Kihachiro Kawamoto was born in Tokyo on January 11, 1925. He began working in the entertainment industry in 1946 through TOHO studio’s art department; there, he worked as a production assistant under So Matsuyama. In 1950, Kawamoto left the studio to collaborate with Tadasu Iizawa to illustrate children’s literature with photographs of dolls in dioramas. In the 1950s, Kawamoto began working alongside Tadahito Mochinaga, Japan’s first puppet animator to learn about stop-motion animation. In 1958, Kawamoto co-founded Shiba Productions to make commercial animation for television.
In 1963, Kawamoto traveled to the former Czechoslovakia to study the art and craft of puppetry from Jiri Trnka; while studying under Trnka, Kawamoto was encouraged to draw on Japan’s rich cultural heritage for his work. With this encouragement, Kawamoto returned to Japan and began producing works for a Japanese audience. During his career, Kawamoto has helped to develop the field of Japanese puppet-making and theater, and did a lot of work with puppetry, stop-motion animation, and cut-out animation. Kawamoto also served as the chairperson of the Japan Animation Association.
Kawamoto got his start with stop-motion animation in 1968, when he created the short film, Breaking of Branches is Forbidden. Over the course of working on short films, Kawamoto produced stop-motion and cut-out animations; his other short films include: Anthropo-Cynical Farce (1970), The Demon (1972), Travel (1973), Shijin no Shougai (1974), Dojoji (1976), House of Flame (1979), Self-Portrait (1988), To Shoot Without Shooting (1988), Briar-Rose or The Sleeping Beauty (1990), and Amefutakami, in the Sky (2006). In 1991, Kawamoto helped to complete Tadanari Okamoto’s final film, The Restaurant of Many Orders, after Okamoto passed away in the middle of the production.
During his career, Kawamoto also worked on three feature films. The first was Rennyo and His Mother in 1981; he wouldn’t work on another feature film until 2003’s Winter Days. Kawamoto won an award for his work on this film, which was the Grand Prize in the Animation Division of the Japan Media Arts Festival Awards. Kawamoto’s third feature film was Shisha no Sho in 2005, which was an adaptation of a novel by Shinobu Orikuchi.
Kawamoto also produced two Japanese puppet television programs. The first was Sangokushi, which ran from 1982-1984; this program was a puppet adaptation of the Chinese literary novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms. His other television program was Heike Monogatari, which ran from 1993-1995; this program was a puppet adaptation of a Japanese war epic.
Sadly, Kihachiro Kawamoto passed away on Monday, August 23, 2010 at the age of 85. The cause of his death was pneumonia.
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