Monday, August 29, 2016

Mr. Fuji Now Salt of the Earth

Harry Fujiwara (May 4, 1937 – August 28, 2016)

Wow, Mr. Fuji has passed away at 82 years old.  The villainous professional wrestler who when losing, was known for reaching into his waistband then throwing salt into an opponent's eyes, was one of the great entertainers of the sport.  At least that's how I remember him back in the 1970's. 

Mr. Fuji was a tag team partner with that other bad boy from the East you loved to hate,  the late Professor Tanaka. Together they made up one of the best acts in professional wrestling. For us who knew and cheered the entertainment value of the sport, a bout featuring Mr. Fuji and Professor Tanaka was a treat you didn't wanna miss.  You knew coming in that they'd pull any and every cheating trick in the book to gain an advantage. Mr. Fuji's salt throwing act was as legendary as Chief Jay Strongbow's war party revival dance.  

I can still picture the Chief on one knee, being pummeled on the back by some beast and looking like he's ready to go down and out. Then, with that bobbing head, slowly regaining his strength and rising with every strike to eventually war dance while slapping and flipping his opponent into submission. I think he was chanting something also while doing that choppy strut of his. The Chief was one of the good guys and we loved him for it, God rest his soul.

Mr. Fuji on the other hand, was a bad guy who we loved to hate.  If there was someone who could yell a Scarface style "say goodbye to the bad guy" line, it was Mr. Fuji.  The problem with that though is that I don't remember him or Professor Tanaka ever talking much, if at all. Their act included not understanding the referee's English, which allowed them to get away with more cheating. Fuji and the Professor would probably be considered racial stereotypes by many politically correct persons in today's age.  Their strong Asiatic looks along with their sly, sneaky gestures were easily misinterpreted by us western viewers as cheating traits that all Asians might employ. 

My guess is that Mr. Fuji, due to his Japanese culture background (Sumo Wrestling), might of had as much, if not more respect for the art of wrestling, than many of the wrestlers from the West. But then again, wikipedia has Mr. Fuji as Japanese-American being born in Hawaii.  So maybe he was really just another marketing opportunist taking advantage of the preexisting racial stereotypes of the West. Ever since the WWII attack on Pearl Harbor, Japanese had been depicted as cruel, sneaky and distrustful. 

Funny I just watched an old Twilight Zone episode where a young Japanese-American and white American WWII veteran have an encounter. The episode was broadcast once in 1964 then withheld from syndication in the United States due to it's racial overtones. Finally, on January 3, 2016, the episode was rebroadcast in the U.S. The name of the episode: "The Encounter"

As for Mr. Fuji and who he represented to us fans of early professional wrestling lore; it wasn't his race or looks, but the character he so convincingly played on that wonderful stage of Pro Wrestling, who we loved to hate so. 

Mr. Harry Fujiwara, you will live on in the hearts and souls of those you entertained.  I'll throw a bit of salt out the window today in honor of your brave audacity to break the rules to your advantage.

"If you ain't cheating you ain't trying"

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