Bunta Sugawara

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Bunta Sugawara
Born (1933-08-16) August 16, 1933 (age 81)
Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan
Occupation Actor
Years active 1956–2012

Bunta Sugawara (菅原 文太 Sugawara Bunta?, born August 16, 1933) is a Japanese actor from Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture[1] who has appeared in almost 200 feature films. He is the father of one son, actor Kaoru Sugawara, and two daughters.


Bunta Sugawara was born in Sendai in 1933. His parents divorced when he was four and he moved to Tokyo to live with his father and stepmother. As part of a wartime policy to evacuate children from major cities, he was moved back to Sendai during fourth grade. As an adult he entered Waseda University's law program, but was dropped in his second year for failing to pay and began work as a model in 1956.[2]

Sugawara debuted as an actor in Teruo Ishii's 1958 White Line, after being scouted by Shintoho.[2] But his first acting role was actually in the 1956 Toho film Aishu no Machi ni Kiri ga Furu. At Shintoho he had starring roles despite being a newcomer.[3] However, the company filed for bankruptcy in 1961. Sugawara then moved to Shochiku where he was cast in Masahiro Shinoda's Shamisen and Motorcycle, but fired for coming to set late after a night drinking. He gave a notable performance in Keisuke Kinoshita's Legend of a Duel to the Death (1963), but it did not fare well at the box office.[2] Disenchanted with the low pay and what he felt were unsuitable roles, he left and went to Toei in 1967 after being recommended by Noboru Ando.[3]

He had a role in Ishii's 1967 Abashiri Bangaichi: Fubuki no Toso, one of many films in the director's Abashiri Prison series. Sugawara's first starring role at Toei was in Gendai Yakuza: Yotamono no Okite in 1969. It launched a series, with the last installment, 1972's Street Mobster by Kinji Fukasaku, being the most successful.[2] He did not achieve major success until 1973 at the age of 40, when he starred in Fukasaku's five-part yakuza epic Battles Without Honor and Humanity. Based on a real-life yakuza conflict in Hiroshima, the series was very successful, popularized a new type of yakuza film the Jitsuroku eiga, and the role of Shōzō Hirono still remains his most well-known. Sugawara also starred in Fukasaku's Cops vs. Thugs in 1975. The character design of Admiral Akainu from One Piece is based on his appearance from these films. Also in 1975, he starred in the comedy Torakku Yarō: Goiken Muyō as a love-seeking truck driver, which launched a successful ten installment series.[2]

On February 23, 2012, Sugawara announced his retirement from acting. He came to the decision after the Great East Japan Earthquake and being hospitalized in the winter of 2011, although he said he might consider future roles.[4]




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  1. ^ "Bunta Sugawara" (in Japanese). Yahoo! Japan. Retrieved 2012-05-04. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Schilling, Mark (2003). The Yakuza Movie Book : A Guide to Japanese Gangster Films. Stone Bridge Press. pp. 130–143. ISBN 1-880656-76-0. 
  3. ^ a b "Confessions of a con artist". Japan Times. 2003-04-02. Retrieved 2012-05-04. 
  4. ^ "Bunta Retires From Big Screen". Japan Zone. 2012-02-24. Retrieved 2012-05-04. 

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