After quitting politics, Japan's Koizumi turns superhero

TOKYO Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:27am EDT

Japan's former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi speaks at a news conference following the 2006 ASEM summit in Helsinki September 11, 2006. REUTERS/Bob Strong

Japan's former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi speaks at a news conference following the 2006 ASEM summit in Helsinki September 11, 2006.

Credit: Reuters/Bob Strong

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TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - One of Japan's most popular leaders, former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, is going where few politicians have dared to go -- he's taking on the role of TV's masked superhero, Ultraman King.

The 67-year-old Koizumi, a retired politician and a staunch Elvis Presley fan, recently lent his voice to the character of senior superhero Ultraman King, a respected leader of the Ultraman clan, for a new film.

The red and silver-clad Ultraman is regarded as a cultural phenomenon in Japan, much like Superman and Spiderman. The popular television and film series are about extra-terrestrials that fight monsters and aliens.

"We considered many people that might be able to play this crucial role," said a spokesman for Tsuburaya Productions, which is making "Mega Monster Battle Ultra Galaxy: The Movie."

"But we thought the only person that could really have the presence of Ultraman King, who brings together the clan, would be Mr. Koizumi, who once headed the state."

While Koizumi's voice can be heard in the film, he will not be making an appearance, the spokesman added. The film will be released in Japan in December.

"(My son) Shinjiro said I should be in it, that he liked it when he was a kid," Koizumi was shown on television as saying. "He said it's not related to politics so it should be okay."

Koizumi was Japan's prime minister from 2001 to 2006. He did not stand in August's parliamentary elections and his son, 28-year-old Shinjiro, won his seat.

(Reporting by Yoko Kubota, editing by Miral Fahmy)

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