The following is a translation of this article, published on the web edition of the Japanese newspaper, Sankei Shimbun on 8 January 2020. It features an interview with Kanako Takatsuki (nickname Kinchan), the voice actress playing Hanamaru Kunikida in the Love Live! Sunshine!! project.
[25 years since the Great Hanshin Earthquake] Affected at the age of one, voice actress Kanako Takatsuki determined to “convey the bonds between people”
(Reporter: Hidekazu Osaki)
A voice actress originally from Kobe who experienced the Great Hanshin Earthquake 25 years ago has stepped forth to pass its memory on to the next generation. Although she was only one year old at the time of the earthquake and it thus feels like a “disaster lacking a sense of reality,” she participated in a musical recitation play with the earthquake as its topic and started to feel a sense of “responsibility to tell others” as someone from the affected area. “I want to support Kobe on my part and tell people how the victims were able to overcome this disaster,” she says.
The Great East Japan Earthquake, an earthquake in Northern Osaka the day after a concert…
The voice actress in question is Kanako Takatsuki, 26, appearing in the popular anime series “Love Live! Sunshine!!” among others. As a member of the idol group “Aqours,” originating from the series, she has alongside other activities participated in the 2018 Kōhaku Utagassen on NHK in a special section and boasts high popularity among young people in particular.
However, at the time of the disaster, she was only one year old. Having lived through the earthquake in workplace-provided housing within Kobe City, she suffered no injury and has hardly any memory of the event. Although she later got to know that her grandmother, who lived nearby, had gotten pinned under a cabinet and been injured, her honest thoughts used to be that the disaster “didn’t feel too real.”
Due to her parents having to relocate for work, she moved from one place to another within and beyond Hyogo Prefecture, and in the sixth grade of elementary school she transferred to a school close to the scene of the Hanshin Expressway’s collapse in the earthquake. Whenever “1/17” was approaching, media would visit the school for coverage, and Takatsuki used to sing “Bring Happiness to the World” (Shiawase hakoberu you ni), a song expressing hope for reconstruction, with the other pupils. Despite this, she never thought much about the disaster.
The turning point was the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Takatsuki was working part time in Osaka, dreaming of becoming an anime song singer—anime and anime music had saved her from a life where she was prone to skipping school. At that time, she saw video footage of cities being engulfed by the tsunami waves. For the first time, she became acutely aware of “just how saddening earthquakes and tsunamis are.”
Even after she started her activities as a voice actress and in an idol group, she has been confronted by natural threats, whether it be fans not making it to the venue of a concert in Fukuoka during the torrential rains in Western Japan or an earthquake that occurred in northern Osaka Prefecture the very next day after an Osaka concert.* She started to think that “being emotional support might be saying too much, but I want to be some kind of an uplifting presence for others.”
At the same time, thoughts of the Great Hanshin Earthquake that had struck her hometown began to cross her mind more often. Ever since she was a child, she never noticed damage from the earthquake on Kobe’s streets. “Perhaps all the affected people stood up to the disaster as one and made reconstruction a reality as soon as possible, and it’s thanks to that,” she contemplated.
During this time, she received an offer to act in the musical recitation play “Heaven’s Record ~Blue Sky Chapter~,” depicting Kobe residents’ strenuous recovery from the Great Hanshin Earthquake. She said “I want to do this” right away. “I felt a responsibility to tell people about the earthquake, to support Kobe on my part,” she gives as her reason.
In the play that opened in Tokyo and Kobe in September last year, she played the part of a woman who had inherited the personality of her late mother, a victim of the earthquake. Takatsuki was surprised to find out that the character had a model from the real world, in a book recommended to her by the producer. She acted while doing her utmost to conjure up the difficult, “in a way, anime-like” role in her head.
Among her relatives that were affected by the disaster, there were also some who told her they were “afraid to watch the play, because it makes you remember painful things.” She understands the feelings of not wanting to recall tragic memories of the earthquake. However, by participating in the play, she was convinced that “adding a sense of reality to memories of the disaster in the form of a play and passing on those memories is also important.”
“Even after this, I want to use what I am good at, acting and singing, to tell others how people formed connections after the disaster and how they worked to overcome it. I believe that if you reach for people’s hearts, you can convey it also to people who might not know of the disaster.”
*Note: the Fukuoka concert in question was the Fukuoka leg of Aqours 3rd LoveLive! Tour. Travel difficulties, in particular train lines being out of service, affected both days of the concert. The Osaka concert in question was Day 2 of the Osaka leg of the same tour.