Haruka Ayase

As Time Goes By

  • Photography by Natsumi Ito Styling by Naoko Shiina Hair by ASASHI
  • Makeup by UDA Text by Eri Ishida

The layers of beauty that come with the passage of time. . .
A meditation on the endlessly alluring actor Haruka Ayase.

As Time Goes By

“Every morning when I wake up, I open the window and bask in the rays of the sun, then start the day by cleaning the bathroom. It feels great to have all of the sinks and everything sparkly clean. It’s actually a habit that I picked up from my grandmother.”

When we asked Ayase if she had a daily routine, her answer hinted at her upbringing. Last year was the first time since she started acting in her teens that she had returned to her hometown in Hiroshima for an extended stay. Though her grandmother’s approach to life had not stood out to her back when they lived together, today it has become a source of inspiration.

“After waking up, she stretches out her legs and does her makeup. Then, once she’s cleaned the entire house, starting with the toilet, she does her tai chi, and before going to bed, she does radio calisthenics and cleans some more. . . My grandmother says she’s kept up this routine for years, without missing a day. There’s something profound about a routine that you hone a little bit each day and keep going for decades. At this point, I’ve come to appreciate that.”

A modest and well-mannered lifestyle was not uncommon in the Japan of the past. But in only a few decades, what it means to be alive, and to live life as a woman, has taken on a breadth and depth previously unimaginable. After twenty years of portraying a wide variety of female figures, from the late Edo period through the present day, how does Ayase conceive of “femininity”?

“My grandmother also told me that ‘a woman needs to take a step back, to be humble and smart.’ But today, with so many different shades of what it means to thrive as a woman, it would be hard to sum up ‘femininity’ in just a couple of words. . . If anything, I’d say that it’s a state of being filled with love, while still being able to be yourself. So I’d say that femininity is expressing yourself without holding back, but that applies to masculinity as well.”

Rather than forcing parameters on femininity, this is a more introspective view, looking inside and asking if you’re being honest with yourself. But even when Ayase plays a twenty-something resigned to single life or an obsessive career woman, roles not typically described as glamorous, she finds a way to make these characters shine, another testament to her introspective approach to acting. In fact, this pattern of self-inquiry seems to have informed Ayase’s general attitude toward life.

“In my teens and twenties, I was overwhelmed by information coming from all sides, which made it hard at times to keep an even footing. But looking back, I realize that the things I value, the things that I enjoy, haven’t actually changed this entire time. When I’m struggling or something’s bothering me, I try not to compare myself to others or to let the messages dictate how I feel. Instead, I ask myself what it is I’m really after and go with the flow, in the best sense of the term. As I get older, I want to continue exploring this introspective side.”

Haruka Ayase


Born in 1985 in Hiroshima Prefecture. Debuted in 2000. Won acclaim in 2004 as the heroine of television drama Crying Out Love, In the Center of the World. In the years since, she has had starring roles on TV in the NHK taiga drama Yae’s Sakura as well as Stepmom and Daughter Blues and Heaven and Hell: Soul Exchange and in films including Color Me True and Our Little Sister. She also frequently appears on variety shows and in commercials. Since February 2021, she has served as a special ambassador for LifeWear. Whether it’s commercials or sustainability activism, Ayase is passionate about her work.

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