Monthly Archives: January 2016

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい!- Trains –


If you’re thinking of traveling to Tokyo, there are many things you need to consider: where to stay, where to visit, what to eat, how to get around, etc.
And it’s the last point here that I want to focus on in this post.
Tokyo is a large metropolis with more than 12 million people and numerous downtown centers.
And as there are large public transportation companies vying for development of the next new major commercial districts, there is an extensive network of train/subway lines that connect every corner of the city.

So where do you buy the tickets? As you might expect, you can get them from the ticket machines at each station.
The minimum price (i.e. if you’re getting off at the next train station) varies depending on which train line you’re using.
But to buy a ticket each time you get on the train, you’ll need to look up the price every time, since the amount depends on how far you need to go, and whether or not you need to transfer between different lines.
Although this info is easily available on station maps or Google Maps, it can get a bit cumbersome.

It’s much simpler to use chargeable plastic pass called PASMO or Suica.
They’re basically the same, and you can you either one to use any of the trains in Tokyo and the surrounding areas.
The only difference being the company that issued the card.
There is a 500 yen initial deposit, but you can get it back anytime by returning your card.
Once you get it, you can charge it increments of 500 yen or 1000 yen.
And you simply swipe it at the ticket gate to enter or exit train stations.
Ticket cost will be deducted from the total charge you have on your card.
A nice perk of using this card is that they’re also accepted at shops and restaurants within train stations, and at all convenience stores.
If you don’t like dealing with small change, this is definitely the way to go.

And just a quick tip if you decide to use trains to get around in Tokyo.
Whatever you do, do try to avoid rush hour trains.
This is typically around 7-9 AM and 5-7 PM on weekdays, and early afternoons on weekends.
It’s quite the spectacle to see how many people can actually fit into these trains, but it isn’t really worth braving the chaos.
If you absolutely have to use the train during the aforementioned times, DO try to go as far into the aisle as possible.
DO NOT stand near the door area, as dozens of people will leave the train and dozens more will get on.
On second thought, if you’re visiting Tokyo, try it once.
It’ll be a good character-building experience…!


I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい! – Pachinko –


Walking around streets of Tokyo for the first time, I couldn’t have guessed that gambling is illegal in Japan.
Every couple of blocks, I saw what looked like small casinos with bright signs, filled with slot machines.
If I was close enough to the entrance while someone was entering or leaving, I was simultaneously hit by blinding flashes of light and deafening noise of the machines.
That was the first time I saw pachinko.

Even though it was a weekday afternoon, I saw a dozen or so players trying their luck at each parlor.
Their faces showed little emotion, making it hard for me to tell who was winning and who was losing.
I did notice a stack of racks full of steel balls.
I asked what they were, and was told that they can be traded for prizes at the counter.
“Oh, you mean they’re basically casino chips,” I said. “So you take them to the cashier and trade them for money.” No, I was told.

Gambling is illegal in Japan.
So even though the players paid money each time they played, the parlors couldn’t give them the payouts directly.
Instead, the players received some “tokens,” which they then took to a small shop outside and sold for cash amount equivalent to their wins.
“That’s still gambling, isn’t it?” I asked, a little confused.
There was no hesitation before the reply: “No, it’s not. Not technically anyway. But don’t ask me why.”

If this sounds kind of shady, that’s exactly how I felt at the time.
But if you think it’s just small underground operations, nothing could be further from the truth.
It’s a huge industry. According to Bloomberg, the amount of money players bet annually is approximately 19 trillion yen.
But pachinko isn’t the only exception to the strict gambling laws in Japan.
Horse racing and motor sports also attract huge number of bettors at each event.

Over the years, there have been talks to increase legalized gambling activities in Japan.
Last year, the LDP (the current ruling party) submitted a bill that would have allowed casino operations if passed.
It hasn’t happened yet due to political reasons arising from fears that gambling may lead to addiction problems.
But in the near future, it wouldn’t be an unlikely scenario.
And when the first casinos open across Japan, I think a lot of people will probably realize that life didn’t change so much after all.

King Kong Escapes Reunion in Tokyo!


On January 11, a special reunion was held inside Nakano Sun Plaza that saw a reunion of several actors from Toho Studios. Two of the names are very familiar to Japanese people: Akira Takarada and Yosuke Natsuki. Mr. Takarada appears at many such events in Japan and remains a strong and active presence on the stage and on TV. Mr. Natsuki also makes regular TV appearances on many programs in Japan.

The third person in this reunion was an American actress. Her name is Linda Miller, and she starred in a movie at Toho Studios during the late 1960s. The film is called King Kong Escapes (1967), and not only did it see release in Japan, but Universal Pictures released it in the United States theatrically in 1968.

This marked Ms. Miller first time to visit Japan in over 40 years, and it was the first time she had seen her King Kong Escapes co-star, Mr. Takarada, since finishing the movie. After the movie was completed, Ms. Miller and Mr. Natsuki met and became close friends. They hadn’t seen each other since the early 1970s.

The event was lively, and everyone in attendance was in great spirits. Mr. Takarada hosted the panel discussion and acted as emcee. He brought a few pages of notes with him, and he proved to be well prepared. He was even able to note King Kong’s specific weight and height! He probably knew more bits of info than most of the fans in the audience!

The chemistry between the three actors was palpable. Ms. Miller was very excited to be in the presence of her old friend, and it showed. In many ways, it seemed like everyone picked up from where they left off so many years ago without missing a beat. Perhaps it’s the beginning of some renewed friendships.

King Kong Escapes remains a popular cult film in America and Japan. It’s currently available on DVD and Blu-ray in the U.S. While some movie fans may snicker at the Kong suit used in the movie, nobody can deny the heart and soul that went into the production. It’s a great-looking film, and one of the most entertaining monster flicks from Toho Studios.

Overall, the reunion of old friends and King Kong alumni was excellent, and fans will be sure to talk about it for many years to come. Could there be another reunion in Japan in the near future? Only time will tell!

