Like many first-time visitors to Kaua‘i, Mayumi Ono was curious about the chickens.
As a make-up artist prepared the model from Japan for her morning photo shoot, she asked about the island’s omnipresent fowl.
Jesse Maejima, who runs Wailuku-based Maui Location Service, started to explain their origin when, as if on cue, a cock’s crow pierced the peaceful Westside setting.
The starlet giggled and flashed an easy smile, displaying the natural beauty that has put her on the path to stardom in her home country.
More than just a pretty face, Ono is an up-and-coming star in Japan, working in both television and film.
Her role in the 2004 Japanese horror flick “Yogen” was her first outing in the genre, but not her last. She recently finished another horror film titled “The Wall Man.”
Her steamy still work has also made her a popular pin-up girl back home, something akin to a Far East Victoria’s Secret model.
Maejima, who coordinated the crew’s visit to Kaua‘i, has had a soft spot for The Garden Island as of late. The Ono group is the second Japanese film crew he’s brought to the island in as many weeks. A third Japanese crew is scheduled to arrive next month.
“The locations here are very diverse,” said Maejima, adding that the island’s plantation-era buildings offer a backdrop unparalleled anywhere else in the state.
That historic architecture was what attracted Maejima to Waimea Plantation Cottages. Photos from Thursday’s shoot there show Ono wrapped in lei and posing near plantation homes and underneath the property’s behemoth Chinese Banyan trees. Over the weekend, the crew will travel to the North Shore and shoot in a private garden in Lihu‘e. The accumulated cache of photos will grace calendars, posters and trading cards, and the video will be part of a “behind the scenes” DVD for die-hard Ono fans.
At the private cottage above Waimea yesterday, Ono appeared from another room wearing a short sundress.
“You can shoot her now,” suggested Maejima. “Some of her outfits later are a little more radical.”
Not long after, Ono returned to the room donning a sweatshirt over lingerie. With The O’Jays pumping through an amplified iPod, the model propped herself up on a barstool and began to pose and posture. The team of videographers, stylists, lighting experts and assistants — all of whom had flown in from Japan for the project — floated around her just out of frame, and the rapid-fire sound of an opening and closing shutter began, a sound that continues to be familiar to both the talent and the island.
• Todd Vines is the associate editor of Kauai Publishing Co.’s visitor publication Essential Kauai.