生涯をかけた破天荒ドラマ 稀代の昭和スター・勝新太郎 Showa era superstar Shintaro Katsu 写真提供:共同通信社


2016 has been a chaotic year. Looking back at it, it’s almost hard to believe most of what went down. I mean, Donald Trump, an obscene capitalist, has been elected president of the United States for crying out loud. Let’s not forget Rodrigo Duterte, the inexplicably popular president of the Philippines whose brutal war on drugs makes mafia crime waves seems cute by comparison.

日本においてはどうだろう。 残念(?)ながら“政治的モンスター”は誕生しなかったが、閉塞感たっぷりの現実から逃避を図る人物は多くみられた。そう、有名人が相次いで“薬物絡み”で逮捕されたのだ。
元プロ野球選手の清原和博に、ミュージシャンのASKA、元俳優の高知東生etc. 挙げ連ねればキリがない。

These rise of these tyrannical, “Notorious” leaders is a symptom of world gone awry with stagnation and anxiety. The public is so fed up with the status quo that they’re willing to put the fate of the world in the hands of madmen. And really it’s no wonder that it’s come to this fight fire with fire mentality.
Let’s look at the situation here in Japan. For better or worse no “political monsters” have come crawling out just yet, but that doesn’t mean we’re any less dissatisfied with our realities or terrified of our futures. Need I remind you of how many celebrities were arrested on drug charges this year? There’s former pro baseball player Kazuhiro Kiyohara, the musician ASKA and actor Noboru Takachi just to name a few. Once they’ve been caught, they all make a public apology and fade out of the limelight. You may think “If you’re so sorry about it, you shouldn’t have done it in the first place,” but that’s not the way addicts think.
All of this recent hoopla reminded me of “Katsu Shin,” aka Shintaro Katsu, one of the Showa era’s biggest movie stars. More than anything I remember him as the notorious badass who was arrested for drugs. While his image was that of an easygoing and open hearted guy, he couldn’t have lived a more checkered life--a secret that was kept until he was arrested at Honolulu customs with reefer and cocaine tucked into his underpants. He managed to remain composed, however, and even joked at the press conference that he’ll never wear underwear again. Talk about notorious! Despite his arrest record and misdeeds, he’s retained his place as one of Japan’s most respected actors. With a filmography like his, it’s not hard to see why.



当時の名優たちの姿を間近で見て、芝居への好奇心が花開くと、六代目菊五郎や十五代目 市村 羽左衛門といった役者たちの演技をそっくりに模倣したそうだ。



The birth of a Nagauta Shamisen thoroughbred

Toshio Okumura, better known by his stage name Shintaro Katsu, came into the world on November 29th, 1931 in Chiba prefecture, the second son of Minori and Yaeko Okumura. Katsu wasn’t the only one in his family with a stage name--his father Minori was renowned Nagauta Shimasen master and official national treasure Katsutoji Kineya. It was only natural that his son followed in his footsteps and Katsu took to performing at a young age. According to tradition, he began his career in Nagauta Shamisen on June 6th of his sixth year.
Nowadays most people learn shamisen along with a CD but back then they didn’t even have sheet music to follow! The only way to learn a new song was to listen to your teacher and copy by ear. Above all else this was a talent that required a laser-like focus. Katsu hated practice and was frequently being scolded by his father. Still, he displayed extremely impressive skills for someone his age. Rumor has it that he would only begin learning a song 2 or 3 hours before he was scheduled to play it live yet always managed to deliver masterful performances.

There are other stories of his incredible ear and skill, too. Because his father performed geza (music and sound effects accompanying kabuki) he had access to the the famed Kabuki-za. This led to a interest in ating, and before long he was able to flawlessly impersonate actors like Onoe Kikugoro VI and Ichimura Uzaemon XV. Utilizing the skills learned in Shamisen he could copy the kabuki voices and, much to everyone’s surprise, quickly developed an understanding of the art’s difficult pacing and rhythm. Thus the foundation for his later ator career was laid.
He was named Katsumaru Kineya II, a young master of Nagauta Shamisen with his own disciples. However, things took a dramatically different turn after he visited the United States to perform Nihon Buyo. While visiting 20th Century Fox in New York, he had a chance meeting with a young actor by the name of James Dean. Dean was introduced as an upcoming superstar and the future of the movie industry. Katsu was reportedly shocked by how different Dean’s image was from that of the superstars he knew. To him, Dean looked like just another kid with messy hair and sloppy clothes.

