Appeared in classic films by Japan's Ozu

Chikage Awashima, an actress known internationally for her work with Yasujiro Ozu and other greats of Japanese cinema’s 1950s golden age, died of pancreatic cancer on Thursday in Tokyo. She was 87.

Awashima entered the training school of the Takarazaka all-women’s theater troupe in 1939. In 1950 she left the troupe for the Shochiku studio, where she made her screen debut that year.

In the 1950s Awashima became a studio stalwart, appearing in a wide range of roles, though in the West she is best remembered as the vivacious, teasing friend of lead Setsuko Hara in such films as “Early Summer” (1951) and “Early Spring” (1956) or Michiko Kogure in “The Flavor of Green Tea Over Rice” (1952), all by Ozu.

She later transferred to the Toho studio, where she starred as the level-headed geisha wife of a merchant prince’s dilatory son in Shiro Toyoda’s “Meioto Zenzai” (1955); she reprised the role in the 1963 follow-up. She also worked with her co-star Hisaya Morishige in the popular “Station Front” comedy series, which ran for 24 episodes from 1958 to 1969.

Awashima kept working in films, TV dramas and stage productions into her 80s. Though known for her comic talents, she appeared in everything from samurai pics to modern dramas. Her last film role was in Masahiro Kobayashi’s 2010 drama “Haru’s Journey.”

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