Forty years have not dulled the ongoing love affair between "Star Wars" and Japan. Legendary Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa’s influence on creator George Lucas and his original 1977 "Star Wars" movie is well-documented. However, as the multimedia franchise turns 40 this year, the interplay between it and Japan is being strengthened in ways that go well beyond Kurosawa’s influential 1958 film "The Hidden Fortress." Though Lucas himself has retired and handed over the reins of the Lucasfilm company to Disney, "The Last Jedi" director Rian Johnson, veteran actor Mark Hamill and emerging stars Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver each have ties to Japan and its culture.
Mark Hamill Comes Home to 'Star Wars' (and Japan)
On Dec 5, 2017, actor Mark Hamill was greeted with a hero’s welcome at Narita Airport as he arrived in Japan to promote "The Last Jedi," the eighth episode in the Skywalker saga and ninth "Star Wars" film overall. The original "Star Wars," now commonly referred to as "A New Hope" to distinguish it from its sequels and prequels, first hit theaters on May 25, 1977.
In the four decades that have elapsed since then, Hamill has had occasion to visit Japan other times, but as he noted, this was a rare work-related visit for him. Before he took on the iconic role of Luke Skywalker, the actor actually lived in Kanagawa Prefecture for two years while attending Nile C Kinnick High School at Yokosuka Naval Base. On stage at Roppongi Hills Arena in Tokyo, where he walked the red carpet the night after his arrival, Hamill had this to say about Japan:
“I went to high school here for two years, so I feel like this is my second home. The Japanese fans have always been so supportive, so loving and so loyal, and we’re all so grateful for that support. […] When I lived here, I went all over Japan. I lived in Yokosuka. I went to high school in Yokohama. We came to Tokyo on weekends, we went skiing in Bandai and [visited] Kyoto. It’s a beautiful country and the only reason I didn’t stay is — my Japanese wasn’t good enough to get acting jobs. So I had to go back to the States.”
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