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Shin'ichi Chiba (千葉 真一, Chiba Shin'ichi, born January 22, 1939), also known as Sonny Chiba, is a Japanese actor, singer, film producer, film director, and martial artist.

Sonny Chiba
Sonny Chiba 1961.jpg
Studio publicity photo (1961)
Born Sadaho Maeda
(1939-01-22) January 22, 1939 (age 79)
Fukuoka, Japan
Occupation Actor, singer, film producer, film director, martial artist
Years active 1960 – present
Spouse(s) Yoko Nogiwa (1972 – 1994)
Tamami Chiba (1996 – 2015)
Children Juri Manase, Mackenyu

Chiba was one of the first actors to achieve stardom through his skills in martial arts, initially in Japan and later before an international audience.[1][2]


Early lifeEdit

Born Sadaho Maeda (前田 禎穂, Maeda Sadaho) in Fukuoka, Japan, he was the third of five children in the family of a military test pilot.[3] When he was four years old, his father was transferred to Kisarazu, Chiba, and the family moved to Kimitsu, Chiba.[4]

After Chiba went to junior high school in Kimitsu, the physical education teacher advised him to do artistic gymnastics.[5] He also was passionate about track and field sports, baseball and volleyball.[5] He participated in those four sports championships of Chiba Prefecture.[5] In high school, Chiba dedicated himself to artistic gymnastics and won the National Sports Festival of Japan while in his third year.[1][6] He enjoyed watching Western movies like Shane and High Noon.[6]

Chiba went to the Nippon Sport Science University in 1957.[1][7] He was a serious candidate for a place in the Japanese Olympic team in his late teens until he was sidelined by a back injury.[1][7] While he was a university student, he began studying martial arts with the renowned Kyokushin Karate master Masutatsu "Mas" Oyama (whom he later portrayed in a trilogy of films), which led to a first-degree black belt on October 15, 1965, later receiving a fourth-degree on January 20, 1984.[8]


Sometime around 1960,[9] he was discovered in a talent search (called "New Face") by the Toei film studio, and he began his screen career soon after as Shin'ichi Chiba.[citation needed]

His acting career began on television, starring in two Tokusatsu superhero shows, first replacing Susumu Wajima as the main character Kōtarō Ran/7-Color Mask in 7-Color Mask (Nana-iro kamen) in the second half of the series then starred as Gorō Narumi/Messenger of Allah in Messenger of Allah (Allah no Shisha). His movie debut and first starring movie role was the 1961 science fiction movie Invasion of the Neptune Men. Later that year, Chiba appeared in the first Kinji Fukasaku film, Wandering Detective: Tragedy in Red Valley which marked the beginning of a long series of collaborations for the two. Over the next decade, he was cast primarily in crime thrillers. He also adopted the English name Sonny Chiba, initially because of his association with a Toyota advertising campaign for a car called the "Sunny-S".[citation needed] By 1970, Chiba had started his own training school for aspiring martial arts film actors and stunt performers known as J.A.C (Japan Action Club). He starred in the Karate Kiba (Bodyguard Kiba), after appearing on the Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Hiroshima Deathmatch in 1973. Karate Kiba was the first movie for him about martial arts. Chiba's breakthrough international hit was The Street Fighter (1974), which established him as the reigning Japanese martial arts actor in international cinema for the next two decades.[1][2]

His subsequent projects included such pictures as The Bullet Train (1975), Karate Warriors (1976), Doberman Cop (1977), Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon (1977) and The Assassin (1977). He also occasionally returned to the science fiction genre, in movies such as Message from Space (1978). He began to star also on some jidaigeki such as Shogun's Samurai (1978), The Fall of Ako Castle (1978), G.I. Samurai (1979), Shadow Warriors (1980), Samurai Reincarnation (1981). He was not only actor but also stunt coordinator at G.I. Samurai, Burning Brave (1981), Shogun's Shadow (1989) and executive producer, film director at Yellow Fangs (1990).

