Hidekazu Yukawa, aka “Mr. Sega,” the former senior managing director of Sega, has died. The executive was known for frequently appearing in Japanese commercials for the Dreamcast, and even made an appearance in the Shenmue series. Those close to him revealed that Yukawa had passed away in June 2021 due to aspiration pneumonia. He was 78 years old. [Thanks, Famitsu!]
Born in 1943, Yukawa was originally an employee at CSK Corporation, a Tokyo-based computer service firm. The company later bought Sega Enterprises in 1984, and Yukawa became the senior managing director in 1998. Shortly after, with the release of the Sega Dreamcast in November 1998, Yukawa appeared in a series of self-deprecating commercials advertising the console. The commercials centered around Yukawa overhearing school children calling Sega consoles “lame” and praising the PlayStation instead.
The commercials became an instant hit in Japan, and the Dreamcast sold out on release day. Yukawa became a popular figure within Japanese pop culture and gained the nicknames “Mr. Sega” and “Director Yukawa” in Japan. Additionally, he appeared in various Sega titles. These include the original Shenmue, in which he appeared as and voiced himself, as well as Japan-only DLC for Sonic Adventures.
People familiar with Yukawa noted that he was “a kind man, just like how he appeared in the commercials.” Yukawa had reportedly suffered from poor health since he fell ill five years prior. A subordinate of Yukawa’s stated that the family had only informed those close to him of his passing late last year. Upon hearing of his passing, prominent game developer Yuji Naka and Sonic voice actor Junichi Kanemaru offered their condolences.