Photo/Illutration Composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (Provided by Dentsu Public Relations Inc.)

Composer Ryuichi Sakamoto made a rare return to the stage March 26 to perform in a charity concert in Tokyo, despite a long battle with cancer.

Sakamoto, 70, played two pieces on piano, “Nagasaki: Memories of My Son” and “Still Life,” with the Tohoku Youth Orchestra where he serves as musical director.

The orchestra is comprised of children and youngsters from the Tohoku region of northeastern Japan that was devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

Actress Sayuri Yoshinaga read poems written by people with strong links to the region, such as those by poets Ryoichi Wago and Kazuko To.

In the latter part of the concert held at the Suntory Hall, a chorus group joined in for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

Sakamoto, who first found fame with the Yellow Magic Orchestra, also played a new composition of his titled “Ima Jikan ga Katamuite” (Time is now leaning).

He said that although he originally wrote the piece to dedicate it to the victims of the 2011 disaster, listening to it now makes him think of what people in Ukraine are facing.

“The war has been waged and many other things have hit the world,” he said. “I sincerely hope that at least one nice thing will happen.”

Sakamoto was diagnosed with oropharynx cancer in 2014.

The musician, famed for scoring the soundtrack for the 1983 movie "Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence," in which he starred along with David Bowie, has thrown his energies into performing with the Tohoku Youth Orchestra in recent years.

In 2020, he suffered rectal cancer and underwent surgery. He had been taking a break from musical activity since January last year to concentrate on treatment for his disease.