Tokyo Damage Report

conclusion of Yamamoto Ryuuji’s DANYUU

This is a translation of Part 3 of Yamamoto Ryuuji's autobiography, called DANYUU (male actor). (part 1 is here)   (part 2 is here)


Also if you want to meet him, he runs his own bar about 10 minutes’ walk from Kouenji station – basically near the Kannana Doori / Waseda Doori intersection. The bar is called RYUU-CHAN.
 
There is a LOT of show-biz slang in the book, and I tried to preserve that feeling by keeping the original Japanese show-biz slang instead of using the equivalent English words.  To make this less daunting, I went ahead and made a little glossary of terms on a separate page, I would advise that you nerd out and keep both windows open while reading.

PART FOUR: AN ARTISTRY WHICH SURPASSES THE EROTIC

 

A RECOLLECTION

The 1990s, a certain month, a certain day, a showdown at Kourakuen Hall.

Mire ‘Sky High’ Masukarasu, master of the aerial techniques, is closing in on his arch-enemy, Dory Funk, Jr.

Without his feet ever touching the ground, jumping from rope to rope, with the greatest of ease, dancing in the air at great speed, Masukarasu is truly the royalty of aerials. Again and again, he lands his trademark “Flying Close Chop” on the giant chest of Dory, chopping him to pieces. Dory’s chest is instantly swollen and red, his head lolling as if drunk, and expression of pure agony on his face.

Masukarasu appears to swim in midair, picking up speed his flesh sparkling, as he flies towards Dory, who is crawling on the ground, weak as a baby, in what seems to be an alcohol-soaked stupor.

Already the outcome is certain! And Masukarasu will surely cement his victory with his finishing move, the Flying Body Attack. He ascends to the top rope, then runs catlike to the top post, where he stands, as if suspended in mid-air. He spreads both of his arms wide – announcing to the arena that he is, in fact, going to use this secret killing technique. Today, Dory’s brute force and muscles of steel are no match for the elegant style of Sky-High.

This is it, it’s over! Everyone is convinced of this: A sigh reverberates throughout the arena!

But what’s this? Dory, rises to his feet suddenly.

He seems rejuvenated. He is unsurpassed at selling agony, but it seems he was only playing dead. Holding his arms out like an airplane, he charges forward, his body turned into a lethal weapon! He catches Masukarasu in mid-dive and runs him full-speed into the ground, as if to say, “You float real pretty like a butterfly, but I can swat you out of the air if you buzz too close!”

 Masukarasu is now on the ground, which is Dory’s domain, and Dory intends to take revenge! With a crazed expression, he fakes an uppercut, and then catches Masukarasu squarely with a raised elbow – so illegal and rude!

Now it’s Masukarasu’s turn to stumble, helpless and drunkenly. He lurches painfully to his feet, only to fall over again.

“Did you break your wings, little butterfly? Without them you’re squirming like a pathetic caterpillar!”

Dory laughs with obscene glee, as he grabs one of Masukarasu’s legs. This looks dangerous!

He takes one deep breath in.

He breathes out.

Then, in one fell swoop, he deploys the Funk Family’s attack of last resort: The Spinning Toehold. Dory spins round and round, still holding one of Masukarasu’s legs. The pressure must be enormous, it’s truly a wild technique. But Dory keeps speeding up, showing no mercy.


It looks like Masukarasu’s leg is broken! He’ll surely surrender now, won’t he? But, Masukarasu knows his fans are hoping and praying for a big show-down, so he can’t let us down.

Summoning the last of his strength, he kicks his free leg into Dory’s meaty body. Free at last from the Spinning Toehold, Masukarasu begins, once again, to crawl towards the top rope. . .

That’s it! That’s what I’m talking about ! The viewers get more and more excited. Everyone is in an uproar. Goraku (entertainment) on top of goraku! That’s what wrestling was like back in my day.

The “Kings of Martial Arts” : Giant Baba, Antonio Inoki, Abdullah the Butcher, the Tiger Jet Shin, Dory and Terry AKA the Funk brothers, Miru Masukarasu, Stan Hanson. Those were the heroes of my time. But that was then.

Nowadays, you have your MMA, where the fight is over before it begins. That GACHINKO! TV show, they call it “Death in Seconds.” Miruko Kurokoppu and Yamamoto ‘KID’ Norifumi and so on. I suppose this is the age of short fights. . . how times change! I don’t get it at all.

And maybe, the AV world is the same: maybe we’re like that GACHINKO show.

No engi , no room for showmanship, just do enough to entertain people briefly and then fade away seconds later.

Maybe they don’t need guys like us to do our ‘Flying Close Punch’ and ‘Spinning Toe Hold’ anymore. 

High time we give it up.

Wrestling fans all hve a dream that if Lou Thesz was back in his prime, he could defeat Miruko, but in practice it would be a bad idea to put that dream to the test! Or when Bill Robinson said, “If I was younger, I could whip Hickson with one punch!” All us older guys have these kind of lingering hopes and dreams, and maybe they should always stay that: just dreams. Both physically and mentally, there comes a time to retire.

As I was watching the pro-wrestling on the TV, I was thinking these things. But ‘intai’ (引退= retire) . . .it’s such a short word, just two kanji long. And yet I can’t say it. It’s not because I don’t know the kanji, either.

It’s just, us older guys have a hard time giving up the hopes and dreams of our youth.


 
 
 
RETIRING FROM MANHOOD


Nowadays, from time to time, I think, “OK, now is the right time to begin a new life doing something else . . .” and I thought the pro wrestling story would illustrate why

Perhaps it was a pretentious way to illustrate a point. If so, forgive me!

