Chiyuu Magazine (知遊) 2009.01: Part 2
Talking with Kodama Kiyoshi (児玉清)*
Continued from (Part 1).
K: You definitely have Ryoma’s image in you. All you have to do is to look inside yourself and you’ll have no problem playing a Ryoma of your own.
F: Ryoma was originally a country samurai, he certainly did not have any blue blood. When he separated from his clan to look for wider horizons in the world outside, you could call him a deserter, or you could call him a man free from bonds. At this moment, I am still not learned enough about Ryoma and I do not feel qualified to talk about him. If I could take the liberty in my interpretation, I’d say that he was probably someone who didn’t think things over too seriously! (laugh)
K: Yes, I can understand what you mean. (laugh)
F: He did have the ambition to bring changes to Japan, and an earnest way of life. But his decision to split from his clan, looked a bit like a challenge just to see if he could win (he sometimes shows an “I’ll think about it when it comes” mentality). Otherwise, there were incidents where I believe he wouldn’t have taken part in! (had he been more meticulous in thought)
K: You have a wonderful perspective on this. From a positive point of view, Ryoma should be a pretty “relaxed” person!
F: Yes, like you said, a “relaxed” person! People usually prefer to share their real thoughts with someone like that. That’s why many people would only open up to each other, when they’re drinking. Ryoma probably gave people an image like “This person doesn’t seem to pay too much attention to details, perhaps I can share my inner thoughts with him?”
K: I think that’s where his charm lies. He’s got a charisma that will attract people to him. Like the ex-US president Ronald Reagan, who used to be an actor. He had no competition whatsoever during his presidential elections and a landslide victory. Some consider him as the best US president todate. I was curious about the type of person he was, so I read up his biography “Dutch”*. In a nutshell, Reagan was a very charismatic person. The people around him, including his cabinet, seemed happy just to be in his presence. I think Fukuyama-san has the same qualities.
F: Hmm? Really? Is that so?
K: Perhaps you can’t say that of yourself! (laugh) But you have an incredible “magnetism” that attracts people to you. Anyone who speaks with you will feel a kindness… a bit of a shyness, but when you talk, people will feel that what you say is definitely right.
F: I’m been in this industry for 20 years, and I guess only Kodama-san and Lily-san** can be considered my closest allies.(laugh) Why was I not present for that interview? (points to the talk between Kodama-san and Lily Franky-san in “Chiyuu” vol. 9). I feel it’s a bit incredible.
K: We also talked about Fukuyama-san, at that time. In fact, Lily-san put on a tie that day, I was so grateful. After the talk, I asked someone from a publisher: “Have you ever seen Lily-san put on a tie before?”(laugh) Seems that was very rare , and it made me feel a bit apologetic to hm.
F: The combination of Lily-san and neckties, truly a rare sighting! (laugh)
K: I once read an interview in which he said: “Even if it were Shigeo Nagashima-san***, I wouldn’t be on time either.” We can see that Lily-san is always late! But on the day of our talk, he actually arrived early, I was shocked and I respect him a lot. I thought: “Lily-san is a real good man!” (laugh)
F: He was actually early, that’s amazing! He is almost always late when it comes to work. But whenever we go out for a drink, he is always there before me! (laugh)
K: Yes! That’s so like him! (laugh) We had a really good talk that time, just like today. He was very candid and amiable. Now coming back to your playing Ryoma, I feel it’s the best match! The first impression you give is someone who is “not too serious”, but deep in your heart, you hold on passionately to your dreams which you won’t ever give up, a very mature person. This is something that other people don’t get a chance to see easily .
F: No, no, it’s not like that. I am in fact a very “slack and relaxed” person! (laugh)
K: When we were shooting “Bijo ka Yaju”, didn’t we talk about the Olympics while we were at the studio? I really liked the photos you took at the Olympics 2000, they showed me your talent as a photographer. And when I mentioned it in passing, you immediately invited me: “I’ll be taking photos at the oncoming Athens Olympics as well, let’s go together!”
F: Yes! I remember that clearly! “Even if it was just for once, I really wish to be present at the Olympics, that is my dream.” I remember that was what Kodama-san said then. Kodama-san has been in the entertainment world for so long, you’ve made immense contribution not only to TV dramas, but to entertainment shows as well. And yet for such a (great) person, up-to now (then) no TV station would take you to the Olympics, the fury in me was bursting out! (laugh).
