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One of Japan’s top kabuki actors convicted over parents’ suicide

TOKYO – One of Japan’s best-known kabuki actors was convicted on Friday and given a suspended prison sentence for helping his parents die by suicide, in a case that sent shockwaves through the traditional arts scene.

Ennosuke Ichikawa was arrested in June after his mother and father – also an actor in the highly stylised form of traditional Japanese theatre – were found unconscious at his Tokyo home in May and later died.

Press reports said Ichikawa told his parents he decided to take his own life after receiving advance warning of a tabloid magazine article accusing him of sexual harassment and abuse of power.

All three then reportedly decided on a suicide pact, with the parents taking sleeping pills with their son’s assistance.

Ichikawa was later found slumped in his apartment, but his 76-year-old father and 75-year-old mother had died.

“I caused such trouble to the kabuki world that I felt I no longer deserve to be part of it,” media reports quoted Ichikawa as telling the court in October.

But the tabloid allegations were not the only trigger, he said, citing pent-up stress from years of having to look after his father, who was sick with cancer and had severe mood swings.

A spokesperson for the Tokyo District Court said the 47-year-old, who had been released on bail, was given a prison sentence of three years, suspended for five years.

Ichikawa made his kabuki debut in 1980 and went on to become one of Japan’s most famous performers. He branched out into television shows and films while continuing to perform in the traditional theatre.

He performed kabuki in London, Amsterdam and at the Paris Opera House, and was nominated for a Laurence Olivier award for dance performance, according to his official website. – AFP