But, in any case, now and again I think about retiring or withdrawing. It’s really a job that tests both your physical and mental strength.  Perhaps there’s still one or two guys from my generation still doing AV, but there comes a time for everyone when it becomes muri (impossible). Well, I shouldn’t speak for others, but here’s an example from my own life: I had a stroke on the set!

At the time I was doing a joyuu  from the back, standing up, and right as I felt the orgasm coming, I fell over. Even the staff around me thought I was joking. But since then, I can’t do AV as much, that’s a fact.

I can’t directly say I’m retiring, though. I still get calls, but now I tell them “I don’t do honban (penetration) anymore.” I keep going somehow, at risk to my health, like one of those aged wrestlers – Giant Baba or someone.

But there’s no way I can do GACHINKO (mixed martial arts sex, to continue his metaphor – ed.). In fact, even if I get the girl excited, I can’t return her passion anymore. I’m an analog (wrestling broadcast) in a digital hi-def age.

But if you say, “That’s OK”, then I will still appear in your AV!

You might not think there are any non-sex parts in AV, but that is not the case. For example, I’m playing a shikaisha (emcee) on a new adult game show called “KUIZU REIPUSHOKKU (Quiz Rape Shock). I ask the contestants ten questions, and if they get them all right, they can win $11,000 (USD). But if they make even one mistake, we have prepared a danyuu who plays the role of a raper. Not only that, but he nakadashi (ejaculates inside of them).

I think I did six volumes in that series.

And of course, the publisher of the book you hold in your hands – Taiyou Tosho, were kind enough to let me perform in some of their sakuhin as well. You know the kind of AV company run by some scary Yakuza guy, where you have to wait a long time to get even a little work? Well, Taiyou Tosho is not one of those. It’s a fun place to work. Of course, I don’t want to do AV until I die, but I still have a few sakuhin left in me!

 
 
 
LOOKING BACK ON EVERYTHING

I’m finally writing the epilogue now, but the only metaphor I can think of for life is: a bicycle. If you don’t ride it, it gets rusty, the brakes get stuck, and so on. You have to ride it every day. People are the same way. If you don’t use yourself to your full potential, otherwise you’ll get rusty! On the other hand, if you practice enough, you can handle even tough situations without panicking – your reflexes simply take over.

I had a job which I really enjoyed, and I stuck with it. Any time I was in front of a camera – allowed to be in front of it, I should say – I was very grateful. Even with pinku eiga  or AV, it went from being an accidental job to my heart’s desire: in hindsight, even when I got more ‘proper’, ippanna parts, I now think, those parts were kind of a waste – anyone could have done them, but only I could have made the AV which I made!

But even though I went from very normal eiga  to the most extreme videos, I never changed my stance, my attitude about performing, and I’m proud of that.

To an average person, my quest to go from AV to ipannna fame might have seemed quixotic or impossible. But here’s the crucial thing: everything I ever did gives me support and ambition. Tthe pinku eiga, the adaruto bideo, and the people who came to see them, as well as the industry people who remembered my face from those AVs, and offered me ippanna yaku.

 I suppose what I’m trying to say is, it’s important to continue, no matter what. While you’re trying really hard for something, you can’t see anything around you, you’re concentrating on the goal only. You go here and there, across stormy seas, but it doesn’t matter because the destination is important, not the route. Eventually the fog will clear and you’ll find your destination is in sight, though it might still be far.

You kids nowadays don’t want to try anything unless you’re sure you’ll achieve it – you play it safe and have low dreams. You don’t aim farther than one foot along the path of life. You should dash at full speed! Especially in AV, where you can do almost anything. To you boys and girls reading this, that will soon become adults and able to enter the industry, I’d like to say one thing:

Never give up!

I suffered another stroke while watching a game on TV, and thought I could see the ‘other side’ (afterlife) for a second . . . I suppose I have to think about retirement. Well, not retiring, exactly. I’ve set my sights on trying new things. That’s what the next section will be about.

 
 
 

MEMORIES OF FAMOUS KANTOKU SAKAMOTO JUNJI, AND A RETURN TO IPPANNA EIGA .

The first step in the seemingly-impossible journey from AV danyuu back to the ippanna was a chance meeting with Sakamoto Junji, who directed such hit films as BILIKEN and DOTSUITARUNEN


 

I first met Sakamoto when I was getting out of the pinku eiga  business. At that time, I felt it would be impossible to ever go back to doing ippanna work. Not that I gave up on that dream, or wanted to give up acting entirely. Just, the dream seemed farther away than ever.

“It’s tough turning on the TV and seeing people I used to work with getting more and more famous every year. . . I’m only famous for AV. Makes me think I should try more TV work, but at this point, it’d be pretty difficult, don’t you think?” I thought to myself.

But it just goes to show, you never know what life has in store.And changes might come from the most random places, before you know it!

For instance, when I first came to Tokyo and didn’t have an industry job, I had to do a bunch of day-jobs. One of these was passing out flyers.


The flyers advertised kyouiku eiga  (educational films). And eventually, the shachou (president) of the advertising company said he’d saved enough capital to start making his own kyouiku eiga . Just at that time (about 30 years ago now), the Akita earthquake struck, killing 13 children who had been playing by the sea. This gave the shachou the idea for AAAH, THE ETERNAL REST OF THE THIRTEEN, a movie starring Niki Terumi.

And shachou must have thought, “Hey, that Yamamoto guy, he used to work for us a long time ago. He’s a famous poruno star now, but I hear he really wants ippanna work. I bet we can get him for cheap!” And thus, not only did I shutsuei (appear) in a non-porn film, it was  an educational film, AND I was portraying a homeroom teacher!

