Juzo Itami (伊丹 十三, Itami Jūzō), born Yoshihiro Ikeuchi (池内 義弘, Ikeuchi Yoshihiro, May 15, 1933 – December 20, 1997), was a Japanese actor, screenwriter and film director. He directed eleven films (one short and ten features), all of which he wrote himself.

Juzo Itami
伊丹 十三
1992 Juzo Itami.jpg
Itami in 1992
Yoshihiro Ikeuchi (池内 義弘)

(1933-05-15)May 15, 1933
Kyoto, Japan
DiedDecember 20, 1997(1997-12-20) (aged 64)
Tokyo, Japan
Occupation(s)Film director, screenwriter, actor
Years active1960–1997
Spouse(s)Kazuko Kawakita (1960–66)
Nobuko Miyamoto (1969–1997)
RelativesHikari Oe (nephew)

Early lifeEdit

Itami was born Yoshihiro Ikeuchi in Kyoto.[1] The name Itami was passed on from his father, Mansaku Itami—who was a renowned satirist and film director before World War II.

At the end of the war, when he was in Kyoto, Itami was chosen as a prodigy and educated at Tokubetsu Kagaku Gakkyū (特別科学学級; "the special scientific education class") as a future scientist who was expected to defeat the Allied powers. Among his fellow students were the sons of Hideki Yukawa and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga. This class was abolished in March 1947.[citation needed]

He moved from Kyoto to Ehime Prefecture when he was a high school student. He attended the prestigious Matsuyama Higashi High School, where he was known for being able to read works by Arthur Rimbaud in French. But, due to his poor academic record, he had to remain in the same class for two years. It was here that he became acquainted with Kenzaburō Ōe, who later married his sister. When it turned out that he could not graduate from Matsuyama Higashi High School, he transferred to Matsuyama Minami High School, from which he graduated.[citation needed]

After failing the entrance exam for the College of Engineering at Osaka University, Itami worked at times as a commercial designer, a television reporter, a magazine editor, and an essayist.[citation needed]

Acting careerEdit

Itami and Miyamoto in 1992

Itami studied acting at an acting school called Butai Geijutsu Gakuin in Tokyo. In January 1960 he joined Daiei Film and was given the stage name Itami Ichizō (伊丹 一三) by Masaichi Nagata. In May 1960, Itami married Kazuko Kawakita, the daughter of film producer Nagamasa Kawakita. He first acted on screen in Ginza no Dora-Neko (1960). In 1961 he left Daiei and started to appear in foreign-language films such as 55 Days at Peking. In 1965 he appeared in the big-budget Anglo-American film Lord Jim. In 1965 he published a book of essays which became a hit, Yoroppa Taikutsu Nikki ("Diary of boredom in Europe"). In 1966 he and Kazuko agreed to divorce.

In 1967, when working with Nagisa Oshima on a film Sing a Song of Sex (Nihon Shunka Kō) he met Nobuko Miyamoto. He and Miyamoto married in 1969. Around this time, he changed his stage name to "伊丹 十三" (Itami Jūzō) with the kanji "十" (ten) rather than "一" (one), and worked as a character actor in film and television.

In 1968 he played Saburo Ishihara, the father of Takeshi and Koji during season II, in the series for children Cometto-San. He became well-known for these series in most Spanish-speaking countries, along with Yumiko Kokonoe. who played Cometto-San.

In the 1970s, he joined the TV Man Union television production company and produced and presented documentaries for television, which influenced his later career as a film director. He also worked as a reporter for a TV programme called Afternoon Show.

In 1983, Itami played the father in Yoshimitsu Morita's The Family Game, and The Makioka Sisters for which roles he won the Yokohama Film Festival and Hochi Film Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Aside from the acting career, he translated several English books to Japanese, including Papa, You're Crazy by William Saroyan.

Itami was the brother-in-law of Kenzaburō Ōe and an uncle of Hikari Ōe.


Itami's debut as director was the movie Osōshiki (The Funeral) in 1984, at the age of 50. This film proved popular in Japan and won many awards, including Japanese Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. However, it was his second movie, the 1985 "noodle western" Tampopo, that earned him international exposure and acclaim.[2]

His following film A Taxing Woman (1987) was again highly successful. It won six major Japanese Academy awards and spawned a sequel A Taxing Woman's Return in 1988. The central character, played by his wife Nobuko Miyamoto who appeared in all his films, became a pop culture heroine.[3] This was followed by his fifth film A-Ge-Man: Tales of a Golden Geisha.

Itami directed the anti-yakuza satire Minbō no Onna as his sixth feature. On May 22, 1992, six days after the release of the film, Itami was attacked, beaten, and slashed on the face by five members of the Goto-gumi, a Shizuoka-based yakuza clan, who were angry at Itami's film's portrayal of yakuza members.[4] This attack led to a government crackdown on the yakuza.[citation needed]

His subsequent stay in a hospital inspired his next film Daibyonin (1993), a grim satire on the Japanese health system.[citation needed] During a showing of this film in Japan, a cinema screen was slashed by a right-wing protester.[5]

He directed another three films before his death.


