Takakura Ken’s ‘Loneliness and Suffering Insights from a Close Friend, 10 Years On | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Takakura Ken’s ‘Loneliness and Suffering Insights from a Close Friend, 10 Years On

February 16th is his 93rd birthday! He wasn't really taciturn. Former private manager reveals for the first time.

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In Tak’s (right) office, discussions about swords became heated. Takakura was a big fan of swords, even visiting the workshop of the living national treasure swordsmith Miyairi Gyōhei.

“I used to boast, ‘Actually, I’m really good at talking. I can match even Tetsuko Kuroyanagi.'”


This testimony comes from Mr. Tak (Tack) Abe (71), who served as the representative of Kurosawa Enterprises USA, the management company of director Akira Kurosawa, in America. He supported Takakura for over 30 years as a private manager mainly responsible for entertainment.

Ten years after the passing of the great actor, on February 16th, Tak spoke to FRIDAY during an interview, saying, “I want to preserve his true face while my memory is still fresh.”

According to Tak, Takakura used to follow a cycle of finishing filming and then taking a long stay overseas to relax. That was the only place he felt relieved from the burden of being a famous actor.

“When he entered the United States, he switched to being Gouichi Oda (his real name). When he got drunk and became talkative, he always talked about dirty jokes (laughs). Even though my wife and I were drinking together with him, he casually talked about sneaking into a temple with his male friends in high school and masturbating together at midnight. But strangely, when Takakura-san talked, it never became vulgar.”

There was a contrast between the cheerful Gouichi Oda and the reserved Takakura Ken. It’s said that he sometimes showed distress at the gap between the image the public expected and his true self.

“He deeply respected veteran comedians like Frankie Sakai and Hisaya Morishige. Perhaps he was studying comedy expression. Sometimes he would imitate Morishige-san. It was impressive when he said with a lonely expression, ‘I actually want to do comedy.'”

“I envy you.”

“I loved driving on mountain roads, often cruising the route from Hollywood to Griffith Observatory that James Dean raced in ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ (’56). There was a particular fondness for certain car models; once, he even asked me to find a rare Porsche 911 Turbo for him.

It’s a fond memory that I finally found one after searching through Porsche dealers across the United States. He was also into collecting guns, likely inspired by his admiration for Westerns. He even had his Colt Python .357 Magnum modified so that even a woman could easily cock the hammer for self-defense.”

At some point, Tak became one of the few people Takakura trusted. There were moments when he muttered, “Tak, I envy you. You have a smart wife and adorable kids. I envy the fact that you have a happy family.”

“In 1971, issues arose when Chiemi Eri’s half-sister embezzled money from Chiemi, leading to their divorce. Although Takakura adopted children in his later years, he never remarried. Perhaps he hesitated to welcome a new wife.

He always carried a leather pouch in his travel bag, and when asked what was inside, he would say they were souvenirs from Chiemi’s trip to America, local charms. It was surprising to see him continue to cherish memories of his ex-wife even over 20 years after their divorce.”

Takakura’s last stay in Los Angeles was in 2011. He spent a week with me, visiting Venice Beach, buying lots of Levi’s denim at the Beverly Hills mall, and more.

He passed away from malignant lymphoma three years later. Even in the afterlife, he must be entertaining others with his favorite jokes.

Takakura smiles as he puts his hand on Tak’s shoulder in the Mojave Desert, U.S.A., in September 1979. This was the first time they were photographed together.
Takakura is a car enthusiast, but after being pulled over by a police officer while driving on a freeway, he refrains from driving in the U.S. He is right-handed, but “I can see the time,” he says.
Although he is right-handed, he said, “I can see the time easily,” and he was very particular about always wearing his watch on his right hand.
A scene from the filming of a commercial in Griffith Park, U.S.A. It is Takakura’s policy to never sit down at a site, even while waiting.
Takakura purchased a ’96 Porsche 911 Turbo. The previous owner is said to have been Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft.
Takakura’s pistol collection. He was particularly fond of the Colt Python 357 Magnum (center), which he had customized at a gun store.

Tak Abe’s recent book, “A Chronicle of the Man Who Ran Through the Japanese and U.S. Film Industry as ‘Kagemusha’ of Ken Takakura and Kurosawa Films ” (Tokuma Shoten) is now on sale.

From the March 1-8, 2024 issue of “FRIDAY

  • PHOTO Courtesy of Tak Abe

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