Studio publicity photo (1961)
January 22, 1939
|Occupation||Actor, singer, film producer, film director, martial artist|
|Years active||1960 – present|
|Spouse(s)||Yoko Nogiwa (1972 – 1994)
Tamami Chiba (1996 – 2015)
|Children||Juri Manase, Mackenyu|
Born Sadaho Maeda (前田 禎穂 Maeda Sadaho) in Fukuoka, Fukuoka, Japan, he was the third of five children in the family of a military test pilot. When he was four years old, his father was transferred to Kisarazu, Chiba, and the family moved to Kimitsu, Chiba.
After Chiba went to junior high school in Kimitsu, the physical education teacher advised him to do artistic gymnastics. He also was passionate about track and field sports, baseball and volleyball. He participated in those four sports championships of Chiba Prefecture. In high school, Chiba dedicated himself to artistic gymnastics and won the National Sports Festival of Japan while in his third year. He enjoyed watching Western movies like Shane and High Noon.
Chiba went to the Nippon Sport Science University in 1957. He was a serious candidate for a place in the Japanese Olympic team in his late teens until he was sidelined by a back injury. While he was a university student, he began studying martial arts with the renowned Kyokushin Karate master Masutatsu "Mas" Oyama (whom he later portrayed in a trilogy of films), which led to a first-degree black belt on October 15, 1965, later receiving a fourth-degree on January 20, 1984.
His acting career began on television, starring in two Tokusatsu superhero shows, first replacing Susumu Wajima as the main character Kōtarō Ran/7-Color Mask in 7-Color Mask (Nana-iro kamen) in the second half of the series then starred as Gorō Narumi/Messenger of Allah in Messenger of Allah (Allah no Shisha). His movie debut and first starring movie role was the 1961 science fiction movie Invasion of the Neptune Men. Later that year, Chiba appeared in the first Kinji Fukasaku film, Wandering Detective: Tragedy in Red Valley which marked the beginning of a long series of collaborations for the two. Over the next decade, he was cast primarily in crime thrillers. He also adopted the English name Sonny Chiba, initially because of his association with a Toyota advertising campaign for a car called the "Sunny-S". By 1970, Chiba had started his own training school for aspiring martial arts film actors and stunt performers known as J.A.C (Japan Action Club). He starred in the Karate Kiba (Bodyguard Kiba), after appearing on the Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Hiroshima Deathmatch in 1973. Karate Kiba was the first movie for him about martial arts. Chiba's breakthrough international hit was The Street Fighter (1974), which established him as the reigning Japanese martial arts actor in international cinema for the next two decades.
His subsequent projects included such pictures as The Bullet Train (1975), Karate Warriors (1976), Doberman Cop (1977), Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon (1977) and The Assassin (1977). He also occasionally returned to the science fiction genre, in movies such as Message from Space (1978). He began to star also on some jidaigeki such as Shogun's Samurai (1978), The Fall of Ako Castle (1978), G.I. Samurai (1979), Shadow Warriors (1980), Samurai Reincarnation (1981). He was not only actor but also stunt coordinator at G.I. Samurai, Burning Brave (1981), Shogun's Shadow (1989) and executive producer, film director at Yellow Fangs (1990).
Chiba was even busier in the 1980s, doing dozens of movies as well as making forays into television, and with roles in such high-profile adventures as the popular Hong Kong comic-based movie: The Storm Riders (1998), starring alongside Ekin Cheng and Aaron Kwok. His fame in Japan remained unabated into the 1990s.
In his fifties, the actor resumed working under the name Shinichi Chiba when he served as a choreographer of martial arts sequences. At the dawn of the 21st century, Chiba was as busy as ever in feature films and also starring in his own series in Japan. Roles in Takashi Miike's Deadly Outlaw: Rekka and his work with directors Kenta and Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale II effectively bridged the gap between modern day and yesteryear cinematic cult legends. Chiba's enduring onscreen career received a tribute when he appeared in a key role as Hattori Hanzo, the owner of a sushi restaurant and retired samurai sword craftsman, in director Quentin Tarantino's bloody revenge epic Kill Bill in 2003.
Chiba has starred in more than 125 films for Toei Studios and has won numerous awards in Japan for his acting. In November 2007, he announced the retirement of the stage name Shinichi Chiba and will now be known (in Japan) as J.J. Sonny Chiba (ＪＪサニー千葉 Justice Japan Sonny Chiba) as an actor and Rindō Wachinaga (和千永 倫道 Wachinaga Rindō) as a film director.
