Japanese actor Masakazu Tamura, who appeared in a number of popular TV series and films in his 60-year career, died of heart failure at a hospital in Tokyo last month, people close to him said Tuesday. He was 77.

Tamura, a son of Kabuki star Bando Tsumasaburo, was a household name throughout Japan for playing an awkward but comical police officer in a 1994-2006 TV drama series "Furuhata Ninzaburo," featuring guest villains such as members of the now-disbanded pop idol group SMAP and former baseball player Ichiro Suzuki.

File photo shows Masakazu Tamura giving an interview in Kyoto on April 20, 2017. (Kyodo)

Tamura's relatives held a funeral for the actor, a Kyoto native born into a showbusiness family, following his death on April 3, they said.

Upon his debut in the 1961 film "Eien no Hito," or eternal love, Tamura quickly ascended to stardom.

He also appeared in numerous TV series and commercials after making his own way as a prolific actor.

In his 30s, Tamura brought textured performances to many characters including in samurai dramas, conjuring the image of his late father Bando.

But in 1984, when he was 41 years old, his comedic role as a schoolteacher swayed by children in the TV drama "Uchi no Ko ni Kagitte," meaning roughly "My child would never do such a thing," boosted his popularity by adding a humorous dimension to his serious image.

In 2009, Tamura won the best actor prize at the Monte-Carlo Television Festival for his work in the TV drama "Soka, Mo Kimi wa Inai no ka," which roughly translates as, "Ah, you're really gone now."

According to Mitsuo Ehira, who served as his manager for around 40 years, Tamura had recently kept away from showbusiness, saying, "I have already done what I could do. I want to fade out naturally."

The actor also told Ehira that the two would eat out together once the coronavirus pandemic had been subdued.