That tall, slightly bug-eyed individual with a charming smile in this year'
JAL ads is Takashi Sorimachi, the latest male heartthrob on Japanese TV. He became a
household name thanks to the TV drama Beach Boys, which aired in July 1997. The
show featured young Japanese hunks looking moody and swimming with dolphins whilst hapless
young office ladies stumbled around the beaches looking for love. A New Year's special
filmed in Saipan was screened in January 1998 and made idols of Sorimachi and his
smoldering costar Yutaka Takenouchi.
Last spring Takenouchi scored a hit with the email romance With Love, while
Sorimachi achieved greater success with the school-based summer drama GTO: Great
Teacher Onizuka. The show's premise was that an insubordinate, strong-willed teacher
is sent to a high school with a reputation for dropouts and juvenile crime. He clashes
with both aggressive students and narrow-minded senior teachers because of his unorthodox
methods, but he eventually wins through with his unique way of tackling problems.
Sorimachi's film-star good looks were complemented by his memorable portrayal of Onizuka,
a misfit from a third-rate university, a former delinquent turned teacher trying to change
the system from within. Audiences everywhere in Japan could empathize with Onizuka's
bitter attacks on the educational establishment. The show also addressed the topical
concerns of enjo-kosai, knife-wielding seniors, suicidal teenagers, exam-obsessed
parents and out-of-touch teachers. GTO was a classy, thought-provoking drama,
even including sly in-jokes parodying other TV shows past and present.
Takashi Sorimachi was born Takashi Noguchi in Saitama on December 19, 1973. Expressing a
talent for singing and acting in junior high school, he was accepted into the Johnny's
Office agency where he was given his stage name, inspired by the boxer Ryu Sorimachi. His
first contract was as a member of boy-band Heike-ha, and he also had a stint as a backing
dancer for singer Hikaru Genji.
When he was sixteen he changed directions and entered the world of modeling. He appeared
in leading magazines such as Check Mate and Men's Non No, trod the catwalks of the Paris
and Tokyo Collections and appeared in the Benneton world campaigns. In 1994 he made his TV
drama debut and finally landed a starring role in Virgin Road in January 1997. He
is currently starring in a new TV drama called Overtime.
In his private life he is decidedly not the quick-tempered rebel he portrays on screen. He
is currently going out with actress Izumi Inamori, whose own summer drama Happy Mania
did not do nearly as well as GTO. He lists Bryan Adams and Bruce Springsteen
among his musical likes and wrote the songs for his self-named album release in 1997. His
other passion is fishing and he is responsible for single-handedly reviving a sport that
was once the reserve of grumpy salarymen. The sight of Sorimachi shivering in a boat, clad
in anorak and woolly hat, led to a trend in twentysomethings taking up fishing rods
themselves. It also revealed a calm, contemplative side to one of Japan's most intriguing