Regular readers may recall a number of videos we had posted over the year of Japanese shamisen player Takeharu Kunimoto, who utilized this traditional instrument of his native culture to play bluegrass music.
We were saddened to learn that Takeharu died on Christmas Eve following a brief illness. He was only 55 years of age, and became sick while doing a sound check at a popular Tokyo venue.
In Japan, he was a cherished entertainer and television personality whose love for bluegrass was spurred by his attending a Bill Monroe performance while Takeharu was a teenager. He came to the US as a cultural exchange student in 2009, and studied at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN. There he immersed himself in the Bluegrass, Old Time & Country Music Studies department and formed his own group, Takeharu Kunimoto & The Last Frontier with whom he toured extensively in the US and Canada, and back in Japan.
Here’s video of a 2009 appearance on The Woodsongs Old Time Music Hour.
Three bluegrass albums were released with Last Frontier, on top of the many recordings he made in Japan, where he was also known as an actor and composer.
His good friend, JP Mathes, remembers Takeharu fondly…
“Kunimoto was an international music ambassador who brought traditional Japanese music to the United States and helped spread Bluegrass Music in Japan. He will truly be missed all across the globe.“
R.I.P., Takeharu Kunimoto.