June 17, 1920
Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
|Years active||1935 to 1963|
|Notable work(s)||No Regrets for Our Youth, Late Spring, Early Summer, Tokyo Story|
Setsuko Hara was born Masae Aida (会田 昌江 Aida Masae ) in what is now Hodogaya-ku, Yokohama in a family with three sons and five daughters. Her elder sister was married to film director Hisatora Kumagai, which gave her an entry into the world of the cinema and she went to work for Nikkatsu Studios in Tamagawa, outside Tokyo, in 1935. Her debut was at the age of 15 in Do Not Hesitate Young Folks! (ためらふ勿れ若人よ tamerafu nakare wakōdo yo )  Hara came to prominence as an actress in the 1937 German-Japanese co-production Die Tochter des Samurai (Daughter of the Samurai), known in Japan as Atarashiki Tsuchi (The New Earth), directed by Arnold Fanck and Mansaku Itami. In the film, Hara plays a maiden who unsuccessfully attempts to immolate herself in a volcano. She continued to portray a tragic heroine in many of her films until the end of World War II.
Hara starred in Akira Kurosawa’s first post-war film, No Regrets for Our Youth (1946). She also worked with director Kimisaburo Yoshimura in A Ball at the Anjo House (1947) and Keisuke Kinoshita in Here’s to the Girls (1949). In all of these films, she was portrayed as the “new” Japanese woman, looking forward to a bright future. However, in most of her movies, especially those directed by Yasujirō Ozu and Mikio Naruse she plays the typical Japanese woman, either as daughter, wife, or mother.
Hara’s work with Ozu began with In Late Spring in 1949 and would last for the next twelve years. In Late Spring, she plays Noriko, a devoted daughter who prefers to stay at home and take care of her father than to marry, despite the urgings of her family members. In Early Summer (1951), she played an unrelated character also called Noriko who wanted to get married, and finding the courage to do so without her family’s approval. This was followed by Tokyo Story (1953), perhaps her most famous role, in which she played a widow, also called Noriko whose husband was killed during the war, and her devotion to her dead husband worries her in-laws, who insist that she should move on and remarry.
Hara, who never married, is called "the Eternal Virgin" in Japan and is a symbol of the golden era of Japanese cinema of the 1950s. She quit acting in 1963 (the same year as Ozu's death), and has since led a secluded life in Kamakura, where many of her films with Ozu were made, refusing all interviews and photographs. For years, people would speculate about her reasons for leaving the public eye. Hara herself confessed during her final press conference that she never really enjoyed acting and was only using it as a means to earn money for her family; however, many people continued to speculate over her possible romantic involvement with director Ozu, or the possibility that she had failing eyesight.
After seeing a Setsuko Hara film, the novelist Shūsaku Endō wrote "We would sigh or let out a great breath from the depths of our hearts, for what we felt was precisely this: Can it be possible that there is such a woman in this world?"
- Kōchiyama Sōshun (1936)
- The Daughter of the Samurai (1937)
- The Naval Brigade at Shanghai (1939) - young Chinese woman
- Totsugu hi made (1940)
- A Story of Leadership (1941) - eldest daughter
- Ahen senso aka The Opium War (1943)
- Toward the Decisive Battle in the Sky (1943) - older sister
- Searing Wind (1943) - Kumiko
- Suicide Troops of the Watchtower (1943) - Commander Takazu's wife
- No Regrets for Our Youth (1946)
- Aoi sanmyaku (1949)
- Late Spring (1949)
- Shirayuki-sensei to kodomo-tachi (1950)
- The Idiot (1951)
- Repast (1951)
- Early Summer (1951)
- Tokyo Story (1953)
- Sound of the Mountain (1954)
- Shūu (1956)
- Tokyo Twilight (1957)
- Late Autumn (1960)
- The End of Summer (1961)
- Weston, Mark. Giants of Japan: The Lives of Japan's Greatest Men and Women. Kodansha International. (2002) ISBN 1568363249
- Yoshimoto, Mitsuhiro. Kurosawa: Film Studies and Japanese Cinema. Duke University Press. (2000) ISBN 0822325195
- Abrams, Simon (April 1, 2011). "Setsuko Hara: The diva who left Japan wanting a lot more". Capital New York. Retrieved 7/11/2012.
-  Japan Movie Database
- "ためらふ勿れ若人よ". Japanese Cinema Database (in Japanese). Agency for Cultural Affairs. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
- "HARA, Setsuko". Film Reference. Retrieved 7/11/2012.
- Richie, Donald (April 1, 2011). "Ozu and Setsuko Hara". The Criterion Collection.
- Erickson, Hal. "Setsuko Hara". Allmovie.
- Bradshaw, Peter (June 16, 2009). "The heart-wrenching performance of Setsuko Hara, Ozu's quiet muse". Retrieved 7/11/2012.
- Harris, David. "Rediscover: Late Spring". Spectrum Culture. Retrieved 7/11/2012.
- High, Peter B. (2003). The Imperial Screen. Wisconsin Studies in Film. The University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 233–239. ISBN 0-299-18134-0.
- High, Peter B. (2003). The Imperial Screen. Wisconsin Studies in Film. The University of Wisconsin Press. pp. 239–246. ISBN 0-299-18134-0.
- High, Peter B. (2003). The Imperial Screen. Wisconsin Studies in Film. The University of Wisconsin Press. p. 251. ISBN 0-299-18134-0.
- High, Peter B. (2003). The Imperial Screen. Wisconsin Studies in Film. The University of Wisconsin Press. p. 415. ISBN 0-299-18134-0.
- High, Peter B. (2003). The Imperial Screen. Wisconsin Studies in Film. The University of Wisconsin Press. p. 440. ISBN 0-299-18134-0.
- High, Peter B. (2003). The Imperial Screen. Wisconsin Studies in Film. The University of Wisconsin Press. p. 323. ISBN 0-299-18134-0.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Setsuko Hara.|
- Setsuko Hara at the Internet Movie Database
- Setsuko Hara at AllRovi
- JMDb Profile (in Japanese)
- Setsuko Hara at Ozu-san.com