Japanese recording company Avex said in a statement on Sunday that Sakamoto died on March 28 while undergoing treatment for cancer.
He was first diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014. In 2022, a year after revealing that he was suffering from rectal cancer, he revealed that he had terminal cancer.
Sakamoto was a pioneer of late 1970s electronics music and founded Yellow Magic Orchestra, also known as YMO, with Haruomi Hosono and Yukihiro Takahashi,
Takahashi died in January.
Despite his battle with cancer, Sakamoto released a full-length album “12” on his 71st birthday in January, according to an official statement released with the latest album, saying the composition was “about my damaged body and had little healing effect on the soul”. ,
Sakamoto was also an actor who starred in BAFTA winning 1983 film “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence.”
He was mostly based in New York in recent years, although he regularly visited Japan.
Avex’s statement said that despite his illness, he continued to work on his music in his home studio when he was feeling relatively well. “Till his last days, he lived with music,” it said.
The statement expressed gratitude to the doctors who treated him in the US and Japan, as well as all his fans around the world. This referenced Sakamoto’s favorite words: “Ars longa, vita brevis,” which referred to the longevity of art, no matter how short human life.
Sakamoto also made a mark as a pacifist and environmental activist. He spoke out against nuclear power in March 2011 following the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant due to an earthquake and tsunami.
He attended rallies and gave speeches in Tokyo, and was among a group of respected Japanese artists, such as Nobel-winning novelist Kenzaburo Oi, who were not afraid to take an unpopular stand on political issues.
At a July 2012 rally, he got up on stage and read notes on an iPhone, warning Japan not to risk people’s lives for electricity.
“Life is more important than money,” he said in Japanese, then added in English, “to remain silent after Fukushima is barbaric.”
He also appeared in a commercial for Nissan electric cars, although he admitted that he got bashed for being so commercial. He said that at his home in New York he gets electricity from a company that relies on renewable energy.
“How we make electricity is going to diversify with the decline of fossil fuels and nuclear power,” Sakamoto told The Associated Press in a 2012 interview. People should be able to choose the kind of electricity they want to use.
The Avex statement said funeral services were held with family and close friends.
Sakamoto is survived by his daughter Miu Sakamoto, who is a musician. She posted on her Instagram that her father used to live from January 17, 1952 to March 28, 2023 — and posted a picture of a battered, half-broken piano. He was separated from his ex-wife, singer and musician Akiko Yano.