"I am writing this from Tokyo after an amazing day!!
Today, I met none other than the Great Sage himself, Mr Masaaki Sakai!!
I took a tour of NHK and was aware that he would be doing a talk show there. I was polite but persistent with the NHK staff, who were amazed that I had come from Australia to see him. Anyway, I had to draw a number to be included in the studio audience of 30..I drew #13..who said it was unlucky! I sat right at the front and before the show began the other presenters chatted to me as I was the only westerner there.
They said they will introduce me to him!! The show was live on air all throughout Japan, and I was about to meet the man himself. He came out and shook hands with some other people then looked at me sitting there in front.
The other presenters told him that I was a huge fan of `Monkey` and he looked at me, his eyes widened and he said `Do you know me?` in a surprised tone. I said I was a long time fan of his and he said `Oh, Monkey Magic?` We shook hands and as I stood to bow to him, he and the others giggled because of the height difference. I am 180 cms, he is around 150 - 160. He was very pleasant and thanked me for coming. I watched amazed at this guy I had admired from halfway across the world over 25 yrs ago. He has aged, of course. His hair is greying, but he doesn't seem to have many wrinkles. His face still has that familiar cheekiness, and has all the energy that you would expect. During the show (in Japanese) he made constant funny gestures and joked. Although I didn't understand, he was still funny.
Incidentally, this guy is still a star in Japan. He hosts a show called `Here's the Kitchen` and is in a sitcom, among many other engagements.
I had travelled far to see my boyhood hero, and I was not disappointed! After the show we were ushered out but I managed another wave through the glass window that now divided us. I caught his eye and gave him a peace sign and mouthed `Thank you, thank you`. He smiled and did the same in return! He was whisked out the star entrance and that was my day with Massaki Sakai! Long live the Great Sage."
After sending him a followup email, I received this extra information:
"To answer your questions, we weren't allowed cameras in the studio and he was whisked away pretty quickly after the show. I took a few shots of NHK and a close up of a still of his. Even better though, it was broadcast live throughout Japan!! I intend to ask them for a copy of the show, I will submit it to you if I have any luck.
You are most welcome to post the mail on the site, reading the story `The day I met Monkey` kind of inspired me to try and meet him so maybe others will do the same in the future, who knows?
I have great memories of yesterday, and feel some sense of accomplishment in having met him. Well done with the site, keep in touch!!
Long live Monkey, Great Sage. Equal of Heaven!!
I then sent him a short Q&A, to get some information that may help other fans meet Masaaki Sakai too. Here's his answers:
1) Do you have details (address, rough location, e.g. nearest train / subway
station) of NHK's studio that you visited?
To get to NHK studios you need to take the Yamanote line to Shibuya station. There is a shuttle bus for Y150 that takes you straight to the studio. Entry is Y200 for the tour and the studio is pretty big! To get into the studio audience you need to wait outside the live studio an hour before the show and draw a number from a barrel to qualify you for entry. Once you get through that, you're in!
2) How did you find out that Masaaki Sakai was doing a show that day?
I had been making frequent calls to NHK and S-Dash Management since last year as to how I could meet Sakai san. I was lucky enough to be able to take holidays at the time that he was taping that particular show although I thought it was taped late saturday night for some reason. I had a Japanese friend (who, God love her, is very persistent!) help me to find out when, where etc.She gave NHK and S-Dash the story that an Aussie fan had come there just to see him, and they told her all the details but couldn't promise that I'd meet him...the rest is history!
NHK Audience department - 03 3746 1111 ( You can find out when he will be doing shows)
S- Dash Management 03 3586 0738 ( Mr Sakai's agent.)
They are very helpful if they know you are a foreigner, but you need a Japanese speaker to communicate with them!)
At some point in the future, I should be getting his photos of NHK Studio and of a photo of Masaaki Sakai, and I will add those here.