Getting this part was just luck, but – in an additional lucky coincidence – that’s how I first met Sakamoto Junji – then the jokantoku (assistant director). We were joking around on the set and I said, “If you ever make it big as a kantoku, you should hire me!” We both thought that was funny at the time, but several years later a bunch of us pinku eiga  danyuu and joyuu  had gathered in Golden Gai’s SPACE DEN, a small gekijo (theatre), to perform a shibai (play). Of course, it wasn’t a nudie play!

The shibai   was called JIGOKU NO SEERUSUMAN (‘The Salesman From Hell’).

The kantoku was Kataoka Shuuji (from the Roman Poruno industry), and the zachou (theatre group leader) was Iketshima Yutaka (from the pinku eiga  industry).

The shibai   ran for three days, and sold out every day. I think people just wanted to see porn stars in the flesh! Even some ippanna geinoukai (show-business) people showed up, and one of them was Sakamoto. He came backstage and said, “Ryuuji, do you remember me?”

Without thinking, I replied, “Huh? Who are you?”

“Hey now, we made those kyouiku eiga  together!”

 “Oh word, that was you! You were the jokantoku, weren’t you?”
 
“Yeah. Your shibai was fascinating, by the way!”

A few months later, I was at STUDIO 200 in Ikebukuro, doing some konto (skits) with Hotaru Yukijirou a former roman poruno yakusha. And Sakamoto visited me again.


Finally, one day, I got the call: “Ryuuji! This is Sakamoto. Right now, I’m working under Izudsu Kazuyuki, the kantoku! The eiga  is called ABUNAI HANASHI (A Fucked-up Story), and it’s an omnibus (a collection of short pieces). I’ve been put in charge of the first piece, called CURSE OF KING TUTANKHAMEN! Takenaka is the shuen (lead part). He said he usually co-stars with people who know what they’re doing, but since the theme of the eiga  is abunai (fucked-ness), he wanted to cast co-stars with whom he can’t work at all – a sort of ‘abunai casting’, he called it.

So, naturally, I thought of you. And Takenaka’s seen your AV, he says he wants to meet you. The main kantoku doesn’t know you, but I recommended you, he said he’d be willing to sit down and talk. What do you say, Ryuuji?”

Of course, I said yes, and before long, I had the part : junshuyaku (supporting star)! It was my first ippanna production in ten years. And , unlike the films I did before poruno, you can actually see my face this time. It was a pretty sweet yaku (role). That’s what happens when you never give up.

A while after that, I heard the news: Sakamoto had been promoted to a full kantoku. He was working on his debut eiga, in Osaka, location scouting. I somehow obtained the phone number of the hotel where he was staying, and rang him up: “Hey! Location scouting, eh?”

“Ryuuji – you tracked me down? Good for you! I’ve been saving a part for you.”

The eiga  was titled DOTSUITARUNEN (‘I’m Going To Pummel You!’).

Again, I was only in one scene – playing the ‘master’ of a snack pub. But by then, I was famous enough from poruno, that people in the theaters would recognize me and say, “WTF is that guy doing in the movie?!?”


The second eiga  that Sakamoto directed was called TEKKEN (‘Iron Fist’), and again I got a small part. I’m very grateful to him for single-handedly opening the door to ippanna work for me.


 
 
 
MINAMI NO TEIOU (Emperor of the South), AND MEMORIES OF TANABE HIROYUKI

So, in this fashion, little by little, I was able to get more non-poruno work. This was around the time of the Bubble Economy. And then ‘V-cinema’ (drect-to-video low-budget movies) began. And what’s more: not all of it was poruno. Thanks to V-cinema, my kantoku friends could give me more and more yaku (roles); much better yaku than I had received even before I’d started doing poruno in the first place!

This was the breakthrough I had been looking for – a real comeback to ippanna eiga , and I owed it all to Sakamoto.

The only problem was that I was ‘furii’ (free). I wasn’t properly shozoku (affiliated) with any major studio, and I didn’t have any manager. So my schedule was kind of a sad sight.

For example, I might get a call, “Yamamoto! We need you next Wednesday for a major part the new Star Wars movie!” (not really star wars, but you get the idea – ed.)

“Next Wednesday? Sorry, can’t do it – I have to film “Show Me Your Underpants 9: The Return Of Terrible Panties!”

“What’s that about?”

“Well, I walk down the street and ask girls if they feel it’s important to show me their underpants. And if they say ‘Yes,’ then we take pictures of the underpants.”

“Dude! WTF, I’m offering you a part in Star Wars!”

“I know, I know, but I gave my word of honor to “Show Me Your Underpants.”

The casting director in that incident, Mr. Tajika, was disgusted, but at the same time, greatly intrigued by me, the man who refused ippanna parts in favor of panties. 

And so he called me again, when he was casting MINAMI NO TAIOU (The Southern Emperor). The part required Kansaiben (west Japan dialect), which was good: not only was I from Kansai, but after doing MINAMI NO TAIOU, I began to get work as a Kansai character-actor. 

The MINAMI NO TAIOU franchise lasted six films, I believe. And every time, they gave me a different yaku! One time I might be a vicious yakuza, the next time, they’d tell me I was the yakuza’s victim! At any rate, this was all due to the kindness of Mr. Tajika. When he, tragically, passed away due to cancer, I was the shikaisha (emcee) at his funeral.

Thanks to Sakamoto and Tajika, I was able to get a foot in the door. After that, one part led to another, and I was able to make the transition from AV to ippanna quite speedily. But I like to think that my poruno career had something to do with it, too! All the AV I’d done let people know I was a hard worker, someone who would never give up. And even the fetish sakuhin made people remember who I was – I stood out from the other AV danyuu.

Beyond just shock value, these sakuhin gave me a presence, made me seem more real. So I say to you: it doesn’t matter what format you work in, just get as many people to see you as possible. Eventually someone important will look at it. Even if it’s AV or pinku eiga . Doing both kinds, poruno and ippanna, was a plus for me. There’s some people who use a pseudonym for their poruno work, but not me! I really think that poruno can help your ippanna career.
 