I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい! 江原達怡さんを訪ねて Visiting Tatsuyoshi Ehara – Part.2


BH: Let’s now talk about Red Beard. You’ve spoken about Red Beard quite a bit, but is there anything else from the production that you’d like to talk about?


TE: As I explained, I only had one line to say. “Are you Mr. Yasumoto?” My role was that of a Chinese medicine doctor. Mr. Yasumoto is actually played by Mr. Kayama.
At that time, Dutch medicine was very prominent, and Mr. Kayama plays an expert in Dutch medicine. So my character was to be replaced by Mr. Yasumoto.
That’s why I have to ask, “Are you Mr. Yasumoto?” That’s a very important line in the sense that I will be replaced by him, and I’m not sure about this Dutch medicine, but I can resign from this job when he comes. There are lots of mixed feelings, so the way I say the line is extremely difficult for me.
Without a very mixed feeling, Mr. Kurosawa wouldn’t take it. So I practiced a lot.


Are you familiar with Miyuki Kuwano? She is from Shochiku. Usually in Shochiku movies the actresses are wearing eyeliner, and she was wearing eyeliner when she came to see Mr. Kurosawa. Ms. Kuwano’s role was one of the villagers, so she shouldn’t be wearing eyeliner. Mr. Kurosawa didn’t like those unrealistic things.
She had to abide by the Toho rules.


One time, Mr. Kurosawa said the open set was set up. The actors and staff members had to wait for a long time.
Everybody was wondering why. Mr. Kurosawa said, “Let the open set get weathered.” That way, there are raindrops and smears, and it looks more realistic.
He was that type of director.


Last year, I had a chance to see Mr. Kayama. I asked him, “Why don’t you return to movies, not only singing a song?” He answered, “No, I don’t think I could do anything better than Red Beard. Red Beard is probably the best movie I’ve ever done. If Mr. Kurosawa were still alive and making movies, then I might. But, without him, there are no good movies to make.”

昨年、加山君に会う機会がありました。「歌だけでなく、映画もやったらどう?」と僕が尋ねると 「いや、『赤ひげ』がすべてだよ。多分『赤ひげ』がこれまで僕の演じた最高の演技だから。もし黒澤監督が生きていて映画を作るのであれば演るかもしれないけどね。でも彼はもういないから、良い映画はできないよ。」

BH: Another big movie that you worked on was Chushingura (1962), with Mr. (Hiroshi) Inagaki as the director. It was an all-star cast, many big Toho stars.
What do you remember about making Chushingura?


TE: I also had only one cut in Chushingura. I vividly remember this one cut, “Allow me tell you this,” which is the one line I had to say.
My role was the younger brother of Takuminokami Asano played by Yuzo Kayama, the major role. After opening the paper sliding door, I say my line.
In modern times, we can open the door with one hand, but the manner at the time called for me to push a little bitfirst and then slide it. After entering the room, I have to ask permission to speak. I couldn’t step on the black seams of the tatami mat. After that, I have to shut the sliding door the same way.
I have to do all this without even thinking about it, subconsciously. So I have to run and show the audience that I am in a big rush. I had to pay attention to all the details, but I have to do it subconsciously. That was the most difficult part.


BH: What do you remember about Ultra Q (1966)?


TE: In those days, movie companies were the competitors for TV productions. So, usually, movie stars are not used for TV productions.
But I was acceptable for TV, so that’s why I was used. Kizudarakenotenshi (1974-75) was another popular series, and I was in it.
Mako Midori was an actress. She is a very interesting person. We clicked with each other. We were brother and sister, but if we were just regular siblings, the story would not be interesting. We decided to love each other like a man and woman and said, “Why don’t we do that?”
So we did, and it was successful. You reminded me of all these things, so I am so glad! (laughs)


I had a chance to meet an Asahi newspaper reporter, and that young reporter told me, “I adored you in Ultra Q as the newspaper reporter, so I became a newsman myself.”
I’ve been acting as a supporting player, not as the star, but what’s good about being a supporting actor is that you have some discretion about how to decide what type of person this character is.
Leading actors have limited discretion. Usually the director has to direct the actor specifically about how to act, and what kind of facial expression he must have.
But in my case there are no detailed descriptions about how my character moves or reacts anything. I must think about it. So that’s the fun part.
One time, I was into the psychology of it — what kind of person could say a line like this. So I tend to think too much about it sometimes.
Even if I come up with some reactions or movements or facial expressions, the director may say no, that’s not what I want. So I must always think about multiple options.
That’s the fun part. But it’s fun to play in supporting roles.


Asako Kato: Why do you live in Azumino, Nagano?


TE: I was raised in the smack of Tokyo, Minato Ward. At that time, there was a lot of nature, even in Tokyo.
I collected butterflies, and I skied in the Tokyo Tower area, and fished in Tokyo Bay. I belonged to a mountain club in college.
So I really wanted to live among nature for a long time. I believe people who fight each other in the world live in countries without green, woods, and trees.
So I believe that nature, animals and plants, can listen to the language of human beings. But, on the other hand, human beings cannot listen to animals and plants and nature. At the age of 78, I believe that my responsibility is to urge human beings to get along with each other and to pay more attention to nature.
That’s my theme for the rest of my life. For example, when cherry blossoms don’t bloom. Experts say you have to talk to the tree.
You have to intimidate the tree by saying that, “If you don’t bloom this next year, I’m going to cut you down.” Then they bloom.
Then you should praise them saying , “You are so beautiful.” Animals fight each other, especially in the same species. If the losing party runs away, they are never chased.
Only human beings do that.

