Film director Yoichi Sai dies of cancer at 73

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Yoichi Sai

Film director Yoichi Sai died Sunday of bladder cancer. He was 73.

He is known for directing such films as “Chi to Hone” (“Blood and Bones”) and “Tsuki wa Docchi ni Deteiru” (“All Under the Moon”).

His funeral ceremony will be attended by close relatives; the chief mourner will be his wife, Eiko Aoki.

Sai was born to a Korean father and a Japanese mother in Nagano Prefecture. After studying photography at college, he entered the film industry as a lighting assistant.

After serving as an assistant director on such works as director Nagisa Oshima’s “Ai no Corrida” (“In the Realm of the Senses”), Sai made his directorial debut with “Jukkai no Mosukito” (“Mosquito on the Tenth Floor”) in 1983.

In 1993, he garnered considerable attention and numerous awards for “All Under the Moon,” which vividly depicts the ups and downs of Koreans and other foreigners living in Japan. He subsequently directed many other notable works, including “Marks no Yama” (Marks’ mountain) and “Quill” (“Quill: The Life of a Guide Dog”).

Sai won the Japan Academy Film Prize’s Best Director award — among other prizes — for “Blood and Bones,” a 2004 film about ethnic Koreans living in Japan. From 2004 to June this year, he served as president of the Directors Guild of Japan.

Sai also worked as an actor, appearing in such films as “Gohatto” (“Taboo”) directed by Oshima.

In his later years, he was repeatedly hospitalized for cancer treatment.

Unique shooting style

Beat Takeshi, 75, who starred in “Blood and Bones,” said in a statement: “I’m heartbroken to lose another film buddy from my generation. While working with Sai on the movie, we fought, we drank — we did a lot of things. They’re all good memories.”

Goro Kishitani, 58, who starred in “All Under the Moon,” said he loved the riotous, energetic, delicate and unique shooting style of Sai and his team. “I wanted him to make more films,” Kishitani said in a statement.