Tokyo Sunshine Boys

Last updated

The Tokyo Sunshine Boys(東京サンシャインボーイズ,Tōkyō Sanshain Bōizu) is a Japanese theatrical troupe that was active from 1983 until about 1994. Since it disbanded almost all of its members have continued acting on theatre and in film.

Theatre of Japan

Traditional Japanese theatre includes Kabuki, Noh and the puppet theatre, Bunraku.



The group was originally designed by screenwriter Mitani Kōki, a young writer who at that time had aspirations of becoming a comedian. Although he starred in a number of the troupe's plays, he was primarily the resident playwright (座付作家). The main three actors were Nishimura Masahiko (who went on to win a number of Japanese Academy Awards and the Blue Ribbon award), Aijima Kazuyuki and Kajiwara Zen. All of the primary actors being about the same age, the existence of the group proved to be a milestone in the then-developing Japanese theatre field of Sho-Gekijo, or 'Little Theatre.' Sho-Gekijo mainly focused on making theatre accessible to the proletariat as opposed to a then-popular philosophical art which arguably required a degree of education to appreciate.

The proletariat is the class of wage-earners in an economic society whose only possession of significant material value is their labour-power. A member of such a class is a proletarian.

The troupe finally hit it big in 1991 with their remake of the Reginald Rose work Twelve Angry Men . It was rewritten into a comedy (since there is no such jury system in Japan) called 12 Gentle Japanese (Japanese title: Juuni-nin no Yasashii Nihonjin). The success of this play eventually encouraged the production of a movie directed by Nakahara Shun. However, since the play was registered as created by Mitani Koki as opposed to "The Sunshine Boys", the producers took over and held auditions for the cast. Only three of the then 13 Tokyo Sunshine Boys made it onto the cast: Aijima Kazuyuki, Kajiwara Zen, and Kondo Yoshimasa.

Reginald Rose was an American film and television writer most widely known for his work in the early years of television drama. Rose's work is marked by its treatment of controversial social and political issues. His realistic approach helped create the slice of life school of television drama, which was particularly influential in the anthology programs of the 1950s. He is best known for writing the courtroom drama Twelve Angry Men.

<i>Twelve Angry Men</i> (play) play

Twelve Angry Men is a play by Reginald Rose adapted from his 1954 teleplay of the same title for the CBS Studio One anthology television series. Staged in a 1964 London production, the Broadway debut came 50 years after CBS aired the play, on October 28, 2004, by the Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre, where it ran for 328 performances.

From that point on, Mitani Kōki as the writer for the Tokyo Sunshine Boys as well as the actors themselves, got flooded with offers to work on other TV dramas, plays and movies. As a result of an increasingly busy schedule for the individual member, the group finally disbanded in 1994 with a final performance called Tokyo Sunshine Boys no Min.

The group promises to get together again for a 30-year reunion in the year 2024 with a specialised performance of King Lear which will star Kajiwara Zen.

<i>King Lear</i> play by William Shakespeare

King Lear is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare. It depicts the gradual descent into madness of the title character, after he disposes of his kingdom by giving bequests to two of his three daughters egged on by their continual flattery, bringing tragic consequences for all. Derived from the legend of Leir of Britain, a mythological pre-Roman Celtic king, the play has been widely adapted for the stage and motion pictures, with the title role coveted by many of the world's most accomplished actors.

Unique Characteristics

The Tokyo Sunshine Boys, named after the play The Sunshine Boys by director Neil Simon, specialised in situation comedy , a form of theatre originating in radio that got its laughs from the awkward situations their characters were placed in as opposed to the more traditional protagonist vs. antagonist plots. Mitani Kōki had a special admiration for Neil Simon and Woody Allen, both writers who also specialised in situation comedy.

Neil Simon American playwright, writer, academic

Marvin Neil Simon was an American playwright, screenwriter and author. He wrote more than 30 plays and nearly the same number of movie screenplays, mostly adaptations of his plays. He received more combined Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer.

Woody Allen American screenwriter, director, actor, comedian, author, playwright, and musician

Heywood "Woody" Allen is an American director, writer, actor, and comedian whose career spans more than six decades. He began his career as a comedy writer in the 1950s, writing jokes and scripts for television and publishing several books of short humor pieces. In the early 1960s, Allen began performing as a stand-up comedian, emphasizing monologues rather than traditional jokes. As a comedian, he developed the persona of an insecure, intellectual, fretful nebbish, which he maintains is quite different from his real-life personality. In 2004, Comedy Central ranked Allen fourth on a list of the 100 greatest stand-up comedians, while a UK survey ranked Allen as the third-greatest comedian.

