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Chinese girls swoon over Japanese idol

Yuki Furukawa didn’t expect to be so hot in China. When the Japanese actor landed in Shanghai two weeks ago for his fan club meeting, hundreds of frenzied fans, mostly young girls with cameras and welcome posters, had already besieged the exit. There was chaos.

“At first it was a little bit strange because I’ve never been to China but there are lots of Chinese fans. To be frank, I never thought I was so successful in China until I saw them (fans) there,” Furukawa told Shanghai Daily in a recent interview.

“I wanted to meet with my fans. I thank all my fans at the airport.”

The 25-year-old actor is soaring to the stardom in China where he is adored by female fans who watch the TV drama “Love in Tokyo,” adapted from the Japanese comic “Itazurana Kiss.”

Ironically, he is actually not that popular in Japan where viewers joke that he’s “an 18th-rate actor,” not as good as the star in the 1995 original.

The story is eternally popular. It’s about how the plain girl Aihara Kotoko, with an ordinary family and poor test scores, wins the heart of the straight-A, handsome but arrogant Irie Naoki (Furukawa) through her sincerity and bravery.

After the first two episodes were aired, Furukawa didn’t receive thumbs-up in China. On a major film and TV drama portal, the rating was only 1.2 and viewers said Furukawa was not as good-looking as the actor Takashi Kashiwabara in the 1995 TV version.

But as the story developed, there was a dramatic turnaround and Furukawa was praised by fans as “warmer and more lovable than the old version.”

“Furukawa’s acting helped regain my teenage-girl heart,” one fan wrote.

“I guess the reason people like me at first is because of the drama,” the actor said with a modest smile. “But from there, it split into two groups, one group who like the man in the original version and the other who actually like me.”

In fact, Furukawa the person actually resembles the character Irie Naoki most closely, compared with actors in various dramas made in Japan, South Korea and China.

Furukaw is the son of a famous doctor. The family moved to Toronto, Canada, when he was age seven. At 16, he went to New York to enter the high school and come back to Japan to study science and engineering at the campus of Keio University.

In 2010, he was spotted in a talent-scouting show, which encouraged him to step into show business.

With his overseas background, Furukawa speaks fluent English, a big reason for his big fan following in China. Though the Japanese drama has Chinese subtitles, the actor can only communicate with fans in English.

“He doesn’t have any funny Japanese-English accent,” one fan posted. “My ears almost get pregnant when hearing him speak English.”

When he was boy, Furukawa used to dream of being a successful professional like his father.

Had it not been for that talent show, he might have continued on the career path his family had planned for him.

“Yeah, if not an actor, I would do a job very much related with science and engineering,” he said. “But acting opened another world for me. I found it quite interesting to be an actor.”

He admitted that he was a little uncomfortable at first when fans treated him as though he were the rich and handsome character he portrays.
“I was a little confused because I thought they looked at me as Irie Naoki, not me,” he said. “I’m close to the character to some extent, but we are not same. I’m still different.”

But at least, Furukawa is as stubborn as Irie. Though faced with strong objections from his family, he was determined to become an actor.

There was no overnight success. He had many small film and TV roles but still remained unknown in Japan until “Love in Tokyo.” Even then, some Japanese fans of the 1995 version called him “an 18th-rate actor.” It was in China, however, that he became an idol, a heartthrob.

During his two days in Shanghai, fans chased him everywhere he went, sent him gifts and food and waited outside his hotel.

Obsessive fans even travel to Japan so they can “run across” him in the street or on the metro. When he’s spotted and pursued by Chinese fans in Japan, the young actor often gives a smile.

“I’m a shy, shy boy,” he said. “But I don’t feel annoyed or scared. Nothing negative. I'm more thankful to the people who notice me. It's a good thing.”


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