Wednesday, October 17, 2012

In a conversation with Rina Ota

Born on January 11, 1988 in Chiba, Japan, Rina Ota has walked innumerable domestic and international collections since her debut as a model in 2001. She rose to prominence as the face of the international AW 2006/07 Miu Miu campaign. The child of a Japanese father and Russian mother, Ota is proficient in English and Russian. She started her acting career in the movie 69 at the age of 15, and has since appeared in TV dramas, commercials, and on film.

For the EGO ISSUE we talked with Rina about her background, the global differences in the fashion world and the role of the ego  in eastern society. 

How old were you when you started modeling?  
Was it a dream come true?
I was 13-years old. I wouldn’t call it a dream come true, as my jump into the fashion industry was relatively spontaneous.

How did you grow up? 
What was your family’s reaction to your modeling career? 
I spent my childhood between Russia and Japan. I lived in Moscow until I was nine years old. My parents used to say, “We won’t say a word about your career; you started it by yourself. Think carefully before you take action and take responsibility for your decisions or we will give you the
cold shoulder.”

How and when did you experience western culture? 
What differences do you see in comparison to your own culture?
During my childhood I would travel around Europe with my mother. The most memorable trip was traveling alone to Paris when I was 18. The biggest differences are the weather, food, and people’s faces. Also I think westerners are rougher in comparison to eastern people. What I like in eastern culture is that you can assert yourself elegantly in front of
people, what I don’t like is that racial discrimination tends to
still exist. 

Is there a difference between the two fashion worlds? 
Yes, you can see a big difference between western and eastern fashion cultures. Traditional Eastern clothes, such as the kimono and the Korean chima jeogori, are made with flat cloths and worn by binding them to the body. Traditional western clothes have more volume, especially dresses. Western fashion culture impacts the fashion industry all over the world. In my opinion, Japan is still a developing country in terms of the creation of fashion. Fashionable people there yearn for western fashion. However, some Japanese people are skillfully hand-making interesting clothes that incorporate traditional Japanese fashion. At the moment it might be difficult to find high fashion in Japan, but the eastern scene continues to develop in original ways. To be honest, I can’t say that the fashion featured in Japanese animation and Otaku is still seen as interesting. What I can say is that there is no difference between the east and west in terms of approaching the creation of something

From my western point of view there are a lot of rules and regulations in eastern society. Do you experience them as a burden or blessing? 
To follow rules and maintain public order is important. It can be a burden if you don’t react to changes in situations and environments according to expectations. As a result, you have doubts, so it takes time before you take action. In western society we look up to people with a strong sense of self-confidence. In the eastern world, it is understood as dismissive of others. 

What is your point of view?
In my opinion, modesty is one of the best features of the Japanese people. Modesty can be both appealing and offputting. It becomes hard when being modest is the same as concealing one’s emotions. Collective behavior is also needed in an educational environment. Not to change the subject, but I recently heard that at a school sports day, students ran hand-in-hand with others from start to finish during a relay event so it would be difficult to record the numbers on their backs at the end. I think this is the best example of what it means to be modest in Japan.

How are gender relations different?
Japanese people do not have the custom of expressing love between boyfriend and girlfriend outside the home, which is different when compared to western countries. But in fact, relationships between men and women are not so different.

What position do models and actors have in eastern society?
Modeling and acting are thought to be dream jobs. There are so many girls who want to be models or actresses in Japan, and there are countless amateur models, like models selected from magazine readership, for example. I think this might be a Japanese original.

If you could change something about the culture, what would it be?
To change Japan into a country with a combative spirit. Japan is really peaceful.

What are your plans for the future?
My life has been formed by lots of small decisions, thus influencing my work. I’m putting my heart into acting at the moment. Making films is one of my dreams. I am planning to complete a script in the near future. You only live once – I would like to keep being active, and notonly in Japan!

Interview: Zsuzsanna Toth
photos: Sayuri Ichida
Fashion: Takeru Sakai
Hair/ Make-Up: Tomomi Hiramoto
Model: Rina Ota @ ANORE

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