Kunihiro Fujioka was born on February 19th 1946 in Kuma, Japan. He became better known by his stage name Hiroshi Fujioka, and as an actor became a legend in the role of Takeshi Hongo in the tokusatsu superhero series Kamen Rider, and later the Sega Saturn mascot Segata Sanshiro.
Fujioka is a cultural icon in Japan, even having the minor planet 12408 Fujioka, discovered by Akimasa Nakamura, named in his honor. Fujioka writes his name with the ideographic commaat the end (after the kanji for “Hiroshi” (弘?)), saying “It is meant to remind me to reconsider myself and what it is that I need to achieve. It shows that I am not yet finished with my tasks and must continue working toward their accomplishment.”
In 1971’s Kamen Rider, he played Takeshi Hongo/Kamen Rider 1, a young man who was kidnapped by the secret organization Shocker and forced to undergo a procedure that turns him into a super-powered cyborg, but escapes before he can be brainwashed to do Shocker’s bidding, becoming the first Kamen Rider, fighting for humanity’s freedom against the forces of Shocker. Each episode sees Hongo meeting another of Shocker’s soldiers, interacting briefly with supporting characters, such as his mentor Tachibana Tobei, and ultimately defeating the enemy, often with trademark “Rider Kick” or “Rider Punch” attacks.
However, the series was drastically altered during the filming of episode ten. Fujioka, while attempting to perform a stunt on his motorcycle, shattered his leg. The surrounding episodes were quickly edited or otherwise altered to account for this, but Fujioka’s injury forced him to take a long-term hiatus from acting, so production company Toei hired a new actor, Takeshi Sasaki, to play a new Kamen Rider character, dubbed Kamen Rider 2. In the show, it was explained that Shocker had built a duplicate of their original Kamen Rider cyborg in an effort to combat the threat that Hongo posed to their organization. This new character was introduced in episode 14, as Hongo’s character was gradually phased out as unused footage of Fujioka ran dry, a process that had been occurring since episode 11.
By the time Fujioka had recovered from his injuries, Kamen Rider had become fairly successful, and Fujioka found other work, so Sasaki continued to portray the main character of the series until episode 49, when Fujioka returned to the series full-time. During this time, the two characters worked together as the “Double Riders”, and Sasaki’s character was eventually written out. By episode 53, through the end of the series with episode 98, Hongo was again the sole protagonist, but Ichimonji returned for guest spots intermittently, in episodes 72, 73, 93, 94, and the finale.
Since that time Fujioka has played the role of Takeshi Hongo/Kamen Ruder 1 in a wider range of Kamen Rider tv shows and movies. It seems Japan just cannot let him go!
At the age of 70, Fujioka will once again appear on the big screen later this year as Takeshi Hongo in the upcoming movie Kamen Rider 1. A role he has now continued for 45 years!