Kōji Yakusho at the 26th Tokyo International Film Festival in 2015
1 January 1956
Isahaya, Nagasaki, Japan
|Height||1.79 m (5 ft 10 1⁄2 in)|
|Spouse(s)||Saeko Kawatsu (1982–present)|
Yakusho was born in Isahaya, Nagasaki, the youngest of five brothers. After graduation from Nagasaki Prefectural High School of Technology in 1974, he worked at the Chiyoda municipal ward office, or kuyakusho, 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 Mumeijuku (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 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, Seance, 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|
|The Last Game|
|1980||Twelve Months||Young soldier||Voice role|
|The Legend of Sayo||Hatsutaro|
|1985||Tampopo||Man in White Suit||Juzo Itami|
|1987||The Great Department Store Robbery||Cello player|
|1988||Another Way: D-Kikan Joho||Naoto Sekiya||Lead role|
|1990||Under Aurora||Genzo Tamiya||Lead role|
|Drug Connection||Ryosuke Kano||Lead role|
|1994||Osaka Gokudo Senso: Shinoidare||Ippei Yoshikawa|
|1995||Kamikaze Taxi||Kantake||Masato Harada||Lead role|
|1996||Shall We Dance?||Shohei Sugiyama||Masayuki Suo||Lead role|
|Shabu gokudo||Makabe||Lead role|
|1997||Lost Paradise||Shoichiro Kuki||Lead role|
|The Eel||Takuro Yamashita||Shohei Imamura||Lead role|
|Bounce Ko Gals||Oshima||Lead role|
|Cure||Kenichi Takabe||Kiyoshi Kurosawa||Lead role|
|1998||Bonds||Takaaki Ise/Tetsuro Haga|
|Tadon to chikuwa||Kida||Lead role|
|1999||License to Live||Fujimori||Asia Pacific Film Festival Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|Charisma||Goro Yabuike||Lead role|
|Spellbound||Hiroshi Kitano||Masato Harada||Lead role|
|Dora-heita||Koheita Mochizuki, aka Dora-heita||Lead role|
|Eureka||Makoto Sawai||Lead role|
|Seance||Sato||Lead role, TV movie|
|Warm Water Under a Red Bridge||Yosuke Sasano||Lead role|
|2002||The Choice of Hercules||Atsuyuki Sassa||Lead role|
|2003||Doppelganger||Michio Hayasaki||Kiyoshi Kurosawa||Lead role|
|Fireflies: River of Light||Mr. Takiguchi|
|2004||The Hunter and the Hunted||Detective Jin||Lead role|
|Tokyo: Level One||The Governor of Tokyo||Lead role|
|Lakeside Murder Case||Shunsuke Namiki||Lead role|
|University of Laughs||Mutsuo Sakisaka||Lead role|
|2005||Lorelei: The Witch of the Pacific Ocean||Masami Shin'ichi||Lead role|
|Memoirs of a Geisha||Nobu||Rob Marshall||American film|
|2006||The Uchōten Hotel||Heikichi Shindo||Kōki Mitani||Lead role|
|Babel||Yasujiro Wataya||Foreign film|
|Retribution||Noboru Yoshioka||Lead role|
|2007||I Just Didn't Do It||Masayoshi Arakawa||Masayuki Suo|
|Argentine Baba||Satoru Wakui||Lead role|
|Silk||Hara Jubei||Foreign film|
|Walking My Life||Yukihiro Fujiyama||Lead role|
|2008||Paco and the Magical Book||Onuki||Tetsuya Nakashima||Lead role|
|Tokyo Sonata||The Robber||Kiyoshi Kurosawa|
|2009||Mt. Tsurugidake||Morisaku Furuta||Daisaku Kimura|
|Gelatin Silver Love||Client||Kazumi Kurigami|
|Toad's Oil||Takuro Yazawa||Kōji Yakusho||Lead role, also director and writer|
|2010||13 Assassins||Shinzaemon Shimada||Takashi Miike||Lead role, nominated Asian Film Award for Best Actor|
|The Last Ronin||Magozaemon Senoo||Shigemichi Sugita||Lead role|
|2011||Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai||Kageyu Saito||Takashi Miike|
|Isoroku||Isoroku Yamamoto||Izuru Narushima||Lead role|
|Chronicle of My Mother||Masato Harada||Lead role|
|The Woodsman and the Rain||Katsuhiko||Shūichi Okita||Lead role|
|2012||A Terminal Trust||Shinzo Egi||Masayuki Suo|
|2013||The Kiyosu Conference||Shibata Katsuie||Kōki Mitani||Lead role|
|2014||The World of Kanako||Akikazu Fujishima||Tetsuya Nakashima||Lead role|
|A Samurai Chronicle||Shūkoku Toda||Takashi Koizumi||Lead role|
|2015||The Emperor in August||Korechika Anami||Masato Harada||Lead role|
|The Boy and the Beast||Kumatetsu||Mamoru Hosoda||Lead voice role|
|2017||Sekigahara||Tokugawa Ieyasu||Masato Harada|
|Oh Lucy!||Komori||Atsuko Hirayanagi||American-Japanese film|
