In Memoriam: Ryuichi Sakamoto

Guest of Honor Ryuichi Sakamoto speaking at Japan Society’s 110th Anniversary Arts & Culture Bash in November 2017. © Daphne Youree

Japan Society has lost a dear friend with the passing of Ryuichi Sakamoto on March 28, 2023 after a long struggle with cancer. A renowned composer, musician, actor, and environmental and peace activist, Sakamoto had the courage to speak out to make the world a better place.

The keyboardist and one of the founding members of the electronic music group Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO), Ryuichi Sakamoto scored more than 30 films during his life, among them Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, in which he also played a starring role.

Ryuichi Sakamoto performed with violinist Anne Akiko Meyers at Japan Society’s Concert for Japan in April 2011, a day-long benefit held for the reconstruction of the Tohoku region following the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster of 3.11, the start of a long-standing relationship nurtured by Japan Society Artistic Director Yoko Shioya. After 3.11, he became music director of the Tohoku Youth Orchestra, created for children who had been affected by the disasters, as well as a strong advocate for ending Japan’s reliance on nuclear power.

In 2013, John Zorn (saxophone) and Ryuichi Sakamoto (piano) came together for two improvisational concerts held at Japan Society as part of a citywide, multi-show series honoring Zorn’s 60th birthday. At Japan Society’s JAPAN CUTS: Festival of New Japanese Film in 2016, Sakamoto introduced the U.S. Premiere of Yoji Yamada’s Nagasaki: Memories of My Son, which he had scored.

Japan Society was privileged to have had Ryuichi Sakamoto as the Guest of Honor at our 110th Anniversary Arts & Culture Bash in November 2017.

Ryuichi Sakamoto and Anne Akiko Meyers perform at Concert for Japan, a day-long benefit for the Great East Japan Earthquake of 3.11. © Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos

Zorn@60: John Zorn + Ryuichi Sakamoto (2013). © Japan Society