OBITUARY

Kabuki star Kanzaburo Nakamura dies at 57

Kabuki star Kanzaburo Nakamura dies at 57 Kanzaburo Nakamura File photo

TOKYO —

Japanese kabuki star Kanzaburo Nakamura, who brought feudal-period stage performances to New York and other world cities, has died of respiratory problems. He was 57.

Kanzaburo, the 18th actor to use the stage name in the Nakamura family, died at a Tokyo hospital early Wednesday, said an official at Shochiku Co Ltd, the production company for kabuki dramas.

Kanzaburo drew crowds during a spell on the stage in New York in 2004, introducing audiences to the sometimes esoteric world of kabuki, a highly-stylized form of theater that dates back hundreds of years.

“I came over bracing myself for a possible storm of booing… but I was glad to hear cheers which eventually turned into whistles,” he told a television interview after the U.S. performance.

In June, Nakamura said he has been diagnosed with cancer of the esophagus. He canceled his performances scheduled for September in Osaka and October in Nagoya so that he could concentrate on fighting the disease.

He had an operation for esophageal cancer in July but later suffered pneumonia and respiratory problems.

He died before the April 2013 opening of Tokyo’s rebuilt Kabuki-za theater, where he and other actors gave “sayonara” performances before its demolition in 2010.

The Kanzaburo name is expected to be passed on to another actor. Kabuki families with long histories are usually unwilling to let the name die with an actor.

Nakamura is survived by his wife and two sons.

© 2012 AFP

  • 1

    zabutonsenbei

    This was a real shocker. He was so young. Very sad for his family, friends and worldwide fans. It seems that the operation for the cancer was a success, but he developed pneumonia. That happens a lot in Japan, I wonder why that is. RIP Kanzaburo Nakamura, thanks to you, there are many foreign fans of Kabuki now.

  • -5

    Ewan Huzarmy

    Pneumonia is often used when a performer dies or gets very ill, is pneumonia a euphemism for an immune deficiency related illness ?

  • 3

    shirokuma2011

    Hopefully his son Shichinosuke will take over the name at some point!!

  • 2

    alliswellinjapan

    Big loss for Japan.

  • 1

    JeffLee

    Ewan, that's harsh. I suspect heavy smoking. NHK had an extensive report this evening on him, but typically left out such a key piece of information. Journalism at its finest.

  • 0

    alliswellinjapan

    Not so unusual to develop pneumonia after an esophageal cancer surgery. What is perhaps not so usual is the pneumonia to develop into ARDS which is far more fatal.

  • 1

    LiveInTokyo

    Many years ago I first saw him on NHK's taiga drama, "Chushingura", and I've been a fan of his ever since. Did anyone else see it? I watched the whole series and it was just amazing, especially with Nakamura in the leader role of Ooishi. That image of him in that role is what I will always remember him as. Thanks for some great TV memories :)

  • 1

    Yuya Yokokura

    I was deeply moved when I saw letter from his family on tv. because they wrote not "頑張って"means he did his best but "癌晴って" means he fought for his life with cancer, these words have same sound in japanese. so I think Kanzaburo really wanted to act...... RIP

  • 3

    flammenwerfer

    yes, indeed Jeff Lee cancer of the esophagus is a heavily linked to smoking and alcohol.

  • 1

    NeoJamal

    Many years ago I first saw him on NHK's taiga drama, "Chushingura", and I've been a fan of his ever since. Did anyone else see it? I watched the whole series and it was just amazing, especially with Nakamura in the leader role of Ooishi. That image of him in that role is what I will always remember him as. Thanks for some great TV memories :)

    The best taiga in ages.

    RIP, we will not enjoy a great kabuki/screen actor of the likes of him. He will be dearly missed

  • 0

    globalwatcher

    I am a big fan of Kabuki and I always make my time available to see him whenever I go to Japan.

    Well, a new Kabuki Theater in Tokyo will be meaningless to me without him.

