Kei Shimizu’s Sudden Retirement and the Summer When He Could Not Become the “Tunnels of the West
Masashi Hosoda's Entertainment Space-Time Detective (11)
The Tunnels way.
Tunnels, which celebrates its 42nd anniversary this year, became a star with regular programs such as “All Night Fuji” and “Yuyake Nyan Nyan” (both on Fuji Television) and “Koraratto! (Nippon Television Network Corporation), and became the first Tuesday personality on “All Night Nippon,” and their fifth single, “Ame no Nishiazabu” (lyrics by Yasushi Akimoto, music by Akira Mitake), became a big hit in 1985.
I was in the second grade of junior high school at that time, and I was of the generation that was influenced by these artists, who were not Kin-chan, Drift, or Takeshi.
The wave of the “Kabuki” movement surprisingly reached the Kamigata entertainment world as well. It should be noted that even Yoshimoto Kogyo, the “kingdom of comedy,” has come to crave “Tonneruzu-like” comedy. They hastily created a duo that could be called “Yoshimoto’s version of Tonneruzu” and pushed them hard. That was the duo of Kei Shimizu and Osamu Izumi, “Keishu.
The other day, news about Kei Shimizu surfaced on the Internet for the first time in a while.
Kei Shimizu, 60, is a TV personality who appeared on a popular TV show. He formed the manzai duo “Kei Shimizu and Osamu Izumi” with Osamu Izumi (59), and they became a very popular duo in the Kansai region. （In recent years, Shimizu has made few appearances on TV programs, but on April 28, 2022, he updated his blog. In a blog post that has already been deleted, Shimizu wrote, “It is a very personal and selfish reason that I have lost my motivation,” and he declared his de facto retirement from the entertainment industry.
In effect, she was declaring her retirement. Even if there are various reasons for his departure, it is sad to see him go. I felt it would be unbearable to let him go in silence, so I wanted to take a look back at his life in the entertainment industry in my own way. I would probably never think deeply about Kei Shimizu unless I had the opportunity to do so.
I would like to write about how “Yoshimoto’s version of Tonneruzu” was born and how it ended up playing its role.
Starting Too Late
Kei Shimizu was born in 1961. His real name is Keita Shimizu. While a student at Doshisha University, he appeared on the amateur TV show “Love Attack” (Kansai Television), but he had no aspirations to be a comedian.
After graduation, he worked for a lingerie manufacturer, but left after one year. He invited Shukichi Kugita (later Osamu Izumi), his junior at university, to attend an audition at Nankai Hall (later Shinsaibashisuji 2-chome Theater), a regular theater of Yoshimoto Kogyo. His stage name at the time of his first performance was “Keita Shukichi. In his book “To You Who Will Soon Appear on TV! (published by Bunka Publishing Co., Ltd.), he says, “I wanted to become a geisha because I did not need any money to start. If not, he would have apprenticed himself to someone else or enrolled in a training school (NSC).
At this point, he was 24 years old. Considering his age disadvantage, it is not surprising that he thought, “I am not interested in becoming an apprentice or entering a training school at this late stage of my career. The following year, Keita and Shukichi participated in the “Imamiya Kodomo Ebisu Manzai Newcomer Competition,” a gateway to success for new comedians, and won the “Fukuso Grand Prize. They emerged as promising young comedians.
Many people probably recall the “Beat Takeshi FRIDAY Incident” when they think of 1986. In fact, it was the year that Tunnels, riding high on the momentum from the previous year, achieved its big break. Their regular programs were doing well, “All Night Nippon” ranked number one in listening rate, and they were chosen as the image character of Nippon Broadcasting System, Inc. All of his songs, including “Uta Kyokyoku,” “Yabusaka Datta Nai,” “Neyetako Mo Wake Up Lullaby,” and “Jinjo Misaki,” made the charts, and his first TV drama “Obo Chama ni Wakarimai” (TBS), in which he starred, received high ratings. It is not an exaggeration to say that a “tonneruzu whirlwind” was sweeping the country, and executives at Yoshimoto Kogyo, a long-established entertainment company, could not have been unaware of this.
Just that year, Keita and Shukichi appeared, winners of the “Imamiya Kodomo Ebisu Manzai Newcomer Contest.” The 25- and 24-year-old newcomers were conversely fresh, and on top of that, they were highly educated graduates of Doshisha University, dressed in Armani jackets, and delivered flowing material that was like the flair of a party. Keita, who had sales experience as a businessman, was also a good talker.
