Although he started his career as a member of boy band V6, Junichi Okada has become more well-known in recent years for the macho roles he plays as an actor.
“In all of my acting gigs over the past three years I’ve been either samurai or (20th century) military figures,” he says with a laugh. “To be honest, it’s a bit of a worry!”
Still, Okada has an idea of why he is chosen for such roles as two of his most recent — that of the 16th century military strategist Kuroda Kanbei in NHK’s new Sunday evening drama “Gunshi Kanbei (Strategist Kanbei)” and that of a Pacific War-era kamikaze pilot in the film “Eien no Zero (Eternal Zero).”
“If it’s because producers feel I’m able to express the kind of feelings that occupied such figures as Kanbei or military figures, then that is an honor,” he says.
Okada explains that the key for him in understanding the military mind is the notion of tanren — a word that, he says, is nowadays taken to mean physical training or fitness.
“In the past it was a much broader, more spiritual concept of having an objective and devoting your entire life to its achievement,” he says.
Another plus has been his own personal experience of martial arts.
As “Gunshi Kanbei” producer Takashi Nakamura explains, “With fewer and fewer historical dramas being made these days, it is actually rare to find young actors who are capable of handling swords or moving their bodies in the way that samurai used to. Okada is one of the few.”
And so, as “Eien no Zero” is shown at theaters across Japan, the actor is now working full time on filming the 50 episodes of “Gunshi Kanbei” that will be broadcast weekly from Jan. 5.
Dressed in a loose-fitting yukata, with his hair tied back samurai-style, he spoke to The Japan Times immediately after shooting a scene in which he crawled through a forest and immobilized a guard ahead of a sneak attack on a castle.
“I do look forward to playing someone a bit more modern,” he admits. (E.C.)