Fuyuki Murakami: 1911-2007
Authors: James Ballard and Keith Aiken
Special Thanks to Oki Miyano and Stuart Galbraith IV
Fuyuki Murakami, one of Toho’s regular supporting actors, passed away on Thursday, April 5th as a result of stomach cancer. He was 95 years old.
Fuyuki Murakami was born as Saisyuu Murakami in Fukuoka on December 23rd, 1911. After graduating from the Tokyo University Department of Economics, he began acting in theatre with the New Tsukiji Troupe. The troupe combined traditional Japanese theater with European-style drama, and helped launch the careers of several popular film actors of the time, including Minoru Chiaki (THE HIDDEN FORTRESS, GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN.) Following this, Murakami contracted to Toho in 1950, launching a career spanning more than 55 years working as an actor, voice actor, model, and narrator.
Over the years Murakami appeared in many of Toho’s classic genre films, usually taking on the roles of scientists or politicians. His early work included YOUNG GENERATION (Waka Hito, 1952), THE WOMAN WHO TOUCHED THE LEGS (Ashi ni Sawatta Onna, 1952), MR. PU (Pu-San, 1953), Senkichi Taniguchi’s FOGHORN (Muteki, 1953), Akira Kurosawa’s TO LIVE (Ikiru, 1952), ADOLESCENCE (Shinsuki, 1952), Ishiro Honda’s ADOLESCENCE PART II (Zoku Shishunki, 1953) and EAGLE OF THE PACIFIC (Taiheiyo no Washi, 1953).
Fans are likely to remember him for his role as Dr. Tanabe in Ishiro Honda’s classic GODZILLA (Gojira, 1954). A scientist studying the effects of atomic radiation in the aftermath of WWII, Tanabe assists Dr. Yamane (Takashi Shimura) in uncovering the cause of the disasters occuring in the vicinity of Odo Island. While not a major character in GODZILLA, Tanabe is involved in several key moments of the film including the examination of Godzilla’s footprint, the monster’s first appearance, and the attempt to determine Godzilla’s resting place at the bottom of Tokyo Bay. Perhaps Murakami’s strongest scene occurs in the aftermath of Godzilla’s raid on Tokyo, when Dr. Tanabe tests a small boy with a geiger counter and sadly discovers the child is highly radioactive. This scene would have packed a strong emotional punch for Japanese audiences so soon after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Murakami’s vast contribution to Toho’s Golden Age of cinema also included THE INVISIBLE MAN (Tomei Ningen, 1954), FLOATING CLOUDS (Ukigumo, 1955), RODAN (Sorano Daikaiju Radon, 1956), THE MYSTERIANS (Chikyuu Boueigun, 1957), VARAN (Daikaiju Baran, 1958), WHISTLE IN MY HEART (Kotan no Kuchibue, 1959), THREE TREASURES (Nippon Tanjou, 1959), BATTLE IN OUTER SPACE (Uchuu Daisenso, 1959), THE SECRET OF TELEGIAN (Densou Ningen, 1960), I BOMBED PEARL HARBOR (Hawai Middouei Daikaikusen: Taiheiyo no Arashi, 1960), THE HUMAN VAPOUR (Gasu Ningen Dai Ichigo, 1960), CRAZY FREE-FOR-ALL DON’T DELAY (Kureejii Sakusen Sentai Hissho, 1963), CRAZY ADVENTURE (Dai Bouken, 1965), INVASION OF ASTRO-MONSTER (Kaiju Daisenso, aka MONSTER ZERO, 1965), JAPAN’S LONGEST DAY (Nihon no Ichiban Nagai Hi, 1967), SCATTERED CLOUDS (Midaregumo, 1967) and ADMIRAL YAMAMOTO (Rengo Kantai Shirei Chokan: Yamamoto Isoroku, 1968).
Around this time, Murakami also made appearances in several genre television series, such as ULTRA Q (Urutora Kyuu, 1966), MIRROR MAN (Miraaman, 1970), Akio Jissoji‘s SILVER MASK (Shirubaa Kamen, 1971) and Toei’s SPIDER-MAN (Supaidaaman, 1978).
More recently he appeared in FANCY DANCE (Fanshi Dansu, 1989), SUMO DO SUMO DON’T (Shiko Funjatta, 1992) the direct-to-video film BREED: BLOOD-SUCKING CHILDREN (Breed Chi wo Suu Kodomo, 2000), TV dramas such as MITO KOMON (1983), THE STRANGEST STORY I HAVE EVER HEARD (Yonimo Kimyona Monogatari, 1990), EARTH’S CHILD (Daichi no Ko, 1995), ARUGI (1997), ULTRAMAN DYNA (Urutoraman Daina, 1997), and the TV movie THE ATTENDANT’S SONG (Tsukisoibito no Uta, 1998) alongside actress Kumi Mizuno.
His final role was the grandfather of the leading character Makio Sakaki (Tomoya Tagase) in the TV series MY BOSS MY HERO (Mai Bosu Mai Hiiroo, 2006) for the Nippon Television Network.