K: No such thing (laugh)…… But I was overjoyed when you said: “Let’s go to Athens together!”, though I did wonder whether that was just a casual pleasantry. (laugh) Until one and a half years later, when I really did get the invitation, I was stunned. They invited me to be Fukuyama-san’s off-screen commentator. Since I was just an off-screen commentator, I didn’t need to be on site, yet they actually arranged for me to go to Athens. This was all because of Fukuyama-san’s thoughtful set-up, I was really grateful. And you are able to get things done, not for yourself, but to help other people realize their dreams.
F: Although it was only for a short time, but the days that I was able to spend in Athens with Kodama-san were very precious to me.
K: In all the Olympic events, Fukuyama-san was always looking out for the women’s softball team. You used to play softball when you were young, right?
F: Yes. Because it was something that I had participated in, I was very interested.
K: Silver in Sydney; bronze in Athens and finally gold medal in Beijing!
F: And when the women’s softball team won the gold, Kodama-san’s emotional email to me was really……(laugh)
K: Well, I was moved by your support for them. Yukiko Ueno’s pitching has stolen my heart! In the end, how many balls did she pitch in the last 2 days of the game?
F: 413 balls! That was really a remarkable feat! To have to maintain your concentration and pitch with precision again and again, it’s truly no simple matter! I just feel she’s amazing. Top athletes can sometimes be so focused, that they get moments where they actually surpass their limits. For Pitcher Ueno, that must have been one of those times. I believe she must have reached that state of mind where she feels happy just to be able to pitch and to relish in the excitement of a tense game.
K: Listening to you now, reminds me of the time in Athens - I found the way you work very admirable. Not just in softball, there are times in all competitions where there is a sudden turn of tide and the mood of the game dramatically changes. Isn’t that particularly common in certain sports? I found that a lot of Fukuyama-san’s photos were able to capture that precise moment of change.
F: I love to experience moments like that! It feels like I am right there with the athletes, going through that “split second” together.
K: That is an awesome sense of observation. I think you have that ability to pinpoint the change in moods in a live event, it should be an in-born talent.
F: I don’t think so, I was probably trained up in my live concerts. Sometimes I can feel the changing mood of my audience, I can detect it when I’m playing music or singing. But the easiest way to take charge of audience emotions in a live performance is through the MC segment, when I’m talking to them. That is definitely an excellent training opportunity. Like those politicians, the quality of their speeches determines their success!
K: A lot of people are involved in a concert. Over ten thousand, sometimes tens of thousands are gathered together. It must be no simple task to sing in front of so many people.
F: I often remind myself that I’m singing to “ten thousand as if it were one” and that I shouldn’t look at large numbers like “ten thousand”. Regardless of the audience or myself, we are just 1 person communicating with another (person), one-to-one. That is usually my state of mind when I am standing on stage. I guess you could say the same for team sports! If nine team members work together “9 as 1″ or “9 as one unified body”, then they could probably win. If the nine people could form a big round circle, others will think: “They’ll make it!” If the circle were in any way distorted, you’ll get the feeling: “Most likely not!”
K: I saw that too! When the women’s softball team won the gold, they made a perfect 10-person circle. Fukuyama-san has known the women’s soft ball team members for a pretty long time!
F: Yes. Utsugi former Head Coach**** sent me an email and asked that I organize a gold medal victory party for them, by treating the entire softball team to Yakiniku (grilled meat). That’s no small matter, the ladies all looked like they could each consume triple portions. If I say something like I had to find a cheaper place, she’d probably chew my head off! (laugh)
~ Continue to Part 3 ~
* controversy exists as to whether Dutch can be considered as a true biography. More information available - here
** Lily Franky リリー・フランキー is the author of the best-selling autobiographical novel “Tokyo Tower”, subsequently filmed as the movie “Tokyo Tower, Mom & Me, & sometimes, Dad” (東京タワー オカンとボクと、時々、オトン) in which Masha sings the theme song “Tokyo ni mo Attanda” (東京にもあったんだ Tokyo has it too). His real name is Nakagawa Masaya (中川雅也). Masaya is the name of the lead in the movie.
(Afternote by izumi 2010.05.12 - Lily-san plays the role of Kawada Shoryo-sensei in Ryomaden.)
*** Shigeo Nagashima (長嶋茂雄) is a famous ex-baseball player and manager in Japan. He was Honorary Coach to the Giants in 2001 and Head Coach to the National Baseball team in 2002.
**** Utsugi Taeko is the former Manager and Head Coach of the Japan Women’s Softball team, and a good friend of Masha.