Kōji Yakusho

Kōji Yakusho

Kōji Yakusho at the 26th Tokyo International Film Festival in 2015
Born Kōji Hashimoto
(1956-01-01) 1 January 1956
Isahaya, Nagasaki, Japan
Occupation Actor
Years active 1979–present
Height 1.79 m (5 ft 10 12 in)
Spouse(s) Saeko Kawatsu (1982present)

Kōji Hashimoto (橋本 広司 Hashimoto Kōji, born 1 January 1956),[1] known professionally as Kōji Yakusho (役所 広司 Yakusho Kōji), is a Japanese actor.[2]


Yakusho was born in Isahaya, Nagasaki, the youngest of five brothers. After graduation from the Nagasaki Prefectural High School of Technology in 1974, he worked at the Chiyoda municipal ward office, or yakusho, in Tokyo, from which he later took his stage name. In 1976, he saw a production of Maxim Gorky's The Lower Depths and was inspired, first to watch, and then later to take part in, as many plays as possible.[1]

In the spring of 1978 he auditioned for Tatsuya Nakadai's the Mumeijuku (Studio for Unknown Performers) acting studio, and was one of four chosen out of 800 applicants.[1] While at the school he met actress Saeko Kawatsu, whom he married in 1982. Their son was born in 1985.

In 1983, he landed the role of Oda Nobunaga in the year-long NHK drama Tokugawa Ieyasu and was catapulted to fame. He also appeared in a TV version of Miyamoto Musashi from 1984 to 1985. For several years, he played Kuji Shinnosuke (or "Sengoku"), one of the title characters in the jidaigeki Sambiki ga Kiru!. He played a major character in Juzo Itami's 1986 Tampopo.[1]

In 1988, he was given a special award for work in cinema by the Japanese Minister of Education, Science, Sports and Culture and continued to appear in films and in a number of TV shows through the '90s.[1]

In 1996 and 1997, Yakusho enjoyed several major successes. The Eel, directed by Shohei Imamura, in which he played the eel-loving lead, won the Palme d'Or at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival.[3] Lawrence Van Gelder in the New York Times called his performance "unerring."[4] A Lost Paradise, about a double-suicide, was second only to Princess Mononoke at the Japanese box office.

International breakthrough: Shall We Dance?

Shall We Dance? was a major hit in Japan that inspired a domestic dance craze. Ballroom groups and dance schools multiplied in the country after the film's release, and people who previously would never admit to taking lessons announced that they did with pride.[5] Director Masayuki Suo said of his lead, until that point was known mostly for playing good-looking samurai, "we thought he could play this overworked, tired Japanese businessman, and he did.... [H]e pulled everything off and took his dance training so seriously."[5]

The film also was one of Japan's highest-grossing movies outside the country.[1][5] It earned $9.5 million in the US and inspired a remake starring Jennifer Lopez with Richard Gere playing Yakusho's role.[6]

Yakusho next won the Hochi Film Award for Best Actor for Bounce Ko Gals, a film which dealt with high school prostitution specifically, and money worship in general. He collaborated with horror director Kiyoshi Kurosawa in Cure,[1] License to Live,[7] Seance, Charisma,[1] Pulse,[8] Doppelganger,[9] Retribution,[10] and Tokyo Sonata.[11] Yakusho found further recognition with international audiences to some extent with roles in such films as Memoirs of a Geisha and Babel. In the latter, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, he played the father of the deaf-mute played by Rinko Kikuchi.[12]

Further evolution

In 2009, he debuted as director and writer of Toad's Oil. In 2010 and 2011 he was part of both ensemble casts in Takashi Miike's samurai films, 13 Assassins and Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai. The latter was in 3D and the first 3D film to be in competition at the Cannes Film Festival.