|The Third Murder||Misumi||Hirokazu Koreeda|
|2018||The Blood of Wolves||Shōgo Ōgami||Kazuya Shiraishi||Lead role|
|1980||Natchan no shashinkan||Kayama||NHK||Asadora|
|Shishi no Jidai||Murakami Taiji||NHK||Taiga drama|
|1981||Onna Taikōki||Oda Nobutaka||NHK||Taiga drama|
|1983||Tokugawa Ieyasu||Oda Nobunaga||NHK||Taiga drama|
|1984–85||Miyamoto Musashi||Miyamoto Musashi||NHK||Lead role|
|1987–1995||Sanbiki ga Kiru!||Kuji Shin'nosuke||EX|
|1991||Takeda Shingen||Takeda Shingen||TBS||Lead role|
|1994||Hana no Ran||Ibuki Saburo Nobutsuna||NHK||Taiga drama|
|2000||Aikotoba wa Yūki||Jintaro Akatsuki||CX||Lead role|
|2010||Wagaya no Rekishi||Narrator||CX|
|2014||Oyaji no Senaka||Sōsuke Aoki||TBS||ep. 2 "Wedding Match", lead role|
|2017||Ties: A Miraculous Colt||Masayuki||NHK||Lead role|
|Rikuō||Kōichi Miyazawa||TBS||Lead role|
|2019||Idaten||Kanō Jigorō||NHK||Taiga drama|
Awards and honors
|1984||Elan d'or Awards 1984||Newcomer of the Year||Tokugawa Ieyasu (TV)||Won|
|1996||50th Mainichi Film Award||Best Actor||Kamikaze Taxi||Won|
|21st Hochi Film Award||Best Actor||Shall We Dance?, Sleeping Man, Shabu gokudo||Won|
|9th Nikkan Sports Film Award||Best Actor||Won|
|1997||18th Yokohama Film Festival||Best Actor||Won|
|51st Mainichi Film Award||Best Actor||Won|
|70th Kinema Junpo Award||Best Actor||Won|
|39th Blue Ribbon Awards||Best Actor||Won|
|6th Japanese Film Critics Awards||Best Actor||Won|
|20th Japan Academy Prize||Best Actor||Shall We Dance?||Won|
|22nd Hochi Film Award||Best Actor||The Eel, Lost Paradise, Bounce ko GALS||Won|
|10th Tokyo International Film Festival||Best Actor||Cure||Won|
|1998||42nd Asia-Pacific Film Festival||Best Actor||The Eel||Won|
|21st Japan Academy Prize||Best Actor||Won|
|40th Blue Ribbon Awards||Best Actor||The Eel, Lost Paradise, Cure||Won|
|71st Kinema Junpo Award||Best Actor||The Eel, Cure||Won|
|1999||22nd Japan Academy Prize||Best Actor||Kizuna||Nominated|
|2000||23rd Japan Academy Prize||Best Actor||Spellbound||Nominated|
|2001||24th Japan Academy Prize||Best Actor||Dora-heita||Nominated|
|Chicago International Film Festival||Best Actor||Warm Water Under a Red Bridge||Won|
|2002||25th Japan Academy Prize||Best Actor||Nominated|
|2003||26th Japan Academy Prize||Best Actor||The Choice of Hercules||Nominated|
|2005||28th Japan Academy Prize||Best Actor||University of Laughs||Nominated|
|26th Yokohama Film Festival||Best Actor||University of Laughs, Yudan Taiteki, Tokyo Genpatsu||Won|
|2007||30th Japan Academy Prize||Best Actor||The Uchōten Hotel||Nominated|
|2008||31st Japan Academy Prize||Best Actor||Walking My Life||Nominated|
|2009||32nd Japan Academy Prize||Best Actor||Paco and the Magical Book||Nominated|
|2011||8th Dubai International Film Festival: Muhr AsiaAfrica Feature||Best Actor||The Woodsman and the Rain||Won|
|34th Japan Academy Prize||Best Actor||13 Assassins||Nominated|
|2012||35th Japan Academy Prize||Best Actor||The Last Ronin||Nominated|
|JAPAN CUTS: Festival of New Japanese Film||CUT ABOVE Award for Excellence in Film||Won|
|2013||36th Japan Academy Prize||Best Actor||Chronicle of My Mother, Isoroku||Nominated|
|2014||47th Sitges Film Festival||Best Actor||The World of Kanako||Won|
|1st Kyoto International Art and Film Festival||Toshiro Mifune Award||Won|
|2015||38th Japan Academy Prize||Best Actor||A Samurai Chronicle||Nominated|
|2016||58th Blue Ribbon Awards||Best Actor||The Emperor in August||Nominated|
|39th Japan Academy Prize||Best Actor||Nominated|
|2017||42nd Hochi Film Award||Best Supporting Actor||The Third Murder, Sekigahara||Won|
|30th Nikkan Sports Film Award||Best Supporting Actor||Won|
|2012||Medal with Purple Ribbon|
- "Koji Yakusho". nytimes.com. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
- "Yakusho Kōji", Nihon jinmei daijiten+Plus, Kōdansha, retrieved 13 February 2012
- "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.
- "JAPAN CUTS 2012 Guests". www.japansociety.org. Retrieved 2016-04-17.
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