In Memoriam: The “World Famous Sakamoto” Too Handsome to Be Seen: The “Trajectory of Ryuichi Sakamoto” Photographed by This Magazine | FRIDAY DIGITAL

In Memoriam: The “World Famous Sakamoto” Too Handsome to Be Seen: The “Trajectory of Ryuichi Sakamoto” Photographed by This Magazine

Ryuichi Sakamoto, who made Japanese music world famous with "YMO" and also became a successful actor

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Musician Ryuichi Sakamoto (age 71) passed away on March 28 after a two-year battle with cancer. Let us look back on the trajectory of this genius, along with the images we have captured of him in his early days.

January 1988

Sakamoto rubbing shoulders with Diane Lane (center) and John Lone (70) at the party for “The Last Emperor.

In his second year of junior high school, Sakamoto, who believed himself to be “a reincarnation of Debussy,” was discovered by Haruomi Hosono (75) as a graduate student at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. In 1978, “YMO” (Yellow Magic Orchestra) was formed.

Sakamoto says, “Music that combines pop music with a classical background is Sakamoto’s ‘invention. As a student, he became acquainted with and influenced by musicians of various genres, including folk and jazz. His search for freer music fused with Mr. Hosono’s search for techno music,” says music critic Hideki Taie.

Electronic music (techno-pop) represented by “Technopolis” and “Tompou” crossed the ocean and went on a world tour. It was imported back into Japan and became a boom in Japan as well. The person who nicknamed him “Professor” because of his fearless and intellectual image was, coincidentally, drummer Yukihiro Takahashi (70 years old), who passed away in January of this year.

Sakamoto’s fame was brought to the fore by the movie “Merry Christmas on the Battlefield,” which was released in 1983. He played the role of Yonoi, an army captain, and also composed the music for the film. He again demonstrated his talent for music and acting in “The Last Emperor” (released in 1987), a tri-country co-production, and became the first Japanese to win an Academy Award for Best Original Score. He became one of the most successful Japanese musicians of all time. It became commonplace for him to rub shoulders with Hollywood stars such as Diane Lane (58) (first photo).

In 1990, Sakamoto moved his base of operations to New York. In an interview in the September 20, 1991 issue of this magazine, Mr. Sakamoto, who had temporarily returned to Japan, said this.

I want to make it clear that I am a private musician, not a cultural goodwill ambassador for Japan.

Perhaps one of the reasons he left Japan was that he felt burdened by the “Sakamoto of the World” sign. In recent years, Sakamoto has also attracted attention as an activist on environmental and social issues. In particular, after the Great East Japan Earthquake, he joined demonstrations and spoke out with young people in support of a “nuclear power free Japan.

He was a man who pursued his ideals without giving any weight to power or the system until the end of his life. Perhaps he thought it would be the end for him if he were to be elevated and become a member of the regime. The fact that he moved his base to the U.S. and changed his musical style from techno-pop to contemporary music may be a result of his cultivation of new stimuli.

A rare genius has passed away.

August 1991

Hollywood Zen,” in which he was to star in a film directed by Nagisa Oshima (80 years old), was cancelled due to various reasons.

July ’12

Participates in a demonstration in front of the Prime Minister’s official residence to end nuclear power plant operations. He appealed with a microphone, “Even if nuclear power plants are restarted, let’s not give up and keep trying.

November, 1983

This is the last live performance of the former YMO, just before their last live tour. The band called it “dispersing” instead of “disbanding,” to distract their grieving fans.

December ’13

In December ’13, Sakamoto was caught walking on the streets of Roppongi. Sakamoto frequently visited clubs and restaurants in Roppongi.

From the April 21 and 28, 2023 issues of FRIDAY

  • PHOTO Takeshi Kinugawa, Takero Yuzoku, Haruki Honda, Shuichi Masuda

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