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Tadao Sato laughed an embarrassed laugh as he recalled that three years ago, in London, he had been referred to as a “legend.” Though adding to his discomfort, I had to admit that in my university days I had thought of him in the same way. And I still do.

For students of Japanese film, Sato’s name is almost on a par with those of the great 20th-century directors Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu and Kenji Mizoguchi, and also renowned actors such as Toshiro Mifune. And yet Sato has only ever been indirectly involved with the production of film.

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