NINJA: THE SHO KOSUGI STORY

Chapter IV: A TIME OF EXPANSION (1987-1998)

Sho's next film, BLACK EAGLE, filmed on location in Malta from June to August 1987, marked a significant departure for Sho.  No longer playing a ninja, Sho's role of CIA Agent Ken Tani did call for him to use some martial arts, but nowhere near as much as in his previous films.  Gone too were all of the great weapons that Sho had designed and used in his ninja films.  The lesser amount of martial arts was particularly surprising considering the fact that the film co-stars Jean-Claude Van Damme as a Russian agent and Sho's nemesis.  The pairing of Sho and Van Damme promised to be an explosive combination, but the few fight scenes they're involved in are way too short for most martial arts enthusiasts.  Nevertheless, the contrast in Sho and Van Damme's East-West styles of fighting is interesting to watch.

 

 

Also co-starring in BLACK EAGLE were Doran Clark, Bruce French, Vladimir Skomarovsky, and Kane and Shane Kosugi, playing, you guessed it, Sho's sons.  The film was directed by Eric Karson from a screenplay by A.E. Peters and Michael Gonzales, and produced by Shimon Arama and Executive Producer Sunil R. Shah for Imperial Entertainment CorporationArama and Shah's previous company had been Trans World Entertainment, so this was a new beginning for them as well.  Despite the minimal amount of martial arts, the film was quite successful, especially in Europe and Canada.

 






After a short break from his hectic schedule, Sho returned to the silver screen in an epic special appearance cameo in BLIND FURY, a modern-day adaptation/remake of a classic Japanese Jidai-Geki (period) film called ZATŌICHI CHIKEMURI KAIDŌ (座頭市血煙り街道) aka "Zatoichi Challenged", aka "Zatoichi's Bloody Path", the 17th film in the legendary Chanbara (Japanese sword fighting) series "Zatoichi, the Blind Swordsman" starring Shintarō Katsu (勝新太郎).  Directed by Phillip Noyce from a screenplay by Charles Robert Carner, and distributed by Tri-Star Pictures, the film starred Rutger Hauer, Terrance O'Quinn, Brandon Call, Noble Willingham, Lisa Blount, Nick Cassavetes, Rick Overton, Randall "Tex" Cobb, Charles Cooper, and Meg Foster.

 

 

Loosely based on the original "Zatoichi Challenged" screenplay by Ryōzō Kasahara (笠原良三), BLIND FURY featured Rutger Hauer as a former Vietnam Vet blinded during the war and who was nursed back to health and taught to use a cane sword by an old Asian man.  Returning to the U.S. many years later, he unwittingly is assigned the task of reuniting a son with his father.  After repeated requests from the producers of BLIND FURY for help with the sword fights, Sho agreed to give Rutger Hauer a one-day crash course lesson on using a sword.  Sho also agreed to make a cameo appearance at the end of the film as a Yakuza/Ninja Assassin hired by the film's villain to fight the blind swordsman.  Filming the scene in Los Angeles, California in December 1988, Sho brought in his former student Eddie Tse to double for Hauer in the film's fantastic sword duel finale.

 

 

Around the time that Sho was working on BLIND FURY, he was also interviewed by Bey Logan for the British martial arts magazine, Combat.  Published in the February 1989 issue, it featured Sho on the cover sporting his yakuza-style haircut from BLIND FURY and wielding a samurai sword.  The indepth article and interview inside the issue covered a lot of ground, and though much of it was already known, it did reveal what Sho was planning for his next project.  Having already appeared on screen with his 2 sons numerous times by this point, Sho's next project would have him produce, write, act, and possibly co-direct a film entitled "Wings of the Dragon" starring all 3 of his children (Kane, Shane, and for the first time, his daughter Ayeesha).  Sadly this project never got made, but it's intriguing to consider that we almost got a film with Sho and his 3 children.






