Akutagawa Winner Stars In Seaside Fantasy With Potent Flavor

Akutagawa winner stars in seaside fantasy with potent flavorA short fantasy film starring comedian Naoki Matayoshi, this year's surprise Akutagawa Prize winner for his debut novel, wrapped up shooting here on Aug. 10.
The producers hope to enter “Umishu” (Ocean liquor) in international film competitions.

The film is based on an award-winning short novel by Masatomo Tamaru, 27, a native of Matsuyama, the capital of Ehime Prefecture. The storyline centers on the potent “ocean liquor” that is made by steeping drift-glass fragments in alcohol. Just by sipping, the magical liquor transports people to old familiar seashores.

In the 15-minute short, the drink helps the protagonist, played by Matayoshi, 35, one of the “manzai” stand-up comic duo “Peace,” make a spiritual trip to his childhood.

Matayoshi was a co-winner of this year’s Akutagawa Prize, a prestigious literary award, for his debut novel “Hibana” (A spark). He agreed to star in the film because he is a literary friend of Tamaru.

Filming started Aug. 2 in the Tokyo metropolitan area. On Aug. 9, the on-location scenes of the protagonist in his childhood were filmed at a beach in Matsuyama, where the author used to scavenge bits of wave-worn glass fragments as a child with his grandparents.

“I am excited that my novel, which captures the essential moments of my whole life, is being adapted into a film with my hometown as a background,” Tamaru said. “I hope the movie will remind viewers of their old memories associated with sea.”

Matayoshi, in a statement, said he is happy to have taken part in the film because the original novel is one of his favorite short novels.

"I am very much looking forward to seeing how the finished work will turn out," he said.

The date of the film’s release is not decided. Its producers hope to enter it in film competitions in and outside Japan, including the Cannes International Film Festival.