Itami died on December 20, 1997[6] in Tokyo, after falling from the roof of the building where his office was located. On his desk was found a suicide note written on a word processor[7] stating that he had been falsely accused of an affair and was taking his life to clear his name. Two days later, a tabloid magazine published a report of such an affair.[8]

However, no one in Itami's family believed that he would have taken his life or that he would be mortally embarrassed by a real or alleged affair. In 2008, a former member of the Goto-gumi, a yakuza group, told a reporter, Jake Adelstein: "We set it up to stage his murder as a suicide. We dragged him up to the rooftop and put a gun in his face. We gave him a choice: jump and you might live or stay and we'll blow your face off. He jumped. He didn't live."[9][10]


His brother-in-law and childhood friend Kenzaburo Oe wrote The Changeling (2000), which is based on their relationship.[11]

There is a Juzo Itami Museum in Matsuyama.[12]



Year Title Role Notes
1960 Ginza no dora-neko
1961 A False Student Soratani (Ichizo Itami)
1961 Her Brother Son of Factory Owner Uncredited
1961 The Big Wave Toru
1961 Ten Dark Women Hanamaki
1963 Onna no tsuribashi Saburô Ôki (Episode 2)
1963 55 Days at Peking Col. Shiba
1964 Shûen Takuji Yoshii
1965 Lord Jim Waris
1966 Otokonokao wa rirekisho
1967 Sing a Song of Sex Ôtake
1967 Choueki juhachi-nen: kari shutsugoku
1968 Shôwa genroku Tokyo 196X-nen
1968 Ah kaiten tokubetsu kogekitai
1968 Ah, yokaren Miyamoto
1969 Kinpeibai Hsi Men Ching
1969 Eiko e no 5,000 kiro
1969 Heat Wave Island Iino
1970 Hiko shonen: Wakamono no toride Ishizaka
1971 Yasashii Nippon jin
1973 Kunitori Monogatari Ashikaga Yoshiaki TV series
1973 Shinsho Taikōki Araki Murashige TV series
1974 Lady Snowblood: Love Song of Vengeance Ransui Tokunaga
1974 Imôto Kazuo Wada
1974 Waga michi
1975 Wagahai wa neko de aru Meitei
1979 Collections privées (segment "Kusa-Meikyu")
1979 No More Easy Life Takamizawa - Landlord
1979 Grass Labyrinth Principal / Priest / Old man Short
1980 Yūgure made Sasa
1981 Slow na boogie ni shitekure Lawyer
1981 Shikake-nin Baian Sahei Oumiya
1981 Akuryo-To Ryuhei Ochi
1982 Kiddonappu burûsu (Kidnap Blues)
1983 The Makioka Sisters Tatsuo Makioka, Tsuruko's husband
1983 The Family Game Mr. Numata, the father
1983 Meiso chizu Itakura
1983 Izakaya Chōji Kawara
1984 Make-up Kumakura
1984 MacArthur's Children (Setouchi shonen yakyu dan) Hatano
1985 The Excitement of the Do-Re-Mi-Fa Girl Professor Hirayama [13]
1985 Haru no Hatō Itō Hirobumi TV series
1989 Sweet Home Yamamura (final film role)

As directorEdit

Year Title Notes
1962 Rubber Band Pistol Short
1984 The Funeral
1985 Tampopo
1987 A Taxing Woman
1988 A Taxing Woman's Return
1990 A-Ge-Man: Tales of a Golden Geisha
1992 Minbo
1993 Daibyonin "The Last Dance"
1995 Shizuka na Seikatsu "A Quiet Life"
1996 Supermarket Woman
1997 Marutai no Onna "Woman in Witness Protection"



  1. ^ The Independent[full citation needed]
  2. ^ Vincent Canby (March 26, 1987). "New Directors/New Films; 'Tampopo,' A Comedy from Japan". The New York Times.
  3. ^ Bornoff, Nick (4 May 1989). "The king of comeday". Far Eastern Economic Review. pp. 60–61.
  4. ^ The New York Times[full citation needed]
  5. ^ Associated Press[full citation needed]
  6. ^ Crow, Jonathan. "Juzo Itami". AllMovie. Retrieved 15 June 2009.
  7. ^ Adelstein, Jake (2010). Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan. New York: Vintage Books. p. 300. ISBN 978-0-307-47529-9. OCLC 500797270.
  8. ^ Chicago Tribune[full citation needed]
  9. ^ "Reposted: The High Price of Writing About Anti-Social Forces – and Those Who Pay. 猪狩先生を弔う日々 : Japan Subculture Research Center". www.japansubculture.com. 9 January 2015. Retrieved 2016-01-05.
  10. ^ Adelstein, Jake (2009). Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan (1st ed.). New York: Pantheon Books. p. 300. ISBN 978-0-307-37879-8.
  11. ^ Tayler, Christopher (June 12, 2010). "The Changeling by Kenzaburo Oe". The Guardian.
  12. ^ Juzo Itami Museum.[full citation needed]
  13. ^ Fandango.com[full citation needed]

External linksEdit