Angel and Demons

Angel and Demons

Renowned pianist Nao Matsushita takes on her biggest challenge yet: playing the lead in an NHK drama


Originally published on on February 2010

It’s a Friday afternoon and Nao Matsushita is taking a break from filming Gegege no Nyobo, the newest program in NHK’s long-running morning drama series. The 156-episode show is a big challenge for the 25-year-old actress and classical pianist. “I’ve been watching NHK’s asadora with my family since I was a child, but I never thought I would star in it one day,” she says.

Tall and graceful, Matsushita started playing classical piano in her native Hyogo Prefecture when she was 3. “I didn’t really dream of becoming a pianist,” she says. “Actually, it wasn’t until I was in sixth grade that I started thinking I’d like to be an actress. I was too embarrassed to mention it to anyone, though. I would tell people that one day I’d like to work as a dolphin trainer.”

After finishing school, Matsushita attended the Tokyo College of Music. Her showbiz debut finally came at age 19. “I was on a TV program about the college, and my music composition was featured,” she says. “That led to me getting scouted.” Since then, she’s released a series of classical music CDs (her favorite composer is Rachmaninoff), published photo books, and appeared on TV shows (Ohitori-sama, Koi Zara), radio programs, and in movies (Sunadokei, Chest). She can currently be seen in commercials for Asahi beer, Kose cosmetics and Aiful Home real estate. In 2009, she did a nationwide concert tour, and this year released a photo calendar that was shot in Hawaii.

Yet all her energy is now being focused on Gegege no Nyobo. Based on a 2008 autobiography by the wife of Shigeru Mizuki, the famed manga artist who created the bizarre but ultra-popular Gegege no Kitaro, the story centers around the couple’s life.

“I’ve been reading Mizuki’s books since I was a child,” Matsushita says. “I used to borrow them from the school library, and they always scared me. I was speechless when I got offered the role. Even to be invited to star in an NHK morning drama is an honor.”

Asked who her favorite character is in the series, Matsushita answers with a laugh: Ittanmomen, the 10m-long, scarf-like monster that falls on people, sometimes smothering them.
She confesses that she was extremely nervous about meeting Mizuki’s 77-year-old wife, Nunoe Mura. “She has generally stayed out of the public eye, but I got to know her and found her to be kind and around the same age as my grandmother.

I could open up to her. Nevertheless, I was a bit worried about playing a character still living, so I felt a great responsibility with the role.”
Each of the 15-minute episodes is based mainly on Mura’s story.

“Being able to continuously play one role in all episodes allows me to truly feel the heroine’s emotions,” Matsushita says. “We have a good team, and I feel safe that we are creating something strong together.”

Beyond Gegege no Nyobo, the actress says she would like to make a Hollywood film one day—and work with George Clooney, if she can—but knows she must get better at English first.
A popular celebrity because of her many projects, Matsushita posts entries on her blog twice a week and receives letters and email from fans of all ages. When not working, she says she enjoys shopping in Aoyama and takes a keen interest in the news. The issue that concerns her the most? The yen-dollar rate, because she does a lot of online shopping overseas.

Gegege no Nyobo airs Mar 29-Sep 25 on NHK channel 1 weekdays from 8:15-8:30am. For more information on Matsushita, see

Chris Betros is the editor of Japan Today (