Sadaharu Shiota has been living in Seoul for seven years and now hosts a show called "It's Seoul" on Japanese cable channel Entame TV, part of Nagoya TV. "I'm always thinking about where next to present", he says.
He is a well-known figure among Korean Wave fans in Japan, having written a number of contributions to Japanese magazines as "an actor living in Seoul", and also appeared in a Korean language program on NHK.
"It's Seoul" has so far featured places like Apgujeong-dong, Sinsa-dong, and Dongdaemun Market over eight episodes. "I published a guidebook titled 'It's Seoul' in Japan last March, and it topped the chart for books on Korea on Japanese Amazon. The TV program is named after that", Shiota says.
He once dreamed of becoming a pâtissier, but he launched his acting career with the film "Takkyu Onsen" in 1998. "Until then, I knew nothing about Korea", he recalls. Shiota's career took a drastic turn when he had to spend two-and-a-half months in a farm house in Jeongeup, North Jeolla Province in 2002 to try rice farming for a program on Mainichi TV. It was then when he became enthralled by Korea.
Korean cuisine also appealed. "The food in Jeolla Provinces was so good. I gained 5 kg. I loved gochujang [Korean hot chili paste] and always had it with rice every day. It was the best gochujang I'd ever had in Korea", he says.
When he returned to Japan, he was unable to forget the hospitality and great food he was offered by Korean families. After two years of deliberation, he decided to come to Korea. He learned Korean at Kyunghee University, and starred in the Korean omnibus film "One Shining Day" in 2005.
In his seven years in a rented housing in Hoegi-dong, Seoul, he has become an ambassador of Korean culture. "It was difficult at first because I didn't have many chances to act in Korea. I don't have an exotic appearance here. But thanks to the continued popularity of the Korean Wave, I've had a lot of work from Japan", he says.
He is currently preparing a second guidebook.
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