The following year would be a big one for Sho.  After traveling all over the U.S. for various business conferences and meetings, Sho traveled to Japan 4 times from October to December 1989.  During these trips, Sho had numerous autograph and photo sessions with his many fans there.  He was also interviewed by various magazines and trade periodicals.  In fact, Sho was featured in 168 different newspapers and magazines throughout Japan in 1989.  Moreover, Sho's visits enabled him to make important contacts with film producers and to set up his new company in Tokyo called SHO KOSUGI CORPORATION, LTD. which would raise funds for future projects, act as his agent in Japan for commercials, interviews, movies, etc... and to distribute Sho's movies.  Sho also started a Tokyo branch of his fan club.

 

Not long after this, Sho also established his own production company SHO PRODUCTIONS INC. (aka SHO KOSUGI PRODUCTION INC.), with offices in both Japan and Hollywood.  And after Sho's son Kane decided at age 18 to move to Japan to follow in his father's footsteps and embark on an acting career, the fan club in Japan became known as the KANE AND SHO KOSUGI AMERICAN DREAM CLUB.

 






Around this time, Sho was approached by a number of Japanese publishing companies and asked to write about his experiences since moving to the U.S.  Part autobiographical, part inspirational, and part instructional, these 9 books are unfortunately only available in Japanese.  Sho's first book, SHŌ KOSUGI: AMERIKAN DORIIMU O JITSUGEN SHITA OTOKO (ショー・コスギ アメリカンドリームを実現した男 Sho Kosugi: The Man Who Achieved the American Dream), was published by Nitto Shoin on December 1, 1990.  This was followed up with AMERICAN SURVIVAL (アメリカンサバイバル) published by Kodansha on March 7, 1993, and SHŌ KOSUGI NO UN O TSUKAMU (ショー・コスギの運を掴む Sho Kosugi: Grab Hold of the Luck!) published by Kodansha on September 2, 1994.

 

Subsequently, Sho wrote the books SHŌ KOSUGI NO NINJA SHIKI JINSEI HISSHŌ HŌ (ショー・コスギのニンジャ式人生必勝法 Sho Kosugi: How to Win at Life with Ninja Style) published by Bungeisha on November 20, 1996, MAKE DREAMS COME TRUE (メイク・ドリームズ・カム・トゥルー) published by Uinet on September 30, 1997, BOKU NO EIGO MUSHA SHUGYŌ: ATAMA WA IRANAI! EIKAIWA (ぼくの英語武者修行 頭はいらない!英会話 My English was learned by traveling about to gain skill in combat: Easy English Conversation) published by Kodansha on June 15, 1998, SAIKYŌ NO OTOKO KANE KOSUGI NI NARU 43 NO HISAKU (最強の男ケイン・コスギになる43の秘策 43 tips to becoming the strongest man Kane Kosugi) published by Kodansha on July 21, 2000, HARIUDDO SHINEMA EIGO DŌJŌ: DORYOKU WA IRANAI! EIKAIWA (ハリウッド・シネマ英語道場 努力はいらない!英会話 Hollywood Cinema English Language Dojo: Easy English Conversation) published by Kodansha on September 15, 2000, and KODOMO O TAKUMASHIKU SODATERU HONMONO NO SHITSUKE (子供をたくましく育てる本物の「躾」 How to raise a child) published by Business-Sha on August 1, 2001.

 






After securing a lucrative multi-million dollar deal with SANYO, Sho began work on his next film project, a period samurai epic initially called "Shogun Mayeda", later to be released as " Kabuto" in Japan, as JOURNEY OF HONOR in the U.S. and Canada, and as "Shogun Warrior" in the U.K.  This film, a U.S./Japan/U.K. co-production, would mark a huge undertaking for Sho.  Not only would he star in the film but he would also serve as co-writer and producer alongside executive producers Hiroshi Tsuchiya (土屋宏) and Toshiaki Hayashi (林俊明).  After a substantial writing, pre-production and casting period, the film went into production in late 1990 and/or early 1991 with a screenplay by Sho's writing partner Nelson Gidding, and with director Gordon Hessler at the helm.

 

 

Sho had previously worked with director Gordon Hessler on 4 episodes of THE MASTER TV Series (including the series best episode "Kunoichi"), as well as on 2 of Sho's best ninja films PRAY FOR DEATH and RAGE OF HONOR.  Seeing that much of JOURNEY OF HONOR was rooted in the Jidai-Geki (Japanese period drama) genre, Sho hired Hiroshi Kuze (久世浩), pupil of the late-great sword fight choreographer Ryū Kuze (久世竜) ("Yojimbo", "Sanjuro", "Samurai Rebellion") to choreograph the sword fights in the film.

