Kōji Yakusho at the 10th Deauville Asian Film Festival in 2008
1 January 1956
Isahaya, Nagasaki, Japan
|Spouse(s)||Saeko Kawatsu (1982–present)|
He was born Kōji Hashimoto (橋本 広司 Hashimoto Kōji?) in Isahaya, Nagasaki, the youngest of five brothers. After graduation from the Nagasaki Prefectural High School of Technology in 1974, he worked at the Chiyoda municipal ward office, or yakusho, in Tokyo, from which he later took his stage name. In 1976, he saw a production of Maxim Gorky's The Lower Depths and was inspired, first to watch, and then later to take part in, as many plays as possible.
In the spring of 1978 he auditioned for Tatsuya Nakadai's the Mumeijyuku (Studio for Unknown Performers) acting studio, and was one of four chosen out of 800 applicants. While at the school he met actress Saeko Kawatsu, whom he married in 1982. Their son was born in 1985.
In 1983, he landed the role of Oda Nobunaga in the year-long NHK drama Tokugawa Ieyasu and was catapulted to fame. He also appeared in a TV version of Miyamoto Musashi from 1984 to 1985. For several years, he played Kuji Shinnosuke (or "Sengoku"), one of the title characters in the jidaigeki Sambiki ga Kiru!. He played a major character in Juzo Itami's 1986 Tampopo.
In 1988, he was given a special award for work in cinema by the Japanese Minister of Education, Science, Sports and Culture and continued to appear in films and in a number of TV shows through the '90s.
In 1996 and 1997, Yakusho enjoyed several major successes. The Eel, directed by Shohei Imamura, in which he played the eel-loving lead, won the Palme d'Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. Lawrence Van Gelder in the New York Times called his performance "unerring." A Lost Paradise, about a double-suicide, was second only to Princess Mononoke at the Japanese box office.
International breakthrough: Shall We Dance?
Shall We Dance? was a major hit in Japan that inspired a domestic dance craze. Ballroom groups and dance schools multiplied in the country after the film's release, and people who previously would never admit to taking lessons, Western style social dancing being taboo, announced that they did with pride. Director Masayuki Suo said of his lead, until that point was known mostly for playing good-looking samurai, "we thought he could play this overworked, tired Japanese businessman, and he did.... [H]e pulled everything off and took his dance training so seriously."
The film also was one of Japan's highest-grossing movies outside the country. It earned $9.5 million in the US and inspired a remake starring Jennifer Lopez with Richard Gere playing Yakusho's role.
Yakusho next won the Hochi Film Award for Best Actor for Bounce Ko Gals, a film which dealt with high school prostitution specifically, and money worship in general. He collaborated with horror director Kiyoshi Kurosawa in Cure, License to Live, Charisma, Pulse, Doppelganger, Retribution, and Tokyo Sonata. Yakusho found further recognition with international audiences to some extent with roles in such films as Memoirs of a Geisha and Babel. In the latter, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, he played the father of the deaf-mute played by Rinko Kikuchi.
In 2009, he debuted as director and writer of Toad's Oil. In 2010 and 2011 he was part of both ensemble casts in Takashi Miike's samurai films, 13 Assassins and Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai. The latter was in 3D and the first 3D film to be in competition at the Cannes Film Festival.
In the 2011 war drama film Rengō Kantai Shirei Chōkan: Yamamoto Isoroku, Yakusho portrayed Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. Yakusho was reportedly the only actor considered for the role, and that had he not accepted it, the film would have been canceled. 
|1979||Hunter in the Dark||Kuwano|
|1979||The Last Game|
|1980||Twelve Months||Young soldier||Voice|
|1982||The Legend of Sayo||Hatsutaro|
|1985||Tampopo||Man in White Suit|
|1987||The Great Department Store Robbery||Cello player|
|1988||Another Way: D-Kikan Joho||Naoto Sekiya|
|1990||Under Aurora||Genzo Tamiya|
|1993||Drug Connection||Ryosuke Kano|
|1994||Osaka Gokudo Senso: Shinoidare||Ippei Yoshikawa|
|1996||Shall We Dance?||Shohei Sugiyama|
|1997||A Lost Paradise||Shoichiro Kuki|
|1997||The Eel||Takuro Yamashita|
|1997||Bounce Ko Gals||Oshima|
|1998||Bonds||Takaaki Ise/Tetsuro Haga|
|1998||Tadon to chikuwa||Kida|
|1999||License to Live||Fujimori||Asia Pacific Film Festival Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|2000||Dora-heita||Koheita Mochizuki, aka Dora-heita|
|2001||Warm Water Under a Red Bridge||Yosuke Sasano|
|2002||The Choice of Hercules||Atsuyuki Sassa|
|2003||Fireflies: River of Light||Mr. Takiguchi|
|2004||The Hunter and the Hunted||Detective Jin|
|2004||Tōkyō genpatsu||The Governor of Tokyo|
|2004||Lakeside Murder Case||Shunsuke Namiki|
|2004||University of Laughs||Mutsuo Sakisaka|
|2005||Lorelei: The Witch of the Pacific Ocean||Masami Shin'ichi|
|2005||Memoirs of a Geisha||Nobu|
|2006||The Uchōten Hotel||Heikichi Shindo|
|2007||I Just Didn't Do It||Masayoshi Arakawa|
|2007||Argentine Baba||Satoru Wakui|
|2007||Walking My Life||Yukihiro Fujiyama|
|2008||Paco and the Magical Book||Onuki|
|2008||Tokyo Sonata||The Robber|
|2009||Mt. Tsurugidake||Morisaku Furuta|
|2009||Gelatin Silver Love||Client|
|2009||Toad's Oil||Takuro Yazawa||Also director and writer|
|2010||13 Assassins||Shinzaemon Shimada||Nominated Asian Film Award for Best Actor|
|2010||The Last Ronin||Magozaemon Senoo|
|2011||Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai||Kageyu Saito|
|2011||Rengo Kantai Shirei Chōkan: Yamamoto Isoroku||Isoroku Yamamoto|
|2012||Waga Haha no Ki|
|2012||Kitsutsuki to Ame||Katsuhiko|
|2012||A Terminal Trust||Shinzo Egi|
|2013||The Kiyosu Conference||Shibata Katsuie|
- "Yakusho Kōji", Nihon jinmei daijiten+Plus (Kōdansha), retrieved 13 February 2012
- "Koji Yakusho". nytimes.com. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
- "Festival de Cannes: The Eel". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-09-24.
- "The Eel:Passion That Seethes Under the Surface". New York Times. 1998-08-21. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
- "Masayuki Suo's Whole Wide Whirl". San Francisco Chronicle. 1997-07-13.
- "Shall We Dance?". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
- Mes, Tom (August 15, 2001). "License to Live". Midnight Eye.
- Kipp, Jeremiah (June 20, 2005). "Pulse". Slant Magazine.
- Mes, Tom (April 15, 2004). "Midnight Eye review: Doppelgänger". Midnight Eye.
- Bourne, Christopher (January 27, 2012). "Review: Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s "Retribution"". Meniscus.
- Rafferty, Terrence (March 6, 2009). "This Time, the Horror’s in the Normality". The New York Times.
- "Review: Babel". LA Weekly. 2006-10-26. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
- "Yakusho Koji portrays WWII naval commander Yamamoto Isoroku". TokyoGraph. May 14, 2011. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
- Official website
- Kōji Yakusho at the Internet Movie Database
- Kōji Yakusho at the Japanese Movie Database (Japanese)
- Profile on All Movie Guide
- Profile at Japan Zone
- The Film of '97 at Japan File