Once-strained relationship looks very different now, as Anne starts a new life overseas. 

Japanese actor Ken Watanabe is a well-known face to global audiences, having starred in a number of Hollywood films such as Last Samurai, Memoirs of a Geisha, Batman Begins, and Letters from Iwo Jima.

However, Watanabe isn’t the only famous face in his family, as his 36-year-old daughter Anne is also well-known, having worked as a model from the age of 15 before going on to act in Japanese TV dramas and films.

Like a lot of famous families, both father and daughter have had their private lives exposed to the world on a few occasions, with the older Watanabe accused of adultery during an acrimonious divorce from Anne’s mother, Yumiko, while Anne was in high school. This was said to have caused tension between father and daughter, exacerbated by the fact that he then married his second wife, Kaho Minami, months after the divorce was settled in 2005, and then moved to Los Angeles for a period with his new wife and stepson, whom he legally adopted.

With her mother in debt from the court costs associated with the divorce, Anne didn’t have the finances to pursue further education, so she dropped her father’s surname and started working as a model, forging a career for herself under the mononym “” (“Anzu“, or “apricot“, but read as “An” in Japanese).

▼ Anne has appeared in magazines like Japan Vogue and walked the runway for big names like Anna Sui, Tommy Hilfiger, Karl Lagerfeld, and Marc Jacobs.

Fast forward to 2016, and Anne’s father was diagnosed with stomach cancer — he’d successfully overcome acute myeloid leukaemia in 1989 and again in 1994 — undergoing an operation which eventually gave him the all-clear.

That same year, Anne gave birth to twin girls, following her 2015 marriage to actor Masahiro Higashide, whom she starred with in the 2103 TV drama Gochisosan. In 2017, Anne gave birth to a son, but in 2020, Anne divorced her husband after it was revealed that he’d been having an affair with actress Erika Karata since 2017, when Karata was 19, and while Anne was pregnant with their son.

Anne now has sole custody of her three young children, and looks to be starting a new chapter in her life by opening an Instagram account in November last year…

…and starting a YouTube channel where she sings covers while playing guitar, vlogs about her daily life, and cooks some awesome meals in her kitchen.

Her YouTube channel is now the talk of Japan, after her latest video reached the #1 trending spot, and starred none other than…her famous father.

▼ Take a look at the video below, which has English subtitles and currently over 6.5 million views:

In the video, Anne and her father cook an amazing meal using fresh vegetables from his hometown of Niigata, and Nagano, where he now lives.

While the meal is impressive, it’s not what’s driving the views — it’s the relationship between father and daughter in the kitchen that’s really grabbed everyone’s hearts, and it’s made even more touching given their well-publicised private struggles.

▼ These two have been through a lot in the past, but it appears that events in recent years have brought them closer together.

While it’s heartening to see Anne and her father happily chatting and sharing food, it’s bittersweet to learn that Anne is now leaving Japan and moving to France with her three children, and their dog, Jiro.

Anne’s father supports the move, saying it’ll be a great experience for her and the children, but he says he has one request: that she text him every day.

▼ To that, she replies:

By her own admission, Anne’s family isn’t “normal” in the traditional sense of the word, but their conversation in the kitchen is far more relatable than they might think, having struck a chord with viewers across the nation.

With the view count still rising on the video, Anne’s social media following is growing larger by the day, and fans are now curious to see what her new life in France will look like. Hopefully she and her family will adapt well to their new life abroad, and if they ever want a taste of home in France, we’ve got some great Japanese noodle and confectionery suggestions for them!

Source, images: YouTube/杏/anne TOKYO
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[ Read in Japanese ]