The Tokyo Reporter

Ken Watanabe in affair while wife fights cancer: report

Shukan Bunshun Apr. 6

As the King of Siam in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The King and I,” actor Ken Watanabe sings, “We kiss in a shadow, we hide from the moon, our meetings are few and over too soon.”

For Watanabe in real life, that hardly appears to be the case — at least according to weekly tabloid Shukan Bunshun, whose April 6 issue documents a seemingly open extra-marital affair between the actor, 57, and a Japanese woman while his wife battles breast cancer.

The magazine spotted Watanabe, known for his on-screen roles in such films as “The Last Samurai” and “Inception,” holding hands with the woman, 36, during a date at New York’s Central Park on February 18. The reporter also followed them to dinner at a Chinese restaurant two days later.

One year ago, Kaho Minami, 53, the wife of Watanabe, underwent surgery for stage 1 breast cancer. She has two children with the actor, whom she married in 2005. While Watanabe was in New York in February, his wife was in San Francisco visiting her son from a previous marriage. The couple has a home in Los Angeles.

An insider at Watanabe’s management office told the tabloid that Watanabe’s relationship with the woman has been going on for nearly three years. “They’ve been secretly meeting not only in the U.S., but in Japan as well in places like Osaka and Kesennuma City [Miyagi Prefecture],” the source says.

Shukan Bunshun also published some 10 photos showing the pair together, clearly outlining the deep relationship between them. Some photos showed the two kissing, while in another they are seen at K-Port, a cafe in Kesennuma managed by Watanabe in an effort to lend economic support to the area following the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. A selfie-styled shot, in which her eyes are obscured, shows the pair smiling.

“I was really shocked”

Last year, Watanabe, who two decades ago survived a battle with leukemia, revealed that he had stomach cancer, a development that postponed his appearances in “The King and I.”

“I was really shocked, my wife and daughter pushed me to have a health check and the cancer was found. It was a very early stage and they operated immediately,” Watanabe was quoted in February, 2016 by Reuters. He returned to his role as the King the following month.

A couple just for show?

Watanabe and his wife have long presented an image as that of a couple supporting each other in difficult times, such as during their aforementioned illnesses, but a source in the film industry tells Nikkei Gendai (Apr. 1) that the reality of their relationship is quite different. Persons close to the couple, according to Gendai, believe they actually only go through the motions of being married.

“At a reception, he’ll be close to Minami, doing things like holding hands with her and wrapping his arm around her waist, but when the cameras and reporters are gone, everything changes,” the source says. “Rumors about the stability of their relationship have spread like wildfire.”

When Shukan Bunshun’s reporter approached Watanabe at his home in Los Angeles, the actor refused to grant a request for an interview. A representative from Watanabe’s office said to the Sankei Shimbun (Mar. 30): “When [Watanabe] returns to Japan, we will review the facts and consider future actions.”

Source: “Watanabe Ken: Furin in nyuu yooku,” Shukan Bunshun (Apr. 6, pages 28-32)

Note: Brief extracts from Japanese vernacular media in the public domain that appear here were translated and summarized under the principle of “fair use.” Every effort has been made to ensure accuracy of the translations. However, we are not responsible for the veracity of their contents. The activities of individuals described herein should not be construed as “typical” behavior of Japanese people nor reflect the intention to portray the country in a negative manner. Our sole aim is to provide examples of various types of reading matter enjoyed by Japanese.

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