Herotaku Archives: Interview – Michi Yamato of Fujiyama Ichiban Part III
Hello Herotaku, today is the conclusion & restoration of our interview with Michi Yamato. For those who have missed both Parts I and II, Mr. Yamato is a stunt actor from Japan who moved to America. Since immigrating here he has worked for Saban Entertainment during the 90s, as well as started his own stunt team, Samurai Action (samurai stage combat school) which currently produces the indie-American Tokusatsu, Fujiyama Ichiban. The final segment will feature Mr. Yamato’s hopes for the future, and about to whom he gives his thanks to.
Now, with the show’s success building off of the release of the first couple episodes and with it being talked about it within the actual community of fans, where do you want to see the actual show go? Are you still filming right now? Do you plan to continue the series, and get it to be a full length episodic series, or is this just a short production?
Mr. Yamato: I’m thinking that Fujiyama Ichiban will be a long production like the Sentai Series or the Batman or another series. So we finished the first 12 episodes already and we are [in] post-production now. I’m currently managing the second season of Fujiyama Ichiban, so I’d like to put this program on the TV, Direct-to-DVD Movies, or as comic books, something like that.
Before we close up, here are just a few random questions. After growing up with the original Ichigo and a lot of the original Sentai series, do you have any favorite shows from the Heisei Era or the late Showa Era? Like did something stand out for you?
Mr. Yamato: That’s a good question because my favorite show is the original, Kamen Rider and Kamen Rider V3 as well as Go-ranger because my stunt team, Ohno Kenyukai took care of the first 10 Kamen Rider Series and also Go-ranger. I preferred the Showa series because in all that time my senior, my sempai, at Ohno Kenyukai was still working on Kamen Rider and Super Sentai. Once the Heisei Era began, I felt I didn’t have a specific program which I liked. Sometimes I watch them. But I think I feel like Heisei series and the Showa, are different programs. That is my sense of it, because [in] the Heisei we use lots of CGI, but before Heisei we couldn’t use CGI because CGI didn’t exist. So I think that’s modern Tokusatsu feels like completely different genre. However when I was producing Fujiyama Ichiban and I finished filming, I began to understand that CGI is one of the very important elements to create such a hero because before Heisei Era we just shoot, we did possibly dangerous stunts, edit the footage, and then voiced over. That was it. But then in Heisei we do shooting, we still do stunts, voice-over and then do CGI. So now we completely need CGI, because I realized that CGI is one of the huge, gigantic elements to evolve and complete a Tokusatsu program.
I understand what you’re saying. That you are disconnected with the Heisei Era series’ because of the update in modern aspects of the use of CGI to help replicate and replace a lot of the old wire-work and the blue screen effect of energy blasts.
Mr. Yamato: That’s completely right because I was working for both sides. The no green screen era and the green screen era. That is why I feel like I draw the line between the CGI era of Tokusatsu and before CGI Tokusatsu era. Maybe I draw a line, because I can’t see which one I like, or which one’s my best. I love the whole Tokusatsu program because we are completely betting our life to do it, to create it. Because in costume, if I want to flip from the building and miss the crash pad, we are gone, everything is gone. I cannot say which is one is best and which one to do. Everything for me, Tokusatsu is just love, I love them. That’s my best answer… maybe.
This is a question from a friend of my mine: he asks were you a part of the world record breaking stunt team and suit actors for Super Hero Taisen? That was the movie that came out a couple of years ago where it actually was the largest Japanese production of suit actors and stunts.
Mr. Yamato: No, no I was not. That was maybe 5 years ago. I’m living in Los Angeles already for 20 years and I’m working for Hollywood movies too, as a voice actor. So I don’t work for Toei, maybe after 12 years maybe. But the Fujiyama Ichiban stunt guy is from Toei. His name is Shota Tsuji.
I think I’ve heard his name before I am just unsure which series I can put him to.
Mr. Yamato: He worked for the Kamen Rider Taisen: Heisei vs. Showa. Mr. Hiroshi Fujioka, the First Rider, original actor was in it; you know Hiroshi Fujioka?
Yes, yes I do even though I’ve not seen a lot of the original series. Many Americans I believe recognize him for his role as Segata Sanshiro.
Mr. Yamato: Well, Mr. Hiroshi Fujioka is like my sensei too because he has always taken care of me, as a mentor would a student. He did the Henshin transformation in that movie. Shota Tsuji was working for the movie, as one of the Kamen Riders and also another movie, Sentai and TV series, everything.
The last question that we have is what are some words of wisdom that you have for us, for aspiring stunt actors, directors, fans, writers to this genre?