“If that guy can be world famous, even I could become a star in Japan.”

Soon after returning to Japan he had a screen test and signed a contract with Daiei Kyoto Studio.Being the offspring of Katsutoji, he was given the new stage name "Shintaro Katsu" by then police commissioner Eiichi Tanaka.




After seven years, a break

His film debut was in 1954’s “The Great White Tiger Platoon,” though he wasn’t an instant success. Ichikawa Raizo, star of hits like “Flame of Torment” and “Nemuri Kyoshiro” joined the company at the same time and overshadowed Katsu for some time. Having already made a name for himself in Kabuki, Ichikawa was given preferential treatment. In addition to being the highest paid movie star of his time, earning ¥300,000 a film, he also had a chauffeur. Meanwhile Katsu was making a mere ¥30,000 and had to travel in a bus with the crew. Never one to lose to a rival, at one point Katsu is said to have hired a personal driver at his own expense.
After 5 years in the industry Katsu acted in 61 movies, yet none went on to become hits. Part of the it was that he was put in too many black and white B movies, but the biggest problem was his being typecast as a role he played all too well, but the biggest problem was his being typecast as a handsome supporting man in white face paint so popular at the time-- a role he played all too well, but not one that could earn one the moniker “notorious.” As a result of casting, he was misunderstood as a run of the mill but player. This all changed when he was cast as an immoral blind masseur in 1960’s “Secrets of a Court Masseur.”

Yearning for a chance to act as a villain, it was Katsu himself who pleaded to Daiei’s CEO Masaichi Nagata to make a film adaptation of the popular Kabuki play. Nagata had a profound hatred of such brutal scripts, but agreed only because he figured that if the film didn’t hit it would be his chance to get rid of Katsu for good.
With his back to the wall, Katsu did everything he could to make his performance as raw as possible. He went as far as enrolling in a school for the blind in order to study their movements, where he learned to engage with the world based solely on wind, sound and smell. The resulting performance was full of adlibbing and an unprecedented level of suspense. Naturally, the film went on to enjoy great success at the box office and a star was born.




The Glory Days

After “Secrets of a Court Masseur” Katsu’s popularity skyrocketed as he starred in hit after hit. “Akumyo,” “The Tale of Zatoichi,” and “The Hoodlum Soldier,” just to name a few. After finding his niche as an anti-hero, he was finally treated with the same respect as longtime rival Ichikawa Raizo. As the studio’s two biggest stars, the actors were often referred to as “Katsu Rice,” a play on both of their names.
Katsu was now making ¥2,500,000 per film to Ichikawa’s ¥3,000,000. Still not satisfied with the pay gap, he is said to have held up five fingers to studio chief Nagata, signifying that he wanted a ¥500,000 raise. Despite himself, Nagata soon had a contract drawn up with Katsu getting ¥5,000,000 per film. To put this whopping raise into perspective, the starting salary for a banker in Tokyo at the time was a mere ¥26,000.

In 1962 Katsu was wed to frequent co-star Tamao Nakamura. Terminally shy, Katsu had his manager propose for him and spent his wedding night playing cee-lo with his new bride. Finally successful on and off the screen, these were to be the star’s glory days.




Uncompromising vision and troubles galore

In 1967, Katsu took up a new challenge by helming Katsu Productions. His first film, “The Man Without a Map,” was a collaboration with Hiroshi Teshigahara, the director who came to fame after his “Woman in the Dunes” received the Special Jury Prize at the 1964 Cannes Film Festival. He later teamed up with young directors such as Hideo Gosha, Koichi Saito and Kazuo Kuroki. Four years after Katsu Pro was formed Daiei filed for bankruptcy, forcing the company to continue on their own. Their first film as an independant production company was “Kaoyaku.”
The “Lone Wolf and Cub” film adaptations, which starred Katsu’s older brother Tomisaburo Wakayama, were a huge success and things were looking great for the production company--for a time. Katsu had made a name for himself with uncompromisingly raw performances, and he expected the same from his cast and crew.
He would demand scenes be shot and reshot until they were absolutely perfect. If a scene called for rain, he would wait days for the weather to accommodate, often resulting in massive production delays. He also completely ignored scripts while shooting and demanded that actors ad lib their parts. No matter a film’s budget, there was never enough money to keep up. This pursuit of realism put him ¥10,000,000 over his ¥20,000,000 budget on the TV adaptation of “Zatoichi” which ran from 1974 to 1979. Star of “Abarenbo Shogun” Ken Matsudaira was outspoken regarding the squandering of the television show’s budget. Piling on debt with every production, Katsu Pro soon found itself in dire straights.

