Shin’ichi “Sonny” Chiba, a martial artist and actor known to appear in various films and television series, has died at the age of 82.
The star’s representative confirmed to Fox News that Chiba died of complications from COVID-19 at a hospital outside Tokyo on Wednesday.
The Japanese actor’s career began in 1959, according to IMDb, when he appeared in a television series called “Nana-iro kamen” (otherwise known as “Seven Color Mask”). He has become a staple in Japanese cinema, especially those that have allowed him to showcase his martial arts skills.
In the following years, he would eventually break into Western cinema and star in the films “Kill Bill” and “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”.
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According to Variety, he started martial arts in 1957 while studying at Nippon Sport Science University. In 1965, he obtained a first degree black belt after studying with karate master Masutatsu “Mas” Oyama before obtaining a fourth degree black belt in 1984.
He would later play his own teacher in three films in the 1970s: “Champion of Death”, “Karate Bearfighter” and “Karate for Life”.
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He also held black belts in ninjutsu, shorinji kempo, judo, kendo, and goju-ryu karate.
Chiba’s first martial arts film didn’t come out until 1973 when he starred in “Karate Kiba”. The following year, “The Street Fighter” would see it break into international markets when it was released in the United States – the film was rated X for violence.
In the “Kill Bill” films, Chiba played the memorable role of Hattori Hanzo, a sushi shop owner who makes blades for the despised and vengeful main character Uma Thurman. In “Tokyo Drift” he played a boss Yakuza and an uncle of the film’s main antagonist.
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According to Variety, he was scheduled to star in a movie called “Outbreak Z” with Jesse Ventura, Martin Lawrence and Wesley Snipes before the pandemic.
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His last role will be in “Bond of Justice: Kizuna”, which is yet to be released.
He is survived by three children, Juri Manase, 46 ans, Mackenyu Arata, 24, and Gordon Maeda, 21, also actors.