National

TV presenter Mao Kobayashi, 34, dies after battle with breast cancer

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

Popular television presenter Mao Kobayashi, 34, died Thursday night after a more than two-year battle with breast cancer, her husband and kabuki star Ebizo said Friday.

“I was watching the moment she breathed her last breath. At that moment, she said ‘I love you,’ ” Ebizo, 39, said at a news conference held just after his early afternoon performance at Theater Cocoon in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward.

“I knew I was being loved. But the fact that she loved me until the very last moment … I don’t know what to say,” Ebizo said, shedding tears. “She was the person who changed me.”

“What I’ve learned and will continue to be taught by her is love.”

Ebizo, who at times struggled to continue, said Kobayashi lost her ability to speak on Thursday. After receiving a message from his mother-in-law about her critical condition, he returned home. Thankfully, she was still alive, Ebizo said.

Kobayashi’s family members, including the couple’s two young children, were present at the moment she died, Ebizo said. “We were able to spend really precious time together,” he said.

Kobayashi was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2014. She and her family hid her condition from the public for more than a year, but in June 2016, a tabloid newspaper reported the illness, prompting Ebizo to confirm the grim news in a news conference in which he described her condition as “serious.”

Three months afterward, Kobayashi broke her silence by starting a blog about her battle. On her blog, called Kokoro (Heart), Kobayashi openly talked about the disease and her daily life, including hair loss from the chemotherapy and her love for her family.

Kobayashi was included in the 2016 edition of the BBC’s 100 Women list and was credited for inspiring cancer patients and many others with her blog.

“Through the blog, she shared her sorrow and happiness with those who were also struggling with the same disease,” Ebizo said, calling her an amazing, loving person.

Kobayashi posted her last blog entry on Tuesday morning, saying she looked forward to her mother’s handmade orange juice, which was freshly squeezed every day.

“I hope all of you will have something to smile about today,” she wrote.

“She wanted to be a person who can inspire many, so she battled the illness very hard. That’s why she began blogging,” Ebizo said.

Kobayashi started her TV career as a weather reporter in 2003. She also appeared on news and variety programs before marrying Ebizo in 2010. The couple had their first child, a girl, in 2011 and a boy in 2013.