Mr. Yamato: Keep holding on to your dream. Dreams will come true someday, because I am Japanese and I was born in Japan and then in my childhood I saw [the] first Kamen Rider. I loved Kamen Rider and I wanted be Kamen Rider when I was 6 years old. Then when I was in Junior High I made a Kamen Rider film as an 8mm film, we didn’t have video at the time, but that lead to me joining the team of the Kamen Rider stunt team, Ohno Kenyukai. I learned the stage combat and also how to direct, eventually getting the idea that to work in Hollywood with the Japanese stage combat. Fortunately I got the part from Masked Rider in Hollywood and I made a Henshin, a transformation pose by myself. It was completely my dream, but I was born in Japan, but I made a transformation pose of the first Hollywood, American, Masked Rider. It was completely my dream, my dream came true. The reason that is, is that I love Tokusatsu, I love Kamen Rider, I love Sentai, that’s why I became [the] Kamen Rider in Hollywood. Can you believe that? It’s kind of strange and it’s a like a miracle for me. After that I tried to produce one of the Superheroes called Shogun Cop. It was completely a mess, I failed it, but after that I kept working and this time I produced Fujiyama Ichiban and the reaction has been pretty good and I keep doing it. So following my experience taught me to just believe in your dream and if you believe dream hard enough, your dream is going to come true.
Thanks. That’s great because I know several in this community whether I work with them or not who try to make their own hero or become a part of the Tokusatsu. It is great to hear a story like this from you. Just reading your filmography I was honestly impressed, and partially could not believe how far you have come. But now I must ask who do you have to thank for getting where you are?
Mr. Yamato: One of them is James Cameron, not from Tokusatsu though. James Cameron is a great entertainer because my favorite movie is Terminator. It’s entertaining, the storyline is pretty good and the action was great. Also James Cameron is a pioneer to do such, not a Tokusatsu, but an independent action/ robot movie. Also my sensei Masaru Okada, he is the first Masked Rider bad guy, Spider Man, you know the Kumo Otoko. My sensei played the Kumo Otoko, in Japan, the Spider Man, in the first Masked Rider episode squaring off with Hiroshi Fujioka, Takeshi Hongo.
He was also a stunt actor too, correct? Because I’ve heard that he did the actual stunts on the show in suit as well.
Mr. Yamato: Yes, yes, of course that’s right. In the first Masked Rider they did not have any example because before the Kamen Rider was Ultraman. Ultraman was the first Tokusatsu gigantic hero and the first human sized hero was Kamen Rider. My sensei Masaru Okada, he was a stunt coordinator for Masked Rider to the tenth Kamen Rider and he played Kumo Otoko, I mean Spider Man in the first episode of Kamen Rider. Mr. Hiroshi Fujioka was playing Takeshi Hongo who was Kamen Rider as well as the suit actor because they didn’t have an example at the time. We had to put the stunt man into the main hero suit. We didn’t have such an idea. So Mr. Hiroshi Fujioka was fighting with my Sensei, Mr. Masaru Okada. After that Mr. Masaru Okada did most of the Kamen Rider series and also Goranger and he made choreography and also he was stunt and also the main suit actor. That’s why I was inspired from them.
I thank you yet again for giving us this chance to have this interview.
Mr. Yamato: You’re welcome! I enjoyed talking with you. …
This concludes our interview with Mr. Michi Yamato, creator of Fujiyama Ichiban. Next time, we will be talking with the series’ lead Adam Forrest who plays Sun Taiyo/ Fujiyama Ichiban. Readers can also listen to our un-cut audio interview, which is now on Herotaku’s Official Youtube Channel. Then for those who wish to see Fujiyama Ichiban, head over to its YouTube channel and subscribe, as well as follow Fujiyama Ichiban on Facebook and/or Twitter.
Information on Mr. Michi Yamato’s Mentors
Mr. Hiroshi Fujioka: Born in 1946 and is best known for his role as the lead in the original Kamen Rider (1971) television series, as Takeshi Hongo/ Kamen Rider 1 (Ichigo). Since then, Mr. Fujioka has reprised the role countless time with most recently in the 2014 film “Heisei Riders vs. Showa Riders: Kamen Rider Taisen feat. Super Sentai” and 2016 film “Kamen Rider Ichigo”. Along with being the original Kamen Rider, he is also known as Segata Sanshiro the mascot for the Sega Saturn and while having made appearances on other hit Japanese television shows, Hollywood, and Hong Kong, whether it be in live-action, voiceover roles, or as a martial artist.
Mr. Masaru Okada: Chairman of the Ohno Kenyukai Society, which was in charge of stunt direction at Toei on the Kamen Rider and Super Sentai Franchises. One of earliest roles, as stated by Mr. Yamato was that he was Kumo Otoko (Spidaman). He was also the suit actor for both Kamen Rider 1 (Ichigo) and Kamen Rider 2 (Nigo).
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