Japanese crew uses Zama as backdrop for movie
August 19, 2004
CAMP ZAMA, Japan — When two soccer players — one Japanese, the other South Korean — met in Boston during the 1994 soccer World Cup, they formed a novel idea to bring one of the world’s most famous sporting events to their countries.
The two realized that they would have a better bid for hosting the World Cup if they combined their country’s efforts rather than competing to host the games.
Their idea worked. In 2002, for the first time, the world watched the historic games in two separate countries. It was called the 2002 World Cup Korea/Japan.
This week, a Japanese television film crew is bringing their story to life in a television movie due out this fall. To authenticate some of the scenes, they filmed part of it at Camp Zama outside Tokyo.
While it makes sense to film the American scenes at a U.S. Army base, they also filmed an early scene set in Peru at a dilapidated building on post.
Camp Zama, the headquarters of U.S. Army Japan, offered plenty of space and an American feel, said Yukitoshi Horikawa, location coordinator for Cinehouse, which is producing the film with Fuji Television.
“It’s different from Japanese style,” he said through a translator.
Horikawa learned about the Army base three years ago when he worked on a film at Sagamihara Family Housing Area near Camp Zama.
Horikawa contacted the base two months ago wondering if Zama would work for his current project.
The U.S. Army Japan Band building, with peeling paint and a gloomy façade, seemed to make a perfect Peruvian bus stop, with a few extras in Peruvian costume and signs in Spanish.
A phone booth beside the base post office was the perfect imitation of the phone booth in Boston where the main characters met in real life.
Horikawa said the movie is essentially about the friendship between soccer players. It also tells a story many Japanese people don’t know about.
“That meeting became the foundation of the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan,” he said.
In return for filming access, U.S. Army Japan gets a note of appreciation in the film credits and a chance to foster good host-nation relations, said USARJ spokesman Maj. John Amberg.
But before it could be approved, the proposal had to weave through the Army’s office that oversees movie depictions: the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs-Los Angeles.
“Any time we can help out our host nation, we welcome the opportunity,” Amberg said.
After a long clearance process, the 73 actors, extras, production people and a few adoring fans made their way onto Zama on Monday for filming. Girls swooned over movie star Hideaki Ito, who played Japanese soccer player Takase Kazuhiko.
South Korean actor Lee Jee-hoon played soccer player Ahn Jung-hwan, Horikawa said.
The Japanese film is expected to air on Fuji TV in the fall.