Yasushi Akutagawa (芥川 也寸志) was a Japanese composer and conductor. He was born and raised in Tabata, Tokyo. Akutagawa was taught composition by Kunihiko Hashimoto and Akira Ifukube at the Tokyo Conservatory of Music. He was one of the members of Sannin no kai (The Three) along with Ikuma Dan and Toshiro Mayuzumi.
In 1954, when Japan did not have diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union yet, he entered the Soviet Union illegally, and made friends with Dmitri Shostakovich, Aram Khachaturian and Dmitri Kabalevsky. Akutagawa was the only Japanese composer whose works were officially published in the Soviet Union at that time. His 1950 Music for Symphony Orchestra reflects his love of the music of Shostakovich and his debt to the Russian's great film scores. His compositions were influenced by Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Prokofiev and Akira Ifukube.
He was popular as a master of ceremonies of TV shows as well. As an educator, he devoted himself to train an amateur orchestra, Shin Kokyo Gakudan ("The New Symphony Orchestra"). Almost one year after Akutagawa died, in 1990, the Akutagawa composition award was established in his memory.