[Translated by Izumisano on 15.09.2010. I will remove the text below and add a referral link when she posts this articles in full at her blog, Masha Heart]
Fukuyama Masaharu: The Future
I’d known it all along. That manliness, that melodic resounding voice, that unpretentiousness, and then....
F: “Ah, aren’t you going to try the one in the middle? It’s delicious when it’s hot.”
Yes, and that unconscious display of consideration. I’d known about it all along. And yet, I was once again enraptured by that magnetic aura, pulling me towards him.
I was also aware of how extremely busy he was - the uncompromising standards of filming in Ryomaden; making use of any breaks in his already harsh schedule to record his new songs. Apparently one such question was put forth during the AGM of his management company, Amuse:
F: “A shareholder asked: Is it possible for Fukuyama-san to be given a good rest to take care of his health? (laugh) I’m very sorry to have caused so much worry. But I really don’t have much time to rest. Generally, I’m either working on the drama, or eating, or sleeping. Any extra time will be spent on recording, I don’t have much private time left.”
Just the day before, he was scrambling to complete the mastering of his new single. Why did he choose to release his new songs right at the peak of the Ryomaden filming?
F: “Well, we have to keep releasing new songs. That’s inevitable. (laugh)”
In fact, the song “Shonen” which was created during this time, showed a strong influence by Ryomaden.
F: “Particularly during lyric-writing, I was thinking about the young Ryoma-san. And as I kept writing, it gradually came to the way it is now.”
Now in his forties, the role of Sakamoto Ryoma has caused some changes in Fukuyama Masaharu. Not the big (physical) changes that one might see, but a significant impact on the way he now looks to the future. For example, in the past, he would always try to respond to what people wanted of him, irrespective of what he wanted to do. In other words, he never focused on himself (literal translation: He never showed an ego)
F: “I’ll still try to give them what they want, but going forward, I think (some) people would like to see more of what I want to offer (literal translation: they would want a more egotistic approach). When I watch other people's performances, I’d like to look at what that person really wants to show me. Somehow, I feel we’re at that stage now (for me). I don’t think that, doing what you want is necessarily a manifestation of the ego. If you hold back on what you can show, then you’re focusing on yourself (literal translation: If you only let a little seep through, if you let it drip out, that is ego) So I’ll get on with it and not worry too much.”
When we look back at his career, there were turning points which were marked by the achievement of outstanding results. In 1990, he debut as a singer-songwriter. In the year 2000, “Sakurazaka” became a great hit, selling over 2 million copies. In 2010, he starred in Ryomaden. With a cycle of every 10 years, this seemed like a beautifully planned blueprint for life (literally “life design”).
F: “No, it would have been nice if I were good at planning, but I’m not (laugh). That was all a coincidence. In the end, it all depended on what I was able to do at the time.”
So now that he has entered his forties, he should have some idea on how to approach the things he has yet to achieve and the things he should be doing from now on.
F: “I think I do. As a musician, there are still many things I can do. There are no age barriers to music, or the type of songs you can sing. But then, actors will be restricted by what they can do. Of course, as you age, you can’t play young characters anymore. This time, the role of Ryoma-san who died at 33 was played by a 41-year old, and he had to do it from the teenage years. Honestly, there was no way I could have played a teenager. But in view of the unique set-up of a historical drama, we’d just have to ask the audience to pretend not to notice (laugh). But in a contemporary drama, the age variance allowed could be no more than 3 or 4 years. So you wouldn’t find me appearing in “Crows Zero” (laugh). An actor’s range (of work) narrows down with time.”
He’s never worked with such a big cast of actors, before Ryomaden. Through this new experience, he was able to study the performance of different actors with his own eyes, and this has brought about a slight change in the way he sees the acting profession.
F: “I guess actors need to be physically healthy to be able to do their job. Say in music, if my arms were injured, I could still sing. If my legs were hurt, I could still play the guitar. But you can’t do that as an actor. When you’re healthy, you can still play an invalid, but when you’re sick, you won’t be able to handle sick or healthy roles. At the same time, age limits the work you get, so it’s really hard (to be an actor). In your forties, you could still find some parts to play, but how much work is there when you’re in your fifties or sixties? This is something I really have to think about.”
Living in the Spirit of the Times
Perhaps he may seem like someone who has it all. But people who know Fukuyama Masaharu, are well aware of how hard he had worked every day to accomplish each step. Yet he just said quietly “I didn’t do anything special.”
F: “People with a goal wouldn’t hold back on their efforts. To work hard unreservedly, build it up and maintain this state as the normal way of life, I think that’s the least we can do. Working hard is a way of preparing yourself. I have never thought of myself as someone with a lot of talent. I’m not an excellent singer nor songwriter and I’m not a very good actor either. But I do hope to carry on (in this business). So I have no choice but to prepare myself for that. I guess this is part of my job too.”
And it's obvious that this diligence is what constantly pushes him to the next level. So given his continuous efforts, how does he see the future? As a musician, as an actor.
F: “Music and acting are simply ways to achieve a goal, and not the goal itself. If that target does exist, then (for me) it would be as they say, to live in the spirit of the times. People have been singing love songs for so many years, but when they come out from young artists, somehow we’d get a fresh new sound. It’s true, the times are constantly changing. So to be able to catch and decode it in my own way, makes life a lot of fun for me now.”
What it means by “the times are changing”, is to be able to discard outdated things when necessary. However....
F: “In the past, I used to resist changes too. But ever since “Ryomaden”, I’ve started to think about a lot of things. The present Tokyo International Forum is located where the old Tosa Hantei (a daimyo’s residence in Edo (Tokyo) or another Han) used to be, so Ryoma-san would have walked on those streets nearby. That was just 150 years ago. When you think about it this way, the things we take for granted now, would soon become objects of the past too. 50 years later, 100 years later, shapes and appearances would be different. As the times change, new trends and developments will sprout, that's for certain.”
When I touched on his first place ranking in the CREA “Good Man” survey last year, he simply said “Oh, that.....” At that time, besides “The Man I most want to be Embraced by”, “The Nicest Male Artist”, he was also number one in the “The Man who should Get Married”. His face seemed to ease a bit on the topic of marriage.
F: “Many young actors and musicians have got married recently. When I heard about it, I thought I’m really a late left-over now (laugh). I’m starting to feel rather edgy. To be single at 60 or 70 years old is probably going to be very lonely, isn’t it? If I slip and fall in the shower during my bath, I’ll have to wait until my Manager visits before anybody finds me (laugh). But I guess I’ll get married sooner or later. Though I’ve been saying sooner or later, sooner or later, for years and years already (laugh).”