JUZO ITAMI Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


Biography » theater opera and movie personalities » juzo itami


Name: Yoshihiro Ikeuchi                                                                       
Born: 15 May 1933 Kyoto, Japan                                                               
Died: 20 December 1997 Tokyo, Japan                                                           
Juzo Itami (May 15, 1933 – December 20, 1997) was an actor                                 
and (later) a popular modern Japanese film director. Many critics came to regard             
him as Japan's greatest director since Akira Kurosawa. His 10 movies, all of                 
which he wrote himself, are comic satires on elements of Japanese culture.                   
Itami was born Yoshihiro Ikeuchi in Kyoto, Japan. The name Itami was passed on               
from his father, Mansaku Itami – who had himself been a renowned satirist and               
film director before World War II.                                                           
At the end of the war, when he was in Kyoto, Itami was chosen as an infant                   
prodigy and educated at Tokubetsu Kagaku Gakkyu ("the special scientific                     
education class") as a future scientist who was expected to defeat the allied                 
powers. Among his fellow students, were the sons of Hideki Yukawa and Shinichiro             
Tomonaga. This class was abolished in March 1947.                                             
He moved from Kyoto to Ehime when he was a high school student. After                         
transferring to the prestigious East Matsuyama High School, where he was known               
to be intelligent enough to read Rimbaud in French. But due to his poor academic             
record, he had to remain in the same class for two years. It was here that he                 
became acquainted with Kenzaburo Oe, who was going to marry his sister. When it               
turned out that he could not graduate from East Matsuyama Highschool, he                     
transferred to South Matsuyama Highschool, where he graduated.                               
After failing the entrance exam for the College of Engineering at Osaka                       
University, Itami worked at various times as a commercial designer, a television             
reporter, a magazine editor, and an essayist. He first acted in 1960s Ginza no               
Dora-Neko and appeared in various films and television series, including the big-budget       
Western film Lord Jim in the 1960s. The most notable movie in which Itami acted               
may be Yoshimitsu Morita's 1983 movie Kazoku Gēmu (The Family Game).                         
Itami first directed the movie Ososhiki (The Funeral) in 1984, at the age of 50.             
This film proved popular in Japan and won many awards, including Japanese                     
Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. However, it             
was his second movie, his "noodle western" Tampopo, that earned him                           
international exposure and acclaim. All of his films were profitable; most were               
also critical successes.                                                                     
Itami's wife, Nobuko Miyamoto, is often the star of his movies. Her role tends               
to be that of an Everywoman figure.                                                           
In 1992, Itami was attacked, beaten, and slashed by five members of the Goto-gumi,           
a Tokyo yakuza gang, who were angry at his portrayal of yakuza as bullies and                 
thugs in his film Minbo no Onna. This attack led to a government crackdown on                 
the yakuza. His subsequent stay in a hospital inspired his next film Daibyonin,               
a grim satire on the Japanese health system.                                                 
He purportedly committed suicide on December 20, 1997 in Tokyo, by leaping from               
the roof of the building where his office was located, after a sex scandal he                 
was allegedly involved in was picked up by the press. The suicide letter he                   
reportedly left behind denied any involvement in such an affair. Many consider               
his death suspicious; some believe it had something to do with a cult religion               
he was dealing with, or, as another possible revenge attack by the Yakuza. At                 
the time, the police treated it as a possible homicide. His surviving family has             
remained silent on the circumstances surrounding his death.