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Actor Ken Watanabe battling stomach cancer

By Yuri Kageyama

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Here's to hoping he has a fast and total recovery.

29 ( +28 / -1 )

His daughter, Anne, was great in the J drama Hanasaki Mai. Speedy recovery, Ken-san.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Stomach cancer is insidious. Treatment seems to work only about half the time, based on the number of people who die from it. Wishing him a successful recovery.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Very sad news and only 56.

I wish Japan would investigate and research its stomach cancer rates. If I remember correctly Japan has the highest rates of stomach cancer per population of any country in the world.

Another feature of cancer in Japan that I always find shocking is that in 'The West' cancer is usually a disease of the very young and very old (faulty genes), in Japan I am always shocked by the number of people in their 30s and 40s who get cancer.

I suspect it has a lot to do with the pickles that the Japanese eat, South Korea has similar problems with stomach cancer.

I always suspect that the Japanese food lobby block any in-depth investigation into Japanese stomach cancer rates.

All the best Ken.

11 ( +15 / -5 )

Is pickling that bad? Maybe it's the coloring. I see all the bright yellows and I think to myself: this can't be good.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

You are in my prayers ken watanabe.

7 ( +8 / -1 )


Is pickling that bad? Maybe it's the coloring. I see all the bright yellows and I think to myself: this can't be good

One of many sites that say the same. Not the most scientific

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Korea #1, Mongolia #2 and then Japan according to this site:

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I had cancer. One does not "battle" cancer. One suffers it. And the treatment.

Enough with this caner as hero bs.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

You would think this post would mention he recovered from leukemia more than 20 years and and also was diagnosed with Hepatitis C a few years back.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

My prayers for your successful recovery, Ken-chan.

3 ( +3 / -0 )


One of my favourite actors right behind Tom Hanks.

Watanabe-san, please take it easy!

4 ( +3 / -0 )

I'm praying that he has a full recovery.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The yellow in pickles was traditionally tumeric. Pickles also have much, much less salt than they did a few decades ago. The salt in pickles and miso was reduced upon recognition of the high stomach cancer rates here.

On more theory I've seen is the steaming hot temps that food is served at here. It's really not certain what causes the higher rate.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Very unlucky, first leukemia and now this. Cancer doesn't give him a break. Hope he recovers soon.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I always thought sitting on the floor eating was bad for digestion and might cause stomach cancer, plus the coffee beer or shochu on top of that.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Ken-san - I'm so sorry for your medical problems. You have given so much to your viewers. As great as you were in The Last Samurai, you were also great in Unforgiven (Japanese version). No wonder Clint Eastwood respected you so much. Two truly great individuals. I wish you the best Ken-san!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Let's hope for a full recovery soon!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

He's a favorite actor. Wish him a complete recovery.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

My favorite Japanese actor. お大事に.

He's already managed to get over leukemia, hopefully he can get over this as well.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Good luck to you sir.

That rarity, a Japanese actor who can act. Wishing him a speedy recovery.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Wishing you the best, Ken-san. You can get over this.

Is pickling that bad? Maybe it's the coloring. I see all the bright yellows and I think to myself: this can't be good.

Korea #1, Mongolia #2 and then Japan according to this site:

I now wonder if kimchi can also be a culprit. Decades ago I believe it wasn't as popular in Japan as it is now. I wonder how stomach cancer rates were back then.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Japanese tend to have higher rates stomach and intestinal cancer due to a high salt diet, while westerner ten to have higher rates of colon cancer from a higher fat diet.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Watanabe san wishing a speedy recovery!

Along with pickles another aspect of J-eating is many DONT chew their food much, many flogging into their mouths at an insane rate which makes it hard on stomach & intestines as well

When diagnosed early you have good odds, hang in their Watanabe san!

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

I hope he'll be ok. Great actor

2 ( +2 / -0 )

OMG this is so very sad, my absolute favorite actor whom I have been following for years. Ken san, we will be praying and thinking of you. XXX

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I hope he gets well and beats this. Such sad news to hear...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Here's to a speedy recovery.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Listing his Hollywood achievements, besides The Last Samurai, make him seem like so much less than he really is. The man is an amazing actor, and I hope he gets well soon and can return to Broadway, Japanese movies, and hopefully larger roles in more prominent movies outside of Japan as well (Hollywood or not).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What an amazing and successful actor he is. I wish him speedy recovery.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Helicobacter pylori (a bacteria) leads to ulcers leads to stomach cancer. That's the manga version.

It has nothing to do with what food people eat.

Over 70% of middle-aged Japanese carry the bacteria. It started after the war with unsafe drinking water and is transmitted orally, so multi-generational families drinking from same containers passed in on and down the line. An Australian team isolated this a few decades ago.

The treatment (a common antibiotic) was not covered by Japanese insurance. The controversy is that Japanese stomach drink medicine companies were accused of blocking approval of the antibiotic for treatment for decades, meaning tens of thousands of people have died to maintain profits for ineffective drinks, when low-cost, effective antibiotics would have begun curbing cancer rates long ago.

