Highlights of the Film Lady Kaga and the Charm of Kaga as Told by Director Toshiro Saiga

Highlights of the Film Lady Kaga and the Charm of Kaga as Told by Director Toshiro Saiga


Toshiro SaigaFilm Director

Born in Fukuoka Prefecture. After graduating from Waseda University, he joined Izumi Broadcasting Corporation after working as a salaryman. He has experience as a director and producer. In 2001, he made his directorial debut with "Christmas Eve" (GAGA). "Chest!" (starring Nao Matsushita), which is about long-distance swimming in Kagoshima won the 8th Kadokawa Angel Award and was selected as Japan's representative work for the 2008 Hong Kong Filmart Japan Premium. His works set in Ishikawa Prefecture include "Little Maestra," released in 2013, which depicts the struggles of an amateur orchestra (starring Kasumi Arimura, officially invited to the Shanghai International Film Festival Japanese Film Week), and "Canon," released in 2016, which depicts three sisters confronting their mother's alcoholic dementia (starring Manami Higa, winning three awards including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress at the Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival, known as the Chinese Academy Awards).

Director Toshiro Saiga


We would like to express our heartfelt condolences to everyone affected by the recent Noto Peninsula earthquake. The "Traveling Online Shop jac (Jack)" and the movie "Lady Kaga," which we will introduce here, were completed with the warm cooperation of the people in the Hokuriku region, mainly in Ishikawa Prefecture. Hokuriku is a special place for us, and our hearts ache when we think of the difficulties Ishikawa people are facing. "In order to support Ishikawa Prefecture as much as possible, we have decided to allocate 5% of the proceeds from the production committee of the movie "Lady Kaga" to disaster relief efforts" says Director Toshiro Saiga. We sincerely hope the smooth recovery of the affected areas.

Movie "Lady Kaga"

Official Website

February 2, 2024 (Fri) Pre-release in Ishikawa Prefecture

February 9, 2024 (Fri) Nationwide Roadshow including Shinjuku Piccadilly

Movie Lady Kaga

The interview was conducted on December 23, 2023. The following is the situation as of the interview day.
"Lady Kaga," which will start its nationwide release on February 9, 2024, is a story about the rookie chief female managers of Kaga Onsen inns who enliven Kaga Onsen with tap dancing. The unique combination of Hot springs inns and tap dancing has also attracted attention from overseas. We asked director Toshiro Saiga about the background of his film creation, the charm of Kaga Onsen, and its connection to Ishikawa Prefecture.

<Interviewer: jac (Jack) Kanazawa Sales Manager Yukimi Mototani>

Born after 9 months of intense training
Japanese-style tap dance that has caught the world's attention

── The screening is about to start, what keeps you busy these days?

I'm appearing on radio and TV for promotion, and I'm being interviewed for magazines. I also have a lot of work in Kanazawa, so I'm going back and forth between Kanazawa and Tokyo. In between, I'm writing the script for my next work and creating proposals.

── You're still busy even though the movie is finished. Well then, could you please tell us the highlights of "Lady Kaga"?

There are many (laughs), but if I have to narrow it down, there are four. One is the Japanese-style tap dancing in the final scene, which is also introduced in the trailer. The rookie female managers perform a splendid tap dance in kimono. I've always wanted to shoot a dance that mixes Japanese and Western styles, and I finally realized it with this film.

── I heard that it received a standing ovation at the Silk Road International Film Festival.

They said the idea of tap dancing in kimono was interesting. I was very happy.

── Why did you choose tap dancing?

From a global perspective, it may have a retro feel, but tap dancing is still the epitome of entertainment among dances worldwide. By adding retro kimono, I thought it could become something new. The lead actress, Fuuka Ko Shiba, did not have previous experience in tap dancing, so I asked her for 9 months of special training.

── Is it possible to master it in such a short period?

Before entering the entertainment industry, she was a figure skater. She had achieved quite a high rank in the junior rankings. So, her core strength was solid, and she quickly picked up dancing. A veteran actress took half a year to master a dance, but Koshiba-san surprised the instructors by mastering it in just one week.

── I didn't know about Koshiba-san's background at all.

Also, I hope you'll take a close look at Koshiba-san's kimono. A kimono shop in Kaga lent us incredibly expensive Kaga Yuzen kimonos. If you're a kimono enthusiast, you might enjoy the differences between Kaga Yuzen and Kyoto Yuzen.

── There seem to be various aspects to enjoy the dance scenes.

The world of chief female managers and the love between mother and daughter

── What's the second highlight?

