Kato Daisuke (加東大介)

Daisuke KATO (February 18, 1911 - July 31, 1975) was an actor who was born in Tokyo. His real name was Tokunosuke KATO. He graduated from Tokyo Prefectural Seventh Junior High-school (present Tokyo Metropolitan Sumidagawa High School). He made his debut as a movie actor after the career as Kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors) actor. His best-known movies are "Seven Samurai," "Oban" (Big game) and "Minami no shima ni yuki ga furu" (Snowfall on the southern island).

Biography and Personal Profile
He was born as a son of a family, which produced famous actor/actress like his elder brother Kunitaro SAWAMURA and his elder sister Sadako SAWAMURA. Inspired by his father, who was the playwright in residence and assistant director of Miyatoza Theater, he entered the Kabuki world together with his elder brother. He became a disciple of the Sadanji ICHIKAWA II in 1929 after graduating from Tokyo Prefectural Seventh Junior High-school. Thereafter, he joined the Zenshinza theatrical group in 1933 with the stawge name of Enji ICHIKAWA. He performed briskly for a person having a body of larger body and did excellent jobs as one of Zenshinza's young trio along with Shinzo YAMAZAKI (Akitake KONO) and Sensho ICHIKAWA. In the same year, he made his debut as a movie actor in the movie "Danshichi shigure" (literally, "Danshichi in the drizzle") which was produced by Dainippon Jiyu Eiga Production. Subsequently, he appeared in "Soshun KOCHIYAMA" (1936) and "Ninjo Kamifusen" (Humanity and Paper Balloons) (1937), both were directed by Sadao YAMANAKA, and became famous as an actor of solid reputation.

Although he had completed military service in 1933 as a lance corporal (later called lance corporal), he was called up again in 1943 as an army medic lance corporal. In the battlefield of New Guinea, he was ordered to organize a theatrical group to lift soldiers' morale and staged "Mabuta no haha" (Mother of my dream), a drama written by Shin HASEGAWA. Based on this experience, he later wrote a novel "Minami no shima ni yuki ga furu", in which he depicted soldiers who recalled their homeland upon watching 'snowfall' on stage. Incidentally, a monk, who hailed from Kyushu and was his colleague in the theatrical group at that time, was the grandfather of cartoonist Yoshinori KOBAYASHI. He often visited the temple of that monk after the war.

He was discharged from military service in 1946, but his condition soon became critical due to recurrent malignant malaria, with which he was infected in the battlefield. Though he restarted an actor after he recovered from illness, he left Zenshinza theatrical group, which was then left-leaning, because he became weary of it. Thereafter, he organized Shingiza theatrical group together with his elder brother Kunitaro and elder sister Sadako, but he finally made up his mind to become a movie actor because of the failure in the management of Shingiza. In 1948, he became an actor with an exclusive contract with Daiei Kyoto. In the same year, when he appeared in the movie "Gonin no mokugekisha" (Five Witnesses), a contemporary drama produced by Toyoko Film Company, he changed his screen name from Enji to Daisuke KATO since Enji sounded like the stage name of a Kabuki actor.

After appearing in the movie "Rashomon" directed by Akira KUROSAWA in 1950, he became a freelance actor in the autumn of 1951 and made a contract with Toho Co., Ltd. Since then, he successively appeared in the movies directed by Kurosawa: "Ikiru" (To Live) (1952), "Seven Samurai" (1954) and "Yojinbo" (The bodyguard) (1961). In particular, he played the role of Shichiroji, one of seven leading roles in "Seven Samurai." In 1952, he won the highest praise from critics for his brisk and cheerful performance in the movies "Ketto Kagiya no Tsuji" (The Duel at the Key-Maker's Corner) scripted by Kurosawa and "Okasan" (Mother) directed by Mikio NARUSE, and in 1952, he was awarded the best supporting actor prize of Mainichi Film Contest as well as that of Blue Ribbon Prize (movie). In 1955, he was again awarded the Blue Ribbon award for best supporting actor for his performance in the movies "Koko ni izumi ari" (Here Is a Fountain) directed by Tadashi IMAI and "Chiyari Fuji" (A Bloody Spear on Mount Fuji) directed by Tomu UHIDA.

Thanks to his cheerful and sincere character, he was loved by many directors and successively appeared in the movies directed by Kurosawa, Naruse as well as Yasujiro OZU. He had the luck to work with good directors during that time. In 1956, he appeared in the movie "Onibi" (A Will o' the Wisp), a movie that was based on a work of literature and produced as part of those Toho labeled Diamond Series. Thanks to his performance in the above-mentioned movies, he was selected by the director Yasuki CHIBA as an actor for the role of stock trader Gyuchan, the hero of serialized novel "Oban (novel)" written by Bunroku SHISHI. Kato played the role of the humorous and energetic man enthusiastically, and the movie was a big hit. Four movies were produced in Oban series and the nickname of Gyuchan ultimately became a synonym for Kato himself. He also played the role of a witty director in the movies in Shacho (president) series, in which he acted together with Hisaya MORISHIGE and Keiju KOBAYASHI, and won a reputation as being an indispensible supporting actor in Japanese movies.

When he talked about his war experiences in New Guinea in Musei taidan, a column appeared in Shukan Asahi (Weekly Asahi magazine), he was strongly exhorted by Musei TOKUGAWA to compile such experiences into a book. In 1961, he wrote the novel entitled "Nankai no shibai ni yuki ga furu" (Snowfalls in the drama of southern sea) for the magazine "Bungei Shunju". This novel was awarded the 20th Bungei Shunju Readers Prize and became a best-selling book. This novel was dramatized by Isamu ONODA, and broadcasted by Japan Broadcasting Corporation under the title of "Minami no shima de yuki ga furu." It was also made into a movie and became a topic of conversation, since Kato himself appeared in it.

In his last years, he appeared not only in movies but also in TV dramas and on the stage, and in 1971, he appeared on the stage of Zenshinza for the first time in 28 years. In 1972, he gave a fine performance as Tokimasa HOJO in Shin Heike Monogatari (NHK Historical Drama). He was hospitalized in February 1975 because of colon cancer without knowing he suffered from cancer, and continued to commute to the studio in order to record the drama in which he appeared regularly. However, he died on July 31 at the age of 64, five months after his hospitalization. His posthumous work was "Rokuwa no Kamome" scripted by So KURAMOTO in which he played the role of a manager. Among the actors in "Seven Samurai," he was the first to pass away. While he was loved by everybody thanks to his downtown boy like generous character, he is said to have been a serious-minded person who never drunk alcohol.

His family is known for producing many actors/actresses including his nephews Hiroyuki NAGATO and Masahiko TSUGAWA. His son Haruyuki KATO married Kazuko KUROSAWA, a daughter of Akira KUROSAWA, and his grandson Takayuki KATO (actor) was born but they've got divorced later.


1952 - Best Supporting Actor Prize of the seventh Mainichi Film Contest: "Okasan", "Araki Mataemon Ketto Kagiya no tsuji"
1952 - Best Supporting Actor Prize of the third Blue Ribbon Prize (movie): "Araki Mataemon Ketto Kagiya no tsuji"
1955 - Best Supporting Actor Prize of the sixth Blue Ribbon Prize "Chiyari Fuji", "Kokoni izumi ari"
1961 - Readers Award of The 20th Bungei Shunju: "Nankai no shibai ni yuki ga furu"

Literary work

"Minami no shima ni yuki ga furu", Kobunsha , 2004.