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Tamegoro Sudo

by Judit Kawaguchi

Tamegoro Sudo, 50, is a movie producer and actor whose many friends in Tokyo’s downtown Asakusa area provide him with the hilarious characters and plots in his movies. His five “Dekotora no Shu (Shu, the Dekotora Man)” movies star his favorite decorated trucks and his buddies, actors Sho Aikawa and Shingo Yanagisawa, while his latest feature film, “Enko Ereji (Asakusa Elegy),” shines the spotlight on Asakusa’s young. A self-appointed ambassador for this old Tokyo neighborhood, in 2006 he created the Taito Shitamachi Film Festival to attract more people to the area. He is a nandemoyasan, a man who does any job that is not illegal to feed his moviemaking habit, including baking bread, selling tuna and bananas and organizing events where the popular Power Ranger characters entertain children. Before he became an independent filmmaker in 2000, Sudo played in over 1,000 movies in which he specialized in yakuza (the Japanese mafia) and bosozoku (bike gang) roles — in real life, though, he is as sweet as the koppepan (soft bread rolls) he bakes.

To sell something, you need a good story. In the movie “‘Otoko wa Tsurai yo (It’s Tough Being a Man),” the lead character Tora-san is a cool vagabond who can talk anyone into buying anything because of the brilliantly funny stories he makes up. He is my idol and I always try to entertain people that way, whether I am selling tuna or movie scripts. Just having a good product at a reasonable price is boring, but hearing a comedy routine while shopping is special.

If one job bores you, maybe you need to add a few more to it. If I were only baking bread, I would go crazy. Same for all my jobs: none would satisfy me by themselves. I am happy because I do many types of work every day and none involve sitting down.

People don’t die if they have stuff to do. I had a heart attack two years ago and the doctor told my mother that I would die. He must have been right because I saw the Sanzu River, which, according to Buddhist tradition, we cross after we die. The old lady across the river was calling me and I knew that my heart had stopped, but I also realized that the film I was shooting at that time must not. I came back to life and from the next day the crew was in my room for meetings and soon we were out filming.

Working hard keeps people young and strong. My mom is living proof: she is 76 years old and looks like she’s in her early 60s. We all think it is because she has been keeping herself busy all her life. Even now, she runs the bread shop that my grandpa started. Working with her hands keeps her brain sharp and talking to the customers makes her happy, which is the real secret of a long life.

Marriage is all about timing: unless you marry someone soon after you meet them, you’ll never marry. Why? Because we find out the shortcomings of the other person and get separated. Besides, I am always busy so I cannot keep my girlfriends happy.

If a man has a good line, he has the ladies lined up, too. I know many guys who are no hunks, but they never get refused because they can keep the girls in stitches for hours. I can also take the ladies home, but I can never keep them there for long. Maybe that is because once I catch a fish, I stop feeding it. With every toss of the line, a new interesting specimen is caught. Of course, I am just kidding!

Bigger animals live longer so we all need to do is get bigger if we want to glide into old age gracefully. Let me explain: the length of our life is consistent with the number of heartbeats we are allocated at birth. A mouse’s heart beats much faster than an elephant’s, so the little mouse dies long before the elephant. I am big and fat so I fit into the elephant category. Therefore I might even need to gain a few more pounds to make sure I make it to 100. Anyhow, we only have a certain number of heartbeats so make them all thumpingly good!

Politicians sound good even if they all say the same things. The greatest job I ever had was riding election trucks and making speeches instead of the politicians. At the beginning of the election campaign, both male and female politicians use women to do their speeches as women can warm up the crowds. As the heat intensifies later on, they switch to male voices. I worked for three different politicians. The money was great and the manuals were a lot of fun to memorize.

First impressions are not always true. Asakusa people might look cold, but once they love someone, they take care of that person till their death. They are proud, so they don’t give their hearts away easily, but once they trust you, you can do no wrong.

Focus on one item that people are emotionally attached to and you can make a hit. My dad used to bake so many types of bread and when he got ill, my mom and I were left to keep the business going. I decided to choose koppepan, the soft bread Japanese used to eat in school, and stopped producing all the other types of bread. Everyone feels nostalgic when they think of their first-grade seat, the soft koppepan in their hands, comforting them and keeping them going. I put 12 different fillings in them from jam to yakisoba noodles and sell out by noon. This gives my mom and I lots of free time to do other things in the day.

Every time I’m dumped, I am genuinely shocked. I’m an old-style man: I want to take care of my girlfriend, want to support and spoil her and I want her to follow me. I am not sure if my direction is correct but she should stick with me anyhow, no matter where I take her. So far no woman has.

Many talented people never make it: without luck, you are doomed. When I was 10 years old I was playing in Ueno Park when a movie crew happened to shoot there and they asked me if I wanted to be an extra. I said yes, and since then the roles have kept coming. Yet I know many great actors who are out of work and luck, too.

Judit Kawaguchi loves to listen. She is a volunteer counselor and a TV reporter on NHK’s “Out & About.” Learn more at: juditfan.blog58.fc2.com/