Actors & Actresses
(Nagasaki Prefecture, 1956- )
Born Hashimoto Koji in 1956 in Nagasaki, 'Yakusho' was a 20-year old working at a municipal ward office (yakusho, geddit?!) in Tokyo when a visit to see the Gorky play The Lower Depths convinced him that he wanted to pursue an acting career. He was one of 4 chosen out of 800 applicants to the Mumeijyuku acting studio. While at the school he met actress Kawatsu Saeko, the woman who would become his wife. He became popular in 1983 after appearing in an NHK period drama and began to establish a solid career as a TV and stage actor. He also had a part in the popular Itami Juzo hit Tampopo (1986).
But it was in 1996-97 that Yakusho's career really took off. It was a massive year for him by any standard: the romantic comedy Shall We Dance? was a huge hit that caught the public imagination and started a social dance craze (and was later re-made in Hollywood, with Richard Gere in Yakusho's lead role); The Eel (Unagi), a darker, more intense movie, won critical plaudits and the Palme d'Or prize at Cannes; Lost Paradise (Shitsurakuen) gained instant cult status in Japan with its sexually-charged portrayal of middle-aged forbidden love and also made a star of actress Kuroki Hitomi; Cure was an intelligent thriller; and another lesser-known film, Bouncing Young Girls (Bounce Kogyals), while less successful showed his ability to play a darker, more sinister character. Suddenly Yakusho was everywhere, advertising Kirin beer and curry, appearing in Shakespeare and adorning every magazine cover.
You might have expected this kind of success and workload to take its toll but that hasn't been the case. 1997's hits were followed up by critical successes in Charisma (Karisuma 1999), Spellbound (Kinkyu Fushoku Retto: Jubaku, 1999), Dora Heita (1999), Eureka (2000) and Seance (Korei, 2000) which brought even more awards to this talented and versatile actor. He made his Hollywood debut in the movie adapatation of the bestselling novel "Memoirs of a Geisha" in 2005.