Jonetsu Tairiku (情熱大陸) Part 1
Jonetsu Tairiku - Fukuyama Masaharu Special (2005.08.21) Vol. 362
Photographer Ueda Shoji (deceased)
“If it wasn’t for (the man in) this photo, there would never have been the Fukuyama Masaharu of today.”
In this 15th anniversary year of his debut, this is what he said to me in our interview.
1994 Tottori Sand Dunes (Tottori-Sakyū)
Ueda Shoji, 81 years old then
Fukuyama Masaharu, the first time he stood in front of the legendary photographer was in winter 11 years ago. This was Ueda’s hometown, Tottori Sand Dunes. The photos developed out greatly astounded Fukuyama. He loved them so much that he was determined to use them as his CD cover.
F: They’re sure to be amazing and very popular. Thanks!
U: Well, that’s possible since I took them!
This is what Fukuyama said, to sum up his meeting with Ueda Shoji:
“The main target of our work is to retain our amateur spirit.”
Fukuyama Masaharu, 36 years old.
Through 15 years of hard work, he is standing at the peak. Naturally, he is now a superstar. With over 20 million in total CD sales, he is the No. 1 male solo artist in Japan. The Fukuyama now is a pro among pros. It’s therefore hard to believe that he can still maintain an amateur spirit.
(Backstage of his 15th Annniversary We’re Bros Freedom Tour, morning)
F: Good morning. We don’t have enough time.
What does good sales mean to you?
F: When I first debut, my CDs couldn’t sell at all. My first single sold only 2,800 copies, nobody wanted it at all. How should I say it? At that time, none of the people around me were able to make it. We were birds of a feather. Because we had no money, they would say, “Money doesn’t mean anything!” and because our CDs couldn’t sell, “Sales don’t mean everything either!” But I don’t agree! It’s only after you’ve achieved good sales, you’ve made money and you’ve become famous, then you can say things like “Sales don’t mean everything.
Do you think sales are everything now?
F: Not everything.
Staff: It’s time.
F: Sales is not everything. But it’s because of this that we must be able to sell.” (To be allowed our artistic freedom) Thank you……..We’ll continue next time.
Yes, let’s talk about this more next time.
You must be able to sell, but sales does not mean everything.
The Professional & The Amateur
Next: A lot of Misunderstanding and a little of the Truth
This spring, Fukuyama Masaharu is holding his 5-yearly national tour, (F: “Good Morning” ) lasting 2½ months and touring 10 cities. The first thing he does when he reaches the concert venue, is to stand at the highest point of the auditorium to inspect the layout.
F: Can they see clearly from here?
Staff: Yes they can. Please go up a bit. (F: Where?) Further up.
This is to ensure that even the farthest audience can still see the show clearly. Once he’s checked the distance, rehearsals start. Over 100 staff from lighting to art direction, are striving to produce top quality music and to prepare the best stage for Fukuyama.
5 minutes to showtime.
He is decked all in white and standing by.
(To his band, just before going on stage)
F: Let us be as free as when we’re drinking great wine!
In 3½ hours of the concert, he sang over 20 songs. Fukuyama’s fans are mostly women in their 20’s and 30’s.
F: It doesn’t look like we’re going to end. What are we going to do?
It was perfectly rehearsed entertainment, just like a major commercial production. Fukuyama calls it the “Fukuyama Project”.
F: Let’s try this…. Can you see my eyes? Hahaha!
The interview continues on the train.
Autograph seeker: Thank you.
F: It’s definitely better if you can sell. Otherwise it won’t do.
Are we picking up from the last discussion?
F: Yes. It’s definitely better if you can sell.
The name “Fukuyama Project” gives one the impression that Fukuyama Masaharu is a product that’s been created by you all. Don’t you have a problem with this?
F: No. (You can call it) Fukuyama Project or Team Fukuyama.
The word “Project” gives out a feeling of someone who’s been molded out.
F: That’s true. I don’t mind that at all. There are many people in the world who would put on a different front in different scenarios. In the office, they’d be one type of person, but in private, they’d be indulging in their interests and totally forget about their work selves. And then show another self in front of their wives. In reality, people not in the entertainment business, would just as easily be making use of different aspects of their personalities (under different circumstances). So, there’s nothing strange with what we are doing.
It is for entertainment that we are ‘exhibiting’ ourselves and because it is for entertainment, we must do it well. It’s not going be like a false skin that could peel off like paint when you’re least expecting. It has to be very good presentation. In fact, when you become well-known to many people, you get a lot of understanding and misunderstanding at the same time. This has happened to me a great deal. Ah…. a bit of understanding and a lot of misunderstanding.
About the Fukuyama Project - Goofy Mori, Producer
M: Being a project which brings together many people, you’d get times when you can’t just do anything you choose and times when you’d get absolute (artistic) freedom, don’t you agree? The more popular he becomes, the more talent and financial resources we will have. As a result, creative freedom would gradually increase, see? But while that happens, you’ll also slowly lose out on your own personal freedom.
Friend of 15 years, Photographer of the Fukuyama “Masaharu Photobook 「伝言」Rumour
- Ohmura Katsumi
O: You can’t be really happy, can you? 100%. This is what other people would think. What we cannot do, he has to accomplish, and what we can do, he cannot. It’s been like this all along. Can we really call this happiness? However, people who stand on the stage are a different animal from us and cannot be compared against normal standards. I guess from his point of view, you can say he’s got happiness.
Magazine “With” Vol 2005.05 - Photoshoot and Interview
Regardless of the venue, Fukuyama is, without doubt, a professional. Magazine interviews, CM shoots, he finishes every job perfectly, as is his control on the image he projects. Quoting Fukuyama, “The presentation is flawless.”
CM director: OK. We’re done. Thank you.
Overseas Travel and Photos taken from around the World during his Sabbatical
But for the 2 years starting 1996, Fukuyama had stopped (almost) all entertainment activities. Almost non-one knew about it, except for his most loyal fans. His popularity was at its peak at that time. Why?
F: Debuting as a professional, working as a professional and continuing on as a professional, I felt that was my mission. To get good sales, we had to do (all sorts of activities), there was nothing wrong with it. For the sake of this project and for financial resources, as a pro, we had to do it. But it became a great strain on me and the staff as well. I was burnt out and it was getting more and more difficult to go on. So because of these various reasons, I had to stop.
Ueda Shoji, Photographer
It was at this time that he met the legendary photographer. The meeting was crucial in helping him strengthen his faith.
Ueda Shoji got noticed before the War (WWII) because of his excellent work. The world perspective shown in his Child at Heart, brought him world-wide renown, that was even greater than within Japan. Spending his days in his hometown and shooting only what he wanted to, Ueda’s passion was driven exactly by this amateur spirit throughout his life.
F: Once I was developing prints with Sensei (teacher, i.e. Ueda). He was at it for 4 or 5 hours non-stop and was very enthusiastic. He’d look at my negatives and say: “First this one, then this one, next…”, working non-stop, “Oh, it’s coming out now,…..not bad at all!” I felt he was really very passionate with his work.
Continue to Part 2
Translated from Chinese subtitles in the video, with reference to Fukuhama Honne (Articles 106 & 113)
This English translation was first posted on MashaPlus [dot] Info Forums. (Registration required to enter.)