Japan loses two industry veterans

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TOKYO -- Japan lost two stalwarts of its movie and television industry Sunday with the deaths of actor Kazuo Kitamura and Shoichiro Ikemiya, a veteran screenwriter who also wrote the book that was adapted for the big screen as "47 Ronin" in 1994.

Kitamura suffered a mild stroke last month and died of pneumonia at a Tokyo hospital at the age of 80, his family said. His final movie project, "Beauty," is in post-production and his scenes were completed earlier this year.

Initially a stage actor with the Bungakuza stage troupe, Kitamura gravitated to TV and movies in the early 1960s. He starred in Akira Kurosawa's "Tengoku to Jigoku" (Heaven and Hell) in 1963 and "Nippon Konchuki" (The Insect Woman), which was directed by his longtime collaborator Shohei Imamura that same year.

Kitamura played the role of Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu in the 2003 television miniseries "Musashi" and appeared in last year's "The Sinking of Japan."

Ikemiya, who was 83, died of cancer at his home in Tokyo on Sunday. An independent screenwriter for more than half a century, he focused on television series and period movies that told tales of assassins, such as "Jusannin no Shikaku" ("13 Assassines").

He wrote his first novel at the age of 69 in 1992, reworking the tale of the 18th-century vassals of a feudal lord who set out to avenge their master's murder. Turned into a movie by Kon Ichikawa two years later, Ken Takakura played the lead role, alongside Rie Miyazawa.
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