Here's some info:

Please stop passing on the ignorant myths we read here.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I suspect it has a lot to do with the pickles that the Japanese eat

More likely the huge amount of fish; tuna contains high levels of mercury, and Japan consumes 80% of the global tuna catch.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

According to: the Conclusion in Review of salt consumption and stomach cancer risk: Epidemiological and biological evidence, Found here:

Most published epidemiological studies provide positive evidence for an association between salt or salted food consumption and stomach cancer risk, which was also supported by experimental studies[14,87,94,97]. The limitations of salt assessment in epidemiological studies may have attenuated the true effect of salt intake on stomach cancer risk, or even biased the results away from the null, in the reviewed ecological, case-control, and cohort studies.

So, it seems plausible for this to be a factor, especially for Asians, see @DeDe Miura reference. Granted, @touble mention of Helicobacter pylori is also a major factor.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Someone said hot food? I never noticed that in Japan. I prefer all my food at the hot temp. For me and much of where I grew up that is norm. Can't believe that is the issue. But I wish him the best and hope he gets the best doctors for this issue!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

great actor. luck, more luck, all luck be with him.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Im amazed, he had the op in Japan and not the states or Korea! (Im not American or Korean) Fingers crossed.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Undoubtedly one of the greatest Japanese actors of his generation.

Get well soon, your role isn't over yet.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

They say that cancer affects 1 in 5 people, I am not sure if this is directly or indirectly, but either way it about time they stamped out cancer once and for all, but good luck ken get well soon.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Too add to this, they discovered it when he had his annual "ningen dokku" which as an extensive physical check up. Thankfully, the cancer was in its initial stages and they were able to remove it with endoscopic surgery. He should recover soon.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Helicobacter pylori (a bacteria) leads to ulcers leads to stomach cancer.

Forgot about Helicobacter pylori...I got treated for that about a decade ago. It's is thought to be one of the causes. Well water is one source. Everybody had a well way back when.

I was the one who mentioned hot food..I have seen it mentioned as a possible cause, I didn't come up with it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Since we seem to be trying to find every possible contributor to stomach cancer rates in East Asia, from sitting on the floor while eating to consuming food at high temperatures, let's not leave out bracken (warabi). Almost every information site that covers stomach cancer risks mentions it, although no conclusive link with actual rates has been demonstrated.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I do wish for him to have a full recovery of this. I had the privilege to see Watanabe-san in NYC at the Lincoln Theatre Center last year when he was playing "The king and I", for which he was nominated for a Tony award, and I managed to get an autograph from him after the play. So, I do hope more people could have the chance of see him again this year, because he's such a wonderful actor.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A couple articles about hot food, relating to stomach and esophageal cancer.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I had a Japanese friend who died of stomach cancer, linitis plastica, She was diagnosed far too late and it is an aggressive cancer anyway. I have read that a concern is the fact that yellow noodles of certain types are treated during manufacture with lye water, though the article did not say why. But if you look at what lye water is, you'll find that it's basically dilute oven cleaner (caustic soda), which in turn is highly alkaline and therefore antagonistic to acid-based proteins in human tissue generally and the stomach acid as well. Not really a good idea when you think about it, and something that needs looking into. The Romans can not be blamed for using lead stoppers, they could not have known it was a poisonous material, but it is surprising that with today's knowledge lye water has never been investigated as a potential carcinogenic.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Too much SALT!!!!!!!!1

1 ( +1 / -0 )

God Speen, Mr Watanabe. You are a great actor and I hope you get well soon. Hang in there. You have beaten leukemia, so you can beat this.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The guy is resilient. Good luck to him.

yellow noodles of certain types are treated during manufacture with lye water, though the article did not say why.

It's the Chinese noodles. Not the yellow ones in particular (the color usually comes from eggs or turmeric). It's not really lye water as the automatic translator tells you, but alkaline water. That gives the chewy texture. That same water is also used for brezels and bagels. And countless other food preparation. You'd really have to eat noodles by the ton to umbalance your digestion this way. The health concern is only about the cooks if they dilute the product as they may burn themselves with concentrate (they are supposed to wear gloves and masks) , but if they overdose it in the food, that won't be edible, not even a bite, and in most cases that won't even look edible.

you'll find that it's basically dilute oven cleaner (caustic soda),

Yes and we call it baking soda. You can also say vinegar is the dilute toilet cleaner (high power acid). The dose makes the poison for nearly anything we eat.

it is surprising that with today's knowledge lye water has never been investigated as a potential carcinogenic.

"It" (soda not burning lye) was studied a lot and it's even thought efficient as a prevention. For 99% of people since mid-20th century, the digestion seems umbalanced in the other way, too acidic. Some gurus will tell you baking soda beats all the chemotherapies and tri-therapies, they will provide you all the research (just give them your credit card number). In the 70's many people were taking Alka-Seltzer and stuff like that to prevent, slow or cure for stomach sores and cancer. My grand-dad was prescribed some by the real doctor. And he died of stomach cancer. But maybe that helped. He still lived 15 yrs after diagnosis and op (he was left with half a stomach, they had given him 15 weeks). Oh well, we are talking theories about causes of illnesses and we know nada.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

We are hoping to pray for his speedy recovery.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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