  • 4

    annemarie08

    Ewan: Sometimes, pneumonia is just pneumonia and not a euphemism for anything. Poor man had cancer which will always weaken your immune system and in this case it unfortunately led to pneumonia.

  • 2

    Viviana Guadagno

    R.I.P.

  • 1

    Manami Medoruma

    He was a one of great Kabuki star in Japan. We deeply appreciated him and his work. I don't know how change Kabuki-world after this, but I wish his sons and grandchildren will make up for their great Kanzabro. I pray his soul may rest in peace.

  • 0

    shimayuri

    when I heard this story,I was really shock. I have never met Kanzaburo Nakamura but I understand that he is very famous actor in japan.Why did he die??? he was still 57. I was noticed that nobodyknow happening of the future. I expect his sons succeed in the world of Kabuki because of ther father.

  • -3

    Lowly

    No idea about this guy, but apparently in the entertainment industry everybody is sleeping with everybody, unprotected, and aids is or was rampant. I don't know why it is so "harsh" for Ewan to ask about... it is a natural, common and problematic disease for ppl in his profession. And the whole fact that it is viewed as shameful, or "harsh" to even bring up, is one of the reasons it is such a big problem and a health problem for young ppl. I am sure pneumonia and other such diseases are the declared death-reasons of a lot of famous ppl who had aids.

    If his is from tobacco, and they are not mentioning that in the news about his death, that is just as much a cover-up, mind you.

  • -1

    globalwatcher

    I did some more readings about his cancer surgery. I do not have an enough medical prognosis to determine why his surgery took 12 hrs. This is absolutely crazy, as nobody can make it without any serious complications at end. This is a death wish surgery.

    Why didn't he take an another option; a cyber knife surgery? No cuts and it should be done very quickly. The success rate is very high. Some Japanese friends told me that he may had been ill advised to be aware of other surgery options like this is available. Some say the Cyber Knife surgery is not covered by national health coverage and would cost about $70,000. Heven's sake, he had money.

    The Cyber Knife option should be available to every patients under Japanese National Health coverage. If you have been following my posts, I have been strongly advocating domestic consumer spending of Japan, not on empty airports and empty cultural centers. More government money should be spent on medicine such as Cyber Knife technology..

    He is truly missed. RIP.

  • -1

    nigelboy

    globalwatcher

    You make too many assumptions on the post above.

    1. You assume that the length of surgery caused the complications even though after the surgery, he was healthy enough to walk around the hospital.

    2. You asuume that cyber knift is a viable option for his cancer.

    3. You assume cyber knift is not under the Japan's national health coverage.

    4. You assume government spending on medice equates to domestic consumer spending.

    You assume too much.

  • 0

    globalwatcher

    nigelboyDec. 07, 2012 - 05:01AM JST

    **I do not have an enough medical prognosis **to determine why his surgery took 12 hrs.

    The point is that Japan needs to do more in medicine. Why good Japanese MDs do not want to go back to Japan?

  • -2

    nigelboy

    The point is that Japan needs to do more in medicine. Why good Japanese MDs do not want to go back to Japan?

    Assumptions followed by another assumption?

  • 0

    globalwatcher

    niegelboy, my friend is an oncologist from Japan and he is the first 5 best here in US. He has told me yesterday what;s going on in this case. I assure you cyber knife is not covered by the insurance. I probably know more than you do.

  • -2

    nigelboy

    niegelboy, my friend is an oncologist from Japan and he is the first 5 best here in US. He has told me yesterday what;s going on in this case. I assure you cyber knife is not covered by the insurance. I probably know more than you do.

    It's covered.

    http://www.radonc.med.osaka-u.ac.jp/general_cyberknife.html

  • 0

    annemarie08

    Lowly: Speculating about someones condition saying he may have had AIDS just because hes in the entertainment industry (listening to too much elton john, who doesn`t have it?/Queen, who did?). Let the man rest in peace.

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