There was one thing they had in common that was hard to ignore. They were both from the sports club. Just as Tunnels was a member of the Teikyo High School baseball (Takaaki Ishibashi) and soccer (Noritake Kinashi) teams, Keita Shimizu was a member of the Doshisha University soccer team, and Shukichi Kugita was a member of the boxing team. After entering university, he represented Japan in the King’s Cup, an international tournament, and was selected as an elite amateur athlete for the Los Angeles Olympics.
Keita and Shukichi, with their tall stature and sweet masks, had a rapidly growing number of female fans. Downtown, three years their senior, was already swarming with female fans, but in a short period of time, they had gained a popularity comparable to that of Downtown.
The Yoshimoto executives thought, “Let’s market these guys as Yoshimoto’s version of Tonneruzu.
It is easy to imagine that Yoshimoto executives must have thought this way. They changed their stage names to “Kei Shimizu and Osamu Izumi. Keishu Shimizu” was born.
After less than a year in the business, they were ready to take the next step.
From here, their rapid ascent began. After sweeping through the Kansai media, they entered the Tokyo market in the summer of 1987. In the summer of 1987, they entered the Tokyo market and were chosen as personalities for the Saturday night edition of “All Night Nippon. In 1985, after eleven years as the “number one” station in terms of listenership, Tsurumitsu Shofukutei closed the curtain on his career, and the AB Brothers (Hideyuki Nakayama and Daisuke Matsuno) took over as the next Saturday night personality. This was an unusually large selection. In the fall of 1987, he began his own TV program, “Suteki! (lyrics by Kiyoshi Ibe, music by Yo Tsuji, Pony Canyon), and the “Yoshimoto version of Tonnerzu” was steadily gaining ground.
It was on “All Night Nippon” that I first learned of their existence. I have a vague recollection of the day I first heard them. The tempo of the Kansai dialect was certainly good. However, I thought it was “a problem before it was interesting or not. It was because he was clearly conscious of Tonneruzu. In fact, Kei Shimizu himself stated, “I want to make stories that high school boys will like” (Shukan Meisei, March 17, 1988).
The first part of Tuesday’s “Tunnels’ All Night Nippon” was, of course, their sense of humor, but it cannot be ignored that their storytelling skills were backed by a surprisingly long career in the art. The two had been regulars on amateur participation shows since their junior high school days, and including their amateur days, they had a career spanning more than 10 years at this point.
They had a career of more than 10 years at this point, including their amateur days, and they were able to achieve the number one position in the ratings by including stories by people in the industry behind the scenes who would not normally be out in the open, such as Hiroshi Ishida and Koichi Minato of Fuji Television Network, teasing of their seniors like Masaaki Sakai and Ken Shimura, teasing of familiar musicians like Koji Tamaki, Toshihiko Takamizawa, and Tsugitoshi Goto, and excellent stories by postcard makers, including the “Best 5 of Everything. The record of consecutive No. 1 ratings is by no means a fluke.
I think it was a bad move for Keishu, who had been performing for less than a year, to imitate only the superficial aspects of the show. As a “high school boy” at the time, I felt as if I had food poisoning from Keishu’s radio talk.
Soon after, they stalled. Their regular programs ended across the board and they withdrew from Tokyo. No wonder. They were simply consumed and bored, and should probably be regarded as having done well with a career of this level.
In 1990, the author moved his residence to Osaka. Keishu, whom I thought had disappeared, was appearing on TV, speaking on the radio, and performing on stage as a mid-level comic storyteller. The image of “Osaka’s version of Tonneruzu” had become a thing of the past. There were opportunities to see him perform. I used to think, “If only Shu Izumi would take it a little more seriously, it would be funnier than it is now,” but they never regained their popularity.
Nevertheless, only Kei Shimizu has moved his base of activities to Tokyo since 1993. He had previously made his Tokyo debut as a duo, but this time he made a solo return to the city. He was flanked by Hiromi, and the two were in perfect synch. However, the Tokyo dialect and the Kansai dialect (which is typical Kyoto dialect) are not a good match. Moreover, as if in step with Hiromi’s decline in exposure, Kei Shimizu has also gradually disappeared from the media. Incidentally, Keishu officially disbanded in 2001.
