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Japanese actor Go Kato, known for drama 'Ooka Echizen,' passes away at 80

In this March 8, 2014 file photo, Go Kato is seen Tokyo's Minato Ward. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Go Kato, famous for his role in the historical drama "Ooka Echizen" featuring a popular Edo period samurai judge and the detective movie "Castle of Sand," died due to gallbladder cancer on June 18. He was 80.

    Born Takeshi Kato, the actor hailed from Shizuoka Prefecture in central Japan and studied theater at Waseda University in Tokyo. He made his debut as the main character in the Tokyo Broadcasting System Television, Inc. (TBS TV) movie "The Human Condition" in 1962 while he was still training at Haiyuza Theater Company. After completing the training course in 1964, he became a member of the Haiyuza company.

    His popularity soared when he played the leading role in the TBS historical drama "Ooka Echizen," which was broadcasted from 1970 to 1999, running over 400 episodes. He also starred in public broadcaster NHK's 14th yearlong drama in 1976, "Kaze to Kumo to Niji to (Wind, Clouds and Rainbow)," a series on Taira no Masakado, a samurai leader in the Heian period (794-1185) who reneged against the central government in Kyoto and was killed in 940.

    Kato also made appearances in various films such as "The Long Darkness" (1972), a work focusing of the tough life and love of a young couple, "Castle of Sand" (1974), "The Great Passage" (2013), which features an editor trying to create a new Japanese-language dictionary, and the romantic-fantasy starring an actress and a would-be film director, "Tonight, at the Movies" (2018). He was also known for the stage play trilogy "Waga Ai" (Lunatic love).

    Kato received numerous prizes including the Kinokuniya Theatre Award, Art Encouragement Prize from the minister of education, and the Agency for Cultural Affairs' Japan Arts Festival Award. He was also bestowed with governmental honors such as a Medal with Purple Ribbon in 2001 and an Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette in 2008.

    His wife Makiko Ito is also an actress, and both of his sons, Ryo Natsuhara and Rai Kato, are actors.

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