 
 

A CHANCE MEETING WITH THE ‘BLACK PROFESSOR’ OF THE PLEASURE PAVILLION

The famous haiyuu  Hotaru Yukijirou started out as a comedian, part of a konbi (comedy team). His partner was Rupan Sasagi.



Sometimes, when Hotaru-san was busy, I’d ‘pinch-hit’ for him: Rupan and I would perform the traditional two-man stand-up comedy called manzai. It was at one of these manzai shows that I met Kairakutei Black (Pleasure Pavillion Black), a performer of (shaggy-dog story only Japanese find funny) rakugo comedy.



Black not only did rakugo, he was a haiyuu , a kantoku, and had written several books about fuuzoku (the prostitution industry), so naturally he knew of me, and came up to say hello.

He said, “I’d like to interview you, if I could!” “Of course, it would be my pleasure.” The interview wound up in Yuukan Fuji, a nightly tabloid.

During the interview, Black, being a professional story-teller, paid special attention to the way I talked. In the middle of the interview, he paused: “Hold on a second. Sometime when I’m performing, can you do a guest appearance?”

 “Come on, man. You know I’ve never trained as a rakugo.”

“I’m also doing yose (traditional variety theater) – if you just come on and we’ll talk like we’re talking now. Your ‘poruno danyuu’ persona is interesting! If you can, I’d like you to do the bit yourself, without a ‘comedy partner’.”

So now I can add ‘yose performer’ to my resume! The first time was so fun, I went ahead and wrote a little notebook of neta (material), which I used in subsequent appearances!

My neta was usually ‘secrets of AV industry’: who wouldn’t sleep with whom, and so on. In the end, I performed with many great comedians – I was even able to perform at Kunitachi’s prestigious Engeijo!

 
 
 
MY NEW GIG: A REGULAR ON A CHILDREN’S BANGUMI (SHOW)!

“Okay,” you’re thinking: “Yamamoto is a poruno guy. Maybe if you really stretch it, you can go from  poruno to yose, if your idea of ‘yose’ is ‘talking about porn’. But from poruno to a children’s show? Come on, man!”

I was surprised as well – this career move, like so many of mine, was based on  a random coincidence. Do you remember the adult video company Video Studio 83, which I wrote about earlier? Video Studio 83 was a shoutengai (shopping mall) from Chofu that turned into an AV production company! Well, Akiyama Yutaka, the famous kantoku of Nikkatsu studio, not only did he get his start at Video Studio 83, but it was he that got me the AV danyuu gig there, too!

And he must have remembered me, because he called me up, asking me to appear in the Nikkatsu production of OKUSAMA WA MAZO, NIGIRASETE! (My Wife Is A Masochist! Come And Get Her! – a porno version of the American sitcom Bewitched (In Japanese, ‘witch’ sounds like ‘masochist’)) After he made one poruno, Akiyama was hired by KSS (Kamakura Super Studio)

and made promotional videos for idols such as Shimasaki Wakako‘s “OTOME ABUNAI SIXTEEN” and he called me for a bit part in that, as well as other V-cinema sakuhin he did for them.

After that, Akiyama was hired by Kansai TV to do a late-night drama called DRAMA DOSU, and he must have become good buddies with the producer, because next, that TV company gave him a children’s bangumi (show), filmed at the prestigious Takarazuka satsueisho.

Akiyama let me work on this bangumi as well. In another coincidence, Takarazuka was the same satsueisho where my father was almost killed in an on-set accident. My grandfather worked there, as well as Arashi sensei, back when he was playing his Kurama Tengu roles. But Akiyama didn’t think I would be allowed on that network at first. He asked his boss, “There’s a man I’d like to hire, but if you’ve heard of him, you’ll probably refuse him. His name is Yamamoto Ryuuji. . .”

The producer in charge, shocked, said, “Eeh? That poruno AV guy?” But, contrary to expectations, the producer then continued, “That sounds fun! Let’s try interviewing him.” So that’s how I went from doing poruno  to doing kids’ programs.

This bangumi was called FUZOROI NO IREBUN (‘The Irregular Eleven’). And I played the yaku of a junior high teacher. Right then, the first national soccer league (J-league) had just been established, and my character dreamed of one day making it on to the team. He struggles to make a great junior-high soccer team, even though the school has never had any soccer team before.

Not only was I working in the same satsueisho where my father and grandfather had worked, but my bangumi was being broadcast in golden time (prime time)! I was deeply moved with gratitude. Our viewer share was 22 percent. On the first day of shooting, I went to the satsueisho, and the old security guard said, “Hey! You’re that poruno danyuu! Yes you are! Are you here to pick up your sex partner?” he asked.

“No,” I replied, “I work here now, on the new kids’ show.”

“Your sex partner is a kid?!?!?”

“No, no. No way! Get it straight. Anyway, which way to the main entrance?”

That was embarrassing incident.


I found some old men who had worked there since my father’s time. “Aren’t you old Sasagi’s kid? All grown up?”, they asked me. I felt very nostalgic being there, and soon my thoughts returned to my nearby home-town: if my career keeps going like this, I can soon return there with my head held high. After so many years, I can perhaps finish my original plan!

But in the end, Akiyama, my only connection to the studio, wound up getting fired: he was always a stubborn man, and he butted-heads with the producers one too many times. Still, he always stayed true to his beliefs.

Worried I’d be next on the chopping block, I went to consult the producer directly He said, “You’re not involved in this quarrel. Please stay on until the end of the series.” Instantly my fears disappeared. Moreover, it seemed that this producer was doing another show, TOMMY’S GO! GO! TRAVELS, a comedy manzai program, and he wanted me to appear on there as a guest!