More dark clouds began forming over Katsu’s life in the late 1970s. He was tried possession of opium in 1978. Then in 1979 he was fired from the film “Kagemusha” after a clash with director Akira Kurosawa. He tried to revive his career with the TV drama “Keishi K,” only to have his on-set tyranny drive the project far over budget. Despite this, the show never caught on and was canceled mid-season. ¥1,200,000,000 in debt, Katsu Pro closed it’s doors in 1981. He started a new company in 1982 with his wife Tamao acting as president, the same year that the couple’s son Ryu Gan was arrested for selling marijuana. In 1989, their Ryu was responsible for the death of a stunt actor after mistaking a real sword for a prop on the set of a “Zatoichi 26.” The film was to be Katsu’s last.





Katsushin’s everlasting cool

On one hand he was a blunt force of nature who antics led to trouble with the law, on the other he was a man who lived to entertain. At a press conference following his 1990 arrest for possession of cocaine and marijuana, all he had to say was “I don’t know why I stashed it in my underwear, but I know I’ll never wear underwear again.” Upon returning to Japan a year and a half later, he told the press “You can always replace the prime minister, but there’s only one Katsushin.” The comment drew lots of criticism, but could also be called another of his fine performances.

Finally, in 1996, Katsu succumbed to a battle with pharyngeal cancer. Removing the cancer would have meant severing his vocal chords. Unwilling to give up his ability to perform, the star instead chose to treat it with cancer drugs and radiation therapy. Four months after going public with the disease, a chain-smoking Katsu held a press conference at which he jokingly told the press he had given up cigarettes and that beer was his drink of choice. He refused to acknowledge his sickness, making a mockery of the press conference and adding another bombastic story to his legend. Tamao later described it as a literal smoke-blowing session. Selfish as he may have been, you can’t say that he didn’t always try to please everyone around him--a fact that isn’t lost on his many fans.

Katsu spent his last days fighting the disease and performing on stage with Tamao in Osaka New Kabukiza’s “Meoto Zenzai.” On June 21st, 1997, just 10 months after being diagnosed, Katsushin lost his battle with cancer. At age 65, the curtains were finally drawn on the roller coaster performance of a lifetime.

写真提供:共同通信社 写真提供:共同通信社




Will we ever get another Notorious actor?

It’s been 20 years since Showa’s biggest star Katsushin left us. I feel like we should have had another notorious actor take his place by now, but the role remains uncast. Rising star Gen Hoshino, who starred in the TBS drama “Nigeru wa Haji da ga Yaku ni Tatsu,” comes to mind. He also comes from the world of music and has worked as a writer. He’s got the boy-next-store looks and a subculture flair, but seems to lack Katsushin’s bold character. In fact, his popularity serves as a sign that these days people just want to see actors who are ever so slightly off-kilter.
Given the current environment, most budding notorious actors get snipped before they get a chance to blossom. In order for an actor of Katsushin’s caliber to exist, they need someone like Nagata who is willing to take a risk giving them a shot. After all, he was an exec who earned the name “Nagata the Rapper” for his boisterous language and hype. Nagata wasn’t an exec at Daiei, he was THE exec, and acted accordingly. In other words, it takes notorious to raise notorious, and Katsu learned from the best.
In Japan if you stand out you get struck down. That’s not the kind of place where notorious bastards flourish, but with people like Trump and Duerte taking power abroad we might not be too far off from the next generation of notorious Japanese.

In the next installment we’ll be looking at the life and crimes of disgraced baseball legend Yutaka Enatsu.


神山典士 『アウトロー』(情報センター出版局)

田崎 健太 『偶然完全』(講談社)


Norio Kohyama “Outlaw” (Joho Center Publishing)

Kenta Tazaki “Guzen Kanzen” (Kodansha)


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