Born in Tokyo in 1937, Ogata began his acting career with the Shin-Kokugeki drama troupe in 1958. He made his feature film debut in 1960's Tooi Hitotsu No Michi, but it was his lead role in the year-long 1965 NHK period drama Taikoki that gained him fame.
Ogata is perhaps best known overseas for his roles in Vengeance Is Mine (1979) and 1983 Palme d'Or winner Ballad of Narayama, both directed by frequent collaborator Shohei Imamura. Ogata branched out into non-Japanese productions with Paul Schrader's 1985 film Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters. He won many acting awards in the Japanese film industry, including three Japan Academy Awards for best actor.
Ogata remained an in-demand performer for films, TV dramas, commercials and stage plays until his death. He played a supporting role in Yoji Yamada's samurai drama Love And Honor in 2006. That same year Ogata's final lead role was in the highly praised A Long Walk, which took top honors at the Montreal World Film Festival. Ogata's final TV drama, entitled Kaze No Garden, will air on Fuji TV on Oct 9.
Ken Ogata was also a noted calligrapher and author, and is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter.