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Fumihito

by Judit Kawaguchi

The choreographer FUMIHITO (Fumihito Tanaka), 38, is the first person in Japan to make a profession out of teaching people how to pose and project themselves, whether for a photo shoot or an interview. He is behind every gesture, stare and dance move we see in hundreds of hit TV commercials. Musicians YUKI, m-flo and Rinka, and megastar Akiko Wada, rely on his coaching to keep them on top. After a childhood in which his alcoholic father beat him and his two sisters, and his abused mother constantly threatened to commit suicide, Fumihito still carries his official disabilities certificate (sho-ugai techo-), which qualifies him for full government assistance, although he no longer needs to collect it. A workaholic, he is famous for squeezing amazing performances out of everybody, especially himself.

I sense people’s deep fears and make them all disappear. I turn them into confident, powerful people for the time we are working together. People who know me professionally think I am Mister Strength, Mister Confidence. I am not, but when I work, I am.

Give a break to a struggling person. I was poor, living off welfare and very messed up. I met a commercial producer at a party who had heard that I used to live in New York and was one of the dancers in the House of Xtravaganza. I had no resume, no experience, but he asked me to create all the poses and moves for an MTV music video. I found my calling, thanks to him. I shone because I did what others didn’t: I loved and encouraged the artist from the first second we met, so she performed a lot better than ever before. This made me famous and has kept me busy in the industry.

Blame nobody. Yes, some parents are awful, but once we are adults, it is our decision to keep on suffering or get professional help. My doctors urged me to cut all ties with my parents. I have not seen them in 15 years. I hear they are well and I feel content.

We are all special and can help each other. Even a sick person like me — an abused, manic-depressed gay man on pills — can be useful to healthy, gorgeous, famous people. Imagine what you can do if you put your mind to it.

Always be cheerful at work, no matter how you feel. If you raise your head and voice, you also lift your spirits. Then people want to be around you, and in return you become happier.

Sacrifice when you see the chance. My grandfather was a member of the aristocracy, and during World War II he gave all of our assets to finance the war effort. I am proud of him. I work hard, I want to contribute as much as I can to Japan and I’m happy if I am able to pay more income tax.

Big breaks come from tiny chances. Do not look down on any job, and do it like it is the highest paying, most glamorous assignment.

Never assume that you are where you are because of your talent. You are there because people helped you. Be thankful, forever, to those who give you a chance, no matter how small.

Don’t forget where you come from. My apartment costs 60,000 yen a month. The whole place is just about eight tatami in size — one room with beatup tatami floors and a shower. I make lots of money, but I cannot leave this cozy home behind. This is where I got my independence and where my success began. I need a safety net because I have experienced so much trauma.

Today’s laws do not protect children from abuse. My father would start drinking in the morning, and by the afternoon he would beat mom and us to a pulp. My mother would cry and once again threaten to kill herself. She would run out of the house, down to the river so she could jump in and get it over with. By then, one of my two sisters or I would have called the cops. The patrol car was parked in front of our house every night, yet the police couldn’t do anything for us kids. The law was never on our side.

Japanese are like cute monkeys: We are the best at impersonating and mimicking others. We can jump in and out of characters at an extremely fast pace because we digest the essential in a person, customize it for our purpose and make it even better than the original. We should be proud of this skill. For thousands of years we did this, so we are world masters at it. And no, this is not the same as copying others!

The best way to motivate people is to tell them about your struggles. Jokes help, too. Many young people are hopeless and have no dreams, no jobs and no money. I don’t want to give them cash because that is just a temporary fix. I give them work instead. Many slack off, but after about a year they contact me again and apologize for having not worked hard enough. It takes time for ideas to sink in.