Little Miss Misako and the Food of Love
By Jane Ennis
>>This article has been retyped from an British magazine from the 1970’s.<<
A Japanese girl came six thousand miles to London for a holiday. She was 18 years old, five feet talk and ask pretty as a favorite doll – but she spoke very little English. She met a young man in a café, fell in love and married. The couple settled in Blackpool and she planned to devote herself to learning the skills of an English housewife. Instead, she became a cabaret singer and ended up playing the part of a Tibetan goddess in the children’s TV series The Tomorrow People.
Tracing the tiny footsteps of Misako Koba from the Japanese Island of Goto where she grew up to the youngest of ten brothers and sisters, via a Wimpy Bar and the Blackpool Tower to star in an ITV series, is a modern Samurai-style legend where fate takes a very big hand and virtue triumphs.
The Chance Meeting
(In which their eyes meet across a crowded hamburger parlour.)
It was a dreary day in London’s Earl’s Court. Misako, the weary traveler, walked into a Wimpy Bar. She says in her now good but highly accented English: “I spoke very badly then and every time I went into a café and ordered something, it would come out differently to what I had expected. Then I discovered Wimpy. There were photos on the menu and could point to what I wanted. I sat down in a spare seat opposite a young man. I pointed to a picture, but that waitress started talking and I couldn’t understand. Then the young man came to my rescue.”
The young gallant turned out to be actor and entertainer Colin Sherwood and, as in all good legends, it was love at first sight.
Soon, the couple were married. Misako’s family gave their blessing and wrote to say that at the time of the marriage, all the relations would go to the top of the highest mountain on their island, face Britain and cheer from the bottom of their hearts for the couple’s lifelong happiness.
Settling in Blackpool
(In which Misako moves to the water margins and learns to live in a strange land.)
Colin’s work took him North. He became an entertainer and singer compering shows in the big Blackpool hotels in summer and working in repertory during the long winter.
Blackpool welcomed Misako with open arms from Day One.
“Every time I go to shop for food, it takes me half an hour for a five-minute trip because I must stop and talk with the many friendly people I meet.”
Misako worked hard at becoming a good English housewife.
“It was very difficult. I come from a quiet little country village. No one ever locks doors or windows. It would do no good as they are made of paper and there are no thieves. We have very little furniture. We sit on the cushions laid on the tatamis – rush mats. We have a big cupboard and when we eat, we take out a table with folding legs and our pots and pans and put it away again when we’re finished. When we want to sleep, we pull out a mattress and unroll it on the floor.
“The English housewife has no such dusting and polishing – so many rooms and all full of furniture. I have only just got to know the routine – to learn what to use for what. Your Brillos, Brassos, Fairy Liquids, Spring Cleaning and Jumble Sales – there is so much to learn.”
A strange English custom which Misako says she will never get use to is kissing in public. “At home, we only kiss little children in public. Kissing between adults is part of sex. I used to get very upset when I saw and when people tried to kiss me, I would back away. I accept it now but still don’t like it.”
Old Customs Prevail
(In which you can lead a girl to a fishmonger, but you can’t make her cook.)
Although Misako has adjusted remarkably well to the English way of life, some old Japanese customs still remain to delight or horrify her very British husband.
Misako treats Colin with something near to reverence. She does everything for him from serving him warm saki to changing the channels on the TV set at his command. Says Misako: “This is the Japanese way, but I am afraid it is making him fat because he never has to move.”
Colin, who laps up this sort of treatment, says his friends are very jealous of his home life. But there is one Japanese custom he doesn’t’ like and that is the habit of eating raw fish.
“When I buy cod, Colin has his cooked, but I eat mine raw,” says Misako, “I have to shut myself in the kitchen because he can’t bear to see it.”
“Neither can the cat,” says Colin. “It drives her completely crazy to see Misako eating her dinner.”
Once Colin took Misako to watch the fishermen on Blackpool’s North Pier.
“She saw an angler pull a fish out of the water and she began licking her lips. I warned him to put his fish away quick.”
Misako also eats raw eggs with rice once a week, but Colin doesn’t join in. His favorite dish is steak and kidney pudding and he is looking forward to the day when Misako learns how to cook one.
The Show Must go On
(In which a nightingale finds her voice.)
One evening, shortly after their marriage, Colin took Misako to the Blackpool Tower to watch a show presented by his friend Alex Monroe. Alex spotted Colin’s new wife and asked her up on stage. He asked her if she sand and she said yes.
Colin recalls: “I started to panic. There was sweat pouring off me as I heard the organist start to warm up and say, “What key, love?’.”
Misako said she would sing without the organ and launched into a Japanese fold song. Says Colin: “She was a knockout.” A show stopper. She was so good that Alex offered her a contract for the summer season.”
Colin, who had always treated Misako like a loveable child, began to wonder what he had married. “I couldn’t believe she had such a good voice. It was a shock.”
The Big TV Part
(In which Misako triumphs over great odds and a star is born.)
During winter while Colin was working at Oldham rep, his agent told him they were auditioning Japanese actresses for a role in The Tomorrow People.
Lots of actresses had been interviewed, but none of them could pass all of the severe conditions – namely that they had to look 16 and oriental, and speak with a genuine Japanese accent. Colin thought Misako might as well have a go.
“I gave her three audition pieces. By the end of the week I was literally banging my head on the wall because she was so awful. It was unbelievable.”
“Poor Colin, I nearly drove him mad with worry.” Misako says.
When the say came for her to go to London, Colin patted her on the head and put her on the train saying: “Do your best, love. It’ll be an experience for you, but you won’t get the part. Just enjoy yourself.”
The next morning, the producer of the show, Vic Hughes, phones and said he was sending Misako home with three scripts, that she had got the part and they were delighted with her.
“I couldn’t believe it. She is the luckiest girl alive. The Tomorrow People crowd have been wonderful to her – so nice and friendly.”
“But it’s all thanks to Colin,” says the dutiful Misako, “He goes though all the scripts. Without him I would be nobody.”
Where will the charmed life of Misako take her next? We watch to see in what further ways the gods will favour her.
>>Rather than typing this out I will just post the picture.<<