60 Years of Performing: Silver Screen Star Hayato Tani’s “Two Unfinished Business | FRIDAY DIGITAL

60 Years of Performing: Silver Screen Star Hayato Tani’s “Two Unfinished Business

Hayato Tani has been in the business for 60 years. The star of the silver screen talks about his ups and downs in the entertainment industry, including his feelings when he became a TV personality for a hot spring program and his memorable days with Ken Takakura and Shinichi Chiba.

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Hayato Tani being interviewed at his favorite cafe in Kamakura.

Hayato Tani, 75, went from being a star candidate at Toei to a variety celebrity. Hayato Tani (75), who was popular as the “Japanese Alain Delon” in his youth because of his neat face, has had a very eventful career in the entertainment industry.

In the 80’s, he changed his focus and became more of a variety actor.

After that, he and his wife Matsuoka appeared on travel programs as a happy couple, but in the past few years he has been seen less and less on TV. So what is Tani doing now?

At “eredge★Cafe” (located in Tokiwa, Kamakura City), a place he has recently become addicted to while walking around Kamakura, he talked about his life in the entertainment industry, the secret story of Ken Takakura, whom he adored as a big brother, and the deep relationship between Toei stars and pasta.

Tani: People who haven’t seen me in a while sometimes ask me what I’m doing these days. I guess I can’t blame some people for thinking that, since my TV work has been decreasing. Covid-19 has also had a big impact on me, and there are many locations that have been cancelled.

Because of this, I’ve been appearing in mail-order programs most of the time lately. I also appear on the Ginza One YouTube channel, which provides information about Ginza, and on the radio. Recently, I also appeared with Yoko Kumada. Also, Mrs. Devi is still very close to me, and I sometimes host parties for her (laughs).

(laughs) I have always worked in the film industry, but since the 1980s I have been doing a lot of variety work. I appeared in Beat Takeshi’s “Gekkai Nariyuki Show Fuun! Takeshi’s “Takeshi’s Castle”, I think that’s when my image started to take root. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t resistant to it at first, but when the movie I starred in flopped and I left Toei to take responsibility for it, I started doing variety shows and I really enjoyed it.

I became an actor because I loved movies, so acting on stage was not an option for me. In that vein, I was allowed to do everything from variety shows to travel shows, from city streets to hot spring shows. However, I was not good at gourmet shows. I am a self-confessed foodie, and the only criteria I have is whether something is “good” or “bad”. So if I ate something delicious, I would say it was “delicious,” but I just couldn’t come up with the expressions and words that the program required, such as “the taste is broad” or “the flavor of the ingredients. I tried, but in the end I couldn’t do it (laughs).

(laughs) On the other hand, I was most comfortable with hot spring programs. Because of the nature of the program, it was okay to act as the “real Hayato Tani,” so I was allowed to do whatever I wanted with the attitude I had. I guess it fit with my stance of not putting too much pressure on my shoulders and not trying to be cool.

In the end, I like interesting people, so I’ve always been conscious of the connections I’ve made with people in the entertainment industry. Now, in my free time, I try to watch and study TV shows with my wife, but I also feel that what is required has obviously changed from our time.

In our days, even if we were filming a single killing scene, we would eat yakiniku (grilled meat) with the staff to get our energy up, and then go to Kawasaki’s “Rootco” (now a soapland) to sweat it out and deepen our friendship before going to work (laughs). (laughs) If the relationship was that close, it directly influenced the quality of the images. Even though the times have changed, I want to continue doing this job as long as I am needed, and I want to make the people involved happy.

As my catchphrase, “Burning Latinos,” I want to do what I can and burn out here. It’s true that you may not see me on TV as much these days, but I’m fine, folks.

Hayato Tani speaks passionately about his life.

Tani emphasizes that he has learned everything from Ken Takakura, including how to act as an entertainer and how to live as a man. Bodybuilding, such as fashion and muscle training, was one of the things he learned from Ken Takakura, but the most important thing was his obsession with food.

Tani: It was when I was just a kid and working as a boy in a water business. Ken-san took me to the Italian restaurant “Cantey” in Iikura for the first time. At the time, I was just a kid with a droopy nose who didn’t understand anything, and of course I had never eaten Italian food before. It was there that I had my first taste of peperoncino, and I was shocked beyond words.

Ken-san was so cool as he brought balsamic vinegar and ate the pasta. I have always remembered that there was such a delicious food in the world. At Chianti, he taught me many dishes such as garlic toast, thin rolls of arrabbiata, and Milanese cutlets.

At the time, Ken took me to “Chianti” with Kunie Tanaka, Minoru Kobayashi, Kinya Kitaoji, and myself, and we had “Chianti parties” quite often. Since then, I’ve always loved Italian food, and that’s because of Ken’s influence. He was not a person who went to many restaurants, but rather a person who went to all the restaurants he liked. Wherever he took me to, the food was always outstanding.

More than 50 years have passed since then, and I myself have been to more than 1,000 famous Italian restaurants around the world and in Japan, but I have never experienced anything more shocking than the peperoncino that Ken-san taught me at that time. I’ve never experienced anything like the peperoncino that Ken-san taught me. I’ve been searching for the best peperoncino restaurants all over Japan, and I ended up in Kamakura.

Kamakura has many restaurants with a high average level of pasta dishes, and lately I have been finding time to visit them. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but sometimes I miss what it was like back then, and I have an irresistible urge to eat a good peperoncino. I’m also into Napa wine now, and I’m in the process of studying and developing it myself.

Before he died, Ken-san used to drink 30 cups of coffee a day in a demitasse cup, and I learned from him to be particular about coffee as well. There was a time when Ken and I were at odds for 17 years, and Mr. Toshinari Kobayashi was the one who mediated between us. Maybe it was because of that gap in time that I spent more time reminiscing about Ken-san. I lost the Rolex Explorer that Ken-san gave me, but I searched hard and bought the exact same one.

People tend to think of him as a quiet person, but among my friends, he was completely different. He was the kind of person who would go out to his favorite restaurants and talk until the morning, and then be very late for the next day’s shooting without a care in the world (laughs). (laughs) I also have fond memories of being laughed at by foreign customers who saw me hanging around with Ken at the sauna and gym.

Hayato Tani introducing his specialty, pasta.

This year is also the 60th anniversary of his career as a performer. Tani has survived in the entertainment industry with a wide range of work from acting to variety shows and hosting, but he says there are two things he has left undone.

Tani: At this age, I also think about the work that will conclude my entertainment career. Especially last year, Shinichi Chiba, who I worked with in “Ki Hunter” and who has been a great support to me since then, passed away. After all, I love the world of film, and I want to make films that show the significance of my career, like my predecessors at Toei. The name of my office is “Goodfellas,” and I want to be involved in making films like “The Godfather” and “The Deer Hunter,” which I have seen, about the bonds between people, and which will attract people even if the times change.

Since I was born in Kagoshima Prefecture, my current goal is to make a film based on the theme of reincarnation, a mixture of fiction and non-fiction set in Kagoshima. As well as giving back to my hometown, I believe that it is meaningful to make such a film in this day and age. Also, I would like to join hands with Ken at his grave. It’s been eight years since Ken passed away this year, but I haven’t been able to greet him even once.

This is true not only for me, but also for the people at Toei who were taken care of by Ken, and whenever we get together, we always talk about it. There are some problems that need to be overcome for this to happen, but I think about it every day, hoping to make it happen as soon as possible.

Hayato Tani visits his favorite café that he found while walking in Kamakura.
Hayato Tani tucking into his specialty, pasta.
  • Interview and text Fumiaki Kurioka Photography Toshikatsu Tanaka

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