In the 2011 war drama film Rengō Kantai Shirei Chōkan: Yamamoto Isoroku, Yakusho portrayed Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto. Yakusho was reportedly the only actor considered for the role, and that had he not accepted it, the film would have been canceled.[13]


Yakusho Koji at the 26th Tokyo International Film Festival


Year Title Role Notes
1979 Hunter in the Dark Kuwano
1979 The Last Game
1980 Twelve Months Young soldier Voice
1981 Willful Murder Journalist
1982 Onimasa Kondō
1982 Eternal Monument Otaka
1982 The Legend of Sayo Hatsutaro
1985 Tampopo Man in White Suit
1987 The Great Department Store Robbery Cello player
1988 Another Way: D-Kikan Joho Naoto Sekiya
1990 Under Aurora Genzo Tamiya
1993 Gurenbana Kenzo Nakada
1993 Drug Connection Ryosuke Kano
1994 Osaka Gokudo Senso: Shinoidare Ippei Yoshikawa
1995 Kamikaze Taxi Kantake
1996 Shall We Dance? Shohei Sugiyama
1996 Sleeping Man Kamimura
1996 Shabu gokudo Makabe
1997 Lost Paradise Shoichiro Kuki
1997 The Eel Takuro Yamashita
1997 Bounce Ko Gals Oshima
1997 Cure Kenichi Takabe
1998 Bonds Takaaki Ise/Tetsuro Haga
1998 Tadon to chikuwa Kida
1999 License to Live Fujimori Asia Pacific Film Festival Award for Best Supporting Actor
1999 Charisma Goro Yabuike
1999 Spellbound Hiroshi Kitano
2000 Swing Man
2000 Dora-heita Koheita Mochizuki, aka Dora-heita
2000 Eureka Makoto Sawai
2000 Seance Sato TV movie
2001 Pulse Ship captain
2001 Warm Water Under a Red Bridge Yosuke Sasano
2002 The Choice of Hercules Atsuyuki Sassa
2003 Doppelganger Michio Hayasaki
2003 Fireflies: River of Light Mr. Takiguchi
2004 The Hunter and the Hunted Detective Jin
2004 Tōkyō genpatsu The Governor of Tokyo
2004 Lakeside Murder Case Shunsuke Namiki
2004 University of Laughs Mutsuo Sakisaka
2005 Lorelei: The Witch of the Pacific Ocean Masami Shin'ichi
2005 Memoirs of a Geisha Nobu
2006 The Uchōten Hotel Heikichi Shindo
2006 Babel Yasujiro Wataya
2006 Retribution Noboru Yoshioka
2007 I Just Didn't Do It Masayoshi Arakawa
2007 Argentine Baba Satoru Wakui
2007 Kokoro
2007 Silk Hara Jubei
2007 Walking My Life Yukihiro Fujiyama
2008 Paco and the Magical Book Onuki
2008 Tokyo Sonata The Robber
2009 Mt. Tsurugidake Morisaku Furuta
2009 Gelatin Silver Love Client
2009 Toad's Oil Takuro Yazawa Also director and writer
2010 13 Assassins Shinzaemon Shimada Nominated Asian Film Award for Best Actor
2010 The Last Ronin Magozaemon Senoo
2011 Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai Kageyu Saito
2011 Rengo Kantai Shirei Chōkan: Yamamoto Isoroku Isoroku Yamamoto
2011 Chronicle of My Mother
2011 The Woodsman and the Rain Katsuhiko
2012 A Terminal Trust Shinzo Egi
2013 The Kiyosu Conference Shibata Katsuie
2014 The World of Kanako Akikazu Fujishima
2014 A Samurai Chronicle Shūkoku Toda
2015 The Emperor in August Korechika Anami
2015 The Boy and the Beast Kumatetsu Voice
2017 Sekigahara Tokugawa Ieyasu


Year Title Role Network Notes
1980 Natchan no shashinkan Kayama NHK Asadora
1980 Shishi no Jidai Murakami Taiji NHK Taiga drama
1981 Onna Taikōki Oda Nobutaka NHK Taiga drama
1983 Tokugawa Ieyasu Oda Nobunaga NHK Taiga drama
1984 Miyamoto Musashi Miyamoto Musashi NHK
1986 Inochi Hamamura NHK Taiga drama
1987–1995 Sanbiki ga Kiru! Kuji Shin'nosuke EX
1991 Takeda Shingen Takeda Shingen TBS
1994 Hana no Ran Ibuki Saburo Nobutsuna NHK Taiga drama
2000 Aikotoba wa Yūki Jintaro Akatsuki CX
2010 Wagaya no Rekishi Narrator CX
2014 Oyaji no Senaka Sōsuke Aoki TBS ep. 2 "Wedding Match"
2017 Kizuna: Hashire Kiseki no Kouma Masayuki NHK

