The interview is reproduced here with the kind permission of its author, Trish Maunder.
This article was first published in The Age newspaper in Melbourne, Australia. It appeared in the EG (Entertainment Guide) section, on Friday 15 September 2000.
1. Before your success on Monkey you were quite famous in the band The Spiders, but was your [international] fame from Monkey bigger and more difficult to deal with?
Actually no because I did not know that Monkey was popular internationally at all.
2. Was it strange that a famous Chinese story should be told by the Japanese? Had you read the story before you made the show?
No, I do not think so because every Japanese person knows the story and I had been in a play of Monkey prior to the television show so I knew the story well.
3. Were you surprised that Monkey was so popular in the West, especially this second wave of popularity now that it is being released on video and DVD?
I was very surprised at the popularity of the show and the web sites that have appeared. I was surprised at the fact that a web site has stated that Sandy became a ping pong player after he had left acting. But he never did such a thing so that was very funny to see.
4. Do you still see your fellow cast members and crew from Monkey? Do you know what the main actors are doing now?
At the moment I am not in close contact with the other cast members. Pigsy was played by Toshiyuki Nishida, a well known actor and comedian who frequently plays honest, good-hearted buffoons and is still acting today, in films like "The Silk Road", "Dream of Russia" and "Heavenly Sin". Shiro Kishibe, who played Sandy, left acting only to go bankrupt after investing too much in antiques. Tripitaka who was played by Masako Natsume has passed away.
5. Have people ever stopped you on the street in the past 20 years because of your role in Monkey? Do you regret that, despite your other TV and film work, your bands and your rally car driving, you will probably always be remembered as Monkey?
After I entered The Spiders band at age fifteen I have been stopped constantly on the street, so it is more of an overall effect of my being a famous entertainer in Japan.
6. Do you have a favourite episode or scene from Monkey? What was the best thing about the show for you?
I do not have a favourite episode. I love them all.
For more information about the Monkey video / DVD release in Australia / New Zealand, check out the Monkey Videos / DVDs (Australia / New Zealand) page.