The Japanese actor, Ken Takakura has left this world for the next at a ripe 83 years of age.
The actor Ken Takakura began his career in the 60s. He often played Yakuza figures of the Japanese underworld. Afterwards though he was typecast as a Japanese actor in Tinsel Town films. All Japanese home-grown films bore his imprimatur.
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He died recently at the age of 83 of a cancerous lymphoma. His family arranged a covert series of last rites before the media even let the public on to the sad news. His most recent forays were in Dearest and Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles.
Most occidental audiences recognize him from Black Rain and the 1992 movie Mr. Baseball. He was born in 1931 and graduated from Meiji University. Ken entered studio life and his breakout role was in a lengthy series that entertained Japan for some time to come.
He often played hardened individualists on screen. Soon he was into action-packed movies. What such figures like Clint Eastwood were to most westerners, he was to the Japanese.
He had a central role in the movie The Yakuza in 1974. Soon however the Japanese audiences began to get sick and tired of his typecast role. So Ken had to make a difficult choice. He could carry on living in his comfort zone or he could make the uncomfortable transition to another genre and thus engage in a little self-growth for a change.
He chose the latter and the man never looked back. His appearance in The Bullet Train was lauded by critics. The Yellow Handkerchief was another venture into the unknown. His highest grossing movie of all time was Antarctica.
As for the 1989 film, Black Rain, it was a role he did opposite Michael Douglas as a strict Japanese policeman. The Yakuza are who Douglas is after for the sake of vengeance. After the millennium, Takakura lost interest in acting and only came on screen in a handful of films.
He chose a low profile and mostly kept to himself. His last role was in Dearest which came out about two years ago. He was so old in that movie that he was virtually unrecognizable. He was married for a dozen years of so to the singer Chiemi Eri before they divorced.
However, she had no children from him. He quietly passed away in a Tokyo hospital on November 10th. All of Japan mourns a great film hero who was a son of the soil. May his soul rest in peace!
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