 

 

With a reported budget of over 10 million dollars, Sho's first film as a writer and producer featured an impressive cast, including the legendary Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune (三船敏郎) who plays the role of Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa (徳川家康), a role Mifune had previously played in the massive American TV Mini-Series SHOGUN.  Co-starring with Sho in JOURNEY OF HONOR was his son Kane.  This marked Kane's first big "grown up" role and he is absolutely fantastic in the film. The film also co-starred David Essex and the legendary British actor Christopher Lee, and featured special appearances by renowned Japanese actresses Miwa Takada (高田美和) and Nijiko Kiyokawa (清川虹子). Norman Lloyd, Ronald Pickup, John Rhys-Davies (who also appeared in SHOGUN), Polly Walker, Dylan Kussman , and Yuki Sugimura (杉村由紀) rounded off the stellar supporting cast.

 

 

Filmed on location in Japan and Yugoslavia, the lush cinematography, great performances, and engaging story come together to make one of the most unique and enjoyable adventure films ever made.  Starting with the famous Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, JOURNEY OF HONOR tells the story of an epic journey to Spain by Shogun Ieyasu's most trusted vassal Daigoro Mayeda (前田大五郎) (played by Sho) and the shogun's brash young son Yorimune Tokugawa (徳川頼宗) (played by Kane) to get firearms needed to maintain peace in Japan.

 

 

When asked to describe the film in an interview for a U.K. based magazine, Sho responded that it was "like SHOGUN in reverse".  This is a very apt description, but the similarities between the two East meets West "fish out of water" sagas don't end there.  Along with the aforementioned presence of Toshiro Mifune playing the same historical figure, both productions are based on true stories.  Whereas James Clavell's SHOGUN is loosely based on the true story of English navigator William Adams' journey to Japan in 1600, Sho's JOURNEY OF HONOR is loosely based on the true story of a journey by Samurai Tsunenaga Hasekura (支倉常長) from Japan to Spain, France, and Italy in order to discuss trade agreements with the Spanish crown in Madrid, and to meet with the Pope in Rome.  Although set a decade earlier than Hasekura's 1613 voyage, Mayeda's 1602 voyage in JOURNEY OF HONOR recounts some of the same events, such as the meeting between samurai and the ruler of Spain, King Philip III (played by Christopher Lee).

 

 

With impressive battle scenes and a rousing musical score composed by John Scott and performed by The Hungarian State Opera Orchestra, JOURNEY OF HONOR is a timeless classic sure to delight fans of both samurai films and adventure films.  This swashbuckling samurai epic is unquestionably Sho's masterpiece and his greatest artistic triumph.

 






Around 1992, Sho reunited with former Cannon Films co-owner Menahem Golan and director Sam Firstenberg to discuss a new ninja movie for Golan's newly acquired company, 21st Century Film Corporation.  The first incarnation of the film was titled "Return of the Ninja", and employed poster artwork featuring Kane and a shirtless Sho.  This was to be a contemporary thriller set in San Francisco.  However, by 1993, the production had changed shape and Firstenberg was no longer attached as director.  It was announced that the film would now be called "Renegade Blade" and would pit Sho against a religious fanatic in a Waco-type situation.  By 1994, the title and story had changed yet again.  Now called "The Last Ninja Hero", the story was described as a modern day martial arts western.

 

Unfortunately, this ever-changing project never came to pass.  It's hard to say if this film, in any of its proposed incarnations, would've been as good as any of the films in the "The Ninja Trilogy" (ENTER THE NINJA, REVENGE OF THE NINJA, NINJA III: THE DOMINATION), which Menahem Golan had produced while he was at Cannon, but one can't help but wonder what a 4th Golan-produced ninja movie starring Sho (i.e. NINJA IV) would've looked like.