Chiba established the Japan Action Club, now Japan Action Enterprise (JAE) to develop and raise the level of martial arts techniques and sequences used in Japanese film and television.
Chiba divorced his first wife, actress Yoko Nogiwa with whom he has a daughter, Juri Manase, also an actress. He has two sons from his second marriage; child actor Mackenyu Arata (新田真剣佑 Arata Makken'yū) born on November 16, 1996 and Gordon (郷敦), born in 1998. He currently lives in Yokohama, Japan. His younger brother, Jirō Yabuki (also known as Jiro Chiba), was also an actor.
In Western popular culture
- Christian Slater's character Clarence Worley in True Romance is a fan of Chiba. In a pivotal early scene he watches a Sonny Chiba triple feature. The writer of True Romance, Quentin Tarantino, worked with Chiba ten years later in Kill Bill.
- A modified version of the opening scroll to the English-language version of his movie Karate Kiba (English title: The Bodyguard) was used in the script of Quentin Tarantino's 1994 movie Pulp Fiction.
Martial arts ranks
Chiba holds black belts in the following martial arts:
- Kyokushin Karate: 4th Dan
- Ninjutsu: 4th Dan
- Goju-ryu karate: 2nd Dan
- Shorinji Kempo: 2nd Dan
- Judo: 2nd Dan
- Kendo: 1st Dan
- 7-Color Mask (1960) as Kōtarō Ran / 7-Color Mask
- Wandering Detective: Tragedy in Red Valley (1961) as Gorō Saionji
- Wandering Detective: Black Wind in the Harbor (1961) as Gorō Saionji
- Invasion of the Neptune Men (1961) as Shinichi Tachibana / Iron Sharp
- Vigilante With a Funky Hat (1961)
- Vigilante With a Funky Hat: The 20,000,000 Yen Arm (1961)
- The Secret of the Diamond / The Kamikaze Guy (a.k.a. Kamikaze Man: Duel at Noon ) (1966) as Ken Mitarai
- Ōgon Bat The Golden Bat (1966) as Dr.Yamatone
- Terror Beneath the Sea (1966) as Abe
- Key Hunter (1968) as Yōsuke Kazama
- Yakuza Deka (1970) as Shirō Hayata
- Yakuza Deka: The Assassin (1970) as Shirō Hayata
- Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Hiroshima Deathmatch (1973) as Katsutoshi Ōtomo
- Karate Kiba (a.k.a. Bodyguard Kiba or Bodyguard ) (1973) as Naoto Kiba
- Tokyo-Seoul-Bangkok Drug Triangle (1973) as Tatsuya Wada
- The Street Fighter (1974) as Takuma Tsurugi
- Return of The Street Fighter (1974) as Takuma Tsurugi
- The Executioner (1974) as Ryūichi Kōga
- Sister Street Fighter (1974) as Seiichi Hibiki
- The Street Fighter's Last Revenge (1974) as Takuma Tsurugi
- Champion of Death (a.k.a. Karate Bull Fighter ) (1975) as Masutatsu Ōyama
- Karate Bearfighter (1975) as Masutatsu Ōyama
- The Killing Machine (1975) as Doshin So
- The Bullet Train (1975) as Railroad engineer Aoki
- The Defensive Power of Aikidô (1975)
- Karate Warriors (1976) - as Shūhei Sakata
- Dragon Princess (1976)
- Okinawa Yakuza sensô (1976)
- Doberman Cop (1977) as Detective Jōji Kanō
- Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon (1977) - as Duke Tōgō
- Karate for Life (1977) as Masutatsu Ōyama
- Soul of Chiba (1977) - as Mu Yun Tek
- The Assassin (1977)
- Hokuriku Proxy War (1977)
- Shogun's Samurai (a.k.a. Yagyu Clan Conspiracy ) (1978) as Jūbei Mitsuyoshi Yagyū
- The Yagyu Conspiracy (1978) as Jūbei Mitsuyoshi Yagyū
- Message from Space (1978) as Prince Hans
- The Fall of Ako Castle (1978) as Kazuemon Fuwa
