Mao Kobayashi, a former Japanese TV announcer and wife of popular kabuki actor Ichikawa Ebizo, passed away late Thursday night at her home in Tokyo after a long and much publicized battle with breast cancer. She was 34.
The announcement was made by kabuki theater operator Shochiku early Friday morning. Ichikawa confirmed the passing of his wife on his blog Friday morning. “Today, I have cried more than I have ever done in my life,” the blog post read.
Later in the day, Ichikawa held an emotional news conference in Tokyo, during which he revealed details of his wife's passing, saying that he and the rest of the family were with her at the end.
Ichikawa said his wife was able to speak until Wednesday. On Thursday, he said, "I received a message from (Mao's) mother while I was away for work, saying that her condition had worsened. The doctor had arrived at home, advising the family to gather." He said he returned home immediately. However, she passed away soon after. "She was looking at me when she died," Ichikawa continued through tears. "She said 'I love you' and then she was gone on her journey."
Kobayashi was one of the most popular TV announcers in Japan. She met Ichikawa in 2008 during an interview she conducted for "News Zero," a daily news program for which she was a presenter. The two were married in 2010 and have two children, a daughter, Reika, 5, and son, Kangen, 4.
After her marriage to Ichikawa, Kobayashi withdrew from the TV world, but the family’s public appearances and the birth and raising of their two children were regularly reported in Japan. The couple was viewed by many as an ideal family.
Kobayashi was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2014, but it was kept a secret for over a year and a half until Ichikawa announced her condition at a press conference in June 2016.
Kobayashi was named in the 2016 edition of the BBC's 100 Women list of inspirational and influential women because she broke her silence about having breast cancer, which spread to her bones and lungs, and began writing a blog to help others, Kyodo reported.
Her battle with cancer was covered constantly by Japanese media. Kobayashi started a blog, "Kokoro," in September last year, in which she regularly wrote about her battle with the disease. It had nearly 2.6 million registered readers, many of whom regularly posted sympathetic and encouraging comments. Her latest post, titled "Orange juice," was published on Monday.
"I've been drinking fresh orange juice every morning these days," she wrote. "I don't have the (physical) power to squeeze it myself, so I wait for my mother to wake up every morning and squeeze it for me. [...] It puts a smile on my face each morning. May you all experience something that makes you smile today." The blog included two photos, one of herself smiling, and one of an orange juice.
Kobayashi was recently released from a hospital, but her condition worsened drastically on Wednesday, Japanese media reported.
"I wish we could continue being together forever. (I wish) I was the one to go first," Ichikawa said during Friday's press conference. "I wish she could (live longer) to be happier, to be with family and friends, (her sister) Maya, her father and mother. I wish she could continue to watch me develop as an actor."
Kobayashi is survived by her husband, children, parents, and sister, Maya, who is also a popular TV personality.© Japan Today