Ryuichi Sakamoto, a well-known Japanese musician and actor who provided the soundtrack for blockbusters like “The Last Emperor” and “The Revenant,” has passed away in Tokyo. He was 71.
Sakamoto passed away on March 28 while receiving cancer treatment, according to a statement released on Sunday by the Japanese record label Avex.
2014 saw his initial throat cancer diagnosis. A year after admitting to having rectal cancer, he stated in 2022 that he had terminal cancer.
With Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi, Sakamoto co-founded the Yellow Magic Orchestra, popularly known as YMO, and pioneered the electronics music of the late 1970s. In January, Takahashi passed away.
Despite his fight with cancer, Sakamoto celebrated his 71st birthday in January. He published a full-length album titled “12,” claiming that writing music had a “little healing effect on my injured body and soul.”
He was a legendary musician who received an Oscar and Grammy for the film “The Last Emperor” in 1987.
Sakamoto had a role in the 1983 BAFTA-winning movie “Happy Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” as an actor.
Although frequently traveling to Japan, he spent the last several years primarily in New York.
Sakamoto, a 1952 Tokyo native influenced by Debussy and the Beatles, began studying music at 10 and was born in Tokyo.
According to the statement from Avex, he continued to work on his music at his home studio even while ill, when he was feeling somewhat better. “To his final days, he lived with music,” it said.
In addition to thanking his admirers worldwide, the statement also extended thanks to the physicians who had treated him in Japan and the United States.
It referenced the words Sakamoto loved: “Ars longa, vita brevis,” which refers to the longevity of art, no matter how short human life might be. Sakamoto made a name for himself as an environmentalist and pacifist as well.
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Following the meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant in March 2011 brought on by an earthquake and tsunami, he spoke out against nuclear power.
He participated in protests and gave speeches in Tokyo, and he belonged to a group of well-known Japanese artists who were not afraid to take an unpopular stance on political problems, including the Nobel Prize-winning novelist Kenzaburo Oe.
He stood up during a rally in July 2012 and spoke from notes on an iPhone, urging Japan not to endanger lives for power.
“Life is more important than money,” he said in Japanese, then added in English, “Keeping silent after Fukushima is barbaric.”
Although he recognized that he received criticism for being so commercial, he also participated in advertisements promoting Nissan electric vehicles. He said that he gets electricity for his New York house from a company that uses renewable resources.
“How we make electricity is going to diversify, with fossil fuel and nuclear power declining,” Sakamoto told The Associated Press in an interview in 2012. “People should be able to choose the kind of electricity they want to use.”
The Avex announcement noted that funeral rites had been held in the presence of relatives and close friends.
Miu Sakamoto, a musician, is Sakamoto’s only heir. She shared a snapshot of a battered, partially-broken piano along with the dates her father lived, from January 17, 1952, to March 28, 2023. He and singer and composer Akiko Yano, his ex-wife, were divorced.
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