- The Resurrection of the Golden Wolf (1979)
- G.I. Samurai (1979) as Lt.Yoshiaki Iba and Fights Choreographer
- Shadow Warriors (a.k.a. Hattori Hanzō: Kage no Gundan ) (1980) as Hanzō Hattori III
- Virus (1980) as Dr.Yamauchi
- Shogun's Ninja (1980)
- Bushido Blade (1981) as Prince Ido
- Roaring Fire (1981)
- Samurai Reincarnation (1981) as Jūbei Mitsuyoshi Yagyū
- Shadow Warriors II (a.k.a. Kage no Gundan II ) (1981–1982) as Shinpachi Tsuge
- The Kamikaze Adventurers (1981) as Daisuke Kamikaze
- Burning Brave (1981) as Fights Choreographer
- Shadow Warriors III (a.k.a. Kage no Gundan III ) (1982) - as Hanzō Tarao
- Fall Guy (1982) as Sonny Chiba
- Ninja Wars (1982) as Shinzaemon Yagyū
- Legend of the Eight Samurai (1983) as Dōsetsu Tadatomo Inuyama
- Shadow Warriors IV (a.k.a. Kage no Gundan IV ) (1985) - as Hanzō Hattori XV
- Shadow Warriors Bakumatsu Hen (a.k.a. Kage no Gundan Bakumatsu Hen ) (1985) - as Hanzō Hattori XV
- Sure-Fire Death 4: We Will Avenge You (1987) as Bunshichi
- Shogun's Shadow (1989) as Shōzaemon Iba and Fights Choreographer
- Yellow Fangs (1990) as Executive Producer, Director
- The Triple Cross (1992) as Shiba
- Aces: Iron Eagle III (1992) as Horikoshi
- Immortal Combat (1994)
- The Storm Riders (1998) as Lord Conqueror
- Born to Be King (2000) as Ichio Kusakari
- Deadly Outlaw: Rekka (2002)
- Wind and Cloud (2002) as Lord Conqueror
- Battle Royale II: Requiem (2003) as Makio Mimura
- Kill Bill Volume 1 (2003) as Hanzō Hattori
- Shin Kage No Gundan (New Shadow Warriors) (2003) as Hanzō Hattori I
- Survive Style 5+ (2004)
- Sarutobi Sasuke Yami No Gundan (2005) as Jūbei Mitsuyoshi Yagyū
- The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) as Kamata
- Oyaji (2007)
- Legend of Seven Monks (2007)
- Fūrin Kazan (Taiga drama) (2007) as Nobukata Itagaki
- Sushi Girl (2012) as Sushi chef
- April Fools (2015)
- Shashin Kōshien (2017)
- Chiba Shin'ichi aratame Wachinaga Rindō (in Japanese). Yama to Keikokush. 2008. ISBN 4-635-34022-8.
- Chibaryū samurai eno michi (in Japanese). Bunkasha. 2010. ISBN 4-8211-4269-4.
- "SPORTS CITY". Kamakura Shobo. 1 (2): 32. 1981.
- "Honke Bruce Lee wo shinogu Chiba Shinichi" [Shinichi Chiba surpasses Bruce Lee as the movie star of martial arts]. Sports Hochi (in Japanese). Tokyo. 27 December 1974.
- Chibaryū samurai eno michi, pp.81 - 82.
- Chiba Shin'ichi aratame Wachinaga Rindō, pp.38 - 39.
- Chibaryū samurai eno michi, pp.89.
- Chibaryū samurai eno michi, pp.95 - 96.
- Chiba Shin'ichi aratame Wachinaga Rindō, pp.53.
- "International Karate Organization KYOKUSHINKAIKAN Domestic Black Belt List As of Oct.2000". Kyokushin karate sōkan : shin seishin shugi eno sōseiki e. Aikēōshuppanjigyōkyoku: 62–64. 2001. ISBN 4-8164-1250-6.
- The dates are uncertain, because it is possible that he had television appearances to his credit as early as 1959.
- Ragone, August. "SHINICHI "SONNY" CHIBA: A Real Mean Bastard!". Henshin!Online. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
- "千葉真一「ＪＪサニー」に改名！映画監督としては「和千永倫道」." Sankei Shimbun.
- Thomas, Brian. VideoHound's Dragon: Asian Action & Cult Flicks. Canton, Michigan: Visible Ink Press, 2003, pp. 61-62.
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