Japan kabuki actor convicted over parents' suicide


Ennosuke Ichikawa was arrested in June after his mother and father were found unconscious at his Tokyo home in May. Photo: AFP

One of Japan's best-known kabuki actors was convicted and given a suspended prison sentence on Friday for helping his parents die by suicide.

Ennosuke Ichikawa was arrested in June after his mother and father - also an actor in the highly stylised form of traditional Japanese theatre - were found unconscious at his Tokyo home in May and later died.

Press reports said that Ichikawa had told his parents that he had decided to take his own life after receiving advance warning of a tabloid article accusing him of sexual harassment and abuse of power.

All three then reportedly decided on a suicide pact, with the parents taking sleeping pills with their son's assistance.

Ichikawa was also found slumped in his home but recovered, while his 76-year-old father and 75-year-old mother died.

Following Friday's court ruling, Ichikawa issued a statement saying he feels "indescribable guilt".

"I thought I would leave deep scars on the tradition and culture of kabuki," Ichikawa said of his initial reaction to the tabloid article.

"Now, I blame myself for not being strong enough to live in the throes of despair," he said.

"Days never go by without me thinking of my decision that day. I'm sorry that only I survived, while my parents died."

"I was given a chance to live on. From now on, I will try and figure out what I can do."

Entertainment and film company Shochiku, which has run numerous kabuki shows starring Ichikawa, said nothing has been decided about his return to theatres.

"Given his contributions to the kabuki world, we would like to support him," while "never turning a blind eye to the impact his action had on society," the company said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the Tokyo District Court said that the 47-year-old actor, who had been released on bail, was given a prison sentence of three years, suspended for five years.

Ichikawa made his kabuki debut in 1980 and went on to become one of the country's most famous performers. He also branched out into television shows and films, while continuing to perform in the traditional theatre.

He has performed kabuki in London, Amsterdam and at the Paris Opera House, and was nominated for a Laurence Olivier award for dance performance, according to his official website. - AFP

Those contemplating suicide can reach out to the Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service (03-2935 9935 / 014-322 3392); Talian Kasih (15999 / 019-261 5999 on WhatsApp); Jakim’s family, social and community care centre (011-1959 8214 on WhatsApp); or Befrienders Kuala Lumpur (03-7627 2929 / email sam@befrienders.org.my / befrienders centres in malaysia).
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