With so much politics on the brain, I missed the passing of the great Japanese actor Ken (Akinobu) Ogata who died on Sunday October 5th after a battle with liver cancer. Ogata was the star of many of the most influential Japanese films of the past 48 years. Ogata got his start in television and it was his role as warlord Hideyoshi in the 1965 period drama Takôki which brought him national attention. He then moved on to international fame with Shohei Imamura’s film Vengeance Is Mine. Ogata went on to star in such classics as Kinji Fukasaku‘s Samurai Reincarnation, Imamura’s Ballad of Narayama (which won the Palme d’Or and Ogata won the Japanese equivalent of the best actor Oscar in 1984), Shintarô Katsu‘s Zatôichi, Paul Schrader’s, Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, Peter Greenaway‘s The Pillow Book, and literally dozens of others.
Ogata began his acting career with the Shinkokugeki drama troupe in 1958. He was also a famed calligrapher and held his first public exhibition in 1991. In 2000, Ogata won the Japanese government’s Medal for his contributions to the arts.
Ogata’s new TV drama series, Garden of Wind, was set to air this month.
He will be missed.
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