Globally acclaimed composer and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto said Thursday that he has throat cancer and is canceling all professional commitments to focus on treatment.
In written statements posted in both English and Japanese on his official website, the New York-based Sakamoto, 62, said he had an unusual feeling in his throat checked out at the end of June and was diagnosed with pharyngeal cancer.
“I deeply regret causing so many people considerable inconvenience. However, the first wealth is health, and hence this bitter decision,” he said in the statement, pledging to make a comeback after returning to full health.
Sakamoto is reportedly shunning radiation therapy because of his strong anti-nuclear feelings, according to the tabloid Sports Nippon, which broke the story.
But Avex Group Holdings, Sakamoto’s management agency, declined to confirm this, saying it knows little about his treatment. It also refused to elaborate on how much the cancer has advanced.
A person claiming to be Sakamoto’s manager took to Twitter to slam the tabloid article as “sloppy,” although it was unclear which part he was criticizing.
Sakamoto himself replied in an apparent tweet: “I wonder if there is anybody who would actually believe that sort of tabloid report.”
In his statement, Sakamoto said he had spent the past two years preparing intensively for the upcoming Sapporo International Art Festival, which kicks off July 19. Although he was scheduled to be a guest director, Sakamoto has canceled all scheduled appearances during the festival and withdrawn from all other ongoing projects until he recovers.
Sakamoto is best known as one of the original members of Yellow Magic Orchestra, the pioneering electronic music band established in 1978, and has won numerous awards. The graduate of Tokyo University of the Arts is also a steadfast opponent of nuclear power and an avid environmentalist and pacifist. When the Fukushima disaster began to unfold in March 2011, he took part in rallies to denounce nuclear science as a threat to human livelihood.
Pharyngeal cancer is often linked to smoking, a habit Sakamoto managed to give up nine years ago, reportedly with the help of acupuncture.
Ryuichi Hayashi, a specialist at the National Cancer Center, said about 80 percent of such cases stem from lifestyle habits, such as smoking and drinking. Studies have found that men in their 50s to 70s are most vulnerable.
If left untreated, the cancer can cause breathing difficulties or severe pain that can make eating difficult. Radiation therapy is often used to treat the cancer in its early stages, but surgery is often required if it has advanced, the doctor said.
NCC data show that chronic smoking is as carcinogenic as being exposed to 2,000 millisieverts of radiation, making smokers about 1.8 times more vulnerable to cancer than non-smokers.
Sakamoto’s statement can be seen at sitesakamoto.com/images/top/message20140710-02.svg