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Ken Takakura

Ken Takakura
Native name 高倉 健
Born Goichi Oda
(1931-02-16)February 16, 1931
Nakama, Fukuoka, Japan
Died November 10, 2014(2014-11-10) (aged 83)
Tokyo, Japan
Alma mater Meiji University
Occupation Actor
Years active 1956–2014
Spouse(s) Chiemi Eri (m. 1959–71)

Ken Takakura (高倉 健 Takakura Ken), born Goichi Oda (小田 剛一 Oda Gōichi, February 16, 1931 – November 10, 2014), was a Japanese actor best known for his brooding style and the stoic presence he brought to his roles.[1] He won the Japan Academy Prize four times, more than any other actor.[2]


  • Life and career 1
  • Partial filmography 2
  • Honours 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5

Life and career

Takakura was born in Nakama, Fukuoka in 1931.[3] He attended Tochiku High School in nearby Yahata City where he was a member of the boxing team and English society. It was around this time that he gained his streetwise swagger and tough-guy persona watching yakuza movies.[4] This subject was covered in one of his most famous movies, Showa Zankyo-den (Remnants of Chivalry in the Showa Era), in which he played an honorable old-school yakuza among the violent post-war gangs.[3] After graduating from Meiji University in Tokyo, Takakura attended an audition on impulse in 1955 at the Toei Film Company while applying for a managerial position.[3]

Toei found a natural in Takakura as he debuted with Denko Karate Uchi (Lightning Karate Blow) in 1956.[5] In 1959 he married singer Chiemi Eri, but divorced in 1971. His breakout role would be in the 1965 film Abashiri Prison, and its sequel Abashiri Bangaichi: Bokyohen (Abashiri Prison: Longing for Home, also 1965), in which he played an ex-con antihero.[3] By the time Takakura left Toei in 1976, he had appeared in over 180 films.[4]

He gained international recognition after starring in the 1970 war film Too Late the Hero as the cunning Imperial Japanese Major Yamaguchi, the 1974 Sydney Pollack sleeper hit The Yakuza with Robert Mitchum, and is probably best known in the West for his role in Ridley Scott's Black Rain (1989) where he surprises American cops played by Michael Douglas and Andy García with the line, "I do speak fucking English".[1][3] He again appeared to Western audiences with the 1992 Fred Schepisi comedy Mr. Baseball starring Tom Selleck.[5]

He appeared in three films since 2000: Hotaru (ホタル Firefly) in May 2001, Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, by Chinese director Zhang Yimou, in late December 2005, and Yasuo Furuhata's Anata e (To You) in late August 2012, after a six-year hiatus.[6] He died of lymphoma on November 10, 2014.[7][2] Shintaro Ishihara described him as "the last big star (in Japan)."[8]

Partial filmography



  1. ^ a b Thomas, Kevin (13 October 1989). "Takakura: 'Black Rain' Star Finds His Place in the Sun : Movies: The veteran of nearly 200 Japanese films is likely to gain greater international fame from this one, atypical performance.". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "Cinema Star Takakura Ken Passes Away at 83". 18 November 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Macy, Roger (18 November 2014). "Ken Takakura obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Hoover, William D. (2011). Historical dictionary of postwar Japan. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press. p. 301.  
  5. ^ a b Mayer, Geoff (2012). Historical dictionary of crime films. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press. pp. 359–360.  
  6. ^ Sharp, Jasper (2011). Historical dictionary of Japanese cinema. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press. pp. 232–234.  
  7. ^ "Veteran Japanese actor Ken Takakura dies at 83". BBC News. 18 November 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 
  8. ^ "Ken Takakura, Japanese star and Black Rain actor, dead at 83". CBC. 18 November 2014. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 
  9. ^ "Nippon Akademī-shō kōshiki saito" 日本アカデミー賞公式サイト (in Japanese). Japan Academy Prize Association. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 
  10. ^ "Burū Ribon-shō rekidai jushō ichiran" ブルーリボン賞歴代受賞一覧 [Blue Ribbon Awards Previous Winners List]. Cinema Hochi (in Japanese).  
  11. ^ Nakada, Ayako; Shima, Yasuhiko (4 November 2013). "Actor Ken Takakura among 5 presented with top culture award". Asahi Shimbun. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 

External links

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