But he had one word of warning: “This show is filmed before a live studio audience. Some of them might recognize you, but this bangumi is on during daytime hours, so you shouldn’t refer explicitly to your AV career. If you can speak to your fans in code, that’s fine.” 

So when I came on stage, and Tommy asked me how I felt, I responded, “Iku, iku, ano yo ni ikuuuu!!” (literally, ‘If I died now, I’d die a happy man’, but the refrain ‘iku, iku’ is also a stock poruno phrase meaning ‘I’m cumming!’) and fell down.

The producer was really pleased! After that, that producer kept calling and inviting me to his jimusho. After sixteen years, I finally had shozoku (lit. ‘affiliation’ – a manager and a production company rolled into one). This happened just as I was considering moving from Osaka back to Tokyo. Upon hearing this, he said that the jimusho’s Tokyo office was looking for tarento (literally ‘talent’ – the talking heads on talk-shows) to do random shows, so I’d get plenty of last-minute work filling in for people.

 
 
 

TRAVELLING AROUND HOKKAIDO, THEN BACK TO UZUMASA


 Now that I was shozoku, I got even more offers: a Hokkaido producer I’d known since my poruno days called, inviting me to do a talk-show up there: YAMAMOTO RYUUJI’S PLEASURE HEAVEN MANZ CLUB.

The show was in the middle of the night, but the audience share (4.2) was good for that time slot. My guests were literary critics from Hokkaido, my pals from Tokyo, assorted AV industry people, who were all kind enough to drop by. An acquaintance from my youth in Uzumasa city (who now owns the bar Gojira-ya in Kouenji) also came on the show.

My bangumi became popular, so the producer asked me, “Yamamoto, is there anything in particular you’d like us to do?” This was my chance, the chance to take the dream I’d had ever since I first moved to Tokyo, and make that dream come true!

“I’d like to shoot an episode in my hometown of Uzumasa.” The producer replied, “We don’t have a large budget, but that sounds like an interesting idea! I think if we scrounge around, we can find enough funds to do that.”

At Uzumasa, there was a man named Yamanaka who had worked at the satsueisho. He worked constantly from the silent era until his death from old age. He never was allowed to play anything but tsuukounin (extras), but he devoted his whole life to the industry, without thanks or fame.

I asked the producer to make one more of my dreams come true: “As long as we’re in Uzumasa, can we do a segment on Yamanaka?” Again, my wish was granted.

But before we left, I had one final request to beg from the producer; “Daiei Satsueisho, the movie studio where I first used to work, went out of business ten years ago, but there’s a memorial stone where the buildings used to be. I’d like to shoot the show’s intro at that memorial.” And this dream too came true. 

As we taped the intro segment, I began thusly: “Today, we are broadcasting from my old home-town of Uzumasa. I have not been here in sixteen years.”

And in that instant, all my dreams came true.

I’ve had a lot of experiences in my life-time, but they were all leading up to this. No matter what I was doing or where I was, some part of me was always oriented towards this goal. And even though the goal was far, I never gave up hope –  I continued closer, step by step, over the years. And now here I was!

A friend from the old days came to greet me warmly: “Welcome home!”

“Thanks,” I replied, “but I wish I could have come home to the real Daiei!”

Daiei wasn’t the only satsueisho that had gone out of business. . .in fact the only satsueisho remaining from my youth was Eizo Kyoto, so we went there to pay a visit.A producer I’d known from back in the day greeted me:

“Hey! I don’t mind you went to Tokyo, but all this poruno and shit? You had us worried, kid. We thought, ‘Let’s never call this guy again!’ But now you’re doing comedy, you got your ‘v-cinema’ show, and it looks like you’re moving back to Osaka! Not only that, but you finally got your own bangumi, huh?”

I earnestly pleaded with him: “See, that’s the thing. I think it’s time for me to come home. I want to come home to jidaigeki. If you have any parts like that for me, please call me!”

“OK, I understand how you feel. We’ll call you.”

And, in the end, he did!
 
 
 

‘ATSUHIME’, THE NEW TAIGA DRAMA FROM NHK TV

After that, my management company (Big One West) was hired by Osaka NHK TV to produce a drama starring Nakamoto Masatoshi, called “New Drama Galaxy! Father Is Hiding In The Forest!” This drama was a story about a man who was fed up with city life, and moved to the forest to build a log cabin and live among nature. Naturally, his wife disapproved, and she continued to live in the city. My yaku was the local policeman in the forest, and it was a regular role, so I was very grateful.  

NHK (public television) is very ippanna, so people think it must be very hard for people from the poruno world to get on that station. But in fact, it’s much harder to get on privately-owned stations. With NHK, the money comes from subscribers, and so there are no sponsors (to object). If you get the OK from the producer and the director, you’re on. After I got a regular yaku on that drama, my manager and I tried to aim higher, asking to shutsuen on morning dramas or taiga dramas. 

However, the NHK producers said, “Hm. Well. What should I say? It’s not a matter of your engi ryoku (acting ability). But your, uh, career path, is somewhat unorthodox. Put yourselves in our position.”   They turned me down that time, but eventually I got to shutsuen on a single episode of a different taiga drama, called Atsuhime.

 By the way, NHK isn’t as pure as they might seem! At first I assumed there would be no one I knew working at the network, but in fact I ran into more than a few co-workers from the poruno days. I’d say “Hey, long time no see!” and they’d whisper, “Ssh! Don’t talk that poruno stuff around here, nobody knows I did that stuff.”

But on the other hand, there were other NHK people who asked for me specifically because the were familiar with my AV!
 
