Ryuichi Sakamoto, famed Japanese composer and pianist, dies at 71

Japanese composer and pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto [JOONGANG PHOTO]

Japanese composer and pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto passed away on March 28. His death was announced late Sunday night.

Sakamoto, 71, one of Japan and East Asia’s most prolific musicians and the first Asian to win an Oscar for Best Original Score, had been fighting cancer since 2014 and passed away after many remissions and recurrences. The maestro had remained active in the music scene and composed and produced scores and albums up until earlier this year, releasing “12” (2023) on Jan. 17 to wide critical acclaim, an electronic music album about his fight with cancer.

Korean celebrities are mourning the passing of the Japanese composer and pianist.

Bae Chul-soo of the legendary Korean rock band Songolmae, Taeyong of boy band NCT, Tablo of hip-hop duo Epik High, Suga of boy band BTS, actor Kim Hye-soo and more have left commemorative posts on social media regarding Sakamoto.

Bae uploaded photos that he had taken with Sakamoto when the pair met along with a commemorative comment, while Taeyong wrote “Rest In Peace, my inspiration and respite” with a screenshot of one of Sakamoto’s most well-known songs, “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.” Tablo of Epik High wrote “Thank you for everything,” and Suga of BTS wrote “I wish Mr. Sakamoto finds peace on this long journey.” Kim Hye-soo uploaded a black-and-white picture of Sakamoto and also left a message of mourning.

Sakamoto had worked on Korean films and projects during his lifetime alongside scoring music for Japanese and Hollywood films, including the original soundtrack for the Korean movie “The Fortress” (2017), and launching the Ryuichi Sakamoto Social Project Korea in 2010. He also collaborated with renowned Korean artists such as Paik Nam-june and Lee Ufan.

Sakamoto was known not only as a celebrated composer and musician but also as a social activist and actor. He debuted as a member of Yellow Magic Orchestra with bandmates Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi in the 1970s. Sakamoto composed original soundtracks for a number of films including “The Last Emperor” (1987), “The Sheltering Sky” (1990), “Little Buddha” (1993) and “The Revenant” (2015).