Born Yoshiya Ota in Kyoto on August 29, 1931, Raizo Ichikawa was adopted by Kabuki actor Kudanji Ichikawa at the age of six months, and was given the name Yoshio Takeuchi. At age 17, he had his Kabuki debut in the play gNakayama Shichirih. Recognizing the young actorfs talent, Jukai Ichikawa, the great master of Kabuki in Kansai, adopted Raizo in 1951. Soon thereafter, the young actor took the professional name Raizo Ichikawa, now one of the most recognized names in Japanese film.
In 1954, Raizo started his film career under contract with Daiei, making his film debut in gHana no Byakkotaih(gThe Great White Tiger Platoonh). The following year, he played Taira no Kiyomori in Kenji Mizoguchifs gShin Heike Monogatarih(gNew Tales of the Taira Clanh). Raizofs status as a film star was assured in 1958 when he appeared in his first modern drama, gEnjoh(gthe Conflagrationh), directed by Kon Ichikawa.
A star both in name and reality, he appeared in various film series including the gSleepy Eyes of Deathh (Nemuri Kyoshiro) series, gNinjah (Shinobi no Mono) series and gNakano Spy Schoolh (Rikugun Nakano Gakko) series.
By the time of his death on July 17, 1969 at age 37 due to cancer, Raizo starred in 158 films. Though his relatively short, fifteen-year movie career Raizo forever impacted Japanese film and the samurai gJidaigekih genre.