Testimonials #16 Takato Yonemoto（Actor）
「The FLIP ZERO isn’t like your first time - it’s the wife that has stayed by your side through the good times and the bad.」
In this edition of TENGA Voice, we welcome LA-based actor Takato Yonemoto. While Takato originally moved to the USA with aspirations of becoming a movie director, he was instead scouted - while eating ramen in a local supermarket food court - to appear on the silver screen himself. “47 RONIN”, starring Keanu Reeves, was Takato’s big debut. We talked about his newfound career, and his love for TENGA!
You originally wanted to produce movies. Why was that?
Some day in summer 2006, I saw a piece of news on TV that made me extremely sad. I must have been down for about a month wondering why tragic events like this happen. During that time, I kept thinking about how I myself could help make a change in the world, and the answer I found was creating something with my compassion and imagination. The thing that taught me these two virtues was cinema, and from that point creating movies became my goal. Having said that, I didn’t know right from left about actually making movies – by thinking about how I could perhaps help the amazing directors I know of around the world, I found out the role of a producer would fit well, and jumped right into things. If I was going to be talking to global producers I’d need to speak English, and Hollywood was of course the first place that came to mind – so with that in mind, within days I had taken the necessary steps to move over here.
So what was the reason you went into acting?
To become a producer after making the move, I held several positions as a director’s assistant or helping production as a location coordinator. During that time, one of Japan’s top comedians, Nakayama Kinni-kun, was studying in LA and doing shows here on the side. After I helped out at one such show, he offered to buy me some ramen at a local supermarket food court, which I was happy to take him up on.
While we were there eating, some random guy came up and we got to talking, and it turned out he was looking for an actor that fit my description to fill a role in an upcoming movie. Three weeks later, I was reading the script to “47 RONIN”. If I hadn’t taken up the offer for that bowl of ramen… man, I can’t thank Nakayama or ramen enough…!
It sounds pretty daunting to just jump into work in the U.S. Did you have any worries?
None at all. I just dived right in.
I’ve always been full of curiosity for things I don’t know, so I was more excited than anything.
It’s always taken me a long time to get off my sizeable ass (XXXXL), but once I get moving I don’t really stop.
The movie was my first ever experience with acting, but thanks of course to the great people I was working with, I was never really nervous. A lot of it is down to their warm welcome of a newcomer like me, but I feel I did pretty well to learn from my surroundings and give everything I had with small improvements every day.
Did you have any inclination that you’d make it big?
Oh, not at all. I’ve always kinda gone with the flow.
These unexpected turns of events are what make life fun, you know?
I’d say I’m extremely lucky. But just because I’m lucky to be there, I won’t shy away from the limelight – if I’m there I’ll be giving it my all.
*Spoiler Alert for a 2013 movie below*
In your first movie, “47 RONIN”, your character passes away in the arms of the protagonist, played by Keanu. What was it like to play such a role?
This goes for all of us, but I’ve never personally experienced dying before, so for inspiration I looked deep into what it really meant to live.
The whole cast and crew for RONIN would be up early, and we’d all watch the sunrise with bleary eyes on the van to the set, where we’d spend the day filming, practicing the choreography, learning how to ride horses… At night, we’d all have dinner and drinks together, sharing laughs and tears. I tried to experience each of these normal moments as richly as I could, and I’d like to think that the preciousness I felt of each passing day showed in the life I breathed into my character, Basho.
What sorts of things make you happy about becoming an actor?
Just the unique opportunities for experience I think.
Take RONIN, the first scene I shot on set. I was filming with my ronin partners, big names like Keanu Reeves and Hiroyuki Sanada, and in this scene I pass away. Thing is, we need all sorts of angles and all sorts of shots – so I got to experience death several times. I think we shot that scene over 10 times. I died and came back to life, meeting people in reality I would never again. It’s an amazing experience.
Also, the first time I met Mr. Sanada, the first words he said to me were, “You’re perfect, exactly how I imagined Basho. Don’t you go losing any weight on me!” And he welcomed me warmly into the team, that was really nice.
What are your aspirations from here? Do you have any plans in Japan?
I’d love to do something in Japan. Being away from the country has given me appreciation for being able to be there in person for your friends and family.
I was also in a movie in Mexico last year, and I would love for creators around to world to use me, “XXXXL Takato” in fun and new ways. That includes in Japan.
I want to be part of a creation that transcends time and place.
We hear that you’re a fan of TENGA. How did you find out about us?
I actually got one (the Original Vacuum CUP) as a gift from a director I was working with. However, I didn’t have the knowledge of the products that I do now, so I didn’t remove the sticker on the top and couldn’t use it because I couldn’t insert! I must have been too excited.
Some time since then, I was at a show in Hollywood and randomly met a lady that works at TENGA! We talked and she gave me a Pocket TENGA. Well – I say she gave it to me, but really I begged her for a sample.
After a giddy trip home I tried my second TENGA, and from that night I’ve been a self-proclaimed TENGA Ambassador – a “TENGASSADOR” if you will!
If you were to describe TENGA in one phrase…?
A short distance taxi ride! Lol
It’s possible to get to your “destination” on your own, but it’s that feeling of taking that bit of a luxury of a short taxi ride that feels decadent. Pushing that taxi analogy a bit, there are different types of drivers; those who use their instincts and experience, those who follow the GPS, those who follow instructions… and the same for TENGA. There’s all types of experiences to enjoy!
Your favorite TENGA product?
Definitely the Pocket TENGA! I remember the samples I received from the TENGA USA staff, they were promo samples but I still remember rushing home to use both of the two I got that day!
I don’t think I’ll be able to forget that first time experience! lol
It’s thin and compact, so you can take it anywhere – hidden in a pocket, but always at my side.
If you could use only one more TENGA, what would you choose?
Like an on-the-deathbed situation? It’s hard to choose between my first love, the Pocket TENGA, and the FLIP ZERO…!
Great choices from our TENGASSADOR!
Of course! lol
The FLIP ZERO isn’t like your first time – it’s the wife that has stayed by your side through the good times and the bad. Loved one another through thick and thin, my loving wife – let’s call her “Flip Zeroko” – should be by my side at the end. I wouldn’t even need to clean it up after use, but I think with my love for her, I would still go through the cleaning ritual. With all my love.
All that said, to even be fully erect the moment you die has gotta be a dream for most guys. Right?
Any last words to the Takato fans and TENGA fans out there?
I’m not planning on slowing down the XXXXL body any time soon.
Thank you all for reading, thank you for life, and thank you (sometimes) too, TENGA!
Born: March 9th, 1979
Takato is an LA-based actor, who was scouted while eating ramen in a local supermarket food court to star in the movie “47 RONIN” starring Keanu Reeves. Takato has since gone on to star in Netflix’s “LOVE”, Comedy Central’s “The Gorburger Show” and appeared alongside Carmen Maura in the Mexican hit “Cuando Los Hijos Regresan” (The Kids are Back.)