Joe Shishido

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Joe Shishido
Joe Shishido 1961.jpg
Joe Shishido in 1961.
Jō Shishido

(1933-12-06)December 6, 1933
Kita, Osaka, Japan
DiedJanuary 18, 2020(2020-01-18) (aged 86)[1][2]
Years active1955–2016
Height1.74 m (5 ft 8+12 in)
ChildrenKai Shishido

Joe Shishido (宍戸 錠, Shishido Jō, December 6, 1933 – January 18, 2020) was a Japanese actor most recognizable for his intense, eccentric yakuza film roles and his artificially enlarged cheekbones. He appeared in some 300 films but is best known in the West for his performance in the cult film Branded to Kill (1967). In Japan, he is also known by the nickname Joe the Ace (エースのジョー, Ēsu no Jō) for his popular role in the Western Quick Draw Joe (1961).

Early life[edit]

Joe Shishido was born in the Kita Ward of Osaka, Japan. He had two older brothers, one younger sister and a younger brother who also became an actor under the name Eiji Go. Shishido attended schools in Tokyo and Miyagi. In 1952, he graduated from high school and enrolled in the theatre course at Nihon University. Two years later, he auditioned for the Nikkatsu Company's New Face contest. He was one of 21 selected from 8,000 applicants. Shishido dropped out of school and began working for Nikkatsu, appearing in small film roles.[3]


In 1954, Joe Shishido signed on as a contract player at Nikkatsu. Studio bosses encouraged Shishido to change his name, as popular tales of the samurai Miyamoto Musashi contained a villain named Shishido, and they were trying to model him into a romantic lead. Shishido refused. His first major role was in Policeman's Diary (1955, Keisatsu Nikki), in which he played a young patrolman who challenges a police chief in a kendo (bamboo sword fighting) match.[3]

Displeased with his middling success in melodramas and "blandly handsome features",[3][4] Shishido underwent cheek augmentation surgery in 1957, increasing the size of his cheekbones. His altered look has been described both as "ruggedly handsome",[3] and also as chipmunk-like.[5][6] Afterwards, he began getting bigger parts, predominantly as villains in action movies. Two of his biggest roles in the late 1950s and early 1960s were opposite Akira Kobayashi in the Wataridori ("Birds of Passage") series, and Keiichirō Akagi in the Kenjū Buraichō series. When Akagi died in a go-karting accident, Shishido replaced him as Nikkatsu's action star. His first starring role was in the comic buddy film Joe of Aces-Gambling for a Living aka Rokudenashi Kagyō directed by Buichi Saitō.[7] The film was a success and spawned two immediate sequels, Joe of Aces-Body Guard and Joe of Aces-Give and Take'7 (1961). He gained national popularity and the lifelong nickname "Joe the Ace" ("Eisu no Jō") for his eponymous role in the Eastern Western Quick Draw Joe (1961), in which he played the "third-fastest draw in the world—0.65 seconds."[3][8]

Though he worked predominantly in comic action roles, Shishido also gained a tough-guy loner image in such films as Seijun Suzuki's Youth of the Beast, (1963) in which he played an ex-cop who infiltrates two rival yakuza gangs.[3] Shishido is best known in the West for films he made with Suzuki, e.g. Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell, Bastards! (1963) and Gate of Flesh (1964).[4] His best known film internationally is Suzuki's Branded to Kill (1967), in which he starred as the number three hitman in Japan. The film received only moderate success on its original release, due largely to poor promotion by Nikkatsu stemming from the studio's growing disaffection with Suzuki, which ended with the director's firing. Shishido later recalled seeing the film with friends and finding the theater nearly deserted.[3]

Nikkatsu action movies began to lose favour through the late 1960s and production was scaled back resulting in fewer jobs for Shishido. He began taking roles with other companies and in television, which were primarily of a comic nature. He also starred in Nikkatsu "new action" films such as the all-star vehicle Yakuza Bird of Passage:Bad Guys' Work (1969), with Akira Kobayashi and Tetsuya Watari, and Bloody Battle (1971). In 1971, Shishido ended his contract and left the failing company,[3] which had transitioned into softcore roman porno ("romantic pornography") films in order to stay profitable.[4]

Free agent[edit]

Joe Shishido continued to work in television and appeared in films for other studios such as the fifth installment of Toei's highly popular post-war yakuza series, Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Final Episode (1974). By this time yakuza films had begun to lose favour with the public and Shishido ceased appearing in those types of roles. Over the next 20 years, he focused predominately on television with occasional film appearances including Exchange Students (1982), Bound for the Fields, the Mountains, and the Seacoast (1986) and A Mature Woman (1994). His roles in Kaizo Hayashi's Mike Hama: Private Eye trilogy marked a reemergence of his tough-guy persona. The trilogy included The Most Terrible Time in My Life (1994), The Stairway to the Distant Past (1995) and The Trap (1996).[3]

On 4 February 2013, his house was destroyed in a fire. He was not at home at the time and no one was injured.[9]

Shishido was found in his home on January 21, 2020, having died on January 18, 2020. He was survived by his three children.[1][10]

Partial filmography[edit]




  1. ^ a b 宍戸錠さん死因は虚血性心疾患、本人希望すでに密葬
  2. ^ LCCN: Shishido, Jō, 1933-2020
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Schilling, Mark (September 2003). The Yakuza Movie Book: A Guide to Japanese Gangster Films. Stone Bridge Press. pp. 128–130. ISBN 1-880656-76-0. Archived from the original on 2007-10-17.
  4. ^ a b c Sharp, Jasper; Stefan Nutz (August 2005). "Interview: Jo Shishido and Toshio Masuda". Midnight Eye. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
  5. ^ Atkinson, Michael (February 2005). "Fighting Elegy; Youth of the Beast". The Village Voice. Archived from the original on 2007-08-20. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
  6. ^ Erickson, Glenn (July 2002). "Branded to Kill". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
  7. ^ "ろくでなし稼業". Retrieved 8 December 2021.
  8. ^ 早射ち野郎 (in Japanese). Japanese Movie Database. Retrieved 2007-10-17.
  9. ^ "宍戸錠さん宅が全焼 外出中でけが人なし". mns産経ニュース. 2013-02-04. Archived from the original on 2013-02-05.
  10. ^ "Japanese Actor Jo Shishido Dies at 86". 21 January 2020.

External links[edit]