Passionate, tender, heartbreaking … letters reveal Leonard Bernstein’s 10-year secret affair

The West Side Story composer met and fell in love with a young Japanese fan on tour and their romance lasted until his death

One was among the most brilliant composers and conductors of the 20th century, a sexagenarian who brought the world one of the great love stories of musical theatre. The other was a 26-year-old who worked in a Tokyo insurance company. Now, a newly revealed cache of letters shows that in the last decade of his life Leonard Bernstein embarked on a passionate relationship with a Japanese man.

“I noticed that he was gazing upon me,” Kunihiko Hashimoto, now 66, said. It is hard to explain about his eyes. It was not to try to talk to me nor seduce me, just he was looking at me. It was irresistible.”

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