His first television appearance came in 1982 and was followed in 1985 by a small role in the hit crossover film Tampopo. But it was Watanabe's role as samurai leader Date Masamune in the TV series "Dokugan-ryu Masamune" (1987) that earned him a huge following in Japan.
After surviving a bout of leukemia, Watanabe slowly worked his way back into acting, an endeavor that culminated in an Oscar-nominated performance in The Last Samurai (2003) opposite Tom Cruise. He followed his first American triumph with a role as a villain in Batman Begins (2005).
Ready to end it all, distraught Arthur Brennan travels to Japan's famed "suicide forest." But his plan is disrupted by the arrival of another lost soul, Takumi Nakamura, and what began as a quest to kill themselves instead becomes a tale of survival.