僕が思うには、世界の中で人類同士が争っている所は緑や森や木々のない所です。 僕は自然、動物、植物は人間の言葉を聞くことができると信じています。

I’ve visited the United States many times, but one time I was looking at the Empire State Building, and an American asking if I were Japanese. I said yes.
He said, “There’s something I want to ask you. What is mu?” He said, “It means nothing in Buddhism.” I was wondering why this man was saying such a thing.
He was a Vietnam veteran who shot someone there and watched that person fall down and die. He couldn’t get that image out of his mind. It came back for a long time, again and again. He didn’t know how to deal with it. Christianity is not helpful for dealing with this sort of problem.
So one day he decided to go to a Buddhist temple in Japan. So I think it’s very sad and shocking to be killed, but killing someone is probably most shocking to the killer if the killer is a normal person.


I believe it’s related to nature. If you lived in a green area with nature and clean air, and if you can be together with nature, animals and plants, and if you can communicate with nature, then you wouldn’t want to fight each other.


Thirty years ago I moved to Nagano Prefecture. There’s a coined word called the “I-turn.” The “I” represents going one way. A U-turn is going somewhere and back.
If you were born in the countryside and come to college and work and then return to the countryside, that is a U-turn.
But I took an I-turn because I was born and raised in Tokyo but went to Nagano. I live in my second house. The first one had a fireplace.
Right now I have a log stove, so I have to make a real fire. But urban kids never see a real fire. These days, people don’t smoke, so they don’t even see a lighter flame.
But it’s a real fire in my place.


BH: In the last few moments, I want to mention a few names, and it’s sort of like a word association. Kon Ichikawa.


TE: (in English) Cigarette! My first impression is that he would put his cigarette inside his teeth or something without using his hands, so he would smoke and talk at the same time…a famous story!
He used to ask how many seconds the take lasted to a scripter.


BH: Next is Nobuo Nakagawa.


TE: He was soft-spoken and was not the type of a director who said to do this and do that. Instead, he let actors do whatever they wanted.
But the actors felt some pressure to create the situation of how they act in that scene. First, he would ask, “How do you want to do this?”
Then he would correct it a little bit. That’s the way he directed. So it looked like he was an easy director, but he was not that easy. In order to be recognized by him, you had to prepare a lot.


BH: Momoko Kochi.


TE: She was tall and very nice. She was very well bred. She was the daughter of a college professor.
But as an actress, she was losing her position to Setsuko Hara, Yoko Sugi, and Yoko Tsukasa. But she was tall and slim and very nice.
She joined Toho the same year as Akira Takarada and Yu Fujiki.


BH: Senkichi Taniguchi.


TE: He was the teacher of Kihachi Okamoto, and he was married to Kaoru Yachigusa, a very famous actress.
But his first marriage was with Setsuko Wakayama, another actress. When he was asked the reason he chose her over Ms. Wakayama, his answer was, “Because she’s younger. I can absorb her young spirits.” (laughs) Ultimately, Mr. Taniguchi died, but Ms. Yachigusa is still alive, which means he was probably absorbed by Ms. Yachigusa.


BH: Kajiro Yamamoto.


TE: Mr. Yamamoto was famous for the number of cuts he takes a day. He was a very quick shooter, usually taking only half the days required.
So actors are required to be well prepared to be on the set. From the actors’ point of view, if Mr. Yamamoto used you, then you were recognized as a talent, as an independent actor who could be used anywhere.


BH: Yumi Shirakawa.


TE: She is a typical Edokko kind of person. I meet her once a year at the gathering of Toho alumni. Everybody calls her Oyumi. She is the same age as I am.
I think she is the daughter of a liquor shop owner from Gotanda. She took care of her husband Mr. Nitani until he passed away.


BH: Jun Fukuda.


TE: At the time when Mr. Fukuda became a director, the whole movie industry was controlled by revenues and budgets, so he had to survive in that environment.
He didn’t have a chance to do things he wanted to do because of the industry trends. So he was famous for a series of movies but not for one particular title.


BH: Setsuko Hara.


TE: She was the first real actress in Japan. She was so beautiful, and she was a big star when I joined Toho. Senior people called her Hara Set-chan.
But my colleagues and I couldn’t call her that name, so we called her Hara Setsuko-san. She created that kind of atmosphere without doing anything.
She was a natural-born actress. I think she was the first Japanese actress who had that aura. She has a specific image that the audience has of her, so she does not want to destroy that image. So she never attended the Toho alumni gatherings.
Some people have actually seen her shopping in Kamakura, but she never makes public appearances. That’s a very professional way.


BH: Mie Hama.


TE: I sometimes see Ms. Yuriko Hoshi and Ms. Nami Tamura, but I never see Ms. Hama. I worked with Ms. Hama on three movies, and we went on location in Oshima for a commercial.
She used to be a bus girl, and she was scouted for Toho and joined the studio, but being an actress was just one step in her life. So, after she got married and lived in the countryside, she never made public appearances.
She was famous for her role in a 007 movie (You Only Live Twice, 1967), but in those days people had a prejudice against that kind of movie.
The actresses in those films were almost naked, so it was almost like a Nikkatsu role. Some people said she should have gone to Nikkatsu.
Nikkatsu specialized in a certain genre, and Nikkatsu sounds like “nikku katsu,” and “niku” is meat or “body”!


BH: Tadao Takashima.


TE: Mr. Takashima belonged to Shintoho, and it was one of the five major studios, but it was ranked at the bottom.
It was not very famous for any particular films, and the studio didn’t have movie theaters, so some people had a prejudice against it, compared with the other studios.
People thought of it as a very minor studio. Mr. Takashima was doing some music-related movies and music-related works, including Arashi wo Yobu Otoko.
But Shintoho didn’t have any stage theaters, so maybe I was more active in stage performances in Nichigeki and Kitano Theater where I even had a chance to sing.
Toho had big stars like Ryo Ikebe and Toshiro Mifune, and there was always a kind of a seniority system.
But Shintoho was relatively new, and there were no big names at Shintoho at that time.


BH: Last name: Kenji Sahara.


