Takashi Sasano (笹野高史, b. 1948) is one of my favourite character actors. He’s appeared in so many films and television series that his face is a familiar sight to Japanese audiences. With only the widening of his eyes, Sasano can have an audience erupt with peals of laughter. At the same time, he has a great range and depth in serious roles. Sasano recently jumped onto the radar of Western audiences when the Yōjirō Takita’s Departures (おくりびと, 2008) scooped up the Best Foreign Language Film award at the Oscars in 2009. He plays the role of Shokichi Hirata in that film.
Sasano (right) in Departures
1. He was born on the island of Awaji to a family of sake producers. He was the fourth son in the family, but his parents died when he was still a child.
2. In 1968, while studying Film at Nihon University, Sasano joined the company of Jiyū Gekijyō (Freedom Theatre). He dropped out of university, but he staying with the theatre group until 1982.
3. Sasano appears frequently in the films of Yōji Yamada (山田 洋次). Notable among these many collaborations are many of the Tora-san films, Hidden Blade (2004), Kabei: Our Mother (2008), and About Her Brother (2010).
4. Sasano was awarded Best Supporting Actor at the Japanese Academy Awards in 2007 for playing the role of Tokuhei in Yōji Yamada’s Love and Honour (武士の一分/ Bushi no Ichibun, 2006). His performance in this film also garnered him with a Kinema Junpo Award and a Mainichi Film Concours.
Sanko-Seika spot for senbei crackers
5. He calls himself a “one scene actor” because he never turns down a role, no matter how small. This year alone he appears in three feature films, a made-for-TV movie and three TV series. He also does a lot of television commercials.
Sasano's face imprinted on senbei for a Sanko-Seika campaign
6. At age 42, Sasano finally parted ways with bachelorhood, marrying a woman 17 years his junior.
7. He has four sons, all of whom work in show business: Shota Sasano (ささの翔太, b.1991), Yuma Sasano (ささの 友間, b. 1993), Kenta Sasano (ささの堅太b. 1995), and Takato Sasano (ささの 貴斗, b. 1997).
8. His profile on the talent agency Gran Papa’s website lists his specialties as playing the trumpet and speaking the Osaka dialect.
9. He has written a memoir called Taiki Bansei in which he pokes fun of his status as a late-bloomer and character actor (never a leading man). I love how the cover highlights his trademark receding hairline.
10. You can follow him on Twitter under the username sasano61
1985 Tora-san’s Island Encounter aka Tora-san: From Shibamata with Love
(Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Shibamata yori Ai o Komete, Yōji Yamada)
1986 Tora-san's Bluebird Fantasy
(Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Shiawase no Aoi Tori, Yōji Yamada)
1987 Tora-san Goes North
(Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Shiretoko Bojo, Yōji Yamada)
1987 Tora-san Plays Daddy
(Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Monogatari, Yōji Yamada)
1988 Tora-san Salad-Day Memorial
(Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajiro Sarada Kinenbi, Yōji Yamada)
1989 Tora-san Goes to Vienna
(Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō Kokoro no Tabiji, Yōji Yamada)
1989 Tora-san , My Uncle
(Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Boku no Ojisan, Yōji Yamada)
1990 Tora-san Takes a Vacation
(Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō no Kyūjitsu, Yōji Yamada)
1991 Tora-san Confesses
(Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajirō no Kokuhaku, Yōji Yamada)
1993 Tora-san 's Matchmaker
(Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajiro no Endan,Yōji Yamada)
1995 Tora-san to the Rescue
(Otoko wa Tsurai yo: Torajiro Kurenai no Hana,Yōji Yamada)
1998 Love Letter (Azuma Morisaki)
1999 The Geisha House (Omocha, Kinji Fukasaku)
2003 Bright Future (Akarui mirai, Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
2004 The Hidden Blade (Kakushi ken oni no tsume, Yōji Yamada)
2006 Love and Honour (Bushi no Ichibun, Yōji Yamada)
2008 Kabei: Our Mother (Yōji Yamada)
2008 Departures (Okuribito, Yojiro Takita)
2008 One Million Yen Girl (Hyakuman-en to Nigamushi Onna, Yuki Tanada)
2009 Dear Doctor (Miwa Nishikawa)
2010 About Her Brother (Ototo, Yōji Yamada)
2010 Surely Someday (Shun Oguri)
One Million Yen Girl
About Her Brother
Available from Japan:
© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2010