 






Sho's next actual screen outing would be in another historical period piece, a Japanese TV series entitled RYŪKYŪ NO KAZE (琉球の風 Dragon Spirit).  Likely shot in late 1992 and/or early 1993 in Okinawa, Japan, the Jidai-Geki series aired on NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) from January 10, 1993 to June 13, 1993.  The series was part of NHK's long running Taiga Drama (大河ドラマ) series, which first began in April 1963.  Airing each Sunday night, the Taiga Drama "block" usually airs one new story/series per calendar year, with each story usually running around 52 weeks.  The RYŪKYŪ NO KAZE story was a little shorter running just 23 weeks/episodes due to the fact that it was the first of a three-part but unrelated renzoku series, and was the 31st NHK Taiga Drama series.

 

 

Starting in 1582, RYŪKYŪ NO KAZE tells the story of how the Ryūkyū Islands (of which Okinawa is the biggest), became part of Japan in the early 1600s.  Sho plays the part of Shintenpū (震天風), the Ryūkyū martial arts master who had studied Shōrinji Kenpō in China.  Faced with an impending invasion from the samurai of the Satsuma clan, Shintenpū must teach the Ryūkyū villagers to defend themselves using Karate and Kobudo.  Sho appeared in 10 episodes of this series, which was also shown with English Subtitles on a local Japanese TV station in San Francisco.

 

 

Sho's son Kane also appears in at least 10 episodes of RYŪKYŪ NO KAZE as Ken, an orphan whom Sho's character essentially adopts and teaches the martial arts to.  Though the series is more of a drama than an action series, Sho and Kane give viewers some wonderful training sequences, sparring matches, and fight scenes.

 

 

RYŪKYŪ NO KAZE also co-starred a number of well-known Japanese actors including: Noriyuki Higashiyama (東山紀之), Atsurō Watabe (渡部篤郎), Kenichi Hagiwara (萩原健一), Rumiko Koyanagi (小柳ルミ子), Tōru Emori (江守徹), Kenji Sawada (沢田研二), Norihei Miki (三木のり平), Sumiko Fuji (富司純子 aka Junko Fuji 藤純子), Youki Kudoh (工藤夕貴), Hideo Murota (室田日出男), Minori Terada (寺田農), and Akira Kobayashi (小林旭) as Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa (徳川家康).

 

 

Reportedly desperate to have Sho appear on the program, the producers of RYŪKYŪ NO KAZE paid him more for his supporting role than they did the lead actor, Noriyuki Higashiyama.

 

 

Directing duties on RYŪKYŪ NO KAZE were shared between Yoshiyuki Yoshimura (吉村芳之) and Takahiro Enokido (榎戸崇泰) from screenplays by Nobuo Yamada (山田信夫) and Ryūji Mizutani (水谷龍二) based on the original story by Shunshin Chin (陳舜臣)

 






Immediately on the heels of RYŪKYŪ NO KAZE, Sho co-starred in a Japanese Yakuza Film entitled KYOKUTŌ KUROSHAKAI (極東黒社会 Drug Connection) aka "Dark Society in the East", directed by Shōkaku Baba (馬場昭格), from a screenplay by Isao Matsumoto (松本功) based on the original story by Jirō Ueno (上之二郎) and Teruji Hirakawa (平川輝治).  Co-starring with Sho in the film were Kōji Yakusho (役所広司), Masahiko Kondō (近藤真彦), Jessica Lancelott, Sawako Kitahara (北原佐和子), Daisuke Nagakura (長倉大介), Reiko Saitō (斉藤レイ子), and Kiyoshi Nakajō (中条きよし).  The legendary Hong Kong actor Jimmy Wang (王羽 Wang Yu) also appears in the film as the boss of the Sanwa-kai (Hong Kong Mafia).

 

 

Produced by the TOEI COMPANY, the legendary Japanese studio that created the Yakuza Film genre, KYOKUTŌ KUROSHAKAI, filmed on location in Japan in 1993, tells the story of a pair of Asian-American NYPD undercover cops who come to Japan to infiltrate and take down a deadly "drug connection" consisting of members of the Yakuza (Japanese Mafia), the Sanwa-kai (Hong Kong Mafia), the Chiyu-pan (Taiwan Mafia), and the Italian-American Mafia.