The Tokyo Sunshine Boys grew in popularity due to their un-intrusive, lighthearted and easy-to-understand style. The topics of their plays never covered anything taboo or political in nature, and so were unoffensive to everyone. Their stories specialised in the creation of a work - be it a play, a radio drama, or a house - of people cooperating, a multitude of opinions being brought into consideration, and the pros and cons thereof. The plays always had a happy ending.


The writer and director of most of the plays was Mitani Kōki. He also acted occasionally under the pseudonym of Hitotsubashi Sōtaro.

Primary Members

Secondary Members

Joined Later

Related Research Articles

Kōki Mitani Japanese playwright, screenwriter, actor and film director

Kōki Mitani is a Japanese playwright, screenwriter, actor and film director and was previously married to Japanese actress Satomi Kobayashi. He was named after Taihō Kōki, the youngest sumo wrestler to become yokozuna. He studied dramatics at Nihon University.

Masahiko Nishimura is a Japanese theatre and film actor. He is best known for his comedic portrayals.

Kazuyuki Aijima is a Japanese stage and film actor, and one of the original Tokyo Sunshine Boys, a theatrical troupe that lasted from 1983 to about 1994. He is currently seen in television dramas and onstage in Japan.

<i>Furuhata Ninzaburō</i> Japanese television drama

Furuhata Ninzaburō is a Japanese television series that ran periodically on Fuji Television from 1994 until its final episodes (specials) in 2006. It was written by Japanese playwright Kōki Mitani and is often referred to as the Japanese version of Columbo.

University of Laughs is a story by Japanese dramatist Kōki Mitani which began as a play in 1996 starring actors Masahiko Nishimura as the Censor and Yoshimasa Kondo as the Playwright. The play won the Best Play Award at the 1996 Yomiuri Theater Awards.

Daisuke Katō Japanese actor

Daisuke Katō was a Japanese actor who appeared in over 150 films, including Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Yojimbo, Ikiru, and Hiroshi Inagaki's Samurai Trilogy and Chushingura.

Shinsengumi! (新選組!) is a 2004 Taiga drama historical fiction television series produced by Japanese broadcaster NHK. It was a popular drama about the Shinsengumi, a Japanese special police force from the Bakumatsu period.

Vamp Show is a play performed in Japan in 2001 in the Parco Theatre in Shibuya, Tokyo, in 2001. It was directed by Ikeda Narushi. It was written by Mitani Kōki and inspired by the German musical Tanz der Vampire. The only similarity in the two stories, however, is the topic of vampires.

<i>Welcome Back, Mr. McDonald</i> 1997 film by Kōki Mitani

Welcome Back, Mr.McDonald is a 1997 Japanese film directed by Kōki Mitani. It was popular in Japan upon its release and won 3 Japanese Academy Awards for Best Screenplay, Best Sound, and Best Supporting Actor. It was also nominated for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Director, Best Editing, Best Film, Best Lighting, Best Music Score, and Best Supporting Actress.

Zen Kajihara, is a Japanese theatre actor. Originally a member of the Tokyo Sunshine Boys theatrical troupe, he now works mainly with the Gekidan Shinkansen troupe.

Yoshimasa Kondo , born on August 13, 1961 in Nagoya, Japan, is a Japanese theatre and film actor.

Aikotoba wa Yūki is a Japanese television drama that ran on Fuji Television every Thursday at 10:00 to 10:54 PM from July 6 to September 14, 2000. Its opening theme is "Pomp and Circumstance Marches No. 1", performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

Nishimura is a Japanese surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Masahiko is a masculine Japanese given name. Notable people with the name include:

The Show Must Go On, a play by Kōki Mitani, written in 1991 for his theatre group Tokyo Sunshine Boys. It was so popular in Japan that it brought media fame to the entire company and gained its star actor Masahiko Nishimura an award for Best Actor, in that year's Japanese Theatre Awards.

The 19th Yokohama Film Festival (第19回ヨコハマ映画祭) was held on 8 February 1998 in Kannai Hall, Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan.

Rumi Matsui is a Japanese set designer and scenographer based in Tokyo. She is the president of Centreline Associates.