TE: Mr. Sahara used to have the stage name Tadashi Ishihara.
But when Shintaro Ishihara came in, he had to work together with him at Toho in a film, so Mr. Sahara had to change his stage name.
Toho wanted to promote Shintaro Ishihara. So at that time Mr. Sahara was kind of angry. He was a good-looking actor.
He wanted to be a supporting actor, but he failed to become a supporting player. Mr. Takarada, Mr. Hirata, and Mr. Ikebe had the starring roles, so Mr. Sahara found it difficult to find his position because he was too good-looking to become a supporting actor.
Yu Fujiki was a supporting actor and a fencer as well. (laughs) Mr. Fujiki had his position, and other actors had their position, but Mr. Sahara didn’t have a specific position.
But he’s a very nice person and has no biases whatsoever. We share very similar things in common. That’s the image I have.


BH: Finally, is there anything else you’d like to mention, or final comments for the interview?


TE: After I won the driving contest, I started to work for the automobile industry.
I was also a skier, and I started to work for the sports industry, sports magazines and newspapers.
So I write articles about sports. I’m also a designer for Liberty Bell, which is a very famous skiwear in Japan. Liberty Bell is also a U.S. company, located in Seattle.
The Japanese company wanted to use its name to market skiwear in Japan, but the designs should be specifically for the Japanese, and I was a designer.
This company has the best-selling skiwear in Japan. Ever since I’ve been engaged in planning and consulting work, I’ve always said I was 10 years ahead of the times.
So it’s very hard for the market to catch up. Recently, I’ve maybe only been a few years ahead of the curve. So, for anything new and innovative, companies come to me.
So there are always a number of projects I have to work on.


The thing I’ve noticed recently is that people tend to choose something cheap instead of high-quality.
People are actually proud of how little they pay for things like clothes, not how good the quality is. My work starts with the question: What is a human being?
Right now, everything is handled digitally, so it’s black and white, or 0 and 1. But there are lots of shades in between, especially in the human mind.
So I want to remind people of that. Elderly people know that especially well, and there’s some market for that as well. So that’s the area I’m working in now.


Originally, the Japanese character is indecisive. American people tend to think, “I don’t know what he’s thinking – yes or no.
” But the younger generation is becoming like Westerners or Americans, in that things should be decided very quickly.
But still, some younger-generation Japanese have inherited that national personality, so I want to let the people know we were born that way, so that subconsciously we sense that there is something in between yes and no, and we have to stick to that. I worry about choosing one out of two. There are a lot of things in between.
If you propose something and ask if I am interested, I would reply, “Let me think,” or, “I’m trying to think about it.”
Eventually the answer could be no, but you don’t say no instantly. Your efforts should be considered.
You came up with this idea, and you think that this could be a good business. So that’s why you are here, to propose it. That’s why I don’t say no instantly.
It’s a little different from being indecisive, but there’s caring or consideration toward you, which I have to show you.
It’s very difficult to explain, but that’s why the Japanese language is affirmative or negative at the very end, not at the beginning.
The very basic rule is: Don’t hurt other people.


There are a lot of projects in the pipeline, but one of them is a water fueled car. H2O consists of hydrogen and oxygen, both of which are combustible.
So it could power a car. Japan is surrounded by seawater, but we have the technology to change the seawater into real water, so we have lots of natural resources.
In cell phones, there is a gold thread distribution inside. That technology, which is number one in the world, was created by a woman in Ota Ward, Tokyo.
There are a lot of precision-industry factories in Ota Ward. Ball bearing technology is one of them.


Being in the film industry means that actors are usually recognizable. So there’s a good and bad about it.
It’s been a while since I appeared in a famous movie, so I think nobody knows me anymore, but the other day I took a taxi ride, and the driver was watching me in the rearview mirror.
He started to ask, “Are you…?” I said, “Well, yes.” “I am a big movie fan, so I saw lots of your movies.
” When I was at Toho, I was taught that a movie star cannot take change or ask for a receipt. So I paid and said, “Keep the change.” The driver was impressed!
But these days the young talent wants change and a receipt with no price on it. So I was saved! (laughs)


I LOVE JAPAN ❤ 日本の今を伝えたい! 江原達怡さんを訪ねて Visiting Tatsuyoshi Ehara – Part.1


Tatsuyoshi Ehara is a prolific Japanese actor whose career stretches all the way back to the 1940s.
Born on March 26, 1937, Mr. Ehara began in entertainment as a child actor.
His entry point into the world of filmmaking was at Shochiku Studios, the home of legendary auteur Yasujiro Ozu.
Moving to Toho Studios in the 1950s, Mr. Ehara appeared in numerous works for some of the best directors Japan has ever produced, including Akira Kurosawa, Hiroshi Inagaki, and Ishiro Honda.
A partial list of credits include: Desperado Outpost (1959), Inao: Story of an Iron Arm (1959), Sanjuro (1962), Red Beard (1965), Chushingura (1962), Ultra Q (1966), Samurai Rebellion (1967), Japan’s Longest Day (1967), Admiral Yamamoto (1968), and the long-running Young Guy series.

On Monday, June 9, 2014, Brett Homenick and Asako Kato sat down with Mr. Ehara to discuss his lengthy acting career in an interview translated by Ms. Kato of English Avenue.

Tatsuyoshi Ehara: I played a role as a child actor in the play Kane no Naru Oka in 1947, written by Kazuo Kikuta, a very famous playwright.
My teacher selected me for the lead role of a play when I was in the fourth grade that was in competition for a national student theater contest. (This teacher liked plays.)
The producer of Kane no Naru Oka happened to see me in the play, so I was picked up.


