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BIG IN JAPAN
Takashi Sorimachi

Takashi SorimachiThat 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 stars.


John Paul Catton
 

BIG IN JAPAN:
299: Nakamura Kankuro
Arizona lover and Kabuki actor
298: Miura Yuichiro
The Man Who Skied Down Everest
297: Iron Chef
Gourmet cuisine battles
296: "Katte wa ikenai"
"Don't buy these products"
295: Oda Yuji
The dancing detective
294: Enoki Takaaki
An artist who acts
293: Glay
Japan's reigning pop princes
292: Akebono
Hawaiian Sumo wrestler
291: Issey Miyake
Fashion designer
290: Murakami Ryu
Radical writer
289: Oshima Nagisa
Movie director
288: Takakura Ken
Crime film actor
287: Miura Kazuyoshi
Soccer player
286: Suzuki Koji
Author of the horror, Ring
285: Tezuka Osamu
God of Comics
284: Yuming
Singer/songwriter
283: Anpanman
Bean-powered superhero
282: Yamaguchi Takashi
Immersed in traditional Japanese music
281: Nasubi
Comedian
280: Doi Takako
First female Speaker of the House
279: Nakamura Kichiemon
Retiring Kabuki actor
278: Oe Kenzaburo
Nobel prize winning author
277: Kimura Takuya
SMAP member
276: Utada Hikaru
Teenage pop phenomenon
275: Bando Tamasaburo
Kabuki female role impersonator
274: Otomo Katsuhiro
Akira creator
273: Dreams Come True
Premier recording artist
272: Dango San Kyodai
Surprise hit of 1999
271: Banana Yoshimoto
Author
270: Matsuzaka Daisuke
Baseball player
269: Moritaka Chisato
Model and singer
268: Mukai Chiaki
Female astronaut
267: Natto
Traditional Japanese health food
266: Hiroaki Kikuoka
Shamisen player
265: Chikamatsu Monzaemon
Japan's most revered dramatist
264: Ryuichi Sakamoto
Oscar-winning musician
263: Shigeo Nagashima
Japan's Mr Baseball
262: Ayako Totsuka
Pioneer careerwoman
261: Yatsuhashi Kengyo
Koto player
260: Chiyotaikai
Sumo wrestler
259: Pocky
Japanese snack food
258: Itsuki Hiroshi
Enka singer
257: Pocket Monsters
Conquering the world
256: Classified ads
New concept in Japan
255: Chara
Japanese pop star
254: Pink Lady
1970's singing duo
253: Takashi Sorimachi
Japanese heartthrob
252: Ennosuke Ichikawa
Kabuki actor
251: Rie Miyazawa
Model and actress
250: Shazna
Visual-kei band

Issues 350 +
Issues 349 - 300/1
Issues 248/9 -