May 9, 2009

Namigoro Rashomon

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Namigoro Rashomon, Kannuki the Giant, 羅生門綱五郎 Left: Namigoro Rashomon as Kannuki the Giant

While watching Akira Kurosawa's 1962 film Yojimbo last night, I became fascinated with the presence of a particular actor. It took me a few minutes to figure out the character's name, which was "Kannuki the Giant," at which point I learned that the actor's name was Namigoro Rashomon.

Since the Internet search engines have only a few thumbnail-sized images of Namigoro Rashomon, I used my laptop's screen-capture function to create this image. I now expect this blog to be flooded with Namigoro Rashomon's many adoring fans around the globe.

Unfortunately, little information exists in English on Namigoro Rashomon, so I had my Japanese-speaking daughter translate some of the Japanese Wikipedia article on him. Born in 1920, the 7-foot tall Namigoro Rashomon had a career as a professional wrestler before landing a few film roles between 1957 and 1964. He won an important Japanese wrestling title in 1946, and the literal English translation of his ring name is "Giant Horse-Man."

The hulking Namigoro Rashomon stands out in this film not only for his size - unusual by standards of the 1960s and especially so for Japanese actors - but for his menacing countenance. He soundly thrashes the Sanjuro Kuwabatake, the antiheroic character of lead actor Toshirô Mifune, and the scenes where Namigoro Rashomon walks around with an oversized wooden mallet remind me of one of the gang scenes in A Clockwork Orange.

That is about all I could dig up on Namigoro Rashomon. In the comments section please feel free to fill in any other details on his life and careers that you can discover.

8 comments:

Mad Jack said...

Oh, sure, Yojimbo. I haven't seen that one in quite a long time. I think I saw Yojimbo the last time I was at Cannes, or maybe the time before. Well certainly not the last time, but the time before, you know? Everything gets kind of blurry at Cannes.

Anyway, you know, Lee and Oliver and I were all down on Enfield's motor yacht, The Boston Bean, and there were some other people there. Hollywood extras, should-have-been producers, the next David Lynch... well, you know the crowd. And so I found myself into my third martini of the afternoon and I was half listening to Enfield's latest real estate deal while playing chess with this oriental looking fellow whom I didn't recognize until he stood up, and wouldn't you know it? I'd been sacrificing my bishop to Namigoro Rashomon!

Well, I can tell you who would know about Namigoro, and that's Chan-Wook Park. He did Bak-Jwi last month, remember? Anyway, I don't have his number. Sorry!

historymike said...

Best laugh of the day, MadJack.

Yojimbo marc said...

Hey thank you so much for this! I had been trying to find information on Namigoro Rashomon and until now I had confused him with Shohei "Giant" Baba,I guess I was wrong. You are a 100% right on the sheer impact of his presence in the film and now i'm wondering if he's still alive?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. I assume he had acromegaly?

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for this. It's a cool stuff.

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Anonymous said...

he's a legend. Great article by the way.
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Anonymous said...

The Japanese wikipedia lists him at 203 centimeters, nearly 6'7''. Not quite 7 feet, but still a giant in 60's Japan! He weighed 275 pounds.

Anonymous said...

definitely reminds Richard Kiel - as Jaws in two James Bond movies