Pymmik's unofficial tanslation
koji Yakusho's Official Website: Messages ( 1 ) ( 2 ) ( 3 )
(Sep.21, 01 - Mar. 03)
Koji' Yakusho's Interview sites with some photos (Japanese only)
Created on Sept.20, 2006
Updated on December 22, 2012
1) Talking about Akira Kurosawa, in a TV interview,
Yakusho: " The first Akira Kurosawa movie that I saw was "Ikiru"(1952). When I was very young, one of
my elder brothers ( I am the youngest of five brothers) used to tell me the story of "Ikiru" again and again
beside my bed before I fell asleep, until I remembered the whole story. I also recall that he sometimes sang
the song of "Gondola" which the hero sings in the movie. Later when I grew up, I went to see "Ikiru" at a
movie theater in Tokyo. I saw the movie, remmbering my brother's story. I then found myself enthralled by
the movie and came to realize that Akira Kurosawa was indeed superb."
Yakusho says that his favorite Kurosawa movies are "Ikiru", "Kumonosujo/The Throne of Blood" (1957),
"Akahige/ Red Beard"(1965) and "Shichini no Samurai/Seven Samurai"(1954). He also mentions
"Yojimbo"(1961) as being one of the most impressive Kurosawa movies.
Yakusho:" I would say that "Yojimbo" is a movie which one can enjoy more than "Seven Samurai". The
combination of Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune seems to be one of those rare cases in movie history. I
believe that Toshiro Mifune is certainly the type of the actor who truly represents Japan. Mifune's
manliness, strength, agreeableness and sense of humor are really striking.
Through "Yojimbo" I get the impression that Kurosawa himself simply enjoys seeing the two villains
fighting each other. I feel that lots of rehearsals were done for Kurosawa's movies. Take "Tachimawari"
(fighting) scenes, for instance. In such scenes in other director's movies where a hero fights against lots of
enemies, I cannot help noticing that there are sometimes some samurai actors who do not know what to do
next; but as far as Kurosawa movies are concerned, I find that there are no such samurai actors at all. I
must confess how strong a hero looks to me when there are no such samurai actors around him wondering
what to do next. I think that Mifune's fighting is best. His speed and power in fighting scenes would be
difficult to find even among the present-day Japanese actors."
Yakusho then referred to Tatsuya Nakadai, his acting teacher at the Mumeijuku Actors' Studio.
Yakusho: "When Nakadai appeared in Seven Samurai" as one of the passers-by at a scene where the
villagers started looking for seven masterless samurai, I hear that he had to take part in lots of rehearsals
requested by Kurosawa. Nakadai later reported that, when everybody else was having lunch, he was trained
by Kurosawa how to walk as samurai and thought that he would never want to work with Kurosawa. Now
we know that Kurosawa trained Nakadai on purpose because he found he had within him great talent as an
actor. We can tell this from the fact that Nakadai was subsequently given some important roles in
Kurosawa's movies. I think that Nakadai was naturally a gifted actor, and that Kurosawa, for his part, had
the talent to find good actors."
Yakusho: " My impression of Mifune in "Yojimbo" was that he looked like a Japanese Samurai, whereas
Nakadai looked rather like a westerner, even though he
was wearing Kimono; the fact that he was wearing a scarf around his neck and
carried a gun might have given me such an impression. Nakadai, as he was in this movie, would not give
any sense of incongruity even in so to speak "Spaghetti Westerns." It is, therefore, quite understandable
that "Yojimbo" was actually remade as "a spaghetti westen." I hear that Nakadai with a scarf in
"Yojimbo" had a reputation that his action looked like that of a ballet dancer. I think that Kurosawa
succeeded in drawing Nakadai's charm out of him very well.
Talking of Nakadai, I remember his "Kagemusha" and "Ran". "Ran" is the adaptation of a Shakespeare's
drama. Nakadai in "Ran" really convinces me of the existence of Shakespeare's world.
In Kurosawa movies, all the actors look great, don't they? The actors all look lively, especially in his black
and white movies. His directing was thorough. I feel that Kurosawa enjoyed directing actors in various
ways. My impression is that in Kurosawa movies, even the actors with minor roles performed convincingly
well. The greatest charm of Kurosawa movies, I would say, is that the actors all look very attractive. This is
partly because his direction was firm, as a result of repeated rehearsals, but partly also because the setting
and art were good, too. The actors, after all, act in a false world, but when the chair I sit on or the walls, for
instance, are all similar to the real ones, I feel that I can work comfortably even though I am in such a false
world. Actors can give better performances in such an atmosphere. Every time I see Kurosawa movies, I
feel that I am encouraged, thinking that I may be able to appear in such good movies. After seeing
Kurosawa movies, I feel that I have been given courage. When I'm depressed and see his movies, I gain
hope in my mind that I'll be able to appear in such good movies one day. His movies are really good."