 

YAMAMOTO’S BASOKIA

As I said before, the ad-supported private networks are comparatively difficult to get on if you’re an AV person. But the hardest transition of all to make is, getting on the ads themselves! You’d expect that a guy like me would never make it onto an ad, but one time my management (Big One West) called and said, “After all this time, the advertisers finally want you to audition for a CM (Japlish for ‘commercial’) for a kind of yakisoba (sweet noodles) called Basokia (yakisoba spelled backwards). We understand if you’re insulted, but we’d like you to go and try out anyway.”  

Far from feeling insulted, I explained that I’d be happy to go on any CM that came my way. I went to the audition, which had a shockingly huge line of young men who all had the rugged good looks of Kusakari Masao or Nadaka Tasuo.


 “Oh, forget it! I give up,” I thought, but it turns out the kantoku, Takeuchi Tetsurou, was a fan of mine.

He wasn’t there in person, but it seems he saw the video-tapes of the audition, including mine. Kusakari wanted me to do the CM, and Basokia’s parent company was OK with the idea. Kusakari was so happy to have me, he told me, “I have a musician’s CM coming up, and I’d like you to shutsuen in that, too!”

The band was L’Arc-en-Ciel, and my kyouen (co-star) was the pro-wrestler Fujiwara Kumichou. L’arc was a very tanbiteki (aesthetic, effete) band, and Fujiwara and I were the exact opposite, so the impact of the CM came from this contrast.

After that, Takeuchi offered me a 15-minute segment in the upcoming TONNEZUNOMINASANN NO OKAGEDESHITA show – a segment which was to be some sort of science fiction drama. Something about earth being no longer inhabitable, so people built a space-ship to search for other planets to colonize. Ishibashi-san was to be the captain, and I was to be the vice-captain. But in the end, Takeuchi also fought with the producers too much, and wound up getting fired after the fifth episode. It seems my fate is to only make connections with kantoku that themselves have no connections!

It seems that Takeuchi wanted every shot to be perfect, but the talent was busy and didn’t have time for all the torinaoshi (re-shoot), and this led to the fight with the producer.

Takeuchi went back to his former company, Production Video, and took me with him. First, we made a video for SPITSU.




But I didn’t even know who Spitsu was, which was awkward. “You don’t know Spits?!?” UNMEI NO HITO (“You are my Fate”) was their first single in two years, so the video showed them dead in body bags at a hospital, and I was to play the doctor who brought them back to life.



Soon after, the band Ulfuls did videos for the songs SHIAWASE DESUKA (‘Are you Happy?) and ASHITA GA ARUSA (‘There’s Always Tomorrow’), and I was able to meet the band at that time.

Finally, Ulfuls did a video for the theme song of the Gekijouban (theatrical version) of Kamen Raider Project G4, called JIKAN DA (‘It’s an Incident!’)

The next project was a CM for the new SEX MACHINEGUNS album. At that time, there was a lost seal in the Tama river, and it was a news sensation. The mass media even gave it a nickname: Tama-chan. For the CM, the kantoku said I should play the part of Tama-chan, and the story even got picked up by sports paper Tokyo Supo: “Is Tama-chan really Yamamoto Ryuuji?”

And it was thanks to my AV fame that Takeyama was able to get me these music video jobs: he was a fan of my poruno in the first place. Really, I’m glad I did everything, even eating unko. They say there’s a god of ko-un (幸運= good luck), and ko-un is just unko spelled backwards!

To be sure, I tried out for many other CM (including Playstation) but was always turned down because of my background – only Takeyama would give me a chance, and I owe that good luck to poruno  as well. Little by little, step by step, through well-connected fans of my AV, I was able to get back to the ippanna world. And I never gave up – although at times I felt like the tunnel which connects Hokkaido to Honshuu. Years of slow-going tunneling. I always challenge the voice which says, “That’s impossible!”

 
 
 

I GET A SUPPORTING ROLE IN MAEDA YOUICHI’S FINAL EIGA : SHIN KARAJISHI KABUSHIKIGAISHA



Of all my un-achieved dreams, the most ambitious was to star in an ippanna dramatic eiga, and have my name on the big posters. Of course my name was on the pinku eiga  posters all the time, but never on ippanna eiga  posters, not even once.

That dream came true thank to Maeda Youichi, in his film SHINKARAJISHI KABUSHIKIGAISHA. (New Chinese Lion Monster Corp. Incorporated)

Maeda also directed Arakan sensei’s final film, and thought of me as Arakan’s family, in a way. He asked me to come by sometime.

 At the meeting, he told me, “I was always grateful to Arakan for all he did for me.” As a way of showing his gratitude, he cast me for a junshuyaku (supporting lead role). But in fact, Maeda’s chronic alcohol abuse had caught up with him and he had terminal cancer. His face was yellowish. He didn’t tell anyone but his wife about his health problems. Facing immanent death, he still made the eiga . In the end, he died in the middle of the production.

His deshi, Nanbu Hideo (director of such hits as AI TO MAKOTO KANKETSU HEN) and Nagahama Hidetaka worked together to somehow complete the eiga . This switch of kantoku midway through an eiga  caused big problems for everyone, so SHIN KARAJISHI KABUSHIKIGAISHA did not turn out to be Maeda’s masterpiece, as everyone had hoped, but still, I’m grateful to him for allowing me to have the wonderful experience of co-starring in it.


 
 
 
NEXT IS ‘MITO KOUMON’! AND THEN ‘HISSATSU’!

No matter what else I do, I always wanted to return to Kyoto and do more jidaigeki eiga , but it was never possible. Actually, I did get one audition call, but my schedule was full, and I had to turn them down. Twice!  In the end, since I started doing AV, I only got one single scene in jidaigeki eiga. The rest of the ippanna films were all set in the present day. I’d all but given up on ever appearing in jidaigeki eiga, when the offer to work on MITO KOUMON came my way!

