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MY RITA AURA; ACTRESS REVEALS HOW SHE WAS INSPIRED BY SCOT WHO TOOK WHISKY TO JAPAN TV star tells how she draws strength from a faded photograph of astonishing expat.

Byline: Heather Greenaway

Around her neck, actress Charlotte Kate Fox wears a lucky locket containing a picture of the woman who has changed her life.

The tiny black and white image is of a laughin g Rita Taketsuru, the Scot who, along with her husband, founded Japan's whisky industry.

Charlotte Kate will become a household name in the Far East with her portrayal of Rita in a new TV series and the necklace provides a real connection to the woman who gave up her life in Kirkintilloch, near Glasgow, in 1921 to move to Japan.

American Charlotte Kate, 28, says it has been an incredible role to land and, speaking between scenes, reveals how Rita's story inspired her and why the picture inside the locket is so important.

Charlotte Kate said: "It's one of her skiing. she's fallen down but still smiling, still laughing.

"That was her survival mechanism and it's mine too. I feel her with me when times are especially hard and it brings me a bit of peace knowing she is there with me.

"What she did, what she sacrificed, how she stood strong in the face of so much hardship and adversity. These facets of her have made her into more than just a character, they've made her into one of my personal role models."

More than 20million viewers will follow Charlotte Kate in her role as Rita who, More than 20million viewers will follow Charlotte Kate in her role as Rita who, while little–known in Scotland, is a legend in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Born Rita Cowan in 1896, she was the daughter of a middle–class doctor and engaged to be married when her fiancee was killed during World War I. When her dad died from a heart attack in 1918, her mother was forced to take in alodger to help with the household finances and Masataka Taketsuru, a Glasgow University chemistry student from Hiroshima, entered Rita's life.

The 25–year–old had been sent to Scotland by his drinks company employer to crack the secret of how to make whisky successfully – working as an apprentice in distilleries across – the country. The couple fell in love and in January 1920 they were married in Glasgow's Calton registry oce.

A year later, Rita and Masataka travelled to Japan, where they set up the Nikka distillery, which today creates drams hailed as among the best in the world and rivals some of Scotland's top brands.

In Japan, the couple are held in such high regard that there is a museum celebrating their life together, while a fan club devoted to Rita continues to make an annual pilgrimage to the couple's distillery in Yoichi.

But life was not easy for the couple during the 1920s. Rita had to learn Japanese, the couple were watched by the feared secret police and Rita was wrongly suspected of helping allied submarines navigate Japanese waters. Local children even threw stones at their home.

It's that struggle that appealed to Japanese TV bosses and new series Massan – Rita's pet name for her husband – will go out in September in the national broadcaster NHK's hugely popular morning drama slot.

Charlotte Kate, who grew up in Sante Fe, New Mexico, started filming last month in Osaka and has had a crash course in Japanese.

She said: "I can't imagine how difficult the language was for Rita. All of my lines are in Japanese. I spent two months prior to filming living in Tokyo working on script s and going to language school. e only English spoken is in !ashbacks. So I've picked up a bit.

"Rita went through what I am going through but on a much grander scale. I have an incredible support system and nifty apps on my phone that help me translate and get around the city and talk to my family at home.

"I have agents, managers, directors and crew, yet Rita had none of that when she arrived in Japan. She just had the love for her husband. ey leaned on each other all the time. It's so inspiring.

"I read everything about her that I could get my hands on and continue to scour for more information when I have time."

By 1923, word had spread of Masataka " research trip to Scotland and he was hire d to help build a whisky distillery in Yamazaki. But he quarrelled over the fineries of whisky production and he quit, realising he would have to set up his own firm if he wanted to make proper Scotch.

A year later, he set up the Dai Nihon Kaju firm – now called Nikka Whisky – with the help of two investors and built a distillery at Yoichi, on the island of Hokkaido.

Charlotte Kate says it was Rita's strength of character that drew her to play the role.

She said: "She was incredibly courageous, especially in that time period. After hearing her story, I was surprised it had not been filmed already and it only made me more eager to be the one to help bring her to life.

"Rita's willingness to love and live no matter the cost closely mirrored some personal things I was going through at the time and I was able to apply my life to hers."

When Rita died in 1961 from liver disease, " Masataka was distraught. He reportedly wanted He r bones to be placed by the side of his bed. He outlived her by 18 years but the couple are buried side by side on a hillside overlooking the distillery.

The couple's nephew Takeshi took over Nikka whisky, now owned by the beer firm Asahi, who run the Ben Nevis distillery in Fort William.

Charlotte Kate, who stars with Japanese actor Tetsuji Tamayama as Massan, said the locket will be staying on her neck after filming finishes.

She added: "I feel blessed I am getting to portray such a strong and charismatic woman.

"I hope that, when it's all over, America, Japan and Scotland will think I've done Rita justice and told the best story I'm able to tell."

Rita's great nephew Harry " Hogan, from Newton Mearns, Glasgow, said: "We have always thought Rita's life story would make a brilliant movie or TV drama and we are looking forward "It'seeing the series.

"It's lovely to know the actress playing Rita has been so inspired by her."

"I feel Rita is with me. with me. when when times are hard

CAPTION(S):

DRAM GOOD OOD Charlotte Kate in new drama, right. Above, the AM Charlotte Kate in new drama, right. Above, the photo of Rita she keeps in her locket photo of Rita

INSPIRING Sketch of Masataka and Rita. Below, Charlotte Kate, left, in Massan. Bottom, our story in 2012 on Rita's life and Nikka whisky

WHISKY DRAMA Charlotte Kate Fox is in Japan filming TV series
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Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jun 29, 2014
Words:1152
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