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Who Was Mao Kobayashi? Japanese Actress Succumbs To Cancer

Updated on July 27, 2017
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Stephen Sinclair is a freelance Canadian writer who has been publishing professionally for several years.

Mao Kobayashi
Mao Kobayashi | Source

Private battle made public

On June 22, Japanese actress and television presenter Mao Kobayashi's three-and-a-half year battle with cancer came to an end, as reported by the Japan Times. Actor Ichikawa Ebizo, Kobayashi's husband, said of his wife's last moments, "I was watching the moment she breathed her last breath. At that moment, she said 'I love you.'"

Mao Kobayashi published a blog, called Kokoro, after her condition, which she had attempted to keep a secret, was exposed by Sports Hochi in June 2016. The blog became "the most popular in the country," according to the BBC. The British broadcaster named the actress one of the "100 Women of 2016." The award aims to name "100 influential and inspirational women around the world every year."

"For a long time I hid the disease. Because my job involved appearing on TV I was scared about being associated with illness or showing people my weaknesses," Kobayashi wrote in a blog post translated by the BBC.

According to Mariko Oi with the BBC, in Japanese culture people are "reluctant to talk about any personal issues with others, let alone serious illness." Oi explained that when Sports Hochi exposed Mao Kobayashi diagnosis "many saw it as an intrusion of her privacy and it caused an outrage." Given the inner-focus of Japanese society, the launch of the Kobayashi blog was said to have come as a surprise to many in the country, including some members of her own family. At the time the news first came public, Ichikawa Ebizo had "begged the media" for privacy.

Ichikawa Ebizo
Ichikawa Ebizo | Source

Mao Kobayashi blog: most popular in Japan

Mao Kobayashi was first diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2014. In June 2016, after the Sports Hochi article had run, Ebizo called the private battle his family was facing "excruciating." The couple's two children, 5-year-old Reika and and 4-year-old Kangen, were said to have only begun to understand their mother's sickness when the news was first made public. The children were said to be present when their mother finally passed, after having lost her voice earlier in the day.

In her online journal, Kobayashi admitted to feeling like a "failure" for not being able to conduct her life as she had previously. The actress took a great deal of pride in being involved in all aspects of "domestic life," citing her mother's influence, before lamenting the day she was hospitalized, and was separated from her children.

Kobayashi wrote of coming to a realization that her "obsession" with being a "perfect mother" was not worth the sacrifices she had made, because, in the end, even though she was helpless to perform her previous role, her family "still accepted me, believed in me and loved me, just like they always had done, as a wife and a mother."

The actress and mother confided to her blog readers, that, through the blog, and interactions she had with readers on the internet, she was able to see that other people had faced similar hardships and life experiences. "It turned out that the world I was so scared of was full of warmth and love and I am now connected with more than one million readers."

"So I've decided not to allow the time I've been given be overshadowed entirely by disease. I will be who I want to be."

The Times of Japan reports that Mao Kobayashi began her television career in 2003 as a weather announcer, before moving on to work in news reporting and acting. Kobayashi's acting debut came with the 2004 made-for-TV film, Division 1: Pink Hip Girl.

Ichikawa Ebizo is known as a "superstar" kabuki actor in Japan, where, before his relationship with Kobayashi, he was said to have been associated with "string of prominent actresses." When the news of his wife's cancer was first reported in June 2016, Ebizo was quoted, "I won’t run away from this ordeal. I will tackle it head-on."

The husband stated that his late wife's wish was to "inspire many," which motivated her to fight the cancer with all she had. "That’s why she began blogging," Ebizo explained.

© 2017 Stephen Sinclair

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