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Wakayama appearing as Ogami Ittō in
the Lone Wolf and Cub movie series
September 1, 1929
Fukagawa, Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan
|Died||April 2, 1992
|Spouse(s)||Reiko Fujiwara (1963–1965)|
Tomisaburo Wakayama (若山 富三郎 Wakayama Tomisaburō , September 1, 1929 – April 2, 1992), born Masaru Okumura, was a Japanese actor best known for playing Ogami Ittō, the scowling, 19th century ronin warrior in the six Lone Wolf and Cub samurai movies.
Wakayama was born on September 1, 1929, in Fukagawa, a district in Tokyo, Japan. His father was Tohiji Katsu (or Katsutoji Kineya), a noted kabuki performer and nagauta singer, and the family as a whole were kabuki performers. He and his younger brother, Shintaro Katsu, followed their father in the theater. Wakayama tired of this; at the age of 13, he began to study judo, eventually achieving the rank of 4th dan black belt in the art.
In 1952, as part of the Azuma Kabuki troupe, Wakayama toured the United States of America for nine months. He gave up theater performance completely after his two-year term with the troupe was over. Wakayama taught judo until Toho recruited him as a new martial arts star in their jidaigeki movies. He prepared for these movies by practicing other disciplines, including kenpō, iaidō, kendo, and bōjutsu. All this helped him for roles in the television series The Mute Samurai, the 1975 television series Shokin Kasegi, and his most famous role: Ogami Itto, the Lone Wolf.
Wakayama went on to star in many films, performing in a variety of roles. It has been estimated that he appeared in between 250 to 500 films. His only roles in American movies were as a baseball coach in The Bad News Bears Go to Japan (1978) and as a yakuza boss, Sugai, in Ridley Scott's Black Rain (1989) that delivers a memorable English monologue that becomes a defining moment for the film, and the film's title.
Wakayama appeared in the following films, amongst others.
- Leous, G. (c. 2003): Tomisaburo Wakayama Retrieved on May 23, 2010.
- Stout, J. (1981): "Tomisaburo Wakayama: The Anti-Hero of Shogun Assassin." Martial Arts Movies (August), 1(2):26–33.
- Boryokugai: Tomisaburo Wakayama (2010). Retrieved on May 23, 2010.
- Asiateca: Tomisaburo Wakayama (August 10, 2007). Retrieved on May 24, 2010.
- Nash, J. R., & Ross, S. R. (1990): The motion picture guide: 1990 annual – The films of 1989. Evanston, IL: Cinebooks. (ISBN 978-0-9339-9729-5)
- Sankei Sports: 若山騎一郎＆仁美凌、熱愛発覚！交際５年 (Japanese) (March 31, 2010). Retrieved on May 24, 2010.
- Cowie, P., & Elley, D. (1977): World Filmography: 1967 (p. 342). London: Tantivy. (ISBN 978-0-4980-1565-6)
- Hong Kong Cinema: Red Peony Gambler (c. 2006). Retrieved on May 24, 2010.
- Desjardins, C. (2005): Outlaw masters of Japanese film (p. 8). London: Tauris. (ISBN 978-1-8451-1086-4)
- Maltin, L. (2005): Leonard Maltin's 2006 movie guide. New York: Plume. (ISBN 978-0-4522-8699-3)
- Palmer, B., Palmer, K., & Meyers, R. (1995): The encyclopedia of martial arts movies. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press. (ISBN 978-0-8108-3027-1)
- Maltin, L. (2002): Leonard Maltin's 2003 movie & video guide. London: Penguin. (ISBN 978-0-4522-8329-9)