This play ran at the same time as Tokyo Odori (Dance), which was a stage musical by the Shochiku musical troupe.
At first, it was for a stage show played by Shochiku women, and then it was made into a movie, and I appeared in it.
I was raised by my mother because my father died in the war. My mother was a physician, and child doctor, who specialized in preventative medicine.
My grandfather, my mother’s father, was also a doctor, and my cousin was a doctor. It was a single-mother home.
But my mother put me in Keio Junior High School, which is a prestigious private school. At that time, I was only 15 or 16 years old.
I was a young actor, and there were very few young actors, so I was asked to appear in the movies starring promising young actresses, like Ayako Wakao at Daiei and Mariko Okada at Toho.
I convinced the school that I would use my long holidays to appear in movies, and so I could appear in movies.
It’s a pun in Japanese, but I was (supposed to be) a doctor, isha, but actually I became an actor, yakusha! (laughs)


When we had a love scene in a movie called Shishunki (a.k.a. Adolescence, 1952), Mariko Okada was 18 or 19 years old, much older than I was.
She advised me, “Don’t hesitate.” I still remember this. Ayako Wakao was also older than I was. As a young actor, I was advised by the staff members that I had to be an actor who is loved by everybody.
Most beloved actors are called “-chan.” (The equivalent of calling a person named Leonard “Lenny.”)
My name is Tatsuyoshi, so people started to call me Tat-chan soon after I got started in this business. Many former Toho actors still call me Tat-chan.


Brett Homenick: In the 1950s, I also know you worked with Mr. Seiji Maruyama in a film as the director and also co-starred with Chishu Ryu, who is a very famous Japanese actor.
So please talk about what you remember working with Mr. Maruyama and Mr. Ryu.

Brett Homenick: 1950年代には丸山誠治監督の映画に出演され、著名な俳優の笠智衆さんと一緒に仕事をされていますね。丸山監督と笠さんとお仕事をされたときの思い出についてお話しください。

TE: Seiji Maruyama directed Shishunki (a.k.a. Adolescence, 1952). Chishu Ryu is the a respectable person for me.
He was one of the leading players in Yasujiro Ozu’s films. When I met him at Toho, he was asking, “Have you ever done a love scene, Tat-chan?” I said, “Once or twice.”
He responded enviously, “Oh, I envy you. I’ve never done that. I wish I could.”


BH: In the early days, you worked with Shochiku in Ofuna. What do you remember about working with Shochiku Studios during that time?


TE: In Shochiku’s Kyoto Studios, the interesting thing I want to point out is that there’s a Kyoto common sense.
Japan’s capital used to be in Kyoto. So the staff would direct me, “Tat-chan, can you move a little closer toward the palace?”
But I would have no clue in which direction I would have to move because I’m from Tokyo! Where Kyoto Palace was turned out to be the first thing I had to learn.


Speaking of Kyoto, Toshiro Mifune half-jokingly said that he wanted to appear in Toei Studios movies. In Toei, all stars had their personal assistants.
When the stars wanted a cigarette, it would be brought to them with a lighter and an ashtray.
A person would also fan the star when he was hot. Three staff members would take care of one star. That never happened at Toho.
Utaemon Ichikawa and Kanjuro Arashi were two big stars there, so I heard the numbers of close-up cuts they would have to take had to be exactly the same, like 30 cuts each. Have you ever heard of Kinnosuke Nakamura? He was a Toei star.
When he played in historical dramas, the way he cut people was not realistic. He said he could not kill people that way. It was kind of a dance.
So he wanted to act in Toho movies once where Mr. (Akira) Kurosawa and Mr. (Toshiro) Mifune were doing realistic films.


In Sanjuro (1962), I was one of the nine samurai. The swords we were using were real instead of bamboo replicas.
Near Shochiku Ofuna Studios, there’s a restaurant called Tsukigase which Keiji Sada’s wife’s family owned and operated.
Have you ever heard of the young actor Kiichi Nakai? He is the son of Keiji Sada. At that time, I would have lunch at Tsukigase every day.
One of the reasons I moved to Toho was the route I had to take. I was born and raised in Mita, Tokyo. So I took the train at Tamachi Station and switched at Shinagawa. Going to Ofuna was tiring. It is much easier for me to take a train from Mita to Shibuya and switch to a bus to Seijo. That’s why I went to Toho!


Originally I had no intention to become an actor. Have you ever heard of Chohko Iida? She would play the role of grandmothers or old ladies.
In the Young Guy (a.k.a. Wakadaisho) series, she played another old-lady role.
One day, while putting on her makeup in the dressing room, she took a ring off. It looked real, but there was a space in the back, so I realized it was fake.
So I pointed it out to her, and usually a woman might get angry, but she said, “You have to become a person who makes a fake ring look real.”


As you may know, I often talk about the vertical society in Japan. Usually the grandfather has the most power in a family, followed by parents and older siblings and teachers.
Children are raised by these people. Discipline, manners, and etiquette are taught by these senior people.
But, these days, everything is getting flat, so society on the whole is getting horizontal. So I’m a little concerned about that.
In those days, the neighborhoods were more active, and your next-door neighbors, such as an old lady, would say something to you, like, “You shouldn’t do that,” even if your parents didn’t say such things.
Those kinds of neighbors are very important for me (and, at that time, for everybody) because if they thought that something wasn’t right, they would speak up. But, these days, even if they think, they don’t speak up, and it’s a problem!
These days, in the priority seats of trains, a lot of young people sit there, using their cell phones or pretending they are sleeping, even though they notice the older people. It’s a shameful thing to see.


BH: You mentioned joining Toho after Shochiku. What were your initial impressions of Toho once you joined it?


TE: The major difference between Shochiku and Toho is, at Shochiku there are some factions like Keisuke Kinoshita’s factions, Yasujiro Ozu’s group, and other ones.
They would eat lunch together in a specific restaurant, but other factions would not go to that restaurant. It was that kind of atmosphere.
On the other hand, Toho Studios was much more liberated and a fun place to be. It was a more innovative, anything-goes kind of place.
The top star, Toshiro Mifune had no assistant or manager. He drove his own car by himself. He would come very early in the morning and would clean the studio by himself.
When we would do some production, on the way back we would have to load equipment such as large props and lighting fixtures onto the truck.
Mr. Mifune would help us do that. So that was very impressive.
On the other hand, when Mr. Mifune was invited to Hollywood, he would do the same thing there. But the union for cleaning people was opposed to his actions!