It's the world of chief female managers of Japanese inns. They are like female CEOs but also a little different. When I was producing the TV show "Kanazawa's Columbo," I had many opportunities to get to know the perspectives of chief female managers, and I've always wanted to depict the world of them someday. In fact, I've planned a TV show called "Words from chief managers" and interviewed various female managers and read books. That really came in handy this time, and I think I was able to portray it quite realistically.

The main story is about tap dancing and the world of chief female managers, but it's also a story of "mother and child" where the protagonist, Yuka, grows into a  full-fledged chief  manager with training from her strict mother. That's the third one. It's a story of the strictness born out of love. I think you can also enjoy the story of parental love.

── It's packed with content. What's the fourth highlight?

Because of the COVID19, there were many constraints against meeting the people, and doing things. We wanted to depict the joy of gathering together and working together on something passionately after a long time.

Encounter with a single poster led to the production of "Lady Kaga"

── Can you tell us what led to the creation of "Lady Kaga"?

In 2012, the year after the Great East Japan Earthquake, I shot a movie called "Little Maestra" in Shiga Town and Kanazawa in Ishikawa Prefecture, and I saw an impressive poster during the shoot. It was produced by the "Lady Kaga" project team, with the central members being the association of hotspring inns in Kaga Onsen. It was launched in 2011 with the aim of overcoming the stagnation caused by the earthquake and promoting Kaga Onsen for the opening of the new Shinkansen in Kanazawa.

── Indeed, it was an impressive poster. There were quite a few TV commercials in the prefecture as well.

The poster and the videos simply showed chief female managers of inns lined up in front of the station, but to me, it looked like they were dancing. At that moment, I thought it would be interesting to make a movie where female managers dance in kimono. A few years ago, I happened to have a connection with the city of Kaga and talked about the possibility of making a movie called "Lady Kaga," and we decided to do it together.

── So, it's a project that came to fruition after more than 10 years of planning. How many times did you come to Ishikawa Prefecture for production?

I went around Ishikawa Prefecture by car for about 4 days to decide on the shooting locations, talk with local people such as chambers of commerce and industry about what kind of movie we wanted to make, and had meetings with the officers from the city hall... It usually takes about 3 years to make a movie, but I think I visited about 30 times during that time.

── I think you'll find new discoveries every time you come. What aspects of Kaga Onsen did you find attractive?

Kaga Onsen has three areas: Yamashiro Onsen, Yamanaka Onsen, and Katayamazu Onsen, each with its own unique charm. Yamashiro Onsen is the "classic hot spring town." It has a traditional feel to it. Yamanaka Onsen has several artistic bridges. I was particularly fascinated by the "Ayatori Bridge" designed by the head of the Sogetsu Ikebana School, Hiroshi Tesghigawara. Katayamazu Onsen is a hot spring town by a lake overlooking the sacred Mount Hakusan. Each hot spring is equally splendid. We filmed at all the hot springs in the movie as well.

── Did you actually bathe in the hot springs a lot?

Usually I don't have time to bathe once filming started, but this time, I bathed three times a day, in the morning, after location shooting, and before going to bed. It was the first time in my movie making career. Also, during the preparation period, when I was looking for shooting locations and writing the script, I bathed a lot. I could refresh myself and came up with good ideas. I really felt the effects of the hot springs.

Encounter with the Kanazawa Ensemble Orchestra

── You've shot many movies in Ishikawa Prefecture, including "Lady Kaga," "Little Maestra," and "Canon." What was the starting point for your connection with Ishikawa Prefecture?

It was "Little Maestra," which depicted an orchestra. Initially, I was thinking of asking orchestras in Tokyo for cooperation, but at that time, there was a classical music boom triggered by "Nodame Cantabile," and all the orchestras were busy. So when I consulted with my pianist friend and acquaintances knowledgeable about music, they all told me that the "Kanazawa Ensemble Orchestra" was interesting right now.

── They also performed the theme song for NHK's Taiga Drama "Toshiie and Matsu," didn't they?

I went to Kanazawa immediately to ask for cooperation, and they gave me a positive response. So, I decided to shoot in Ishikawa Prefecture. However, since I wasn't familiar with the area, I didn't know where to shoot. After spending four days driving around Ishikawa Prefecture, I came across Shiga Town. It's a quaint port town, and I decided to shoot here right away. That's where it all started. My connection with Ishikawa Prefecture began here.

── Do you have any plans to shoot more movies in Ishikawa Prefecture in the future?

Yes. Eventually, I would like to produce a new Ishikawa trilogy.

── Finally, who would you like to see this movie?

I want everyone to see it, but especially those who have been afflicted by the recent pandemic. I hope to support those who are going to recover with a V-shaped recovery. Also, women who are trying their best. I want them to see the way the chief female managers live. Growing up with two sisters, I tend to support women.

── So, many of your works are about women striving. Thank you very much for the valuable conversation today.