OSAKA - Takajin Yashiki, a popular TV celebrity and singer well known in the Kansai region, has died, according to a TV station official and other sources. He was 64.
The city of Osaka native died Friday, they said. He had been battling esophageal cancer for the last two years.
Yashiki made his debut as a singer in 1976, releasing several hits characterized by a sweet singing voice that contrasted with his rough appearance.
He became active in radio and television in the 1980s. The series of talk shows he hosted earned high ratings through his candid and witty conversation style and he became one of Kansai’s leading TV entertainers.
Having made public his dislike of Tokyo, Yashiki based his activities in Osaka and rarely made appearances on TV stations in Tokyo. His fans said he embodied Osaka.
While Yashiki drew attention for straight talk with politicians and critics, he was also accused of making defamatory remarks on occasion.
Yashiki helped Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, a leader of Nippon Ishin no Kai (Japan Restoration Party), gain national fame by inviting him to his show while Hashimoto was still a lawyer and relatively unknown. The two are known to have kept close ties.
Yashiki suspended his activities in January 2012 after being diagnosed with an early stage of esophageal cancer. After going through medical treatment and surgery, he returned to the entertainment business last March but halted activities again in May due to health issues.