Jeanette Aw is one busy bee. The actress-slash-director-slash-culinary student officially embarked on her ambassador duties for Takasaki, a Japanese city in the Kanto region, after she was announced as its ‘new face’ in September.
She flew in from Bangkok last week, where she is attending a Patisserie course in Le Cordon Bleu Dusit Culinary School, and had a ‘fruitful’ time in the city, visiting its fruit and flower farms and checking out requisite sight-seeing spots like the Byakue Dai-kannon (a huge statue of the Goddess of Mercy), to name a few.
She met a flower farmer who created his own hybrid pansies that had petals in different shapes (only found in Takasaki), and was introduced to more than 20 different varieties of the pear fruit at a farm where she also learned how the low-hanging fruits were harvested.
Of course she had a taste of Takasaki’s famous nashi (pears), sampling not one but three different varieties at the farm. Each had its “own distinct taste and texture,” she said.
Needless to say, she developed a newfound love for the juicy and sweet fruit, and expressed a keen desire to repurpose it in her baking recipes.
Filming third short film in Takasaki
In fact, the budding director loves the city so much she is planning to film her third short film in Takasaki this December – with a local and Japanese crew. The team in Japan, whom she got to know on the set of Eric Khoo’s Ramen Teh, is currently helping her with logistics and auditions in the country.
The story, said Jeanette, “came by a sudden wave of inspiration” and the places she visited in Takasaki all fit together in the story like jigsaw pieces in a puzzle.
The film is titled ‘Senses’ (or 心境, its Mandarin title) for now, and “is open for interpretation,” she added, promising to reveal more in time to come.
With examinations approaching and planning for her second directorial project well underway, Jeanette also shared that she’s involved in another project which requires her to create a recipe. On top of that, she will also be doing a video shoot as brand ambassador for Le Cordon Bleu Dusit.
She won’t have much time to spend at home in Singapore during the holidays as she’s due to head to Takasaki to film – which may take up to five days or more, depending on the weather conditions in winter.
An unexplained affinity for Japan, especially Takasaki
Work has been bringing Jeanette to the land of the rising sun more frequently than she ever imagined: First, she was in Takasaki for the shoot of Ramen Teh in which she played the protagonist’s late mother, then she returned to the country to film a collage video for Tokyo Cinema Ensemble, and now she’s set to embark on her third directorial project in the country.
Jeanette’s brief stay and interaction with the people in Takasaki left a deep impression on her. “They were simple, kind, generous and extremely hospitable. So many are family-owned businesses, be it in the farms, the F&B shops, even the shrines (now the 27th generation running it). It is also a place with so much history.”
So what does she like best about Takaskai?
“The people and the food,” she said, “They are ever so polite and they welcomed me making me feel right at home. I love how they have their own produce, and how their cooking incorporates fruits and all that they have in their own land. I also love how their pastries are seasonal, using the best and sweetest fruits. They also have traditional Takasaki food that can only be found there. I always think it's very special to have your own distinct dishes.
“There's also a sense of peace and tranquility in Takasaki that I really love.”
As much as she enjoys the local Takasaki food, it was a pillow-y and chewy traditional Japanese sweet called ‘mochi’, made with rice dough, that won her heart during her recent stay in the city.
“I got to try this mochi, only found in Takasaki. This master uses seasonal fruits [for the mochi] and this particular mochi is sold out once it hits the shelves. I’m wondering if he takes in students,” she laughed.
Jeanette Aw, budding pâtissière and Japanese confectioner enthusiast? Sounds like a winning combination to us.