A tribute to his contributions to Japanese comedy and culture.

One of the most high-profile casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic in Japan was comedian Ken Shimura. A member of the famous music and comedy group The Drifters, Shimura had a history of pneumonia and had just underwent stomach surgery a few months prior to coming down with the coronavirus in March of last year, all of which made it much harder for him to bear.

His passing sent shockwaves through the entertainment community with an outpouring of tributes and heartfelt eulogies by comedians and other TV personalities. And now, a little over one year since then, a bronze statue of Shimura was erected in his hometown of Higashimurayama, Tokyo.

The statue was unveiled during a ceremony on 26 June attended by The Drifters member Boo Takagi and Ken’s brother Tomoyuki Shimura. It was placed outside the East Exit of Higashimurayama Station on the Seibu Line and near the Ken Shimura Trees, which are three Japanese zelkova trees planted in 1977 in honor of his cover of the city’s anthem “Higashimurayama Ondo.”

▼ The Ken Shimura Trees

Image: Wikipedia/Nishifutsu

The statue depicts Shimura wearing a traditional Japanese hakama and striking the pose he makes during his catchphrase of “aiiin.”

▼ Shimura doing the “aiiin” gesture with Kumamon

It’s an extremely well-made monument too, capturing both his likeness and warmth. Even comments online, which are always more than happy to point out faults in something, seemed to unanimously agree that this was a great statue.

“Wow! It looks just like him.”
“Mr. Shimura did a lot of fundraising and charity work, so this is a worthwhile [way] to honor him.”
“Because of the clothes he looks like a great historical figure too, LOL!”

“It’s like he’s alive. I’m definitely going to Higashimurayama!”
“It’s like it will come to life in the middle of the night and make people laugh.”
“It makes me cry because Shimura’s smile looks exactly like his brother’s.”
“It’s been a year already… It’s a really nice statue.”

It should be mentioned that although the city set up a committee to find a way to honor Shimura after his death, the statue itself was crowdfunded by fans across Japan who all chipped in a total of 27 million yen (US$244,000), well above the target budget of 24 million yen ($217,000).

That in itself is a testament to how many people he touched during his life. Although his comedy was not without controversy from time to time, Shimura’s mark on Japanese culture cannot be denied. Influences of his work pop up almost everywhere and he pretty much single-handedly shaped the way paper, rock, scissors is played in Japan, which is certainly no small feat.

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun Online, My Game News Flash
Top image: © SoraNews24
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