in collaboration with

Katsuhito Ishii (1/4)

Film Director

Parking Spots

The epic sci-fi anime film REDLINE is a story of space-age dare devil car racers competing to become the fastest in the entire galaxy. You’d think the man behind this colorful film about an insane car race by speed-crazed drivers would have quite the stimulating life on the road himself, but quite to the contrary, the creator of this film, Director Ishii throws you off by being an exceedingly grounded “model driver.”

“I never speed. I don’t like wasting my time getting stopped by cops or getting my license suspended. Of course, I don’t drink and drive. In fact, I am someone that doesn’t want to drive unless I know which parking lot I will be parking at. What I dislike the most is getting honked at from behind while I am searching for parking. I can’t help but feel anxious because I feel like I am inconveniencing others. I do like to drive, but unfamiliar places and driving on narrow streets are just the worst.”

“Therefore I use the GPS in my car a lot. Especially the Lexus I am driving now comes with a service called ‘Owners Desk’ that is so useful and I am on it all the time, which makes me afraid I won’t be able to drive another car again. For example, finding parking lots around the studio I am headed to, the concierge searches and registers my request for me, so I don’t even have to navigate the GPS myself. On top of that they are a 24 hour service. Convenient, isn’t it? I use my car mostly for work, but I assume people who have to take sudden trips could benefit from this service way more than me. For making last minute reservations for hotels and restaurants, and I heard they even book flights for you.”


“I am the type that is very aware of the design of the car interior and interface. Personally, I prefer to have some playful design features that are visible, rather than having something that is plain and simple. In that area, I have to admit that Japanese cars are a bit inconsistent compared to European cars. But I always think the Japanese finish is incredibly well done. I get this happy feeling when I see the delicate care given by Japanese technology all the way into places very hard to reach. I think the attention to detail of Japanese cars can’t be beat.”

Director Ishii himself got very popular as a commercial director for his attention to detail and skillful delivery. He was popular since the time he started working for Tohokushinsha Film Corporation right after college. The sales department had to wait for an opening in his schedule to book more work. He has produced very memorable commercials such as the one for Koikeya’s potato chips, the strange interaction between Takuya Kimura and Ittoku Kishibe for Fujitsu FMV, and the Ihi! series for Asahi Kasei.

“I was bad at directing actors at first, so I told my company that I would rather be filming objects and scenery for commercials. Then of course they put me to shoot actors for a whole year straight. (laugh) Furthermore, my first work was with Noriyuki Higashiyama of Johnny’s*. I knew the gist of the job because I had watched my senior producers on location before, but I didn’t know how to direct and didn’t know how to speak to a celebrity. Everyday was trial and error while worrying, ‘would they get pissed off if I asked them to perform this?’”

“Luckily, since the beginning I always had work, although most of it seemed like filling in for jobs that senior producers couldn’t get around to. So I wondered how to get more work for myself and decided to incorporate CG and animation into it because there wasn’t anyone doing it yet. I can draw on my own, so I started using effects with animation here and there in the commercials. Clients were amused by this and I started getting direct inquiries for jobs.”

“For 15 second commercials you pretty much have to do what the commercial planner has decided, but in the 30 second versions I could incorporate my taste into it bit by bit, or have room to play around with title graphics. Clients who notice what I do really get it and they repeatedly give me more work. Of course, commercials are for the products and for fulfilling clients’ requests, but from pretty early on in the game they allowed me to just run with it.”


Director Ishii’s career soared steadily as a young talented director. About a year into making commercials he started to experience a slight change of heart. That is when his mystical-energy-spot pilgrimage started.

“I started to feel bored with a lot of things. I believed this world would have a side that was more magical and amusing, but no, not really. That is when I was introduced to a psychic named Josephina who lives in Sedona. Anyone in entertainment that is making it big has seen her. I felt kind of curious, so I went to meet her. The moment we met she asked me ‘have you been planning to go to Tenkawa Shrine**?’ I had looked it up out of interest. I was like, ‘how did she know?’” (laugh)

Tenkawa is a world-renown spiritual energy vortex and people with stronger spirit energy have seen white dragons and flying Apsara in white gowns. I have zero sensitivity to that (laugh), but still, I experienced a lot of things. They say that Tenkawa Shrine is home to the deity for both water and the arts, so a lot of entertainers often go pay their respects there. Josephina has been there about a 100 times, and advised me to go repeatedly. I got hooked for a while and went about seven times in a row.”

“When I travel I usually go by train, but to Tenwaka Shrine I usually went in my car from Tokyo. I still love visiting shrines, so out of the blue I go to a shrine, pray, and come right back. Or sometimes when we are shooting on location, I might go with the people from my company to visit and say hello to the local deity’s shrine. When the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami disaster happened, the infrastructure of Tokyo went down and there was no work, so in a whim I took off to Ise Grand Shrine. Now that I think of it, it is always by car that I visit the shrines.”

Fortunately for Director Ishii, Japan’s shinto shrines, his sacred healing spots, all come with parking lots.

*Japan’s primary male idol management firm known for managing top stars of Japan including groups such as SMAP, Tokio, Kinki Kids and Arashi.
**See destination Tenkawa for more information.

(Interview: Manami Iiboshi, Translation: Mika Anami)


NEW PEOPLE Travel is a web magazine that introduces eminent creators who work beyond borders, their story, and the scenery of Japan surrounding their journey. It is an opportunity to see Japan through the eyes of visionaries of our time.


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