Japanese actress was major star in the 50s and 60s

Yoko Minamida, a major star in the 1950s and 1960s who later developed a thriving second career in TV, died in Tokyo on Oct. 21. She was 76. The cause of death was subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Born in Tokyo, Minamida made her screen debut in 1953 for the Daiei studio and quickly rose to stardom, working with Kenji Mizoguchi on two pics: “A Story from Chikamatsu” and “Princess Yang Kwei-fei.”

 In 1955, she moved to the Nikkatsu studio, where she starred in Takumi Furukawa’s “Season of the Sun” (1956), a smash hit that launched the so-called “Sun Tribe”boom for pics about rebellious youth looking for sex and kicks on Shonan Beach — Japan’s nearest equivalent to Malibu. Minamida proceeded to turn out dozens of pics for Nikkatsu, working with Shohei Imamura and Seijun Suzuki, among others studio helmers.

 In 1961 she married her co-star on “Season of the Sun,” Hiroyuki Nagato, and they became one of Japan’s most famous show biz couples. As her pic career faded in the mid-1960s, Minamida made a smooth and successful transition to TV as both an actress and MC. She also continued to appear occasionally in pics, with the last being Nobuhiko Obayashi’s “Song of Goodbye” in 2006.

In 2004 Minamida began to suffer from dementia and in 2006 ended her show biz career. In 2008, Nagato, her principal caregiver, filmed a docu of their struggle with her illness that was a huge, controversial ratings hit. 

– Mark Schilling

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