Action star Chiba shifting gears

Japanese actor quits film, launches school

Japanese screen icon Shinichi Chiba is retiring from the action-packed roles for which he is famous to teach at his alma mater, Nippon Sport Science U., and launch a branch of his Los Angeles-based acting school in Japan.

The 68-year-old, who lives in L.A., intends to retire his screen name but said at a presser in Tokyo on Monday that he would continue to act under his real name, Sadaho Maeda, and his international stage name, Sonny Chiba.

Chiba said he realized he’d reached his limit filming a period drama for pubcaster NHK in July. Required to wear a heavy suit of armor for his role as warlord Itagaki Nobukata, Chiba suffered an asthma attack. “Itagaki died (in the drama) — now I want to bury ‘Shinichi Chiba’ as well,” he told reporters.

 Starting next year, Chiba will be a guest instructor at Nippon Sport Science U. Also, next month he will start taking applications for a Japanese branch of his acting school, Thousand Leaves Hollywood. Chiba intends to expand the school to six cities nationwide, as well as join with Hong Kong action legend Jackie Chan to launch schools for future action stars in Beijing and Shanghai.

“I’d like to train young people and pass on the name ‘Shinichi Chiba’ to one of them,” he said. 

Born in Fukuoka, Japan, in 1939, Chiba made his screen debut in 1959. In the 1970s he rose to stardom in karate action pics as the Japanese answer to Bruce Lee.

Recent pics include “Kill Bill Vol. 1” and “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.”

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