 

 

In KYOKUTŌ KUROSHAKAI, Sho plays Larry Matsuda, a third generation Japanese-American and one of the two undercover cops, along with Long Ouyang (欧陽龍) who plays his partner Lin Kwan.  Going undercover Sho's character infiltrates these organizations and when his cover is blown, all hell breaks loose.  Although ultra-violent and containing very little martial arts, this film is quite good, with Sho and Koji Yakusho both giving stand-out performances.

 






Somewhere around this time, Sho was called upon to voice the title character in the first episode of ULTRAMAN POWERED (ウルトラマンパワード) aka ULTRAMAN: THE ULTIMATE HERO, a 13 part half-hour science fiction TV series that his son Kane had done in the summer of 1993 in Los Angeles, California.  Co-starring with Kane in the series were Harrison Page, Robin Bliley, Rob Roy Fitzgerald, and Sandra Guibord.  Originally filmed completely in English, the series, a U.S./Japan co-production between Steppin Stone Entertainment and Tsuburaya Productions, would need to be dubbed into Japanese for its release in Japan.  And so Sho was asked to dub in the voice of "Ultraman" in the series premiere which made its debut on Japanese home video on December 17, 1993.

 

It's unclear who directed Sho and the other voice-actors in the Japanese voice-dubbing sessions, but the original director of Episode 1 was King Wilder who also wrote the teleplay based on the original screenplay by Kazunori Itō (伊藤和典).  Oddly enough, the original English language version (which does not feature Sho's voice, but does feature Kane's real voice) has never been released legitimately in any form in the U.S. where it was made. However, the series was re-mastered and released on region free Blu-ray in Japan in early 2017 with both language tracks included.

 






Sho's next projects were 2 modern-day Japanese martial arts films starring his son Kane.  Directed by Sho and produced and released by TOEI's V-Cinema line, ZA KAKUTŌ OH (ザ・格闘王 The Fighting King) and ZA KAKUTŌ OH 2 (ザ・格闘王2 The Fighting King 2), can best be described as a cross between TOEI's 1974 SATSUJIN-KEN (殺人拳 The Street Fighter) trilogy starring Japanese martial arts movie legend Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba (千葉真一), and "The Karate Kid" trilogy.  Appropriately, the films' working titles were ZA SUTORĪTO FAITĀ MOEYO! HISSATSU KEN (ザ・ストリート ファイター 燃えよ!必殺拳 The Street Fighter: Burning Deadly Fist) and ZA SUTORĪTO FAITĀ II HOERO! JIGOKU KEN (ザ・ストリート ファイターⅡ 吠えろ!地獄拳 The Street Fighter II: Roaring Hell Fist).

 

 

In ZA KAKUTŌ OH and ZA KAKUTŌ OH 2, both written by Isao Matsumoto (松本功), screenwriter on Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba's classic SHŌRINJI KENPŌ (少林寺拳法 The Killing Machine) and Sho's KYOKUTŌ KUROSHAKAI (Drug Connection), Kane plays Japanese-American martial artist Ken Ōshiro (ケン・大城), who after the death of his father Kiyotake Ōshiro (大城清武) (played by Hiroshi Miyauchi 宮内洋), goes to Tokyo, Japan with his sister Aya (アヤ) (played by Risa リサ) to enroll in the World Martial Arts Championship in Okinawa in his father's place.  In Japan, he stays with a friend of his father's, fellow Shōen Ryū Kenpō master Munehisa Tachibana (立花宗久) (played by martial arts movie legend Yasuaki Kurata 倉田保昭).  Kane's character Ken also has a romance with Tachibana's daughter Noriko (典子) (played by Taeko Nishino 西野妙子).  After putting his father's remains to rest in his native Okinawa, Ken begins intense training with an old Okinawan man (played by Eisei Amamoto 天本英世).  Everything comes to a head when Ken fights the best martial artists from around the world in a no-holds-barred competition to determine who will ultimately be crowned the "fighting king".

