ATHLETE APPRECIATION: In Memoriam – Harry “Mr. Fuji” Fujiwara

016_fuji-3Editor’s Note: We are thrilled and honored to bring you a touching eulogy via someone who knew Harry Fujiwara well, with Mr. Fuji a central part of his family’s life. It is with privilege and pleasure we both introduce Fuji Vice, likewise share his beautiful thoughts.

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BY: Fuji Vice

First, a short intro.

I met Intercontinental Belt a few months ago at something connected to our muggle jobs. We hit it off and started talking and got on the subject of pro-wrestling. As it’s somewhat of an unusual point of discussion for folks in our profession, we bonded quickly. When he asked me to write one of these “What Pro Wrestling Means to Me” columns, I started to craft it in my head almost as soon as I got home. And I already knew what my alias was going to be.

Because for me, Mr. Fuji isn’t just one of the most iconic wrestling characters of the 1980’s, one of the best heel managers of all time. He isn’t just a 5-time World Tag Team champion and a quality wrestler of the 1970’s. No, to me, “Fuj” is “Uncle Fuj,” and one of my Dad’s best friends. So now, this entry isn’t really a WPWMTM post, but about family and an appreciation of a decades-long friendship. (I’ll write another one if this goes well).

Dad and Fuj go back forever, back to their teens, when Fuj (I don’t know anyone who ever called him Harry, I suppose his Mom did, maybe my grandmother did, but Dad and others, even *my* Mom, always called him “Fuj”) worked security at the Hilton Hawaiian Village hotel and my Dad worked the bell desk. When Dad had kids, he took my younger brother and I to the wrestling shows when they came to town. From the Hawaii International Center (now the Blaisdell) to Bloch Arena on Sand Island.

Back then it was good guys and bad guys and it was *ALL REAL.* And among the great villains were “Professor” Toru Tanaka and Mr. Fuji. Devious martial artists from Japan (though the Japan card didn’t really play that well, or loomed that large in Hawaii, they were still the bad guys). And this was where some cognitive dissonance came in, because these were the days of kayfabe, where keeping the idea that wrestling was real was an important thing in the business.

psa-fuji

But…”Mr. Fuji” wasn’t from Japan, Harry Fujiwara was from Hawaii, and “Fuj” was “Uncle Fuj,” and one of my Dad’s best friends. So I saw him on occasion, and while he was certainly brash, he wasn’t always the guy I saw on TV. (Well, yes, there was that time he put my Dad in a sleeper hold at the bowling alley and just laid him out on the benches there, but when it was just “family,” he wasn’t always so over the top).

As I write this on the day of his passing, I texted my Dad to find out if he knew. He hadn’t heard yet (he’s back home in Hawaii, it was in the early morning there when I texted him). He texted me about a memory about us and Fuj.

It was early/mid 1980’s, maybe, WWF was getting big, but the territories were still going strong. We were at Ala Moana shopping center and Dad and I and the rest of the family were just hanging out. I think I was sitting down, Dad was standing and talking, and all of a sudden, my Dad just goes rising up in the air, right off his feet. He screams, I scream, etc,. Then we hear the laughter. It’s Fuj and Don Muraco, sneaking up behind my Dad and picking him up to say “hi.” (Yes, Don “The Rock” Muraco was also a friend of my Dad’s, but nowhere near as close as Fuj. Muraco is also one of the most articulate individuals you could ever meet, but that’s a different story).

Magnificent Muraco and Mr Fuji 1986

I did not get to see him often enough to worry about how different “Mr. Fuji” and “Fuj” was, and when the WW(F) became big and he was out there a lot, it just felt great that he was doing what he loved. And man, was he funny.

So, rest easy, Fuj, and thank you. For being my father’s friend, and for being a man who brought such joy to the wrestling world while being a great heel in front of the camera.

Aloha.

-Fuji Vice

 

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