FUJIYAMA ICHIBAN: Japanese Live-Action Tokusatsu in America
Festival Tomorrow in Torrance, CA
Author: Mark Jaramillo
Official Site: fujiyamaichiban.com
Japan has a rich history of colorful live action heroes gracing television and theater screens to the delight of fans of all ages. Some of the more popular franchises have spawned live events at various venues and festivals. Up until its closing in September 2014, the Ultramanland amusement park in Japan had daily stage shows featuring costumed actors in elaborately choreographed battle scenes complete with light and sound effects. Unfortunately, American fans have only had the opportunity to read about or view videos of the Japanese shows on the internet. Now, an authentic Japanese hero has been created in America to defend the Earth and act as an ambassador of Japanese culture. This original hero is known as FUJIYAMA ICHIBAN!
Fujiyama Ichiban is a new character from Samurai Action Studio, a Japanese Stage Combat Team founded by Michi Yamato. Mr. Yamato created the character of Fujiyama Ichiban specifically to reach out to American fans. In the storyline, Sun Taiyo is a 19 yr old college student who was born in Japan and raised in Los Angeles. He is targeted by a mysterious alien organization called the Dark Matter Empire who is bent on conquering the Earth and destroying the environment. Dark Matter captured Sun’s father, who is a scientist who was developing new technology to harvest natural energy. Now in danger himself, Sun is aided by Tsurugi Sensei, a Japanese sword master who teaches him how to transform into the Samurai hero, Fujiyama Ichiban. Also helping Sun in his fight against Dark Matter is his college instructor, Professor Sebastian, who builds the Fujiyama solar-powered armor suit.
Joining Sun in his fight is his girlfriend Sakura Sugiyama, who is given the power to transform into Sakura Ichiban, whose main weapons are double swords. Sakura Ichiban also utilizes her tessen (battle hand fan) to generate the Sakura Blizzard, a windstorm to blow away her enemies. During crisis situations, Fujiyama Ichiban’s support bird-robot, Emerald, appears. Emerald will usually aid with new gadgetry or weapons for Fujiyama and Sakura Ichiban.
The story of Fujiyama Ichiban is played out not only in the live shows, but also in a free bi-monthly magazine that is distributed to select businesses in Southern California. There have been 12 issues thus far, and they can be viewed online at fujiyamaichiban.com.
The man who created Fujiyama Ichiban is Michi Yamato, an actor, stunt coordinator, and martial arts instructor who has vast experience in the tokusatsu production field. Mr. Yamato was born in Tokyo and from an early age, was a fan of such shows as KAMEN RIDER. At the age of 16, he was accepted into the prestigious Ono Kenyoukai Action Studio, who directed and performed the battle scenes in various Sentai and Kamen Rider shows. Under the supervision of their sensei, Masaru Okada, they developed the fighting style and henshin poses that are trademark to the series. Yamato gained experience in suit acting in shows such as ROBOT 8-CHAN (aka OUR DEAR ROBOT 8, ロボット８ちゃん, Robotto Hacchan, 1981-82) and BIOMAN (超電子バイオマン, Choodenshi Baioman, 1984-85). In 1993, he immigrated to Los Angeles, where his various jobs included being an editor for Terebi-Kun Magazine.
In the wake of their phenomenal success with MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS, Saban Entertainment imported other Japanese shows to the American market in an attempt to replicate the successful formula. Yamato learned of Saban’s search for a stunt coordinator for the American-shot footage and applied for the job. Thrilled to have a former member of the Japanese troupe that helped invent the genre, Saban not only hired Yamato as the stunt coordinator for their productions of MASKED RIDER (1995-96) and BIG BAD BEETLEBORGS (1996-98), but also cast him to wear the costume of Masked Rider for the American-shot footage.
Yamato has since expanded into voice-acting in such notable productions as BABEL (2006), THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT (2006), LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA (2006), JUMPER (2008), OCEAN’S THIRTEEN (2007), and SPEED RACER (2008). He also opened his schools, Samurai Karate and Samurai Action Studio, where he teaches martial arts, chanbara (Japanese sword fighting technique), and stage combat choreography for private students as well as movie and television productions.
Mr. Yamato explains that he created Fujiyama Ichiban to promote awareness of environmental concerns as well as Japanese culture. Given that Sentai are uniquely Japanese, a tokusatsu hero is the perfect ambassador for his message. “I live by the code of Bushido in everything I do. I want to share that with everyone in America through Fujiyama Ichiban”.
In its two year existence, Fujiyama Ichiban has evolved from a bimonthly magazine to a live stage show that is performed at special events throughout Southern California. Yamato has bigger plans, however. “People will soon be able to follow the adventures of Fujiyama Ichiban in webisodes on the internet. A television show is planned”.
Sunday, December 15 will see the first Fujiyama Ichiban Festival held at the Miyako Hybrid Hotel in Torrance, California from 10:00am to 6:00pm. Attendees will be able to view costumes of the Dark Monsters, visit food and game booths, get free gifts, watch a Fujiyama Ichiban movie at a screening room, and shop for merchandise. In addition, live stage shows will be held at 10:30am, 1:00pm, 3:00pm, and 5:00pm. The festival will also feature the debut of the brand new hero Ninja Ichiban!
FUJIYAMA ICHIBAN Festival
Directed by Michi Yamato
December 15th (Sunday), 10:00am-6：00pm
Miyako Hybrid Hotel
21381 S. Western Ave., Torrance, CA 90501
Admission $5, free for ages 2 and under