VIFF 2014: Vancouver Asahi's Kazuya Kamenashi on baseball, Nikkei, and shaving body hair

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      Kamenashi Kazuya is certainly one of Japan's hottest stars. How can you tell?

      Well, if the fact that he was met with throngs of screaming fans, who had camped in the rain outside the Centre for Performing Arts in downtown Vancouver for several hours before the Vancouver Asahi world premiere to catch a glimpse of their idol, wasn't a big enough hint, there's this fact: the man simply exudes star-power cool.

      After all, his multifaceted career includes being a singer-songwriter, an actor, a TV personality, a producer, a radio host, and a model. He's also a member of the J-Pop group KAT-TUN as well as Shuji to Akira. Not too shabby, to say the least.

      Now he's got one more item to add to his list: portraying a baseball player on screen.

      A touch more chilled-out than his costar Tsumabuki Satoshi, who plays the lead role in the ensemble historical drama about a legendary Japanese Canadian baseball team from Vancouver in the 1930s, Kamenashi shared the stage at the Vancouver Asahi press conference with Tsumabuki, director Ishii Yuya, and producer Naoto Inaba.

      In the film, the 28-year-old actor plays Roi "Roy" Naganishi. Kamenashi said in Japanese that after talking to director Ishii and other cast members, he played his character as being very closed-up at the beginning. As he becomes more engrossed in the game, he said Roy becomes more open with his heart as he becomes a part of the team and is more accepted.

      Working on the project helped Kamenashi understand the differences in cultures between the two nations and about how Japanese Canadian people lived in Canada.

      He expressed appreciation for being able to learn about how Japanese Canadians remained strong in spite of the difficulties they faced at a time when they were discriminated against.

      The film was shot on open sets in Japan that re-created scenes of Vancouver. Even though the film was set in Canada, what was very Japanese to Kamenashi was that the cast and crew ate miso soup between shoots on very cold days.

      Compared to Tsumabuki, who only had one year of baseball experience prior to the film, Kamenashi brought extensive experience to the project. He said he played baseball from grades 1 to 9. He's also provided sports coverage for baseball games. For the film, he said they studied archival film footage from the 1930s to learn how they played the game back then for historical accuracy.

      When asked if he had any regrets about his career, he said that when he was young, each character he played was fresh and fun but as he grew older, it became difficult to approach characters in the same fresh way. Consequently, he had to grow as an actor in order to meet that challenge.

      He related the story of how he had to play an evil spirit for a particular project. For the character, he had to shave off all his body hair. He said that the shaving part wasn't all that bad but when the hair started to grow back, it made him itchy all over (arousing audience laughter).

      Luckily, he didn't have to go through any itchy experiences for The Vancouver Asahi. Instead, it sounds like he, not his hair, grew in new and interesting ways from what he learned.

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      Pam Wilkinson

      Sep 30, 2014 at 5:26am

      I'm so happy the movie is being received so well in Canada. I live in Ontario and I was wondering if anyone watching the movie had noticed an opposing canadian right outfielder #6 and nasty Canadian in the bar scene. My son had an amazing time experiencing a big film production. Director Ishii Yuya referred to him as, "too tall" Too funny:)


      Sep 30, 2014 at 6:21am

      Thank you for featuring Kame-chan... He's certainly grown as an actor, as any actor should. :)