More Magazine (2009.05): Part 1
Fukuyama Masaharu, he is ‘just standing there’.
Standing where? In the bar of the stylish hotel which was converted from a 19th century palace. Usually the interviews after a photoshoot are held in the hotel room, where you can sit comfortably on the sofa. But today, he chose to go to the bar counter, and then saying: “I am more relaxed this way”, he just stood there.
And like the Roman Emperors of the past, presenting their speeches to the public, he stood there talking and gesticulating for 1½ hours. Try and imagine how it’s like as you read through this article.
F: “It’s actually my first time in Rome.”
February 3. Because he has a few jobs here, he went through transits and transfers to come to the centre of Europe. And we were lucky enough to have this interview here with him - in Rome. Greeting his memorable 40th birthday, this entire week was actually like a ‘Birthday Week’. It is a coincidence that he should spend it in this 3,000-year old place, but it certainly felt like a romantic necessity.
F: “It’s true, I never thought I would spend my 40th birthday overseas. These unexpected surprises actually make me look forward to this day every year.
40 years old. He said unquestionably 1 that this was the ‘age of excitement’. But when he was younger, the 40-year-old that he imagined himself to be was: “I would be very clear on what I wanted, and not too interested in everything else.”
F: “My mentality has changed. Having said that, I guess a person’s values and thinking patterns will naturally change with time. Even for a place as historical as Rome, what used to be the centre of the city -the Foro Romano has been decaying and falling apart, hasn’t it? It’s a wonder that the structure can still remain standing today, but it doesn’t belong to ‘the present’. That’s normal, history will change and times will end. So I’d sometimes think it’s not bad at all to keep to the vogue and keep in touch with new things. And that’s why 40 is such an ‘exciting age’.
I think innovation is great. Of course, old stuff is also good, but new things will definitely bring stimulation. As we grow older, we get less and less stimulated. That’s why I’d like to, I want to get inspired through new changes. It’s the same in my work. When I was young, I’d hoped to work with the experienced senpais (seniors). Now on the contrary, even when the quality of work is less refined, I prefer to be in the midst of the gusto and zeal of my younger peers.”
When he says that, is it not as a senpai guiding his juniors, but purely in the hopes that the younger people might teach him something instead?
F: “Exactly. Young people have that reckless hasty state of mind which can stimulate me to take chances again, as I have long lost that feeling. I must let myself be prepared to experience setbacks in my work. I believe this ‘youthful passion’ is a necessity that we must retain as we grow up. When I was young, because I had that ‘passion’, I would fall down, go through setbacks and stalemates, I would fail. Nevertheless, when this youthful reckless passion is ultimately able to overcome (the shortcomings in) skill, experience and talent, it will release a strength which can inspire others all around. For myself, I have seen many of such ‘inspiring’ moments in my last 3 visits to the Olympics as a reporter.
Because of this, I feel strongly that I should embrace this ‘youthful passion’ as I go on in my art as well as my life. The readers of More are ladies primarily in their 20’s, perhaps it will be easier for them to understand if I put it this way. Your boss and senpais in your workplace, will not be able to earn your respect just because they are your seniors, right? So which type of senpai would you respect most in your work? It should be those with the ‘passion’ to strive and endeavour continuously in their job, right?
Just like the soccer player Kazu, the retired baseball player Kiyohara, and for my favourite wrestling, there’s Sakuraba Kazushi.2 They are still highly-regarded and well-loved, because they inspire others with their ceaseless confrontation of their challenges. When I was young, some of my senpais gave me the same impression too. Now, if young people start thinking about me like ‘this person is still living in the past!’, I know that means I’m no good anymore. In this regard, I’m still OK, right?” (laugh)
He’s a man who doesn’t stop attempting (new things). So, it should be OK!
Music has always been his centre of attention. But he also works earnestly in new realms as an actor and a photographer. Just last year, his first attempt as the lead character in the movie “Yougisha X no Kenshin” has resulted in a huge success. If he were “still living in the past”, it would have been impossible to make such a highly regarded project that grossed upto ¥5 billion.3
And regarding another first attempt in his 40th year, he says: “Because I have to star in a Taiga (note: He is now growing his hair long, in preparation for the NHK Taiga “Ryoma-den” in 2010), that’s definitely a major endeavour for me!”
In fact, in the history of all the 49 Taiga dramas from 1963 up to now, this is the first time the lead is played by a ’singer-songwriter’.
F: “Even so, I was very hesitant on whether I should take on this Taiga. Of course, I had worries on whether I could do the job, whether I could give life to the character. But what I couldn’t forsake were the fans who come for the concerts. Shooting the drama will take a year, so there was no way I could stage a concert tour within that year.4 If I took the job, will my fans get angry? After deliberating on it, I finally came to the conclusion - if I could show my fans that I am challenging myself on an interesting job, that would be the best way to repay them.
In our line of work, the moment we feel that the current situation is acceptable; or that we have a sense of accomplishment; or that “This is already quite good, isn’t it?”, the audience will start to lose interest in us. That is why I think I’ve contracted the “Impossible to Feel Satisfied” disease. I have never felt a sense of accomplishment, not once. I guess that even in the movies, Tora-san has his own challenges; Hama-chan (ハマちゃん) in ‘Tsuribaka Nisshi’ ( 釣りバカ日誌, Fishing Fool’s Diary)5 will have his own trials too in every episode. Even though it was an ongoing series and it felt like they were doing the same thing every time, I’m sure there were new challenges that he had to try out in each chapter. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have been able to carry on!”
To be Continued.
1 There is a play on the words “不惑” here which means without doubt (=unquestionable) in English, but carries an extra meaning of “forty years old” in Chinese, and Japanese.
2 The 3 Kazus:
- 1. Kazuyoshi Miura (三浦知良) aka “Kazu”, 42 years old, arguably Japan’s first superstar in football. First Japanese recipient of the Asian Player of the Year (2003) and has the most career goals in Japanese national team history before he left. He now plays for J.League Div2, and in 2009.03, became the oldest player to score in a J.League match in history.
- 2. Kazuhiro Kiyohara (清原和博), 41 years old, a household name in Japan, playing in the Nippon Baseball league for 23 seasons. Retired after 2008.
- 3. Kazushi Sakuraba (桜庭和志) aka “Saku” or “Gracie Hunter”, 39 years old, professional mixed martial arts competitor and known as “The IQ Wrestler”, for his brilliance in the arts. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/)
3 ¥5 billion in Japan alone
4 2010, the year for Ryoma-den, is his actual 20th Anniversary Year. He has brought forward his celebration activities to 2009, so that he can take on the Ryoma project
5 Tsuribaka Nisshi (The Fishing Fool’s Diary) is a long running Movie series in Japan (19 movies between 1998.12~2008.10). It is based on a popular Manga and Anime.