|Native name||青木 廣彰|
October 9, 1938|
July 10, 2008 (aged 69)|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Cause of death||Pneumonia|
|Other names||Rocky Aoki|
|Citizenship||United States at time of death|
|Children||7, including Devon and Steve Aoki|
Hiroaki Aoki (青木 廣彰 Aoki Hiroaki, October 9, 1938 – July 10, 2008), best known as Rocky Aoki, was a Japanese-born American wrestler and restaurateur who founded popular Japanese cuisine restaurant chain Benihana.
Hiroaki Aoki was born in Tokyo, the son of Katsu and Yunosuke Aoki. Aoki and some friends started a rock and roll band called Rowdy Sounds, though Aoki eventually abandoned music for athletics. He would later explain, "I play bass. But I tell you why I change to wrestling: No good on tempo."
Aoki attended Keio University, where he competed in track and field, karate, and wrestling before being expelled for fighting. He qualified for the 1960 Summer Olympics for wrestling in Rome, but did not compete. However, he later toured the United States and was undefeated in the wrestling 112-pound flyweight class.
Aoki was offered wrestling scholarships from several different American colleges. He attended Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts, and later transferred to CW Post College on Long Island.
Move to the United States
After he received his associate degree in management in 1963, he used the $10,000 he had saved from the ice cream business to convince his father to co-invest in the first Benihana, a four-table teppanyaki restaurant on West 56th Street. "Benihana", taken from the Japanese name for safflower, was suggested by Aoki's father.
Rocky, who was married three times, once said that he had "three kids from three different women at exactly the same time." He found out about the seventh with the third woman when he was sued for paternity.
He was an offshore powerboat racer along with the 1986 APBA world champion Powerboat throttleman Errol Lanier, a former Fort Lauderdale, Florida fireman who saved his life in a near fatal powerboat crash in 1979 under the Golden Gate Bridge.
In 1973, Aoki launched Genesis, a softcore pornographic men's magazine. The title changed hands several times, eventually becoming an explicit publication long after Aoki's period of ownership. Despite not enjoying the mainstream popularity of rivals Playboy and Penthouse, the magazine remained in activity for nearly 40 years.
In 1999, he pleaded guilty to insider trading charges and was fined $500,000 and given three years’ probation.
In 2005, he sued four of his children (Grace, Kevin, Kyle, and Echo) for an alleged attempt to take control of the companies he founded, which, at the time, had an estimated value between USD $60–100 million.
Aoki died of pneumonia in New York City. At the time of his death he had been suffering from diabetes, Hepatitis C, and cirrhosis of the liver. His hepatitis was reportedly the result of a blood transfusion after a 1979 speedboat crash under the Golden Gate Bridge.
At the time of his death, Rocky Aoki was survived by his seven children, his third wife Keiko and four grandchildren. These included musician Steve Aoki and model Devon Aoki. His grave is at the cemetery attached to Joshin temple in Setagaya Ward, Tokyo.
Aoki was the recipient of The International Center in New York's Award of Excellence.
- "Rocky H Aoki - Biography". rockyhaoki.com. Retrieved February 16, 2018.
- "Rocky's Family Horror Show". New York. October 25, 2007. ISSN 0028-7369.
- "A Flower in the Debris: The Legacy of Benihana, Rocky Aoki's All-American Empire". The Ringer. July 24, 2018. Retrieved July 24, 2018.
- "Rocky Aoki Biography". Rocky Aoki profile. Retrieved March 21, 2015.
- Schudel, Matt (12 July 2008). "Rocky Aoki; Flashy Founder of Benihana". The Washington Post.
- "Rocky Aoki, Who Created Benihana Chain, Is Dead at 69". The New York Times. July 12, 2008.
- "Aoki Will Leave Powerboat Racing". The New York Times. Associated Press. February 7, 1983.
- Kawaguchi, Judit Keiko Aoki May 28, 2009 Japan Times; retrieved April 13, 2017.
- Benihana founder's third wife loses bid for fortune March 31, 2016, timesunion.com; retrieved April 14, 2017.