by Chris MaGee
When most of us think about the most famous Japanese actors of all time names like Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, and Shintaro Katsu immediately come to mind. In Japan, though, one of the biggest stars of the past 50 years has to be Yujiro Ishihara. Starring in 50 films over his 26 year career Ishihara got his start at the age of 22 acting in the two 1956 big screen adaptations of his older brother, author and now politician, Shintaro Ishihara's groundbreaking "Sun Tribe" novels "Season of the Sun" and "Crazed Fruit". His boyish good looks and screen charisma in these films immediately launched him into super stardom. He would go on to work with some of the biggest directors in Japanese cinema (Hiroshi Inagaki, Hideo Gosha, Toshio Masuda) as well as cultivate an equally successful career as an enka singer. Sadly Ishihara succumbed to liver cancer at the tragically young age of 52, but since then his legend has grown at home in Japan amongst the older generation, so much so that a memorial museum dedicated to him was opened in Otaru, Hokkaidō and memorial services have been televised on the anniversary of his death for the past 22 years.
The latest of these televised memorial services will take place on July 17th at Tokyo's National Olympic Stadium (Kokuritsu Kasumigaoka Rikujō Kyogijō) where workmen have spent weeks building a reconstruction of Yokohama's Soujiji Temple where Ishihara's remains were interred. Thousands of fans are expected for this Buddhist memorial service, while hundreds of thousands more can tune into specials and broadcasts of Ishihara's films on any number of Japanese networks.
Now if that isn't some heavy duty popularity I don't know what is. Thanks to Japan Zone for the details on this. And as a way for all of us to share in the memorial festivities here's Yujiro Ishihara performing his 1965 hit "Futari no Sekai (World of Two)".