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Juzo Itami
Born Yoshihiro Ikeuchi
May 15, 1933(1933-05-15)
Kyoto, Japan
Died December 20, 1997 (aged 64)
Tokyo, Japan
Spouse(s) Kazuko Kawakita (1960–1966)
Nobuko Miyamoto (1969–1997)

Juzo Itami (伊丹 十三 Itami Jūzō ?, May 15, 1933 – December 20, 1997) was an actor and (later) a popular modern Japanese film director. Many critics came to regard him as Japan's greatest director since Akira Kurosawa. His 10 movies, all of which he wrote himself, are comic satires on elements of Japanese culture.


Early life

Itami was born Yoshihiro Ikeuchi in Kyoto, Japan. The name Itami was passed on from his father, Mansaku Itami—who had himself been 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 an infant prodigy and educated at Tokubetsu Kagaku Gakkyu (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.

He moved from Kyoto to Ehime when he was a high school student. After transferring to the prestigious Matsuyama Higashi High School, where he was known to be able to read 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 Kenzaburo Oe, who was going to marry 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.

After failing the entrance exam for the College of Engineering at Osaka University, Itami worked at various times as a commercial designer, a television reporter, a magazine editor, and an essayist. He first acted in Ginza no Dora-Neko (1960) and appeared in various films and television series, including the big-budget Anglo-American film Lord Jim (1965). The most notable movie in which Itami acted may be Yoshimitsu Morita's 1983 movie Kazoku Gēmu (The Family Game).


Itami first directed the movie Ososhiki (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, his "noodle western" Tampopo, that earned him international exposure and acclaim. All of his films were profitable; most were also critical successes.

Itami's wife, Nobuko Miyamoto, is often the star of his movies. Her role tends to be that of an Everywoman figure.


Yakuza Attack

In 1992, Itami was attacked, beaten, and slashed by five members of the Goto-gumi, a Tokyo yakuza gang, who were angry at his portrayal of yakuza as bullies and thugs in his film Minbo no Onna. This attack led to a government crackdown on the yakuza. His subsequent stay in a hospital inspired his next film Daibyonin, a grim satire on the Japanese health system.


He purportedly committed suicide on December 20, 1997[1] in Tokyo, by leaping from the roof of the building where his office was located, after a sex scandal he was allegedly involved in was picked up by the press. The suicide letter he reportedly left behind denied any involvement in such an affair. Many consider his death suspicious; some believe it had something to do with a cult religion he was dealing with, or, as another possible revenge attack by the Yakuza. At the time, the police treated it as a possible homicide. His surviving family have remained silent on the circumstances surrounding his death.


  1. Ososhiki (The Funeral) (1984)
  2. Tampopo (1985)
  3. Marusa no Onna (A Taxing Woman) (1987)
  4. Marusa no Onna II (A Taxing Woman's Return) (1988)
  5. A-ge-man (Tales of a Golden Geisha) (1990)
  6. Minbo no Onna (Minbo—or the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion) (1992)
  7. Daibyonin (The Last Dance) (1993)
  8. Shizuka na Seikatsu (A Quiet Life) (1995)
  9. Sūpā no Onna (Supermarket Woman) (1996)
  10. Marutai no Onna (Woman of the Police Protection Program) (1997)



He is the brother-in-law of Kenzaburo Oe and uncle of Hikari Oe. He play father Ishihara in the comic TV program Cometa San


  1. ^ Crow, Jonathan. "Juzo Itami". AllMovie. Retrieved 15 June 2009.  

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