Japanese actor creates promising career behind the camera

Editor:Sharon Lee
Updated:2016-02-16 11:02:51
By Zhang Yunbi(China Daily USA)

  Shinji Kuroki, 32, a Japanese actor who started his career in China a decade ago, is transforming his career and no longer playing Japanese Imperial Army soldiers on Chinese screens.

  Instead of being in front of the camera, he is now behind the lens producing and hosting a tourism program since last February to introduce the humorous side of Japan via China's leading online video portals, including iqiyi.com and youku.com.

  But he hasn't fully turned his back on acting. "I still want to be an actor. When I was living in China, the acting offers were all from the war dramas. I just want to break away from the stereotype," he said.

  Like most Japanese actors who started their careers in China, he made his debut on Chinese screens by playing Japanese soldiers in China during the first half of the 20th century.

  "Now I am working in both Japan and China, commuting between the two countries, and staying away from the war element," he said. "I want to present the comedian side of myself."

  Start of career

  Kuroki spent his undergraduate years as a Chinese language major at Osaka University of Foreign Studies from 2002 to 2007.

  He said he was first fascinated by China, and decided to learn Chinese, because of Jackie Chan, the famous Chinese action movie star who rose to fame in Hollywood by starring in films such as Rush Hour.

  Before his graduation in 2007, he took a year-long break and went to China, during which time he studied for six months at the Beijing Film Academy.

  After graduation, he studied writing and directing for a year, and got his first acting chance, at the Central Academy of Drama in Beijing.

  The first director he worked with was Guan Hu, who had just scored a box office triumph in the New Year, and more acting offers followed.

  "I was exhausted, but as they needed me, I felt good and I loved to be on set, so it did not feel too arduous," he added.

  Due to a limited budget and lack of available Japanese actors, some war dramas saw Chinese nationals act or dub as Japanese soldiers, a move that triggered many complaints.

  Time to change

  Kuroki is not the only Japanese actor working in China seeking to shift career paths as war-related roles can lead to controversy both at home and in China.

  Japan-related war TV dramas and films have drawn sharp criticism back in Japan for alleged attempts to flame "anti-Japanese sentiments".

  Koji Yano, a 46-year-old Japanese actor and a household name in China, first impressed Chinese viewers with his portrayal of wartime army officials.

  Then he became a host of a primetime TV entertainment show on Hunan Satellite Television.

  In response to a question about how he overcame difficulties at the earlyl stage of his work in China, Yano came up with a Japanese word: "Shinnen (belief)."

  Turning points

  Kuroki's popularity surged last year in China's cyberspace, especially social networks, after his appearance on the talk show "A Bright World".

  As a guest star, Kuroki, representing Japan, explained the cultural differences between China and Japan by recalling his years on the set.

Japanese actor creates promising career behind the camera

  That episode was aired in August last year. "Now 70 percent of the followers on my Weibo account decided to follow me after watching the show," he said. Kuroki's micro log has around 100,000 followers.

  In the past two years, partly due to the drastic depreciation of the Japanese yen, Japan has seen a dramatic surge in the number of Chinese travelers and shoppers.

  This has helped foster interest in Japan but Kuroki said his online video program was first made quite apart from the travel boom.

  Some fans had mixed feelings about his transition to a host with a humorous take on Japan. "Some felt weird, and some said they were okay with it," he said.

  Kuroki's New Year wish is that more people, who have little knowledge of Japan, will get to know him and see the country in a different light.

  Kuroki has a Chinese wife, and is looking forward to spending the Chinese Lunar New Year in her hometown. Spring festival in China is something special he said and being with his wife is the perfect story line.