Isuzu Yamada

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Isuzu Yamada
Isuzu Yamada in 1937
Native name 山田 五十鈴
Born Mitsu Yamada
(1917-02-05)5 February 1917
Osaka, Japan
Died 9 July 2012(2012-07-09) (aged 95)
Occupation Actress
Years active 1930–2002

Isuzu Yamada (山田 五十鈴 Yamada Isuzu?, 5 February 1917 – 9 July 2012) was a Japanese actress whose career on stage and screen spanned eight decades.

Early life[edit]

Yamada was born in Osaka as Mitsu Yamada.[1] Her father, Kusuo Yamada, was a shinpa stage actor specializing in onnagata roles and her mother, Ritsu, was a geisha.[1][2] Her family was poor, but under her mother's influence, she began learning nagauta and Japanese traditional dance from the age of six.[3]


Yamada debuted as a film actress in 1930 at age twelve, appearing in a Nikkatsu film, Ken o Koete, opposite Denjirō Ōkōchi.[2] She soon became one of Nikkatsu's top actresses,[4] but it was her strong portrayals of two rebellious modern girls in Kenji Mizoguchi's Osaka Elegy and Sisters of the Gion in 1936 at the new Daiichi Eiga studio that earned her popularity and critical acclaim.[2] Moving to Shinkō Kinema and then to Toho, she starred in a series of films with Kazuo Hasegawa, such as Mikio Naruse's Tsuruhachi Tsurujirō (1938) and Masahiro Makino's Kinō Kieta Otoko (1941), that made her a major star.[1]

Yamada appeared in the films of many of the Japanese directors, including Yasujirō Ozu for Tokyo Twilight (1957) and Akira Kurosawa for The Lower Depths (1957), Throne of Blood (1957) and Yojimbo (1961).[5]

From the mid-1950s, she appeared more and more on stage and on television,[2] including the Hissatsu series.[6]

Personal life[edit]

Yamada was married four times, first to the actor Ichirō Tsukita, second to the producer Kazuo Takimura, third to the actor Yoshi Katō, and fourth to the actor Tsutomu Shimomoto.[4] Her daughter with Tsukita, Michiko, became famous as the actress Michiko Saga.[1]


Yamada died in Tokyo on 9 July 2012 at the age of 95.[7][8]


Yamada earned numerous accolades during her long career. She earned double honors, a Blue Ribbon Award and a Mainichi Film Award for best actress, two times: in 1952 for Gendai-jin and Hakone Fūunroku,[9][10] and in 1956 for Boshizō, Neko to Shōzō to Futari no Onna, and Nagareru.[11][12] She also won a Blue Ribbon Award for best supporting actress in 1955 for Takekurabe and Ishigassen.[13] She received a Special Award from the Chairman of the Japan Academy in 1995 in honor of her lifetime achievements in cinema.[14] For her work on stage, she has been awarded the Grand Prize (Taishō) three times from the Agency for Cultural Affairs's Arts Festival (Geijutsusai) for the plays Tanuki (1974), Aizome Takao (1977), and Daiyu-san (1983).[15]

She was named a Person of Cultural Merit by the Japanese government in 1993[4] and became the first actress to receive the illustrious Order of Culture from the Emperor of Japan in 2000.[3][16][17] The Order of Culture is considered Japan's "top cultural award."[18]



  1. ^ a b c d "Yamada Isuzu". Nihon jinmei daijiten + Plus (in Japanese). Kōdansha. Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d "Yamada Isuzu-san in Bunka Kunshō juyo". Theater Guide Online (in Japanese). 27 October 2000. Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Iwamoto, Nao (2003). "Saigo no daijoyū Yamada Isuzu". Noa's Room (in Japanese). Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c "Yamada Isuzu keizu". Kingendai keizu wārudo (in Japanese). Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  5. ^ Bergan, Ronald (11 July 2012). "Isuzu Yamada obituary". The Guardian. 
  6. ^ Schilling, Mark (9 July 2012). "Japanese silent movie star dies - Variety". Variety. 
  7. ^ "Yamada Isuzu-san shikyo". Supōtsu Hōchi (in Japanese). Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  8. ^ Lim, Dennis (16 June 2012). "Isuzu Yamada, Actress Who Worked With Kurosawa, Dies at 95". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 June 2012. 
  9. ^ "Burū Ribon shō hisutorī 1952". Cinema Hōchi (in Japanese). Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  10. ^ "Mainichi Konkūru ni tsuite 1952". Mainichi Film Awards (in Japanese). Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  11. ^ "Burū Ribon shō hisutorī 1956". Cinema Hōchi (in Japanese). Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  12. ^ "Mainichi Konkūru ni tsuite 1956". Mainichi Film Awards (in Japanese). Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  13. ^ "Burū Ribon shō hisutorī 1955". Cinema Hōchi (in Japanese). Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  14. ^ "Dai 18-kai Nihon Akademī Shō yūshū sakuhin" (in Japanese). Japan Academy Prize. Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  15. ^ "Bunkachō Geijutsusaishō jushō ichiran" (in Japanese). Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  16. ^ "Nobel chemist to get Order of Culture". The Japan Times. 25 October 2000. 
  17. ^ Matsui, Makoto (9 February 2010). ""Haha" Yamada Isuzu to no fukai kizuna". Nikkan Sports (in Japanese). Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  18. ^ "2 Nobel laureates among 7 recipients of year's top culture award". Japan Today. 27 October 2010. Retrieved 24 December 2010. 
  19. ^ Bock, Audie (1978). Japanese Film Directors. Kodansha. p. 65. ISBN 0-87011-304-6. 

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