Bob Strickland (center) poses for a photo with rock star David Bowie, who often visited Kyoto.
After doing some research, I found that he lived in Kyoto and owned a restaurant in the area. I made a call to the restaurant and spoke with his widow, Tokiko, who informed me that Strickland had died the year before.
Bob Strickland (second from the left) at his company, Continental Trailways Bus System.
Bob Strickland in between former Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Muriel Humphrey.
Bob Strickland was born in Capitol Hill, Oklahoma. His family moved to California during his youth. There he attended Long Beach City College and Long Beach State College, from which he graduated in 1956. During his time in Los Angeles, Strickland worked as a bank clerk.
Former President Bill Clinton and Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks (and his family) have been among the many patrons at Ashiya Steak House.
In the beginning, Strickland arrived in Japan with the intention of becoming a student and probably had no expectations of becoming an entertainer. After arriving, he learned Japanese for about three years at the Kyoto Japanese Language School. He also studied Japanese art history simultaneously at Kyoto University. While a student, Strickland worked various jobs in the area to earn a living.
Bob Strickland and his wife, Tokiko.
Strickland eventually became a member of a comedy troupe called Warai no Okoku (Kingdom of Laughter) in Osaka where he apprenticed under Gannosuke Ashiya, a popular Osaka comedian. This apprenticeship more or less required Bob to become a gofer for Ashiya. Together, the two appeared on TV, the stage, and in three movies, and Bob drew attention for his performing in a regional Japanese dialect.
The outside of Ashiya Steak House in Kyoto. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Tokiko remains busy at Ashiya Steak House to this day. Photo by Brett Homenick.
Not long thereafter, Strickland became the president of Continental Trailways Bus System. Moreover, Strickland and his wife, Tokiko, also founded Ashiya Steak House in Kyoto. Strickland designed the restaurant himself down to the smallest detail. The building itself was extremely old, having been unoccupied for about 10 years. His wife wanted to modernize the restaurant, but Strickland refused and wanted it to remain as authentic as possible. He even went so far as to wear a kimono and bow to his patrons in the traditional Japanese way.
Yours truly with Tokiko at Ashiya Steak House.
I had a wonderful time meeting Tokiko at Ashiya Steak House, and I'd recommend it to anyone who can afford spending a couple of hundreds of dollars on a delicious steak dinner. (Suffice it to say, it is most certainly not for travelers on a budget.) I'm also pleased to have unwrapped the mystery of the American actor who starred as a mummy in a Japan TV series more than 50 years ago.