Kikuo Watanabe was born in Tokyo, grown up in a musical family, his father was an orchestral conductor, Akeo Watanabe whose mother was a Finnish classical singer.
Kikuo was introduced to piano at the age of six in Tokyo and his musical education continued at Indiana University School of Music, where he studied piano with Abbey Simon, Menahem Pressler and Gyorgy Sebok, chamber music with Janos Starker.
Graduated IU with distinction and obtained a fellowship in the graduate school, MM.in1976
He made his debut recital in Tokyo in 1976, and 1977 appointed as a professor of piano at Musashino Music Academy in Tokyo. He has been an active pedagogy as well as a performer playing numerous recitals, programs with such as complete Chopin polonaises, last three sonatas by Schubert etc., chamber music concerts, also appearing as a soloist with many orchestras. ( Mozart, Brahms, Grieg, Ravel and Rachmaninoff piano concertos).
Orchestras he played at their subscription concerts include The Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra, Kyoto Symphony Orchestra, and Sendai Philharmonic Orchestra.
He played concerts in Mexico, Panama and Peru with pianist Etsuko Terada sponsored by the Japan Foundation. Also in Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan, Kazakstan with violinist Mariko Senju. According to the invitation from the Japanese Embassies in Finland, Russia, Latvia and USA, he played duo piano with Terada in Helsinki, Khabarovsk, Riga, and Washington DC.
He also played Rachmaninoff 2nd concerto in Tokyo, Saint Petersburg and Moscow. In 2016, he played Mozart concerto for two pianos K365, at Suntory Hall in Tokyo with Japan Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kenichiro Kobayashi.
Kikuo Watanabe has been specializing Sibelius piano music since 2003, and in 2015 he received “Sibelius Medal” the distinguished prize from the Finnish Sibelius Society of Finland for his successful achievement of 4 volumes of all Sibelius solo recitals, live recordings of 4 CDs (Octavia Records ) beside 2 CDs of Violin music by Sibelius with Violinist Madoka Sato.
At the 150th anniversary of Sibelius’s birth in 2015, he gave recitals with all Sibelius programs in Osaka and Tokyo, and the concert was broadcasted by NHK FM(Best of classic evening recital), he appeared also on NHK Television program.
His CDs contain also duo piano with Etsuko Terada, “Stravinsky Rite of Spring and Rachmaninoff 2nd Suite for 2 pianos.”
From 2012 has been a faculty at the Interharmony Music festival in Sulzbach-Rosenberg, Germany.
Currently he is a professor in Musashino Academy of Music.