Even more surprising, this offer came from Touei satsueisho, where I had no real connections. And on top of that, MITO KOUMON was their longest-running bangumi, so I was especially grateful to be involved in it. However, I still wasn’t granted the wish I had had ever since the FIRST time I worked at Touei (back before I left for Tokyo):  they made me sleep in the oobeya. I still never could say ‘I got my own room’. 

That dream DID finally come true, however, on my next jidaigeki job: Shouchiku’s HISSATSUSHIGOGOJIN 2009 (‘Assassin 2009’). And here’s how I got the part: Touei satsueisho is located near Shouchiku’s satsueisho, so every day after shooting MITO KOUMON, I’d rush over to Shouchiku and beg any big-shot who I could get a hold of. They called me ‘the stalker.’

 
 
 
LOVE HERE, THERE, AND EVERYWHERE

I left Kyoto when I was 22, and came back when I was 50! And, just as I’d hoped, I finally got my own koushitsu. I savored the moment, sitting there in my private room, and drank a toast to myself: “You did it!”

My biggest regret is that my parents had already passed away, and didn’t live to see it. I’ll never know if or how proud my yakusha father would be of me. My mother was really dead-set against me moving to Tokyo, and I wanted to show her that I finally came home to Uzumasa. And that I’d been able to succeed in their beloved jidaigeki yakusha business.

 My daughters are still alive, and I wanted to see their reaction, too. I had so many things to say them, and this next section is for them:

I know you’re grown-up now and have experienced many things. And from time to time, I’m sure I’ve caused you to worry about me, and wonder what I’m thinking about. But I want you to know that no matter what Papa has done, Papa was always aiming to be just the sort of person he is now. And he never gave up on his dreams.

Someday, perhaps already, you have dreams of your own. Don’t let anyone tell you they’re impossible. Even if they seem a long way off, just pursue them resolutely, no matter where it takes you along the way. That way, your dreams will come true. If one or two years doesn’t bring any results, try twenty or thirty. Something is bound to break in your favor eventually. But it’s not enough to just wish for your dreams, you have to work at it, too.

Struggle hard!
 
 
 

MEETING MITSUYO, AND OPENING “IZAKAYA RYUU-CHAN”

The woman I currently run a bar with, I actually met her on the set of a shirouto jukujo  (amateur MILF) AV!

I told you about her before – she was the divorced single mother that raised two children single-handedly, and looked around 49. She was worried that, “All I do is raise children! I’m not a woman anymore, I’m an old mom. . . good for nothing but child-rearing.”

In desperation, she responded to one of our ads for chubby shirouto jukujo , for which I was the kantoku so our relationship was initially that of director-actress. I, too, at that time, was confronting life as a twice-divorced man, and as we talked on the set, I became fond of Mitsuyo. After that, she’d come visit me from time to time in Tokyo.

After my divorce was finalized, she said to me, “Living alone must be hard for you. I’m worried about you. I’m living alone, too. Maybe we should live together, and look after each other?” At that time, I was becoming unable to do penetration AV any more, so the timing was good as well.: I had already been thinking, “Well, it’s time to try something new, anyway.” 

I’d obtained financing from a friend of a friend who was wealthy. But he was also kind of stingy: I’d wanted to do a fried octopus restaurant in Shinjuku 2-chome, for all the hungry gays that come there for the bars. But my financier said the rents were too high in 2-chome, and insisted I find a basement place near Shinjuku Gyouen (park), where there was almost no foot traffic. I asked Mitsuyo to be the mama-san, told all my fans and friends to come, and used all my geinoukai (show biz) connections to get people to mention my place’s grand opening on their talk-shows, but in the end, the location sucked, and I closed after only three months.  

My super-fans were very sad at this, and exhorted me to try again!

“Next time, raise the funds yourself! Hurry up!” Mitsuyo said, adding fuel to the fire. But, thanks to the second divorce, I was almost wiped out. Taking the very last scraps of my savings, I was barely able to open a small izakaya (bar) in Nakano, called Ryuu-chan. This time I wanted to run it myself, instead of making Mitsyo do it, so I turned down AV work, and made the izakaya my priority. I wouldn’t do any AV anymore, just the ones I really liked. In this way, I was able to get a good balance.

As for the izakaya’s mama-san, she’s the first woman I’ve dated where I can relax and show my true face. It’s such a relief! I’ve dated many women and been married to two of them, but really, I’ve never been real with a woman until Mitsuyo.

Since we’ve been together, I’ve started to think like this: “People have to get old, don’t they? Even though I’ve been involved in a lot of adult eiga , but as an artist, as a person, maybe I’m still a child. Maybe at age 50, I’m just now starting to grow up. I’m just now realizing how nice it is to live a tranquil life with my mama-san.”

When I was younger, my attitude was, “I’m great, god-dammit! I will struggle against all obstacles, and only a famous jimusho and parts in big eiga  will satisfy me!” It was a very self-righteous, attitude, full of conflict and turmoil, and yet it was the fuel which got me through all my years of striving. I still have a defiant spirit, but now I’m fifty and have a steady mama-san, well, I can’t be confrontational all the time anymore! I’ve learned to find other pleasures in life.

 
 
 
EPILOG: I AM A BICYCLE

Well now! I’m finally in a relationship that works, and I’ve come to the end of my book as well. I’ve been an oobeya haiyuu, a poruno danyuu, then a so-called cult AV danyuu. . .my road has taken many twists and turns, you could say. And on my wild journey, I discovered one thing which I’d like to say to all my kohai (juniors – the younger actors) as they race towards their own goals: whatever happens, don’t give up.

And another thing . . .

“What?”, you say. “He’s certainly full of speeches today. Will it ever end?”

