsinki and experience also other aspects of the country.

Could you share with us some memorable moments during the shooting?

One day, the Finnish assistant director said “I’ll take off tomorrow since it’s my mother’s birthday”. We were like “what, you’re not working because of that?” but the Finnish staff were all like “okay” and didn’t make a fuss. The way how Finns worked felt nice; the fact that there were different values other than “work is the top-priority no matter what” seemed wonderful.

I think Finns have a great way of dividing work and private life, a nice way to do away with feelings and move on. Finns have their own pace and style. They don’t do things just because the others are doing it, and I empathize with that. Even children look dignified. Gender-equality is widespread too. The boats I got on were all led by women, and they looked grand.

Have you tried to change your style into a more relaxed, Finnish way?

Well, I’m rather laid-back already (laugh). But I love how the Finns “burst” and try to have fun from the bottom of their hearts when they decide to do so.
- My friend residing in Finland took me once to a farm in the rural area, and they prepared an outdoor bathing tub for us. Now, my friend is a type of person who would jump into the lake naked. But when I’m in Finland, I’m not embarrassed to be naked either… So after taking the bath, we played with a homemade zipline (with both ends tied on two trees), sliding like a tarzan naked.

Food plays a big role in the film. What kind of food do you like in Finland?

I became a big fan of cinnamon buns. I love the aroma of cardamom. I ask for cardamom sticks when I get souvenirs from Finland, and make cookies at home. But I don’t bake cinnamon buns. I’d rather enjoy them in Finland.

We celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations in 2019. How do you view the future relationship between Finland and Japan?

Since I’m an actress, I hope to be involved in cultural exchanges of the two countries through movies and theater, and further deepen our understanding about each other.
- The main actors of “Ruokala Lokki” were Japanese, so if there is to be another film it would be interesting to make it also with Finnish main characters. How about focusing on the lifestyle that Finns regularly enjoy, like making a campfire to grill sausages and make coffee? Or, going into sauna or jumping into a lake naked? We hear about these episodes, but I don’t think there have been much visual artworks.

That’s a wonderful idea! There are also great Japanese films depicting everyday lifestyle. If we could make a cultural exchange film together, that could be fun.

How about a story of “cultural gap?” It might be interesting to make a story about how Finns and Japanese live together and how they are mutually astounded by the other’s strange cultural habits?

Meanwhile, Finns and Japanese are also said to be similar. Where do you feel the similarities?

Maybe in the nature of the people. We’re both not aggressive, respect others, are humble and thoughtful. Like, the family hosting the farm I stayed in didn’t overdo with the services, but I could tell they were looking after me. And I can feel this in restaurants, anywhere in Finland. I can interact with people the same way I would in Japan, and that feels cozy.

You mention in one of your books that you might like to live abroad in the future? Have you ever thought of living in Finland?

Of course I have. But how is winter?

“Proper” winter in Finland is wonderful. Please do visit Lapland during wintertime, and enjoy the whiteness of the snow and the crispness of the air. There is no wind or humidity, so even if it’s 30 degrees below zero, it’s not that bad.

Ahh yes, if I truly like Finland then I should definitely experience its winter!

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