We thought we would take the occasion of Hiroshi Fujioka’s 70th birthday to honor the actor who played Segata Sanshiro and Iwao Hazuki!
Hiroshi Fujioka (藤岡 弘) is the stage name of Kunihiro Fujioka (藤岡 邦弘), who was born on February 19th, 1946 in Kumakōgen, Ehime.
His father Kiichi (キーチ) taught Judo in the police service and was a highly skilled master of the martial arts. Instead of following in Japanese tradition and mentoring his older brother, Kiichi chose to train Kunihiro extensively in the martial arts so that he could follow in his footsteps. They would train in churches with stone flooring and outdoors, instead of in dojos with tatami mats and board floors. This resulted in many incidents of Kunihiro being wounded by falling on the ground. He credits the intensive training for teaching him how to survive.
Kunihiro was bullied in school and would typically ignore his tormentors. On one occasion, though, he decided to fight back and seriously injured another boy. His mother scolded him severely and Kunihiro chose to find methods to facing life’s problems without resorting to violence.
Fujioka first rose to national fame in Japan during the early 1970’s for his portrayal of the hero in the Kamen Rider (仮面ライダー, and often called Masked Rider in the west) television series and films. The character was extremely popular and you could see echoes of it’s famous “Henshin” transformation scenes well into the anime, manga, and video games of even today.
During the first series, Fujioka performed his own stunts and shattered his leg during a motorcycle accident. This resulted in his being replaced by another actor while he recovered. He eventually returned to the show and would join Takeshi Sasaki (佐々木 剛) as one of the “Double Riders.”
The role made Fujioka a cultural icon in Japan.
In 1997, Fujioka was tapped to portray Segata Sanshiro, a new character to be used in Sega Saturn advertisements. The character is a martial arts master who punishes people who do not play the Sega Saturn.
The character’s name is a quirky mix of coincidences. It sounds not only similar to the phrase “You must play the Sega Saturn!” (セガサターン、シロ! Sega Satān, shiro!), but also “Sega Saturn, White” (セガサターン、白 Sega Satān, Shiro?), with white having been the recent new color of the console in Japan at the time.
The character is adored not only in Japan, but has gradually built up a cult following abroad due to the amusing commercials. The commercials hit the internet and were copied endlessly during the later 1990’s into the 2000’s. Below, you will find a compilation of all of the commercials with English subtitles for the dialogue.
Fujioka would later make promotional appearances as Segata and himself. The character has been brought back a few times for cameos in Sega games and Fujioka even voiced the character in the game Project X Zone 2 (プロジェクト クロスゾーン2：ブレイブニューワールド).
Segata Sanshiro would not be the only beloved character that Fujioka would portray for Sega. He was hired to voice Iwao Hazuki in the Dreamcast game Shenmue.
The role would be a major coincidence for Fujioka. Iwao Hazuki is a master of the martial arts who has passed down his knowledge to his son Ryo Hazuki, much like Fujioka’s own father Kiichi did with him. Luckily for Ryo, Iwao did most of his mentoring inside of the Hazuki family dojo.
Iwao Hazuki is only in the first and second game for brief moments, but the game’s cult status and Iwao’s death being the primary motivation for Ryo’s quest have earned him a place in Sega fan’s hearts and minds forever. It definitely helped strengthened the admiration Sega enthusiasts had for the actor.
Fujioka has continued his martial arts training throughout his life. He has written several books on the martial arts, his film work and his life. He has made many appearances to help champion martial arts around the world.
Hiroshi Fujioka will turn 70 on February 19th of this year. We wish him a great birthday and hope to see more great performances from him in the years to come!
Special Thanks / Sources
–Saturn Memories for the commercial compilation and info on Segata Sanshiro Choujin Densetsu.