Ken Takakura

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Ken Takakura
Native name 高倉 健
Born Goichi Oda
(1931-02-16) February 16, 1931 (age 83)
Nakama, Fukuoka, Japan
Alma mater Meiji University
Occupation Actor
Years active 1956–present

Ken Takakura (高倉 健 Takakura Ken?), born Goichi Oda (小田 剛一 Oda Gōichi?, February 16, 1931), is a Japanese actor best known for his brooding style and the stoic presence he brings to his roles.[1]

Takakura gained his streetwise swagger and tough-guy persona watching yakuza turf battles over the lucrative black market and racketeering in postwar Fukuoka Prefecture. 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 gurentai.[clarification needed]

A graduate of Meiji University in Tokyo, Takakura happened by an audition in 1955 at the Toei Film Company, and decided to look in. Toei found a natural in Takakura as he debuted with Denko Karate Uchi (Lightning Karate Blow) in 1956. Japan experienced a boom in gangster films in the 1960s as the Japanese people struggled with the generational differences between those raised in pre-war and post-war Japan and these were Takakura's stock and trade. 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. By the time Takakura left Toei in 1976, he had appeared in over 180 films.

Takakura 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". He again proved himself bankable to Western audiences with the 1992 Fred Schepisi comedy Mr. Baseball starring Tom Selleck.

Although he has slowed down a bit in his older years, he is still active. He has appeared in only three films in 21st century: 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.[2]

Partial filmography[edit]




  • Kodansha. "Takakura Ken" (page 1508). Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993. ISBN 4-06-931098-3.
  • Schilling, Mark. The Encyclopedia of Japanese Pop Culture. Trumble, Connecticut: Weatherhill, 1997. ISBN 0-8348-0380-1.

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