Japan's most famous orchestral conductor, Seiji Ozawa, said on Thursday (Jan. 7) he has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer and will cancel all performances for the next six months to concentrate on treatment.

One of the first Asian classical musicians widely recognized in the West, 74-year-old Ozawa has made efforts to revitalize the music scene in his home country, founding an annual festival in the castle town of Matsumoto.

"As my doctor guaranteed, I will come back by July. In fact, I got sick in time to fulfill my summer schedule," Ozawa told a news conference.

The mop-haired conductor was already due to step down as musical director of the Vienna State Opera later this year, a post he took up after serving almost three decades as director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.