Toru Furuya, a 62-year-old actor who voices Amuro Ray, the lead character in the popular anime Mobile Suit Gundam, recently visited Tel Aviv in Israel and the Holy City of Jerusalem.
Furuya was invited to an event held by the local Association for Manga and Amine in Israel and the Japanese Embassy in Israel for the benefit of anime fans. Furuya is a distinguished actor who also voices the part of Hyuuma Hoshi in the anime "Kyojin no Hoshi" (Star of the Giants).
Furuya held his first overseas gathering for fans in California in 2006. "I was performing in Japanese, and I half-doubted how much people actually understood, but 6,000 people came and called out the name of my character," he said. "I felt honored that people loved my character and wanted to meet me."
Since then, Furuya has held free autograph sessions and other events in about 20 countries including the United States and nations in Europe and Asia. In China, many fans held up signs for victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake that read, "Hang in there, Japan." Elite members of Peking University also enthusiastically welcomed him.
For the popular voice actor, trips overseas take time and effort, and aren't easy. But Furuya says, "Fortunately, I've stumbled upon a good role. I wanted to show gratitude to fans, and I thought there couldn't be anything that would bring them more happiness than giving my autograph right in front of them. I also want them to love Japanese anime more and more."
Japanese anime and manga have gained a global following, but face-to-face exchanges like those given by Furuya have only recently begun. Many non-Japanese learn about Japanese food and culture through the stories, and start studying Japanese. Furuya is a first generation "anime goodwill ambassador." (By Tomoko Ohji, Jerusalem Bureau)