Japanese veteran comedian Ken Shimura passed away on Sunday (Mar. 29) after contracting Covid-19.
Died 9 days after being hospitalised
The 70-year-old, who was a household name since the 1970s for his slapstick comedy, is the first celebrity in Japan to die from the virus, which has become a worldwide pandemic.
Shimura was hospitalised on March 20 after developing a fever. He was initially diagnosed with severe pneumonia, according to The Japan Times.
He tested positive for the virus on March 23, becoming the first Japanese entertainment figure to announce an infection.
Shimura had been expected to run in the Tokyo Olympic torch relay representing his hometown in Higashimurayama.
Mourned by friends, fellow celebrities
"I don’t think he imagined he would die a death like this," a representative with his agency said.
"I am sure he was working hard with a sense of mission to deliver laughter to people."
At the time of his death, he was starring in a number of TV programs, and was scheduled to start work on a movie based on the book “The Name Above the Title” in April.
His fellow members from his former band and comedy group The Drifters were too shocked to give a statement, according to his agency.
Japanese songstress and comedian Naoko Ken, a long-time friend of Shimura, expressed her condolences on Twitter, saying:
"I can't think of anything now. I can no longer see Ken-chan. This is too sad."
"I was happy to work with you. Thank you," she wrote.
今は何も— 研ナオコ (@naokoken77) March 30, 2020
Just days earlier, after his agency confirmed that Shimura was infected with Covid-19, the songstress wrote words of encouragement on Twitter, telling him to "get well and let's do 'Bakatono' again".
けんちゃん、早く治してまたバカ殿一緒にやりましょうね🙋♀️🥚— 研ナオコ (@naokoken77) March 25, 2020
"Bakatono" refers to one of Shimura's comedy shows, which he is highly famed for in Japan.
Top image via Shimura Ken/IG