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Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto has throat cancer, cancels concerts to focus on treatment

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TOKYO - Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, who shared an Oscar for Bernardo Bertolucci's "The Last Emperor" score, has been diagnosed with throat cancer and has cancelled his upcoming performances to focus on his health.

"I promise to return after a full recovery," Sakamoto, 62, said Thursday on his official website.

He apologized for bowing out of his upcoming events, saying he would not be able to attend the First Sapporo International Art Festival, which starts later this month. He said he was also "deeply upset" at having to cancel a July 30 concert for the Park Hyatt Tokyo's 20th anniversary, where he had planned to unveil new material.

At "the end of June, I was diagnosed with throat cancer," he said on his website. "I have decided to take time off of work in order to concentrate on treating it. I deeply regret causing so many people considerable inconvenience."

Hideaki Tamamushi, spokesman at Avex Group, which manages Sakamoto, said that in early June the musician went for a checkup after feeling a strange sensation in his throat, and the diagnosis came toward the end of the month. He said the company has been deluged with calls asking about Sakamoto. Tamamushi declined to release further details about his condition.

Sakamoto's daughter and musician Miu Sakamoto said on her Twitter account that her father was going to stay for a while in the U.S., where he is based.

"I would like my father to take a good rest after working so hard all the time. I hope he will recover completely and return to playing his great music with all his heart," she tweeted.

Sakamoto, born in Tokyo, rose to fame as a member of the electronic pop band Yellow Magic Orchestra in the 1970s and 1980s. He has been based in New York in recent years, although he visits Japan often.

Since the March 2011 tsunami set off a nuclear catastrophe in Japan, Sakamoto has been one of the most vocal celebrities against nuclear power along with Nobel-winning writer Kenzaburo Oe and visual artist Yoshitomo Nara.

Sakamoto, who also acted in and wrote the score for the 1983 film "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence," directed by Nagisa Oshima, has appeared at anti-nuclear protests and urged Japan to reflect on what he called the mistake of Fukushima.

In a July 2012 rally, he got up on stage and read from notes on an iPhone, warning Japan not to risk people's lives for electricity.

"Life is more important than money," he said in Japanese, then added in English, "Keeping silent after Fukushima is barbaric."

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Follow Yuri Kageyama on Twitter at twitter.com/yurikageyama

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