Hideki Fujii(Fujii): My older brother ran a western goods shop in a Ginza building. Near the edge of the eaves, there was a modern film company cum publishing company. The Division Manager was an old man who looked like a bulldog, his name being Doctor Shotaro Akiyama (laugh) He used to go to my brother's western goods shop and get things like scarves, gloves etc. and my brother and him became quite close. And so my brother asked him on my behalf.
I didn't get any pay and he would say do this, do that in the presence of photographers,. and I became Doctor Akiyama's assistant. It was when I was in my 2nd year doing photography at the Japan University of Arts. I didn't receive any pay from the old boy (Doctor Akiyama) who was 40 something, but I actually said something and started getting some, (laugh).
The office in those days was under a theatre and 5 professional photographers Takahiro Hayashi, Akira Sugiyama, Shotaro Akiyama, Yukichi Watabe and Kiyoshi Fujikawa would often gather in the small room. We always crammed into this office. I was there for about a year. Doctor Hayashi would drink until the morning and start vomitting and I would rub his back. He would often give me a smack when I put film in the wrong way in his camera (laugh). When I was assistant in those days, it was really interesting. It wasn't a case of one assistant to one photographer, it was more like a competition to see who could use us more. At first I started off by cleaning the darkroom and the office. However it was really quite fun.
While I was doing this, Doctor Akiyama would be in the studio. Work got really busy. Until that time, I had been going to University while working as an assistant but, I really didn't have time to go to University, and before long I stopped going. (laugh) There wasn't any mobile phones then, so when work requests came in to the office, I had to go and locate the photographers. I would go around about 20 bars that they would often go to around Ginza until I found them. They would say ' oh is that right' and then let me go home. (It would have been nice for them to shout me at least 1 drink...!!)
The memory that's stayed with me the most is probably the fire. On that day, it was the first time that Doctor Akiyama was going to appear on TV and he was fluffing around a bit. In those days, 'the old boy' had a dog. There was another assistant and he thought it was cold, so he turned on the heater and apparently wrapped himself in a blanket. Then the next thing was I got a phone call, so dashed over there. Fortunately, the fire wasn't a major catastrophe because a neighbour had come and put it out but the cameras were soaked and the colour films were drenched and the guy that had created the fire was as white as a sheet. We thought if we told the old boy about it, he would become really nervous and tense on TV, so before he came home, we tried to clean up a little, dry-off the cameras, straighten up the room, and still the guy that started the fire was so depressed and down , just like he was waiting on death row. So, all night freezing in the room with broken windows I was comforting him saying it's alright etc. (laugh).
The next day, 'the old boy' came back and said "what's happened, what a catastrophe!!" were his words. And he took a large bottle of sake over to the neighbours and apologised. It was quite awful really!
Nearby there was an acting theatre so, often training students would come by from the studio to visit us. Doraimon's voice actress and Manami Fuji etc were training students of that time. The old boy had 3 or 4 dogs and it was the time that there was no such thing as dog food, so we used to make rice with miso soup and give it to the dogs. For this reason he got the name of old man Akiyama - he used to eat the left-over food that he didn't give to his dogs with the training students. (laugh) Writing such things he will probably be furious, but it is the truth!! Around that time I didn't have any money and the old boy had 3 or 4 dogs, and 24 birds which he didn't look after at all!! If you don't give birds water and birdseed every day, they will die, so even on Sundays I used to look after them everyday. This really became a nusiance, this was a good training period, he really will get furious!!(laugh) But, well, recently the both of us have reached that age where we can laugh about these things. The other day when I was talking to him, he said "there is actually 14 years between our ages, but recently there only seems about 3, isn't that right!!"
It was that kind of assistant stage. However, I think studying alongside Doctors Hayashi and Akiyama etc back then, still gives me the stimulation and motivation today.