BH: When it came to Toho contract system, please discuss the negotiation with the contracts and how that would change over time.


TE: I did not have any contract with Shochiku, so I was offered by Toho to enter into an agreement, and I accepted it.
I was raised only by my mother, so I wanted to help her (half-jokingly said).
Toho’s contracts were good for actors, especially for A-form (A-level) actors who have the title roles on the screen.
Basically, they guarantee how many films a year the studio will offer. If one film is usually for 50 days. So there’s a fixed amount of money paid annually to the actors.
If the production lasts longer than 50 days, from the 51st day, actors would get paid every day, whether we act or not.
Red Beard lasted a year and a half, and after 50 days, I was paid pretty well! Mr. Kurosawa advised us not to appear in any other movies, otherwise our acting styles would be different. In those days, Mr. Kurosawa said that making a movie is like being at war, which costs a lot of money.
When we are at war, we have to continue to fight, even though we don’t have any bullets left. The same thing could be said about films.
Even if we don’t have enough money, we have to continue to finish up the film. They decided not to produce such expensive films after Red Beard.


When we shot Red Beard, there is one scene where there’s a big cabinet for the drugstore.
There’s no scene where we had to open the drawers, but every drawer has herbs and Chinese medicine. The audience wouldn’t know what was in there.
But Mr. Kurosawa insisted that we had to put real medicine in every drawer. Mr. Kurosawa said that the surface of the drawers would look different without the medicine.
As a matter of course, that’s what we did. That was at Toho.


At Daiei, one time Kenji Mizoguchi said that the floor in a scene was not what he wanted, so he ordered the floor to be replaced with a new one he wanted, which they did.
They tore out the old floor and rebuilt it. When there were rushes of the scene, the president of Daiei came to see them, and he asked, “What’s the difference?”
Mr. Mizoguchi said, “Well, you have to hear the sounds of the steps. The sound is different.” It was that kind of culture. That’s how films go. Actors at that time were taught that way.


BH: Do you have any stories about Mr. (Masaichi) Nagata, the president of Daiei?


TE: Mr. Nagata’s nickname was “Rappa,” which is a trumpet. It means that he tends to say exaggerated things.
This is probably because he would usually say everything in a loud voice in an exaggerated way. He was big shot, and I was a young man, and I only appeared in Ms. Wakao’s movies, two or three films, so I didn’t have a real chance to talk with him. But that was my impression.


Unlike today, where films are made on a fixed scheduled and fixed budget, at that time, when we’d go to the studio, we might find out that today was a day off or that maybe tomorrow would be.
When I was working on Red Beard, I had a 10-month holiday! I didn’t have to go to work, so I could do something else, which in my case was driving.
There was a driving contest to determine who was the best driver in Japan, and I participated in this contest. I won the Best Driver in Japan title. Because of that, I had a chance to work for Nissan, when they were producing the Bluebird car models, and then Mitsubishi. So I had a chance to take part in car rally and races.


I taught race car driving to many different people. That led to Go, Go, Young Guy! (1967). I was driving in the long shots of the car-racing scenes in that movie.
I was sort of a stunt man! Mr. Kayama was there with me, so he wanted to do some spin turns. Mr. Kayama asked me to teach him how to do that. It’s very dangerous.
So I asked him to promise me not to do that spin turns in front of other people. He did promise me, so I taught him but he started to show off in front of others!


BH: You worked with Izumi Yukimura, and Chiemi Eri in Janken Musume (1955), Cha-Cha Musume, (1956) and that series of films.
Please talk about your memories of working with Ms. Yukimura, Ms. Eri, and (Ms. Hibari Misora).


TE: In those days, the studio was trying to sell actors and actresses as trios. Hibari Misora was the youngest of that trio, but she was ranked number one of the group.
She made her debut when she was young. Hibari was taken care of by her stage mother. (laughs) She made her debut when she was very young and became a star.
She reportedly had no wallet or purse. Her nickname was “Ojo,” a princess, which even her mother called her.
Next in age was Tonko, which came from Izumi Yukimura’s real name. Ms. Yukimura would sing American jazz. Chiemi Eri was the oldest.
But Chiemi was ranked number three, and Ms. Yukimura was number two in the trio. I appeared in the Sazae-san series with Chiemi (who was starring).


BH: Personality-wise, on the set, do you remember what Ms. Yukimura, Ms. Eri, and Ms. Misora were like, making those films?


TE: Hibari was kind of a child star, so she was treated separately. Chiemi was always together with her older brother.
Chiemi married Ken Takakura. Mr. Takakura was a very serious man. So it was kind of hard for her to live with that type of person since she was more of a liberated and delightful type of person. Izumi had an assistant and driver. She didn’t have any songs by herself, but she was able to sing American jazz.


BH: One of your films during that time was Waga mune ni niji wa kiezu (1957), with Ishiro Honda as the director.
Of course, Akira Takarada, Akihiko Hirata, Yoshio Tsuchiya, many famous Toho actors appeared in it. What do you remember about this film and specifically Mr. Honda?


TE: I’m very happy that you pointed out this movie. It was a B-movie. Usually there were two films released at the same time every week.
I was one of the actors in this B-movie. The A-picture was headlined by a top star at that time. I was young, and I was not the top star at that time.
I had a major role in this B-movie. The A-movie was usually concerned with how much money it could make. But, with B-movies, that is not a concern at all.
We were able to concentrate on producing something creative, meaningful, and of high quality.


In many cases, assistant directors propose some play or screenplay that they wrote themselves.
There’s no casting involved from the beginning; it’s very free in that sense. In order to make a good movie, they could select appropriate actors for that role.


In film productions these days, I noticed that the angle they use is very flat. You should use vertical angles to give depth to the film. So many more people have to be cast to be in the shot, so it could be more costly.


