|BIG IN JAPAN
The current stream of stories bemoaning teenage violence
in Japan has its origins in the "butterfly knife" hysteria, in which tabloids
reported scores of maladjusted boys attacking students and teachers with said weapons.
What seems to be forgotten, however, is the allegation that some of them were following
the example of SMAP member Kimura Takuya, aka Kimutaku, who proved himself handy with a
butterfly knife in the 1997 TV drama The Gift.
Born in Tokyo in 1972, it was once said that Kimutaku (his real name) was "born with
one eye already winking at the world." At junior high school, he displayed a tendency
to get into fights, as well as the ability to score high grades—a sign of a gifted child
frustrated with and unable to fit into the system. For his fifteenth birthday, an aunt
sent his photograph to the talent agency Johnny' Jimusho; probably the best present he
ever received, because soon after he took an audition and passed.
After the initial training he was cast as a member of what was to become the latest
boy-band, a quintet called SMAP. He made his TV debut acting with his teammates in Abunai
Shonen 3 (Dangerous Boys 3), and his solo TV acting debut came in the 1993 drama Asunaro
Hakusho (The Conifer Report). 1994 saw his movie debut in Kimi O Wasurenai (I Will Never
Forget You) and by 1995 he was all over the place: as a love struck teen in We Have
Tomorrow, as a samurai warrior in You Journey Beyond Time, and of course in countless
It was the commercials that translated his sex appeal into bankable figures, and betrayed
his curious fascination with cosmetics. A 1995 ad for Kanebo, in which he smeared lipstick
over his own face, certainly drew a lot of viewer attention. In a recent ad for TBC he
paints symbols on a girl's face with lipstick while she sleeps. In real life too he is
rumored to carry a bag of cosmetics with him at all times.
Despite this androgynous sexual tension, Kimutaku clearly sees himself as a man of action,
on and off screen. His personal interests include surfing, snow boarding and soccer. He
insists on performing his own stunts, which led to him falling and striking his head on
rocks during the filming of Nemureru Mori (A Sleeping Forest) in late 1998. He was rushed
to hospital, but later he confided to a TV company insider, "Actually it wasn't
serious; but I did appreciate having a rest that afternoon."
As The Gift showed, Kimutaku easily fits the role of villain, and it was the truly bizarre
Christmas 1998 SMAP special that finally brought this out. In it SMAP, playing themselves,
commit a (fictional) murder of a blackmailer after a (real) concert, and are pursued by
the fictional detective Furuhata Ninzaburou (Japan's answer to Lieutenant Columbo, played
by Tamura Masakazu). Laughable as it may sound, Kimutaku's steely performance, planning
the cold-blooded murder and covering it up, was enough to send a chill through most of the
audience, whether they were fans or not.
SMAP were designed to be squeaky-clean teen idols, but Kimura Takuya never fitted into
this mold. Instead, he has proved himself to be the unpredictable dark side of the
generic, wholesome Japanese tarento.
John Paul Catton