Ever heard the saying, “Jack of all trades, master of none”? It means that if you can do many different things, then you’re probably not an expert at one thing. Well, it turns out this is not true for everyone. Some people personify another saying instead: one that says God gave us two hands. For instance, some Japanese actors aren’t just great at dramatic performances, they’re also excellent musicians. This month, we introduce three Japanese actor-musicians who know how to work the best of both worlds.
1. Masaharu Fukuyama（福山雅治）
Nagasaki-born Fukuyama picked up the guitar in middle school and at eighteen, left home for Tokyo with nothing but some cash in his socks. In 1990, he released his first single, “In the Rain of Reminiscence”(追憶の雨の中). Then, in 1994, his music career skyrocketed with the song “It’s Only Love.” Since then, he has become one of Japan’s best selling artists with a string of number one hits, including “Sakura Zaka” (桜坂). Today, his sweet-like-honey voice still attracts diehard fans at home and abroad.
In 1988, Fukuyama made his debut on the big screen in the movie Only 5g (ほんの5g). On TV, he played the quirky scientist on Galileo (ガリレオ), for which he won Best Actor at the 55th Television Drama Academy Awards in 2008. He was also nominated for Best Actor at Cannes and won the same category at the Japan Academy Awards in 2014 for his lead role in Kore-eda’s 2013 film, Like Father, Like Son (そして父になる). Fun fact: Fukuyama is also a talented photographer who trained under master photographer Shoji Ueda.
SCOOP! (SCOOP!), 2016
Fukuyama plays Shizuka, a successful celebrity photographer who has fallen on hard times. However, a new freelance assignment turns into one of the biggest scoops of his career.
Cast: Masaharu Fukuyama, Fumi Nikaido, Yoh Yoshida
Director: Hitoshi One
2. Dean Fujioka（ディーン・フジオカ）
Although born in Fukushima, Fujioka grew up in Chiba and is fluent in Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Indonesian, and English. Eager to broaden his horizons after high school, he studied in the US, backpacked around Asia, and eventually landed a top modeling gig in Hong Kong. In 2006, Fujioka’s brooding good looks and great acting chops helped him land roles on the Taiwanese TV series, Goku Do High School and August Story, a Hong Kong film. After establishing himself in the Taiwanese film and TV industry, in 2015, he made his Japanese TV debut in Detectives Versus Detectives (探偵の探偵).
Fujioka sings, plays several instruments—and even beatboxes. In 2016, he released his debut album, Cycle. His moody power ballad, “Echo”, was the theme song of the TV series The Count of Monte Cristo (モンテ・クリスト伯 -華麗なる復讐-). It won Best Alternative Video at the MTV Video Music Awards Japan in 2018 and has endeared the talented actor and musician to his younger fans.
Recall (空飛ぶタイヤ), 2018
Fujioka plays Yuta, who investigates an accident and digs up dirt on a reputable auto manufacturer. His performance earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the Japan Academy Awards in 2019.
Cast: Tomoya Nagase, Dean Fujioka, Issey Takahashi
Director: Katsuhide Motoki
3. Gen Hoshino（星野源）
Another fresh face in the Japanese entertainment industry is Saitama-born Gen Hoshino. In 2010, he debuted his album, Idiot Song (ばかのうた). However, in 2012, Hoshino underwent major surgery and had to put his career on hold for a while. He made a full recovery, though, and has raced to the top of the charts with many catchy hooks and record-breaking albums. This Doraemon fanboy is most famous for his sunshiny song, “Koi”(恋), which was also the theme song of the TV drama, The Full-Time Wife Escapist (逃げるは恥だが役に立つ)—in which he also starred. The song was so popular it even sparked the Koi dance craze on social media.
Ten years after his film debut in 69 (69 sixty nine), he was named Rookie of the Year at the Japan Academy Awards in 2014. His solid performance in The Full-Time Wife Escapist also earned him several Best Actor nominations. Hoshino has also made a name for himself in the voice-acting world, playing the lead in Masaaki Yuasa’s hit, The Night is Short, Walk on Girl (夜は短し歩けよ乙女) and the father in Mamoru Hosoda’s Mirai (未来のミライ).
Blindly in Love (箱入り息子の恋), 2013
Hoshino plays Kentaro, a 35-year-old introvert who lives with his parents and has never gone on a date. His parents get desperate but trouble ensues when it’s discovered that his match is both blind and beautiful.
Cast: Gen Hoshino, Kaho, Sei Hiraizumi
Director: Masahide Ichii
All three Japanese actors-musicians prove that if you’re talented enough, you can succeed in more than one industry. With these guys, the sky’s definitely the limit and we can’t wait to see what more they have in store for us.
Text by Suzanne Bhagan