(The famous Japanese actor) Yujiro Ishihara said, “Please don’t put Kurobe no Taiyo (a.k.a. The Sands of Kurobe, 1968) onto home video, which would be shown on TV.”
That’s because the screen is so small, and the audience can’t figure out what’s going on in that scene.
These days, people can watch movies on their smart phones, which is tiny.


So they can’t figure out what they’re watching! In a movie like Lawrence of Arabia, you can’t see anything on a smart phone! So audiences should go to the movie theaters instead.


I don’t like TV dramas these days because if two lovers walk along the river very slowly, that means something.
But, if today’s audience sees that, they’d change the channel. So all the scenes before the commercials attempt to be unpredictable to try to keep the audience from switching channels. (laughs)


When I was working on Desperado Outpost (1959), I had to speak Chinese. It was very hard for me to emulate what the Chinese teacher said.
The Japanese language is very flat with little fluctuation or intonation. But the Japanese are not able to tell the difference, so the director easily said, “Okay!” When we had a preview with a Chinese audience, what I was saying was completely incomprehensible. (laughs) So it was very difficult for Japanese to speak Chinese.


Kihat-chan (director Kihachi Okamoto) wanted to shoot the movie dividing the lines into many cuts.
For example, if the line is, “I’m glad to see you today,” I’d have to say, “I’m glad to see…” That’s the whole cut! But you have to keep the same emotion in the next cut, which finishes the same sentence. So it was very hard for us actors to keep the same level of emotion.


Mr. Kurosawa was the complete opposite. (in English) One scene, one cut. Two cameras would be shooting.
There would be long scenes, and if someone messed up in the middle, they’d have to do it again from scratch.


Mr. Okamoto was unique in the sense that he’s always wearing all black. So other actors and the staff members were wondering if his underwear was also black!
Gradually we sensed that Mr. Okamoto directed the cameraman to shoot the actors when we didn’t have lines.
The other actors in the scene would be speaking to me, but my face would be in close-up. If the cut is your listening scene rather than a speaking scene, we sensed that Mr. Okamoto was beginning to trust this actor. I realized that reaction to the other actor’s line is very important.
Mr. Okamoto would ask me, “Tat-chin, why don’t you jump from that cliff there?” with no hesitation. It would be a tense scene, so I couldn’t say no.
So I would have to jump from the cliff.


There’s a movie called Samurai, and there’s a long recitation I have to do at the beginning of a scene.
So I practiced and began reciting it in a recording room. Then Mr. Okamoto said, “No, no,” and showed me how he wanted it himself.
So I had to practice again from the beginning because the way I did it was totally different from Mr. Okamoto’s understanding. Something like that would happen very often.


The movie Desperado Outpost deals with the subject of comfort women. It’s still a big topic now, but these films did not promote war; they were anti-war.
Mr. Okamoto implied in his film that war is humanity’s stupidest act. That’s what he tried to reflect in that movie.
Still, some critics have argued that it’s a movie that promotes war. But Mr. Okamoto’s attitude was that only those who understand my message will get the message, so let it be.


BH: Another film that you worked on was Osorubeki hiasobi (a.k.a. Playing with Fire, 1959), with Jun Fukuda (as director) and Yosuke Natsuki as the stars.


TE: My position in this movie was to support the newcomer, for example, Mr. Kayama and Nat-chan (Mr. Natsuki).
When they made their debut, I was asked to be there to help them. At Toho, Nat-chan was a motorcycle freak.
Nat-chan forced me to buy one, even though I never had a chance to drive it! Nat-chan was considered something like a gangster in Hachioji (Nat-chan’s hometown).
It was a Honda model, but there was no cell motor. You had to kick-start it, so I did.


BH: During this time, you were also in a trio with Akira Kubo and Akira Takarada.


TE: Mr. Kubo was a star at that time. Mr. Takarada was from Manchuria. Both were stars, so they couldn’t star in a film together. So that’s why I was brought in. That made the trio.
Mr. Kubo’s roles were usually very serious, so he couldn’t do anything ridiculous in his private life.
Mr. Kubo once admitted to me, “You always get to play a bad guy, so I envy you!” He was tired of always being the leading man.


BH: In the early 1960s, you worked on Daigaku no Wakadaisho (a.k.a. University Young Guy, 1961) with Mr. Yuzo Kayama.
So please talk about the introduction to Mr. Kayama and how that relationship started.


TE: I met with Mr. Kayama in a college PE class, which was actually a skiing class in Shiga Kogen Ski Area.
I was born in March, and Mr. Kayama was born in April, so even though we were born in the same year (1937), in Japan the cut-off date is usually April 1.
So, in that sense, Mr. Kayama is one year younger than I am. At that time I was already an actor and had worked together with Mr. Kayama’s father, Mr. Ken Uehara.
So Mr. Kayama introduced himself by his real name: “Hi, my name is Ikehata.” I asked him, “Are you going to be an actor as well?” He replied, “No, I’m not interested in becoming an actor. I’m very into designing ships. So that’s what I want to do — design boats.”
However, when I was in the shooting in Hakuba for a movie called Daigaku no Sanzoku-tachi (1960), Mr. Kayama just came up to me and said, “I’m going to be an actor.”
He had just graduated from college. I asked him, “Why didn’t you become a designer of boats?”
He answered, “You can’t make much money as a salaryman, so I’m going to make some money as an actor, and then I can design ships.
” His stage name is Yuzo Kayama, and the kanji characters in his name are “ka” (from Kaga Domain or modern-day Ishikawa Prefecture — a very wealthy area) and “yama” (from Mount Fuji). “Yu” is hero, and “zo” comes from the founder of Toho, Ichizo Kobayashi.


Mr. Kayama’s father, Ken Uehara, was a big star, but he was a frugal man. He didn’t spend much money in his everyday life like a star.
One day, Mr. Hiroshi Koizumi got Mr. Uehara’s used car, but the car didn’t have a clock. Mr. Koizumi asked, “Why doesn’t this car have a clock?” Mr. Uehara answered, “You have a watch on your wrist.” (laughs) He was that type of person. I presumed that Mr. Kayama was raised by Mr. Uehara in a very strict way, not in a rich way.