 

 

To portray the all-important tournament fighters, Sho cast a number of real-life martial artists and athletes, including Tae Kwon Do master Simon Rhee as the Korean fighter Gō-Yū Lee (李剛勇), Kung Fu expert Zhi-Ming Lee (李志明) as the Chinese fighter Den-Shin Ra (羅伝心), Pan-American Tang Soo Do Champion Scott Harmon as the American fighter Jim Spencer, former American Gladiator Michael Horton as the French fighter Tony Valmont, and ex Japanese Wrestler Kendō Nagasaki (aka Mr. Sakurada) as the Mongolian fighter Suputai Han.  Attentive viewers will also recognize that the tournament referee in the film is played by Masashi Ishibashi (石橋雅史), villain in many of TOEI's 1970s martial arts films.  After the tournament, Kane's character prepares to return to the U.S., but an unexpected tragedy forces him to stay in Japan.

 

 

ZA KAKUTŌ OH 2 has Kane taking revenge on the bad guys responsible for the deaths of the people he loved.  Helping him along the way are a mysterious young woman named Beniko Ishikawa (石川紅子) (played by Reiko Saitō 斉藤レイ子, also seen in KYOKUTŌ KUROSHAKAI), and Kōjirō Shimizu (清水宏次朗) as Miki ( 三木).  Shimizu had previously worked with Sho and Kane on RYŪKYŪ NO KAZE and would later compete against Kane in a number of KINNIKU BANZUKE (Muscle Ranking) SPORTSMAN NO. 1 tournaments which Kane would dominate in the years to come.

 

 

Also appearing in both ZA KAKUTŌ OH films is Shinzō Hotta (堀田真三) as the White Dragon (Chinese Mafia) boss.  Vernon Rieta, a stuntman and master of Hung Gar Kung Fu, battles Kane in the 2nd film's action-packed finale.

 

 

As a first time director, Sho does a great job at moving the action along in both ZA KAKUTO OH films and putting his son Kane's amazing martial arts skills in full view.  These two movies were the first to feature Kane as the lead character, and helped introduce him to Japanese audiences.

 






After an extremely hectic 1993 and early 1994, Sho's next on-screen appearance would be in a special guest starring role in 2 episodes of his son Kane's Japanese TV series NINJA SENTAI KAKURANGER (忍者戦隊カクレンジャー).  This weekly half hour TV series about a group of monster fighting teenagers with the ability to transform themselves into super heroes was TOEI's 18th Super Sentai Series (スーパー戦隊シリーズ) and marked the 20th Anniversary of TV Asahi's Sentai Series "block" of programming.  The plot of the series was that 400 years earlier, the Ninja and the Yōkai (妖怪 Demons) had a great war.  The legendary Sasuke Sarutobi (猿飛佐助) and four other ninja had sealed up the Yōkai commander Nurarihyon (ヌラリヒョン) and all his powers in a cave protected by the "Seal Door" (封印の扉).

 

In the present, Kappa (河童), the only surviving Yōkai, had tricked Sasuke (サスケ) (played by Teruaki Ogawa 小川輝晃) and Saizō (サイゾウ) (played by Hiroshi Tsuchida 土田大), the descendants of Sasuke Sarutobi (猿飛佐助) and Saizō Kirigakure (霧隠才蔵), into releasing the Yōkai by opening the "Seal Door".  Joined by three other descendants of great ninja, Tsuruhime (鶴姫) (played by Satomi Hirose 広瀬仁美), Seikai (セイカイ) (played by Shū Kawai 河合秀) a descendant Seikai Miyoshi (三好清海), and Jiraiya (played by Kane) a descendant of the original Jiraiya (児雷也), they become the Kakurangers in order to fight the Yōkai.  Helping to guide them on their quest to rid the world of the Yōkai was another legendary ninja, Sandayū Momochi (百地三太夫) (played by Akira Sakamoto 坂本あきら).  The basic premise of the series would later be used in the 3rd season of the show's American counterpart "Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers".

 

 

Sho's special 2-part guest appearance in NINJA SENTAI KAKURANGER had him playing Gali (ガリ), a mysterious character who comes to Japan from the U.S. to do battle with his former student Jiraiya (played by Kane).  In flashbacks, we discover that many years earlier Gali had made a pact with the yōkai Nue (ヌエ) in order to save his daughter's life after a horrible car accident.  After keeping his end of the bargain, the demon had cursed Gali and caused him to transform into the assassin that killed Jiraiya's father.  To atone, Gali had taken Jiraiya under his wing and taught him Karate and Ninjutsu.

