Sonny Chiba, who appeared in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill, and Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, has died from COVID-19 complications at 82.
An actor and Japanese martial arts expert, Chiba’s death was confirmed by his agent, Timothy Beal.
“Sonny passed away from COVID-19 yesterday,” Beal told AFP.
“Such tragic news. He was a great friend and an awesome client. Such a humble, caring and friendly man.”
Born in 1939 in the southwest of Japan as Sadaho Maeda, Chiba made a name for himself in Asian cinema, and martial arts – studying through the ’60s to become an expert in Karate.
Chiba’s skills landed him numerous roles in Japanese films and television series, including Toei studio, who recruited him in a competition for new talent.
The great Sonny Chiba passed away today at age 82, another victim of Covid-19. A martial arts legend with six black belts who started out in tokusatsu TV, Chiba made over 120 movies for Toei and was Japan’s most popular action star for decades. Watch one of his films today. 🤜🏻💔 pic.twitter.com/sIIqS1Gf5A
— Ted Geoghegan (@tedgeoghegan) August 19, 2021
However, following Bruce lee’s success in Hollywood, Chiba broke out and made a name for himself outside of Japan, firstly as a henchman in The Street Fighter trilogy.
Fans of Tarantino, however, fans of Tarantino will remember Chiba best for his role as Hattori Hanzo, the former samurai sword-maker turned aggressive-sushi-chef in 2003’s Kill Bill.
Hanzo forges a one-of-a-kind sword to help Uma Thurman’s character, Beatrix Kiddo, in her quest for revenge against Bill.
Hanzo’s swords were seen as priceless works of art, as well as ruthless tools for revenge.
Chiba also starred in 2006’s Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift, and had over 200 acting credits to his name by the end of his career.
Beal confirmed that Chiba had been due to work on Outbreak Z, a zombie movie starring Wesley Snipes, but had contracted COVID at the end of July, Japanese media confirmed.
Chiba’s condition quickly deteriorated, and he was hospitalised 12 days ago.
This clip of Keanu meeting his hero Sonny Chiba says it all. RIP to a true legend. You will be missed, Sonny. pic.twitter.com/4ZswAcnAEA
— Sam Vaxxed Haren (@SamShotFirst) August 19, 2021
Unfortunately, Japan has been battling with its highest rate of COVID-19 infections over the past month, in the aftermath of the disastrous 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, which saw athletes from multiple countries become infected with COVID.
Japan is now dealing with growing case numbers, sparking concerns over the viability of the upcoming Paralympics.