After raising a family in Tokyo, Kei Shimizu probably found something more enjoyable than performing. I saw him once at a sandwich store near Setagaya Park, and he did not seem to have fallen into decline. He even had the presence of mind to berate a housewife who said, “Hey, that’s Kei Shimizu, Kei Shimizu …….
It was three years ago, during the Yoshimoto comedian blackmail scandal, that I learned that he had taken a beautiful wife and was leading a fulfilling life, but that he was still harboring some smoldering doubts. Three years ago, he took to his blog to criticize Yoshimoto President Akihiko Okamoto, who had been accused by the public of intimidation.
The incident began when he appeared in the 2001 drama “There Will Be Tomorrow” (Nippon Television Network Corporation) and found that the lines in the script he was given in advance had been cut in half. This is a common occurrence. When Kei Shimizu complained about this, Akihiko Okamoto, who was the manager in charge of the drama, said, “Yoshimoto asked me to make it possible for you to appear in the drama. If you have a problem with the company’s way of doing things, you can quit anytime. I don’t know if this is true or not, but if it is, there must be a way to say it.
Kei Shimizu was also criticized for rehashing a story that happened almost 20 years ago. However, it is not hard to understand why people would want to rehash the story, since Okamoto, who joined the company in 1991, rose to the position of president at an exceptionally fast pace, no doubt due to his work on the Yoshimoto Shinkigeki stage and then as the manager in charge of Downtown. If Akihiko Okamoto had been in charge of Keishu instead of Downtown, where would he be today? Kei Shimizu, who knew Okamoto when he was a new employee, must have imagined that much, and must have been disappointed.
After the “turmoil,” Shimizu Kei was never seen again. Perhaps the company did not give him a job, or perhaps he did not choose to earn his living from Yoshimoto. And now, the news of his retirement.
Will there be a “longest summer”?
From this point on, it is the author’s guess. The nature of Kyoto people is very vindictive. It is said to be called “court noble culture,” and I am very familiar with it because I have relatives in Kyoto.
In other words, I do not think that Kei Shimizu is a man who will disappear like this. Although he does not have the same level of awesomeness as Iwakura Tomomi, he may be aiming to resurface with an eagle eye. At least, that is my view. I do not know what it is. I don’t know, but I can at least guess.
Ryutaro Ueoka, a Kyoto native like Kei Shimizu who also announced his retirement from show business 22 years ago, left the following comment in 1986.
There are certain types of comedians who want to enter the world of politics. One is a very power-oriented person. One is a very caring person. One is a hypocrite. These three qualities are indispensable,” (Yasushi and Kiyoshi no nagai natsu, Osaka kyosaikyoku, written by Katsushige Kondo, Kodansha bunko).
As I reread the book, I thought to myself that this might apply to Kei Shimizu. In the House of Councillors election this summer, Dr. Suidobashi of Asakusa Kid decided to run as a candidate from the Reiwa Shinsengumi, and in fact, Kei Shimizu may have been the right person for the political world.
So, if Kei Shimizu were to run for office, which party would he run for? It is fun just to imagine. I don’t think it would be the Liberal Democratic Party or the Restoration Party. If he had a falling out with Yoshimoto, it couldn’t be the Restoration Party. But it can’t be Rikken or Reiwa either. They don’t seem to be the type of people who would go that far. It can’t be Komei or Kyosan either.
If that is the case, they would probably end up in the National Democratic Party of Japan (KDP). They are not in a position of being either “powerful” or “anti-authority. If he fights a relatively solid election campaign and slips in with only one seat remaining, he may be able to fulfill his wishes, but we will have to wait and see.
Regardless, I intend to write “Shimizu Kei no Ichiban Nagai Natsu (The Longest Summer of Kei Shimizu)” in case that happens.
Text： Masashi Hosoda
Nonfiction writer, born in Okayama City in 1971. Born in Okayama City in 1971 and raised in Tottori City. After working as an anchor for Samurai TV, he became a broadcast writer. Contributed to magazines and websites while working on TV and radio. Author of "Sakamoto Ryoma wa Nai wa Nai" (Sakamoto Ryoma was not there) (Saizusha) and "Why Musicians Abandon Their Wives" (East Shinsho). His recent book, "The Man Who Let Sawamura Chu Fly the Vacuum / Showa Promoter Osamu Noguchi's Review" (Shinchosha) won the 43rd Kodansha/Honda Yasuharu Nonfiction Award.
Photo： Jiji Photo