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Japanese actor Toru Watanabe dies of sepsis at age 61

Actor Toru Watanabe is seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward in this June 4, 2020, file photo. (Mainichi/Kimitaka Takeichi)

TOKYO -- Japanese actor Toru Watanabe died of septicemia on Nov. 28 at the age of 61, the Bungakuza theater company he belonged to announced on Dec. 2.

    Born in Ibaraki Prefecture, Watanabe starred as a new detective in the popular TV drama "Taiyo ni Hoero! (roar at the sun)" from 1981, when he was a trainee actor at a workshop affiliated with Bungakuza. With his handsome appearance, he quickly gained popularity like a pop idol. His song "Yakusoku (promise)," which was featured as the TV commercial tune for a chocolate candy, became a hit in 1982. With a cheerful personality, he also appeared in TV variety shows. Watanabe and his wife Ikue Sakakibara, 63, were known as a long-term celebrity couple.

    Though Watanabe sometimes fell ill in recent years, such as suffering from ischemic cardiac disease in 2012, he acted in a theater in October.

    Toru Watanabe, left, and his wife Ikue Sakakibara cut a wedding cake in Tokyo's Minato Ward on Oct. 14, 1987. (Mainichi)

    According to the theater company's announcement, Watanabe complained of fever and stomachache on Nov. 20, and was hospitalized after diagnosis with bacterial gastroenteritis.

    His funeral will be held with close relatives hosted by his oldest son and actor Yuta. A separate memorial event will also be held.


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