Those of you who know me, know of my passion for writing stories set in feudal Japan and for samurai and martial arts films. So you can imagine I was over the moon when I was given an opportunity to speak with someone who has actually starred in them!
If you have seen The Last Samurai and 47 Ronin, you’ve seen Akira Koieyama. His most recent role is Gouken in the film adaptation of Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist, but you can also see him in Ninja, Rush, Scopia and Color of Pain. In addition to being a talented actor for over two decades, Akira-san, born in Tokyo in January, 1969, has been practicing martial arts from the earliest age and has achieved a 2nd Dan black belt in karate. My interview with him revealed much of the inspirations and influences that went into creating this sensitive, humble and talented person. Please help me welcome him and read on to find out the wonderful things I learned from our conversation.
Me: I know from reading a previous interview that your father was a judo instructor for the police and that was how you began your martial arts training. Did your father encourage you to begin training at an early age or did you choose on your own? What was it like to be raised in that environment?
Akira: Actually my father instructed people when he was young, after he had a bad injury to his back he had has own business at home.
I was wild and a big dreamer when I was a little boy. To be honest I believed I could get inside the mirror to connect to the other side. Then one day I tried to jump into the mirror….but I cut myself below my eyebrow and that was the result of my first honest challenge.
I remember my father played with me all the time when he had time and we sometimes went fishing too. I think we spent more time playing than training. I feel My father taught me mind( Heart ) is the first important technique, when I look back to those days. After my father passed away I started practicing Karate. I think I wanted to do something different, from him. I enjoyed Karate training, speed , power, spirit, and of course pain too. Those spirits are always an important essence to me and encourage me in my life.
Me: How did you get into acting? Did you feel drawn to it or did someone or
something inspire you as you got older?
Akira: I remember, one day I was listening to the radio in the bath, my favorite actor Yusaku Matsuda, his voice was coming out from the radio. He talked about the filming days and details of difficulty for a project. I felt something new in that instant. When I was 23 I went to Toho drama school and got into the acting world. My acting teacher Kazuo Hirayama taught me a lot ! He is already in heaven but He still sometimes comes to my mind and gives me a nice hint.
Me: Of all the projects you have done so far, do you have one that is personally closest to your heart?
Akira: I think personally, the most closest to my heart is Gouken (SFAF). To become Gouken is the biggest challenge in my acting career . its feeling like a climb up the top of mountain . as a one of audience I watch SFAF. I can see vestiges of my father in my acting.
Me: You are very versatile in the types of roles you have done. From martial arts roles to dramatic, including Scopia, which is horror/sci-fi. Is there a type of role you haven’t done yet that you hope to perform one day?
Akira: I would like to challenge many types of roles, perhaps a king or shogun…. when I get older.
Me: What projects coming up can fans look forward to seeing you in?
Akira: I just came back from Thailand a filming trip for Strike Back 5. It will be coming out middle of next year 2015. I can not talk about the project but please look forward to it .
Me: Who are your personal heroes and why?
Akira: My personal heroes are my family because there is always huge love.
Me: What wisdom have you learned in your life that you would wish to impart to
Akira: I am still in a learning process in my life. But I can tell, I want to be true to myself and I want to enjoy everything.
Akira, thank you again for being here and hope you can come back again to talk more someday.
Akira: Thank you so much for having me! Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!!!
For an in-depth interview on Akira’s role in Street Fighter: Assassin’s Fist visit Kung Fu Kingdom.
Follow Akira Koeiyama on Facebook.