On Saturday, December 21, 1997
, Juzo Itami stepped off the roof of the eight-story Azabudai condominium
building which housed his office in Minato
. On the screen of his computer was a picture of his wife. A sucide note said, “Death proves my innocence.”
Innocence of what? A magazine called Flash was about to publish a story accusing Itami of an adulterous affair with a 26 year old woman. Itami, 63, was married to Nobuko Miyamoto, who had starred in almost all of Itami’s films: The Funeral, Tampopo, A Taxing Woman, and A Taxing Woman Returns. Itami had made 10 films in 13 years, attaining world wide recognition for his work on a scale equivalent only to Akira Kurosawa. Itami had recently fought a public battle with Yakuza (mobsters) after he portrayed their secrets in "Minbo no Onna," or "The Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion." Yakuza knifed Itami just after the movie's release.
"After two months investigating the affair, we spoke to Itami," said Kenji Kaneto, the editor of Flash, in a statement released to the media on Sunday, December 22nd. "We confirmed that the story was true and decided to carry it, using careful words and expressions," he said. "We are convinced it is true. We followed proper procedures in the investigation and we were careful."
The Daily Yomiuri, December 22, 1997, p. 2 reported:
“Itami was to hold a press conference on the alleged scandal on Monday. At about 11:50 p.m. Saturday, Itami's wife was informed of his death by police. According to a Toho official, Miyamoto was stunned at the sight of Itami's body and could not stand. "How could this happen?" she reportedly asked. Itami's body was taken to his second home in Yugawaramachi, Kanagawa Prefecture, at about 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Itami's family and Nobelist Kenzaburo Oe, Itami's brother-in-law, brought the coffin home. According to sources close to Itami Productions, Itami's family and others were watching his films in a room where his body was placed Sunday evening. At Itami's request, a funeral will not be held, the sources said.”