Kyohei Shibata Running Strong at 70, Exhausted Yet Cool | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Kyohei Shibata Running Strong at 70, Exhausted Yet Cool

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of his debut. The latest in the series, "The Return of the Abominable Detective," will finally be released after an eight-year absence! Sexy Oshita" and "Dandy Takayama" are back!

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“As in the past, my body isn’t as nimble, and my legs aren’t as fast. But I think that’s fine.”

Actor Kyohei Shibata (72), portraying Yuji (Yuuji Oshita) in ‘Abunai Deka’, is a detective who runs faster than anyone else. Moreover, he does so with grace and style. Since the television drama premiered 38 years ago, Shibata’s spirited running, known as the “Yuji run,” has deeply moved fans. Naturally, in the latest installment released on May 24th, ‘The Return of Abunai Deka’, set in Yokohama, Shibata, at 72, doesn’t hide his age as he dashes around.

Kyohei Shibata, born in Shizuoka Prefecture, joined the Tokyo Kid Brothers at the age of 23 after working as a salaryman.

“I think the sight of a man over 70, exhausted but running with all his might, is truly cool.”

Alongside Hiroshi Tachi (74) as Taka (Toshiki Takayama), the flashy action and comical banter that define the world of ‘Abunai Deka’ are as vibrant as ever in this latest installment. Following the previous film ‘Goodbye, Dangerous Detectives’ after an eight-year hiatus, it starts with Taka and Yuji retiring from the police force and running a detective agency in Yokohama. Additionally, a woman who might be the daughter of one of them appears in the story.

“I originally intended ‘Goodbye, Dangerous Detectives’ to be the end for me. But after hearing the synopsis, I felt that there was a different charm in showing Taka and Yuji seeing their fatherly side. Also, after a few years, I suddenly wanted to see Tachi-san again.”

Shibata, who debuted in the 1975 stage play ‘October is the Twilight Country’, was recommended by director Toru Murakawa, known for the ‘Abunai Deka’ series, to enter television dramas with ‘Daitokai: Part II’ in 1977. He achieved a major breakthrough with the series that began airing in 1986.

Until then, police dramas had often portrayed the sorrow of detectives with intense gun battles and line-of-duty deaths. Initially planned for six months, the series extended to a year due to overwhelming support from young viewers. It’s said that fans flocked to the Yokohama filming locations, often causing interruptions.

“Before co-starring in ‘Abunai Deka’, I spotted Tachi-san at a pool bar in Harajuku. It was late at night, and it was the only place open for a meal, so I dropped by casually. There, Tachi-san appeared escorting a blonde beauty, and he looked incredibly dapper and cool (laughs).”

They say that Tachi is the embodiment of a kind and smart “Dandy Takayama”. If that’s the case, I’ll relax my shoulders instead of meticulously crafting my character. That’s how the character of stylish and mischievous yet justice-driven sexy Oshita was born.

“In fact, ‘sexy’ started as an ad-lib line to counter ‘dandy’. So, I’m not actually sexy at all, but Tachi-san has such a generous spirit that he accepts all my jokes and ad-libs, which brings Yuji’s character to life.”

“My secret to health is…”

In recent years, he has shown his presence in numerous dramas such as ‘Ryojin no Ono’ and ‘Fune wo Amu – Watashi, Jisho Tsukurimasu’. He mentioned it has been a long time since he has done action, but what is the secret to maintaining the “Yuji run” for 38 years?

“Well, you know, when I was in elementary school, I admired baseball players, and during my student days, I was completely immersed in baseball. Even now, I belong to several amateur baseball teams and participate in games. Hitting, running, and fielding are the basics of baseball. You can’t hit without judging the pitch and timing, and when the steal sign goes up, you have to run. I think I was able to start moving my body immediately after hearing about the sequel to ‘Abunai Deka’ because of amateur baseball.”

Such as Shibata, who values golf as a relaxation activity similar to amateur baseball.

“Tachi-san and the late Shizuo Nakajo, who played Chief Kondo, taught me golf. During breaks in filming, they would always talk about golf, and one day Tachi-san invited me to play together. Eventually, Tachi-san took me out for my first round.”

As a baseball boy, Shibata was skilled at hitting balls. However, while a home run in baseball might travel just over 100 meters, he found exhilaration in hitting golf balls more than twice that distance.

“Eventually, Tachi-san proposed that whoever lost in scores would treat the other to a meal. But he said, ‘Kyo-sama is a beginner, so I’ll give him a handicap.’ At that time, I didn’t even know what ‘handicap’ meant, but it seems I won, and enjoyed a delicious treat. That’s when I became captivated by golf, thinking it is fun (laughs). The next time we played, I lost splendidly and ended up treating him instead. The best part was enjoying private time without an audience, just Tachi-san and me.”

Although he rarely meets Tachi privately, they still manage to play golf together once every few years.

“They say health is wealth, but besides golf and amateur baseball, I don’t do anything special. I just do simple stretches every day. Apparently, I naturally have flexible muscles, and a sports trainer who regularly maintains them once complimented, ‘Your muscles are like those of an athlete’ (laughs). Maybe I inherited my dad’s genes, who was a sports all-rounder.”

The latest installment, which has sparked an unprecedented boom even before its release after an eight-year hiatus, holds a special place in Shibata’s heart within the beloved ‘Abunai Deka’ series, cherished across generations.

“Not just Tachi-san, but even Atsuko (Atsuko Asano) and Toru (Toru Nakamura), although we don’t meet often, whenever we gather, we immediately revert to our old selves. That’s because we have cultivated the ‘Abunai Deka spirit’ over 38 years. Like aiming for victory in a baseball game, both actors and staff share the determination to create the best possible work, which allows us to wholeheartedly tackle even the most absurd scenes.”

Therefore, Shibata continues to run, to remain as “Yuji from Abunai Deka.”

“Both Tachi-san and I are giving it our all. So, I’m sure everyone can keep pushing forward. Let’s enjoy the present together! If our feelings like that reach everyone, I would be delighted.”

As the legendary actor pours his soul into this masterpiece, Japan eagerly awaits the day when joy will once again sweep across the nation.

“Taka and Yuji are like characters from an anime,” Shibata once remarked. Partnering with Shibata, Tachi shared in an exclusive interview from the past, “I laid the foundation, and Kyo-sama colored the rhythm and atmosphere. That’s why ‘Abunai Deka’ is Kyohei Shibata’s work,” he praised.
Exclusive Interview with Kyohei Shibata – Unpublished Cut from this Magazine
Exclusive Interview with Kyohei Shibata – Unpublished Cut from this Magazine

From theJune7 and 14, 2024 issue of FRIDAY

  • Interview and text by Akinori Nakagawa PHOTO Takehiko Kohiyama

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