The world of kabuki has lost one of its leading veterans. Nakamura Tomijuro V, designated a Living National Treasure, died at a Tokyo hospital on Monday night of cancer. He was 81. His final performance was at the Shimbashi Enbujo theater in Tokyo last November, during which his failing health forced him to drop out and enter hospital.
Real name Watanabe Hajime, he made his first stage appearance as Bando Tsurunosuke IV in 1943, and became popular through his collaborations with Nakamura Senjaku II (79). He took the Tomijuro stage name in 1972 and enjoyed a career that spanned not just kabuki but also TV (such as the 1974 NHK taiga drama Katsu Kaishu”) and movies, including “Gakko II.” He was designated by the government as a Living National Treasure in 1994 and in 2008 was officially recognized for his contributions to the arts.
In 1996, he married Masae (48), a former actress who was 33 years his junior. They had two children, with Tomijuro becoming a father at the ages of 69 and 74. He had been scheduled to perform alongside his son Takanosuke (11, photo right) from January 2. The young actor took to the stage yesterday, the day after his father passed away.
More than two years after setting off on his Earth Marathon, comedian Hazama Kanpei (61) arrived back on Japanese soil in the early hours of Tuesday. He has sailed the Pacific and Atlantic, and run across North America, Europe and Asia before sailing between China and Fukuoka on the southern island of Kyushu. About 2,500 fans braved the early morning cold and rain to join his wife Mitsuyo, his two grandchildren and the mayor of Fukuoka at the city’s marina to welcome home the popular comedian.
Up to Hazama’s arrival back in Japan, the combined distance he has covered is estimated at about 40,400km. He now faces the final challenge – running the last 620km across western Japan to his goal in Osaka, where he is scheduled to reach the Osaka Castle Hall on January 21. The momentous event will be televised live.
A New Year TV special showed Hazama in tears as he ran the final few kilometers through the Chinese coastal city of Qingdao. During his mammoth run across Eurasia, he was told that he was suffering from prostate cancer. But even that discovery only temporarily sidelined him and he spent several weeks undergoing treatment in the U.S. before getting back on the road in Turkmenistan last June.