A private funeral was held by his family. Sakamoto is survived by his daughter Miu Sakamoto, who is also a musician. His wife was singer-songwriter Akiko Yano, who he married in 1982 and divorced in 2006.
Yellow Magic Orchestra
When it comes to popular music, no Japanese musician is more globally recognized than Ryuichi Sakamoto.
YMO's pioneering use of synthesizers took the world by storm. In fact, electronic instruments used by the band were among the most advanced at the time. The distinct synthetic sounds of the band's techno music were a novelty, and the impact of Sakamoto's music spread globally in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
The band's creations, including the famous "Technopolis" (1979), had a long-lasting influence on future musicians. Indeed, major artists like Paul McCartney of the Beatles and Michael Jackson made music influenced by Sakamoto's work.
A Truly Global Artist
Even after YMO went inactive, Sakamoto went on to forge a successful solo career and also made a name as an acclaimed film-score composer.
Furthermore, Sakamoto received both an Academy Award and a Grammy for his film score for Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor (1987). This made him the first Japanese to win an Academy Award for Best Original Score and cemented his status as a truly global artist.
Then, for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Sakamoto composed and conducted the music for the opening ceremony.
In 2009, Sakamoto was honored as Officier of Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government. In 2010, he received an Art Encouragement Prize from the Japanese Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
Sakamoto's final solo piano concert in December 2022 was streamed in about 30 countries and regions. His final album 12 was released just three months ago in January 2023.
A Music for the People
YMO bandmate Takahashi used to call Sakamoto "Professor" because he was so well-versed in music theory. Sakamoto often spoke like a scholar — in a subdued, yet clear, voice.
There was something intellectual about his works, too. It didn't try to appeal to the listener's sentimentality and instead relied only on the sheer beauty of the music.
On the other hand, Sakamoto once told The Sankei Shimbun, "I don't play jazz because jazz improvisation is extremely sophisticated. It's not something everyone in the audience would understand."
Although Sakamoto had a scholarly side, he was devoted to creating music that would reach a diverse audience.
'Music Was Always a Part of Me'
Sakamoto underwent surgery for rectal cancer in 2021 and had been battling the illness for several years.
He revealed that the cancer had progressed to stage 4 in his autobiography How Many More Times Will I See the Full Moon? , which was serialized from July 2022 to 2023 in the literary magazine Shincho.
The ailing musician wrote, "I hope to make music until the final moment."
Without a doubt, music was an inextricable part of Sakamoto's life. He once told a reporter, "It's not that I chose music, but rather that music has always been a part of me."
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(Read the article in Japanese.)
Authors: The Sankei Shimbun and Takeshi Ishii