“Who was my husband?” was the unusual headline of a story that ran in the Tokyo morning edition of The Asahi Shimbun 27 years ago.

It was about self-styled physician Masachika Yamamori, who died of an illness that year. He was not what he claimed to be, leaving his bereaved common-law wife of five years completely stumped.

The story inspired author Hitonari Tsuji, 58, to write an essay titled “Sonzai Shomei” (Proof of existence).

Tsuji focused on “Yamamori” not only having a fake ID, but also that he had written a lengthy (700 sheets of manuscript paper) but unfinished novel. He surmised that this man must have “fabricated his entire existence.”

Film director Kazuhito Nakae, 36, was in high school when he read Tsuji’s essay.

He searched for the original Asahi story on the Internet at university without success. He finally found it at the National Diet Library and resolved to make this bizarre tale into a movie someday.

Nakae rewrote his script more than 100 times over 10 years. His film proposal won a competition for which there were 474 entries.

Nakae directed the film, “Uso wo Aisuru Onna” (The woman who loves lies), which opened in January.

Issey Takahashi plays the role of a mysterious "doctor-researcher," and Masami Nagasawa is his lover who agonizes over his elusive identity.

When Hideaki Ishibashi, 53, an Asahi Shimbun reporter, saw the film, he knew instinctively that it was based on the story he wrote.

Currently a senior staff writer covering the Tohoku region devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, he noted, “That case was just too weird to forget. As a reporter, I count myself utterly blessed that my story has given birth to a movie.”

One article without a byline led to an essay, a script and eventually a film.

Watching the movie's lyrical scenes, shot around the Seto Inland Sea, I mulled over the almost miraculous chain reaction triggered by a newspaper story filed more than a quarter-century ago.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 2

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.