Yoko Kozakura is his mother, and she is a very interesting person. One time, she went to Hawaii for skiing.
At the Immigration counter, she was asked, “Why are you carrying skis?” She answered, “You don’t know there is a skiing area in the mountains.”
Mr. Kayama was asked to be a guarantor of his uncle’s hotel, and they became heavily in debt afterward. He had a very hard time to pay off that debt.
There is an actress named Megumi Matsumoto and they were married. They started out in a very shabby apartment, but they became very successful after all.
But without his wife, there is no Mr. Kayama. Mr. Kayama is a composer, so I asked him, “Why don’t you create something for your wife?” Finally he recently did that for her.
But every time Mr. Kayama wants to start something new, his wife would ask me, “Tat-chan, you should say something to him.”
Mr. Kayama is a very good skier, and he was selected for the National Athletic Meet. Because his relatives operated a hotel in Iwappara (a skiing resort), the lift was free.
That’s why he became a very good skier. That’s what I said, but Mr. Kayama said, “Don’t say that!”


Mr. Natsuki’s mother was a great mother. She was very well-mannered. Every time I called, his mother answered the phone with a very, very polite greeting.
Their real name is Akusawa. “Thank you very much for taking care of my son, Tamotsu, all the time.” Mr. Natsuki was very popular among girls.
Every time a girlfriend would call him, his mother would say exactly the same thing to his girlfriend. All the girls were intimidated and scared away by his mother.
That’s why he ended up being a bachelor. One time Mr. Natsuki asked me, “What are you driving?” I replied, “I’m driving a light car.”
Mr. Natsuki envied me because he wanted to drive a Wagon R, but his manager told him not to drive a car like that because, for a movie star, it’s not good to drive such a car! (laughs) So he didn’t have a chance to drive the car he wanted. He had to maintain his image.


BH: Another film with Mr. Honda as the director is Inao: Story of an Iron Arm (1959), the baseball movie.
The stars were Yumi Shirakawa and Yuriko Hoshi in a small part. What do you remember about making this baseball movie?

本多さんが監督をしたもうひとつの映画「鉄腕投手 稲尾物語」(1959年)、野球の映画でしたが、主演は白川由美さんと、小さな役で星由里子さんがキャスティングされていましたね。この映画を作ったときの思い出などを教えてください。

TE: This is the story of Mr. Inao, a baseball pitcher of Seibu. We went to Fukuoka for location shooting. Ms. Hoshi made her debut in this movie.
Her mother and older brother came to see the preview at Kyoritsu Hall in Tokyo.
The family greeted me and everybody, and then they were waiting for Ms. Hoshi to appear onscreen. She never appeared after all because of Mr. Honda, who cut her scenes! Ms. Hoshi and her family might be worried about what would be her future at that time.
We were both born in Edo (Tokyo), and Edokko people have a certain kind of character. Your role was very small, so you have to make your debut in a leading role.
She agreed. Ms. Hoshi and I had a brother-sister relationship. Ms. Hoshi calls me “Onii-chan” or “big brother.” So she relied on me. I would drive her home in Kanda all the time.


Ms. Hoshi is a very beautiful actress now, but when she was 15, and she came to see us with no makeup, there were lots of marks on her face.
She looked like the first printing (galley proof) of a newspaper at that time. Her nickname is still “Gera.” “Gera” is first printing! (laughs)


BH: Let’s talk about Sanjuro (1962) with Mr. Kurosawa. It was your first time working with Mr. Kurosawa.


TE: In Sanjuro, I was selected as one of the nine young samurai. But I had only one line. So mostly I had to react to other actors. That led to my role in Red Beard.
In that movie, I have to say, “Are you Mr. Yasumoto?” That is the first line. But the first line is everything when it comes to the movies and stage shows.
It is one line, but it’s at the very beginning. I had to practice for about two weeks.


In the scene at the end of Sanjuro, Mr. Mifune and Tatsuya Nakadai are trying to kill each other, and then blood suddenly spurts from Mr. Nakadai.
Everybody was stunned! It looked so real. None of us nine samurai was alerted ahead of time that would happen!
After the filming, everybody went to the tate-shi, the professional theatrical swordfighters, to ask how they did that. We practiced together. I can still do it.


In Sanjuro, one day Mr. Kurosawa came to the studio set, saying that tsubaki, which is camellias, don’t bloom this way.
Perhaps some were made by a part-timer. So Mr. Kurosawa didn’t like the way these flowers were blooming.


There were lots of episodes with Mr. Kurosawa. For instance, we went to golfing together, and I was invited to a sukiyaki party.
Mr. Kurosawa was very meticulous about entertaining his guests. Even if the sukiyaki is made of good meat, only the surface is really good, and the inside is not that good. So Mr. Kurosawa was picking only the good parts! (laughs) Also, when playing golf, everybody was in a competitive mode.
Before we shot, we practiced a lot. “Don’t do that. We are not professionals. We are amateurs; we have to have fun. Shoot twice, and then get the better score every time.”
That’s the Kurosawa rule. He didn’t like chrysanthemum flowers. As you may know, at Japanese funerals, most flowers are chrysanthemums.
That’s a common rule. So the assistant had to spend half a day taking out the chrysanthemums for the funeral.


BH: How about Operation Sewer Rats (1962) with (director) Okamoto, and Mr. Natsuki, Mr. Kayama, and Mickey Curtis are in the cast.


TE: Mr. Okamoto knew that I was very athletic. So, for the very dangerous scenes that involved things like throwing grenades and jumping into windows, I was selected.
Mr. Okamoto had already decided that I should do that, so there was no room for declining the offer. I didn’t play a military role, so I didn’t have to shave my head. Mr. Okamoto’s Japan’s Longest Day (1967) was probably the first movie which was controlled by the budget and the guarantee of each star.