Famed kabuki actor Sakata Tojuro IV, who was a designated living national treasure and a master of the kamigata style of kabuki performed in western Japan, died of natural causes at a Tokyo hospital on Thursday, it was announced Saturday. He was 88.
He leaves behind his wife, Chikage Ogi, an actress-turned-politician who served as land minister and president of the House of Councilors.
Tojuro, whose real name was Kotaro Hayashi, was born in Kyoto in 1931 as the first son of kabuki actor Nakamura Ganjiro II.
In 1941, he debuted on stage as Nakamura Senjaku II.
In 1953, at age 21, he shot to stardom after playing the role of prostitute Ohatsu in “Sonezaki Shinju” (“The Love Suicides at Sonezaki”), a work staged for the first time in 250 years.
The character became the most successful role for him, and he played the part more than 1,400 times up until the age of 84.
For eight years from 1955, he left Shochiku Co. and joined movie studio Takarazuka Eiga and Toho Kabuki. In 1958, he married Ogi after they co-starred in a movie.
He assumed the name of Nakamura Ganjiro III in 1990. He became Sakata Tojuro IV in 2005, reviving the famous name in kamigata kabuki for the first time in 231 years.
After carefully reading dramas and making profound interpretations of them, Tojuro played a wide range of stage roles, from adult males to women, with grace and freshness.
In 1981, he set up the Chikamatsuza theater to stage works of dramatist Chikamatsu Monzaemon in Japan and abroad. Through the initiative, he made efforts to revitalize kamigata kabuki.
He was designated by the government as a living national treasure in 1994 and received the Order of Culture in 2009.
He had served as chairman of the Japan Actors’ Association since 2012. Actress Tamao Nakamura is his younger sister.
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