Ken Shimura, a veteran slapstick comedian and member of rock ’n’ roll band and comedy group The Drifters, a household name in Japan in the 1970s and 1980s, died of pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus March 29, his agency said March 30. He was 70.
Shimura was hospitalized on March 20 after developing a fever and being diagnosed with severe pneumonia. He tested positive for the virus on March 23, becoming the first Japanese entertainment figure to announce an infection.
A native of Tokyo’s Higashimurayama, Shimura, whose real name was Yasunori Shimura, replaced Chu Arai in The Drifters in 1974 after graduating from high school.
Formed by the late actor Chosuke Ikariya and four other men in 1964, the group, which opened for the Beatles in Japan in 1966, became one of the biggest successes in Japanese comedy history.
Shimura rose to prominence after starring in the group’s prime-time television slapstick comedy show Hachijidayo Zeninshugo! (It’s 8 o’clock, assemble everyone!) launched in 1969.
He was later known for performing popular characters such as Baka Tonosama (stupid lord) and Henna Ojisan (weird man) on TV. He also had led his theater troupe Shimurakon (Shimura spirit) since 2006.
At the time of his death, he was starring in Tensai! Shimura Dobutsuen (Genius! Shimura Zoo) and other TV shows, and was scheduled to start working in April on a movie based on the book The Name Above the Title. (Kyodo)