 

 

Sho's 2 NINJA SENTAI KAKURANGER episodes, written by Noboru Sugimura (杉村升) and directed by Shōhei Tōjō (東條昭平), are without a doubt the best in the series which ran from February 18, 1994 to February 25, 1995, with Sho's episodes (#28 and #29) airing on August 26, 1994 and September 2, 1994.

 

 

Although stylistically different from his American productions, NINJA SENTAI KAKURANGER marked a return to the ninja genre that first made Sho a star.  The 2 episodes contained nearly non-stop fighting between Sho and Kane, showing that Sho hadn't lost any of his skills over the years and that Kane was getting better and better.

 






Sho's next project would take him in a slightly different direction.  Joining forces with the Atlantic Syndication Network (ASN), Sho created, produced, and starred in a weekly half hour instructional TV series called SHO KOSUGI'S SELF DEFENSE AND NINJAEROBICS (aka MASTERS OF THE MARTIAL ARTS STARRING SHO KOSUGI).  Starting on March 16, 1996 on ICN (International Cable Network), the series reportedly ran for 2 years with Sho visiting respected martial arts masters in Japan, China, South Korea and other countries, including Genbukan Ninpo Grandmaster Shoto Tanemura (種村匠刀) (pictured with Sho below).  The show also featured six beautiful ladies and had segments showing the audience how to react to certain situations and how to get in shape while learning self-defense the "Ninjaerobics" way.

 

 

Subsequently, in a February 2006 document, ASN Inc. outlined plans to videotape additional interviews, re-edit, and distribute the MASTERS OF THE MARTIAL ARTS STARRING SHO KOSUGI nationally.  They also outlined plans to market NINJAEROBICS as a videotape series through select retail and video outlets, and the internet.  Unfortunately, these plans apparently fell through.  Hopefully a DVD release will happen at some point, so that it can be seen by those not fortunate enough to have had access to ICN during the original broadcasts in the late 1990s.






On November 30, 1996, Sho briefly returned to episodic Japanese TV, appearing in a special guest starring role in yet another of his son Kane's TV series, SEI RYŪ DENSETSU (聖龍伝説 Legend of St. Dragon).  This 10 episode series about a young schoolgirl (played by Yumi Adachi 安達祐実) who possesses magical martial arts powers aired on NTV (Nippon Television Network) from October 19, 1996 to December 21, 1996.  Sho appeared in Episode 7 as Shūsaku Sendō (仙道修作), father of Kane's character Daisaku Sendō (仙道大作).  Shūsaku is both a martial artist and a cook at a restaurant that Kane, Jun Toba (鳥羽潤) and Yumi Adachi's characters go to.  Later, Sho and Kane, whose character is cursed by an evil spirit in the episode, have an impressive fight in a school hallway.

 

Sho's SEI RYŪ DENSETSU episode, directed by Ryūichi Inomata (猪俣隆一) from a screenplay by Daisuke Habara (羽原大介), also featured regular cast members Kanako Enomoto (榎本加奈子), Junko Igarashi (五十嵐淳子), and Tsurutarō Kataoka (片岡鶴太郎).  Along with Sho in Episode 7, the series also featured some other big name guest stars, in particular martial arts film legends Shinichi "Sonny" Chiba in Episode 1 and Yukari Ōshima (大島由加利) in Episode 5.

 






During this period, Sho also got involved in the creation of the new Sony Playstation video game TENCHU: STEALTH ASSASSINS (立体忍者活劇天誅 Rittai Ninja Katsugeki Tenchū). Developed by Acquire and released in Japan by Sony Music Entertainment Japan on February 26, 1998, and in North America by Activision on April 31, 1998, the action-adventure stealth game about a group of ninja warriors in feudal Japan seeking justice against an evil warlord, was a huge seller in both Japan and the United States.  Motion captures of Sho and Kane were used to create the authentic, realistic, and fluid movements of the game's ninja characters.  Sho's movements were used for the lead character Rikimaru, while Kane's movements were used for the alternate lead character, the tomboy ninja Ayame.

 

Sho also voiced his character Rikimaru in the Japanese version of the game.  A short making-of video briefly showing Sho and Kane doing these video captures was offered as a special bonus to people who pre-ordered the video game in early 1998.