Well, in any case, there’s one more thing I’d like to add, on behalf of the whole AV world: If an AV kohai is trying hard, steadily walking down that path, and has a dream, give him a chance! When I was young, in the eyes of many ippanna haiyuu, doing AV work was considered nothing but a minus. But for me, I don’t think that’s the case.

For example, consider a young person, just starting out on their road to ippanna fame. They come from the countryside, with no connections. And first they try the gekidan (traveling theater troupe), but that doesn’t even pay enough to eat, so they start slaving away in mizu shoubai (prostitution and hostessing), just to make ends meet. By the way, this wastes five days a week! They persevere, still doing gekidan work, never giving up on their dream, waiting patiently for their break, instead of actively making I happen.

I’m a little different than that, I think.

When I have to explain myself, I generally use the metaphor of a bicycle. Even if it’s a very cheap bicycle, you still have to ride it every day, otherwise it’ll rust up. Even if it’s a very beat-up old thing, with the paint peeling off, you’re used to it and all its eccentricities. But if you fail to ride it for even one day a week – even one day a year, then the next time you take it out, you’ll definitely be unable to avoid an accident!

Shibai is the same way – no matter how difficult the circumstances, you have to persevere and do it every day. You have to be in front of a camera every day, even if it isn’t the kind of work you want to be doing just then. No matter how small the butai (stage), how terrible the contract, how strict the conditions, you ought to do it. And I think the AV world is a good place, in a way: it gives struggling young yakusha a place to work. What’s more, you get paid, and, just like in my case, later in your career important people will remember your name.

For instance, if I’d stuck with regular day-jobs, while sending out resumes to eiga companies . . . even if I finally did get an audition, I would be so nervous in front of the camera that I’d blow it. But, because of my many small, humble roles, I’d been in front of a camera every day, so I can be calm at the audition, and remember all my engi (acting techniques). Through long years of practice, I can handle anything that comes my way unexpectedly – the techniques are in my bones at this point.

So don’t think of small shibai (small roles) as a bad thing – think of them as a good thing, because they give you a chance to practice and improve your engi. It allows you to develop a ‘camera consciousness’ to the extent that you’re as natural on-camera as you are off. 

People often ask me how I could go from AV to NHK. I tell them, “If you have camera consciousness and self-confidence, anyone can do it!” It’s not as if NHK has a strict no-AV policy. Just, a lot of AV people assume it’s impossible, so they don’t even try.

You have to stick to your craft, that’s all. For example, say you’re working on an AV and they just barely finished the daihon (script) right before satsuei is scheduled to start. You’ll have to memorize all your serifu in one morning! Only if you’ve spent years on stage will you have the memory power to accomplish this. No matter what kind of geinou (show business) you’re in, adapting to sudden surprises is a fundamental part of your engi.

On the other hand, there are a lot of people who did catch a big break, but they caught it before they were ready. They hadn’t spent enough time paying dues, so they lacked the real skills to take advantage of their lucky break, and soon got fired. And, unlike small-time dues-payers, if you get fired from a big production, you don’t ever get called back.

And they might form amateur theater troupes with their friends, and rent a bar to put on a play – but it’s nothing but masturbation. They just perform for their own gratification. They pay all the costs, because no one wants to see it. A bunch of failed yakusha licking their wounds. That’s no good at all.

Even at the most marginal edges of geinoukai, you should have some income, something you can put on your tax return and say, “That income came from show-biz.”

These so-called ‘artists’ with their pretentious gekidan that actually have to pay TO perform, they can’t say that. Their style is meaningless, because it’s not being demanded by the working folks. They are only in it to satisfy themselves, that’s why I call it masturbation.

Real work means you are valued by others, you get a gyara, and so on. If not, you’re just ringing your own bell, and burying your head in your own private place so you don’t have to acknowledge the facts.

And the wider range of things you do, the more chances you have to make money, as well as broadening your appeal into different communities. More people in different places will remember you. And I’d like to be thought of as the man who paved the way for today’s generation of young AV yakusha who want to journey to the ippanna world. I’m telling you: if you’re struggling, you don’t have to stay in a gekidan until your big break. You can work in AV, you can work in poruno (eiga as opposed to videos – ed.), you can take many roads, and still potentially wind up mainstream. Take it from me, the man who turned a ‘minus’ into a ‘plus.’





Kazama Morio went from (soft-core) poruno eiga to ippanna fame, but so far no males from the hard-core AV world have made that kind of leap. Iijima Ai and Oikawa Nao are females that have, though.



Katou Taka appears on television, but not as a yakusha – he’s more of a novelty, who is billed as “famous AV danyuu Katou” Of course, I can’t deny his success or invalidate it. I’m just saying that when I shutsuen (appear) on TV, I’m not billed as Yamamoto the AV danyuu, but as Yamamoto the yakusha.


I want young AV danyuu to realize that AV guys have the potential to do anything that ippanna guys have. I don’t know how far this current generation will make it, in terms of ipannna success. But I do know that I’ve showed them one of the paths to get there.

I have one last thing I’d like to say to the AV community, and I’d like you to really think hard about it: the profound words which Hasegawa Kazuou told me so long ago: Butai is your mother, and eiga is your father.

 This is a truly profound thought. Every time I consider it, I have a lot of insights and recall many memories, but unfortunately I still can’t say I’ve figured it out. I’ve learned a lot of things in my many experiences, but this profound thought stays with me as a sort of eternal homework, reminding me that my engi (acting craft) still needs work. Hasegawa told me, “Keep trying hard, keep working, keep acting until you figure out my words.” And this, too, has lodged itself into the very bottom of my heart.

I don’t think I CAN quit the business before I figure it out! So therefore, it’s not my time to retire just yet : first I have to grasp the meaning of sensei’s wonderful riddle.

Completed on a chilly day, April 2010

Yamamoto Ryuuji

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