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Kiyoshi Atsumi, Popular Japanese Actor, Dies

August 7, 1996 GMT

TOKYO (AP) _ Kiyoshi Atsumi, a beloved movie actor whose portrayal of a hapless peddler earned a place in The Guinness Book of Records and was a household name throughout Japan, has died. He was 68.

Atsumi died of lung cancer Sunday at a hospital, his studio said Wednesday.

The ``Otoko wa Tsuraiyo″ (It’s Hard Being a Man) series that Atsumi helped create gained a spot in The Guinness Book of Records as the world’s longest-running continuing film series with the same star. The first film appeared in 1969.

The 48th installment in the series was released early this year. Plans to begin shooting the 49th installment in early October have been canceled, the Shochiku film studio said.

Atsumi’s ``Tora-san″ character, a peddler of knickknacks whose big heart won him friends wherever he went, was a beloved cultural icon for millions of Japanese, evoking a lost world of traditional small-town values.

The actor’s death was a top item on Wednesday evening news broadcasts. One show interviewed saddened residents of Shibamata, the Tokyo neighborhood where every film in the series has been set.

``I knew it had to come to an end sometime,″ said the series’ longtime director, filmmaker Yoji Yamada. ``But I’ve said for many years that I would not make a Tora-san film that I knew would be the last.″

Yamada, one of a tightly knit team of actors and producers that has worked together on virtually every one of the movies since the series began, added, ``When my life is over, my memory of him will be stronger even than that of my family.″

Each film in the series followed a familiar pattern, with Tora storming out of his family’s house after an argument, setting out to the Japanese hinterlands and becoming infatuated with a woman he could never have.

Atsumi, whose real name was Yasuo Tadoroko, was born March 10, 1928, in Shitaya, a district of Tokyo.

He began acting in 1946 and soon became a well-known comic and star of several television series. ``Otoko wa Tsuraiyo″ started as a television series in 1968 before being made into a movie.

He is survived by his wife, Masako Tadokoro, a son and a daughter.

His body was cremated after a private funeral.