Kōji Tsuruta

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Kōji Tsuruta
Kōji Tsuruta in 1950.
Born Eiichi Ono
(1924-12-06)December 6, 1924
Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Japan
Died June 16, 1987(1987-06-16) (aged 62)
Occupation Actor, singer
Years active 1948–1987

Eiichi Ono (小野 榮一?, Ono Eiichi, December 6, 1924 – June 16, 1987), better known by his stage name Kōji Tsuruta (鶴田 浩二?, Tsuruta Kōji), was a Japanese actor and singer. He appeared in almost 260 feature films and had a unique style of singing. His daughter, Sayaka Tsuruta, is an actress.


Born in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka, Tsuruta was raised in Osaka by his grandmother, following his parents' divorce. A delinquent in high school, he finished second from the bottom of his class.[1]

Tsuruta was studying at Kansai University when he was drafted into the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service in 1944.[2] After the war he joined Hirokichi Takada's theater troupe and made his film debut at Shochiku in 1948 with Yūkyō no mure, gaining a female following for playing handsome leads.[2] He left Shochiku in 1952 to start his own production company. Prior, a romance with actress Keiko Kishi made headlines and Shochiku forced the two to end the relationship.[1] He notably played Sasaki Kojirō in Toho's Samurai Trilogy (1954–1956), opposite Toshirō Mifune.

He joined Toei in 1960, and found success with 1963's Jinsei Gekijo: Hishakaku. In his book The Yakuza Movie Book : A Guide to Japanese Gangster Films, Mark Schilling cites this film for starting the ninkyo eiga trend of chivalrous yakuza films. For the next decade Tsuruta was the lead star of Toei yakuza actors and their hardest working, starring or guest-starring in a film every month at his peak. Memorable films include Bakuto (1964) and Nihon Kyokakuden Ketto Kanda Matsuri (1966). Tsuruta was also a successful singer, scoring hits with such songs as "Kizudarake no Jinsei".[1][2]

However, in the 1970s he struggled and his performances were criticized when the yakuza genre shifted to a modern more realistic setting. He made his last film in 1985, Saigo no Bakuto. Kōji Tsuruta died from lung cancer on June 16, 1987 at the age of 62.[1]

Selected filmography[edit]

From left to right, Mitsuru Ono, Kazuo Taoka and Kōji Tsuruta in 1952.




  1. ^ a b c d Schilling, Mark (2003). The Yakuza Movie Book : A Guide to Japanese Gangster Films. Stone Bridge Press. pp. 146–148. ISBN 1-880656-76-0. 
  2. ^ a b c "Tsuruta Kōji". Nihon jinmei daijiten+Plus. Kōdansha. Retrieved 2011-10-22. 

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