Friday, February 23, 2024

Attending an Event with a Legendary Nikkastu Actress!

Makiko Aoi. Photo by Brett Homenick.

Tonight (Friday, February 23), I braved freezing-cold temperatures to attend an event with former Nikkatsu actress Makiko Aoi. I'd previously met Aoi-san only once before, and -- believe it or not -- it was almost exactly five years ago in February 2019. Time sure does fly, doesn't it?

Even though today was a national holiday in Japan, I still had to work, so I arrived much later than everyone else. But I still got to spend nearly two hours at the venue, which was more than sufficient. Actually, things went much better than I could have expected! 

The event was organized by fans of the late Nikkatsu actor Keiichiro Akagi, who is often called the James Dean of Japan. Akagi was at the height of his popularity when he died in a car accident at the age of 21 in 1961, and he still has a dedicated fan following in Japan to this day.

But what about the evening's guest of honor? Born on May 26, 1940, Aoi-san started her acting career in the late 1950s. She soon joined Nikkatsu Studios, and her acting credits include Seijun Suzuki's The Boy Who Came Back (1958), the genre-ish The Woman from the Sea (1959), and I Hate But Love (1962) with Japanese superstar Yujiro Ishihara.

Even though it's not something I usually do at such events, I presented Aoi-san with a box of chocolates shortly after I arrived. She was quite surprised and told me she happens to love chocolate, so I guess it was a smart move on my part after all! Aoi-san wasn't sure whether she should accept it, though, as it was from a famous brand, but I assured her it was my privilege to give it to her, so she ultimately put it in her backpack. 

During the evening, I asked Aoi-san if she had any memories of director Suzuki to share, but she told me she didn't remember working with him. Of course, actors and actresses were extremely busy in those days, and oftentimes movie productions would blend together.

When the topic of tokusatsu came up (as it usually does when I'm in the conversation), I was surprised to see that Aoi-san knew the Mothra song as sung by The Peanuts, even singing a couple of lyrics of it. But she wasn't familiar with the movie itself, which, again, is understandable.

A small photo album was passed around during the evening, which featured many photos from Aoi-san's life and career. Some were production stills from her Nikkatsu heyday; others were personal photos taken during the 1980s and '90s, featuring the likes of fellow Nikkatsu performers Akira Kobayashi and Tamio Kawachi. 

At one point, when Aoi-san was about ready to eat her dinner, she accidentally dropped her chopsticks on the ground. So I immediately got up and brought her a new pair. Hey, it was the least I could do for her!

As if all that weren't enough, I was invited to ride in the taxi with Aoi-san, her assistant, and another attendee to the station after the event. Suffice it to say, it was an offer I couldn't refuse. Afterward, I tried to contribute my share of the taxi fare but was declined. What kindness!

It also so happened that we would all get on the same train, though we would eventually change at different stations. But, as we were waiting to get on the train, Aoi-san's assistant said the other attendee and I were their bodyguards. Now there's a job I'd certainly take!

All in all, the evening far exceeded my expectations, and I'm glad that an unexpected schedule change allowed me to attend. It was certainly one for the history books!

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