She may be a tiny old lady, but it’s hard to believe that the vibrant Mori Mitsuko is 89 years old. Just last month she performed the lead role in the play “Hourouki” for the 2,000th time, a role she’s been playing since 1961! She is such a popular figure that she is sometimes referred to as “Nihon no Okaasan” (Mother of Japan). In recognition of everything she has achieved and her cultural contributions, yesterday she became the 17th recipient of a national honor award. She is the first actress and the oldest person to be recognized, and just the second person (after Kurosawa Akira) to have also received the Order of Cultural Merit. Yesterday’s award was presented by Prime Minister Aso Taro at his official residence, after which Mori gave a press conference. Twisting a familiar Japanese phrase, she joked “I’m so happy I should be punished!” In recent years she has started to show some of the signs of old age – mild hearing loss and the occasionally shakes. But she is looking forward to performing in Hourouki again next spring, at the sprightly age of 90, and celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2011.
Nihon no Okaasan to Receive National Honor (May 12, 2009)