Dubbing roles

Awards and honors

Year Award Category Film Result
1984 28th Elan d'or Awards Newcomer of the Year Tokugawa Ieyasu (TV) Won
1996 50th Mainichi Film Award Best Actor Kamikaze Taxi Won
21st Hochi Film Award Best Actor Shall We Dance?, Sleeping Man, Shabu gokudo Won
9th Nikkan Sports Film Award Best Actor Won
1997 18th Yokohama Film Festival Best Actor Won
51st Mainichi Film Award Best Actor Won
70th Kinema Junpo Award Best Actor Won
39th Blue Ribbon Awards Best Actor Won
6th Japanese Film Critics Awards Best Actor Won
20th Japan Academy Prize Best Actor Shall We Dance? Won
22nd Hochi Film Award Best Actor The Eel, Lost Paradise, Bounce ko GALS Won
10th Tokyo International Film Festival Best Actor Cure Won
1998 42nd Asia-Pacific Film Festival Best Actor The Eel Won
21st Japan Academy Prize Best Actor Won
40th Blue Ribbon Awards Best Actor The Eel, Lost Paradise, Cure Won
71st Kinema Junpo Award Best Actor The Eel, Cure Won
1999 22nd Japan Academy Prize Best Actor Kizuna Nominated
2000 23rd Japan Academy Prize Best Actor Spellbound Nominated
2001 24th Japan Academy Prize Best Actor Dora-heita Nominated
Chicago International Film Festival Best Actor Warm Water Under a Red Bridge Won
2002 25th Japan Academy Prize Best Actor Nominated
2003 26th Japan Academy Prize Best Actor The Choice of Hercules Nominated
2005 28th Japan Academy Prize Best Actor University of Laughs Nominated
26th Yokohama Film Festival Best Actor University of Laughs, Yudan Taiteki, Tokyo Genpatsu Won
2007 30th Japan Academy Prize Best Actor The Uchōten Hotel Nominated
2008 31st Japan Academy Prize Best Actor Walking My Life Nominated
2009 32nd Japan Academy Prize Best Actor Paco and the Magical Book Nominated
2011 8th Dubai International Film Festival: Muhr AsiaAfrica Feature Best Actor The Woodsman and the Rain Won
34th Japan Academy Prize Best Actor 13 Assassins Nominated
2012 35th Japan Academy Prize Best Actor The Last Ronin Nominated
JAPAN CUTS: Festival of New Japanese Film CUT ABOVE Award for Excellence in Film[14] Won
2013 36th Japan Academy Prize Best Actor Chronicle of My Mother, Isoroku Nominated
2014 47th Sitges Film Festival Best Actor The World of Kanako Won
1st Kyoto International Art and Film Festival Toshiro Mifune Award Won
2015 38th Japan Academy Prize Best Actor A Samurai Chronicle Nominated
2016 58th Blue Ribbon Awards Best Actor The Emperor in August Nominated
39th Japan Academy Prize Best Actor Nominated
Year Honor
2012 Medal with Purple Ribbon


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "Koji Yakusho". nytimes.com. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
  2. "Yakusho Kōji", Nihon jinmei daijiten+Plus, Kōdansha, retrieved 13 February 2012
  3. "Festival de Cannes: The Eel". festival-cannes.com. Retrieved 2009-09-24.
  4. "The Eel:Passion That Seethes Under the Surface". New York Times. 1998-08-21. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
  5. 1 2 3 "Masayuki Suo's Whole Wide Whirl". San Francisco Chronicle. 1997-07-13.
  6. "Shall We Dance?". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
  7. Mes, Tom (August 15, 2001). "License to Live". Midnight Eye.
  8. Kipp, Jeremiah (June 20, 2005). "Pulse". Slant Magazine.
  9. Mes, Tom (April 15, 2004). "Midnight Eye review: Doppelgänger". Midnight Eye.
  10. Bourne, Christopher (January 27, 2012). "Review: Kiyoshi Kurosawa's "Retribution"". Meniscus.
  11. Rafferty, Terrence (March 6, 2009). "This Time, the Horror's in the Normality". The New York Times.
  12. "Review: Babel". LA Weekly. 2006-10-26. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
  13. "Yakusho Koji portrays WWII naval commander Yamamoto Isoroku". TokyoGraph. May 14, 2011. Retrieved 28 March 2013.
  14. "JAPAN CUTS 2012 Guests". www.japansociety.org. Retrieved 2016-04-17.

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