Translated by Pymmik on March 24, 2003.
A Magazine Interview: Extracts from the "My 40's" April issue
2)Q: "You have appeared on TV and on the stage but it seems that you have always given films the top
priority. We hear that it takes quite a lot of time to finish filming. And moreover, some of your films have
been low budget films. What is the main reason that you have become so involved with films?"
Yakusho: "I surely made a debut on TV; and I still appear on TV and on the stage, but I would rather like
to work with films for a while. And that it is surely a hard job. But when I come to think that those films
in which I have appeared are now being shown in distant foreign countries, I feel very happy. One of the
pleasures of appearing in films is that after the filming sessions are over, the films start 'walking by
themselves' in various countries."
"And when I go to foreign film festivals, I am really happy to have strangers come up and speak to me,
saying 窶廬 have seen your such-and-such a film." To think that people in various countries really enjoy
my films is great fun. Moreover, thanks to my films, I have been given a number of film prizes; and for the
sake of such films I want to do my best. There is always a hope, in the case of films, that they may be shown
in movie theaters in various foreign countries."
"I'm often asked which film character is very similar to my own, but there is not such a character, which is
similar to mine. All the characters I have portrayed are different. However, when I am in the middle of
shooting a film, I may feel that my role character is closest to my own."
Q: "It is often said in regard to actors that when they concentrate on their acting, they tend to have the
reflection of the characters they perform, even when they come home. You have appeared in such films as
comedy, horror, suspense, and romance, I bet that your family must be having a tough time."
Yakusho: "I try to change my mood at work and at home, but I may be influenced by my film role
character even when I am at home. My family don't mention but they may think, 'Oh, a different person
has come back from work today."
When Koji is off duty, it is his routine to take his dog, Petite (a nine-year-old female) for a walk.
Q: "Isn窶冲 there a possibility that some fans may recognize you-being such a famous actor-while you are
out walking your dog?"
Yakusho: "Never! While I am out walking my dog, I am merely an 'Ossan', that is to say, a very ordinary
Incidentally, I leave it to my wife to decide what I am to wear at home. Sometimes I spend all day in my
pyjamas when there is nothing special to do."
"My interests? Actually I don't have any special interests that I am enthusiastic about, but I do like
woodwork. I like tools for woodwork so I collect knives for woodwork, made in various foreign countries
and make boxes. When I am free, I engage in making various kind of stuff, but I can't say that I have any
Q: "Then your chief interest is your work?"
Yakusho: "Well,you may be right about that.
A Magazine Interview: Extracts from the "My 40's" April issue
3) Artists' Refuge
Koji Yakusho wrote a short essay in Japanese for the 2001 September issue of the "Obra" about his visit to
the South of France, when he attended the Cannes Film Festival. His film, "Warm Water under a Red
Bridge" directed by Shohei Imamura was due to be shown at the Festival. The following is Pymmik's
translation of extracts from the essay,which is entitled, "Artists' Refuge."
While I was visiting the Cannes Film Festival in May this year (2001), I visited Biot, an old village, in the
South of France, which had been known for its pottery since medieval times. I wanted to have my own time
there between the press interviews.
I arrived at the village after about 30 minutes' taxi ride. It was a trip following the sun. I found Biot to be a
quiet village with cobblestone streets. I smelled the smell of leaves. The sky was purely blue. I was able to
feel the shift of time through the wind in the morning, the strong sunshine during the daytime and the wind
in the evening. I heard a mother calling her child through the wind.
This was one of the moments which I am not able to experience in Tokyo. I felt quite relaxed and relieved.
This was the merit of the trip. I sensed that the village was filled with art-loving atmosphere.
Many people spoke to me while I was having lunch at a village restaurant: obviously they found an Oriental
man like me quite unusual. Surprisingly all the people there insisted that they were painters. The village
residents are all painters! This village could certainly be a setting for films. My imagination became active.
I next visited the Picasso museum of art which is housed in a castle in Antibes, about 30 minutes' taxi ride
Picasso is superb; really superb. His work makes us feel that even we could paint; but Picasso's pictures, the
closeness and the distance between us and him must surely confirm that Picasso is genius. The encounter
with artistic work is one of the great attractions of making a journey. Standing before the original work, I
imagine how long the artist had been standing at this place. How many months, how many years! It is the
weight of time the artist had spent struggling with his work.
Standing there, I feel that I receive some energy from the artistic work. No words are needed when we see
not only artistic work but also beautiful scenery and unknown towns. We just observe with the shutter in
our heart open. We take things as they are. This sort of experience remains somewhere in my mind and
body, and helps us when we act; that least what I believe. I shall go on a trip again and the experiences
during the trip will be recorded in the recollections of my mind.
4) Magazine interviews on "Memoirs of a Geisha/ Sayuri"