Ken Takakura, one of Japan’s most famous actors, has passed away at the age of 83. Known as the Japanese Clint Eastwood, he portrayed many tough guy roles, from noble ex-cons to hard boiled detectives to chivalrous gangsters, but you might know him best from his role as Michael Douglas’s reluctant partner in the 1989 film Black Rain.
He won Best Actor in Japan’s version of the Academy Awards for one of the nations’ most famous films, The Yellow Handkerchief, which happens to be an epic road movie. The story follows Takakura’s character, a man just released from prison after serving a murder sentence. On his way to Hokkaido for an unknown reason, his life intersects with a couple of travelers and a 1977 Mazda Familia. Eventually they learn that he’s going to see his wife, and will find out if he’s welcome home only if she’s hung out a yellow handkerchief for him.
The car is very much its own character and is prominently featured on the movie’s Wikipedia page. A resort in Yubari, Hokkaido, one of the filming locations has installed a Yellow Handkerchief Square, where fans can see one of two Familias used in filming on display.
Takakura also starred in movies such as Robert Mitchum’s The Yakuza, the live action version of Golgo 13, and 1975’s The Bullet Train, about a terrorist who hides a bomb on the speeding Shinkansen 0 Series. However, Mitsubishi fans may remember him for his stint as a Galant Sigma spokesman from 1980-85.
Takakura passed away November 10 in a Tokyo hospital, but news of his passing wasn’t released until late last night. Watch some of his ads and the trailer for The Yellow Handkerchief below.
Image courtesy of たろう.