Chiba was even busier in the 1980s, doing dozens of movies as well as making forays into television, and with roles in such high-profile adventures as the popular Hong Kong comic-based movie: The Storm Riders (1998), starring alongside Ekin Cheng and Aaron Kwok. His fame in Japan remained unabated into the 1990s.[citation needed]

In his fifties, the actor resumed working under the name Shinichi Chiba when he served as a choreographer of martial arts sequences. At the dawn of the 21st century, Chiba was as busy as ever in feature films and also starring in his own series in Japan. Roles in Takashi Miike's Deadly Outlaw: Rekka and his work with directors Kenta and Kinji Fukasaku's Battle Royale II effectively bridged the gap between modern day and yesteryear cinematic cult legends. Chiba's enduring onscreen career received a tribute when he appeared in a key role as Hattori Hanzo, the owner of a sushi restaurant and retired samurai sword craftsman, in director Quentin Tarantino's bloody revenge epic Kill Bill in 2003.

Chiba has starred in more than 125 films for Toei Studios and has won numerous awards in Japan for his acting.[10] In November 2007, he announced the retirement of the stage name Shinichi Chiba and will now be known (in Japan) as J.J. Sonny Chiba (JJサニー千葉, Justice Japan Sonny Chiba) as an actor and Rindō Wachinaga (和千永 倫道, Wachinaga Rindō) as a film director.[11]

Chiba established the Japan Action Club, now Japan Action Enterprise (JAE) to develop and raise the level of martial arts techniques and sequences used in Japanese film and television.

Personal lifeEdit

Chiba divorced his first wife, actress Yoko Nogiwa with whom he has a daughter, Juri Manase, also an actress. He has two sons from his second marriage; child actor Mackenyu Arata (新田真剣佑, Arata Makken'yū) born on November 16, 1996 and Gordon (郷敦), born in 1998. He currently lives in Yokohama, Japan. His younger brother, Jirō Yabuki (also known as Jiro Chiba), was also an actor.

In Western popular cultureEdit

Martial arts ranksEdit

Chiba holds black belts in the following martial arts:



  • Chiba Shin'ichi aratame Wachinaga Rindō (in Japanese). Yama to Keikokush. 2008. ISBN 4-635-34022-8. 
  • Chibaryū samurai eno michi (in Japanese). Bunkasha. 2010. ISBN 4-8211-4269-4. 


  1. ^ a b c d e "SPORTS CITY". Kamakura Shobo. 1 (2): 32. 1981. 
  2. ^ a b "Honke Bruce Lee wo shinogu Chiba Shinichi" [Shinichi Chiba surpasses Bruce Lee as the movie star of martial arts]. Sports Hochi (in Japanese). Tokyo. 27 December 1974. 
  3. ^ Chibaryū samurai eno michi, pp.81 - 82.
  4. ^ Chiba Shin'ichi aratame Wachinaga Rindō, pp.38 - 39.
  5. ^ a b c Chibaryū samurai eno michi, pp.89.
  6. ^ a b Chibaryū samurai eno michi, pp.95 - 96.
  7. ^ a b Chiba Shin'ichi aratame Wachinaga Rindō, pp.53.
  8. ^ a b "International Karate Organization KYOKUSHINKAIKAN Domestic Black Belt List As of Oct.2000". Kyokushin karate sōkan : shin seishin shugi eno sōseiki e. Aikēōshuppanjigyōkyoku: 62–64. 2001. ISBN 4-8164-1250-6. 
  9. ^ The dates are uncertain, because it is possible that he had television appearances to his credit as early as 1959.
  10. ^ Ragone, August. "SHINICHI "SONNY" CHIBA: A Real Mean Bastard!". Henshin!Online. Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  11. ^ "千葉真一「JJサニー」に改名!映画監督としては「和千永倫道」." Sankei Shimbun.
  12. ^ a b Thomas, Brian. VideoHound's Dragon: Asian Action & Cult Flicks. Canton, Michigan: Visible Ink Press, 2003, pp. 61-62.

External linksEdit