Japanese actor Takumi Saitoh spent two weeks in Singapore filming Eric Khoo’s latest movie, Ramen Teh. The movie, which was a Singapore-Japan-France co-production, saw an ensemble cast from Japan and Singapore, including Mark Lee, Jeanette Aw and Japanese actress Seiko Matsuda.
The actor, who has more than 15 years of experience under his belt, said during a group interview with the cast that the working environments in Singapore and Japan were very different.
He said, “In Singapore, according to the law, you are only allowed to work for 10 consecutive hours. But in Japan, it’s infinite – work never ends in Japan. … You’re always pressed for time because you have to meet deadlines, so you’re always under pressure.
“In Singapore, I had more time for myself, which I feel is very healthy as compared to the working environment in Japan. And because I had more time for myself, it was more productive.”
He added, “The people in Singapore are very friendly, nice and approachable. So it didn’t take long for me to be friends with Singaporeans.”
Some of the Singaporeans he became friends with were, of course, co-stars Mark and Jeanette, who act as his uncle and mother respectively in the movie.
Takumi said, “Even outside the movie, I feel like I’m related to Mark and Jeanette. I feel like they’re not strangers anymore. I’m actually stalking them on Instagram so I know what they’re up to every day.”
Although he follows them on social media, he refused to share his Instagram handle with them. Jeanette said, “He’s very secretive. I asked him what his Instagram account was and he was like, ‘No, it’s not active.’”
Takumi clarified that he only used the account to “just look” at other people’s accounts.
The Japanese actor also piled on compliments on Mark, whom he described as “a very nice person.” He said, “He had a lot of surprises for me. He even invited me over for dinner. When he heard that I liked kaya toast, Mark said he would bring me to the best kaya toast shop in the world. He took me to his own shop. I thought it was the best self-promotion. But honestly, it was very delicious.”
The local actor is the owner of 13 Stages, a chicken rice and coffee eatery at Kallang Wave Mall.
Mark said he also brought Takumi to Dancing Crab. He said, “I brought him to eat chili crabs [and we ate] without any spoon, forks or chopsticks – just hands. Everything was on the table, and he used his hands [to eat] but I could see him always cleaning his hands.”
He added, “In Japan, they don’t eat with their hands. So he asked me, ‘[Use] hands?’ I said yes. He was eating everything – even noodles, chicken wings, crab – but would use tissue to clean and clean and clean his hands. After cleaning, he would continue eating. And then he would clean again. The whole table was [filled with] tissue paper.”
But Takumi said he liked the experience.
In fact, he’s not the only one who loves the local food in Singapore. Actress Seiko, who speaks fluent English, also gushed about her love for Singapore food during the group interview.
She said one thing she was surprised by was the array of fusion foods available here. “All of them are really delicious! I tried everything, from fish head curry – that was my first time, it was really good – chicken rice, laksa… everything is great. But some of them are so spicy!” she laughed.
When asked if there was anything she couldn’t eat in Singapore, she said, “[When I order] laksa, I always say, ‘Less spicy, please!’”
Ramen Teh will be shown in Singapore cinemas from March 29, 2018.
Text and images: Hidayah Idris