Masako Natsume

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Masako Natsume
Masako Natsume on the cover of a 1997 calendar
Native name 夏目 雅子
Born Masako Odate
(1957-12-17)December 17, 1957
Roppongi, Tokyo, Japan
Died September 11, 1985(1985-09-11) (aged 27)
Cause of death Leukemia
Resting place Hōfu, Yamaguchi
Occupation Actress
Years active 1976–1985
Height 1.64
Spouse(s) Shizuka Ijūin (1984–1985)
Awards Best actress, 8th Hochi Film Award (1983)

Masako Natsume (夏目 雅子?, Natsume Masako, December 17, 1957 - September 11, 1985) was a Japanese actress from Tokyo. Widely popular in Japan she gained worldwide recognition for her portrayal of Tripitaka in the TV series Monkey which is now considered a cult classic.


Masako was born Masako Odate in Roppongi, Tokyo, the only daughter of Sue and Kazu Odate. Raised in Naka-ku, Yokohama, while in junior college in 1976 she auditioned for the lead in Nihon TV's Ai Ga Miemasu Ka?. Chosen from 4,000 applicants, she dropped out of school to pursue an acting career, playing the part under her real name Masako Odate. Masako's mother initially objected to her choice of career and requested that she not use the Odate family name if she gained further work. In 1977, she changed her name to Natsume.

In 1977, she was chosen to represent Kanebo Cosmetics, achieving great popularity after appearing topless as the "Kooky Face" girl in an ad for sunscreen. This popularity led to her recording a song later that year called "Oh! Cookie Face". Many bit parts and a few leads in movies followed but she continued in television.

In 1978-79, she played the male part of Tripitaka (Sanzō-hōshi, Japanese translation of Sanzang-fashi) in the 1970s Japanese TV program Saiyūki, which proved popular in many English-speaking countries in the 1980s, when dubbed by the BBC and titled Monkey. Masako won the part as she had matched contemporary descriptions of Sanzō-hōshi's appearance more closely than male actors who auditioned.

Masako made her stage debut with the Tokyo-Takarazuka Theater Company in 1980 in the play "Kikaishi Naporeon No Taishoku".

Specialising as well-bred but shy heroines in her movies, she was regularly criticized by the public and media for her poor acting. However, this changed in 1982 after appearing as an ambitious and immoral woman in the TV drama "Shousha" and as the daughter of a Yakuza leader in the movie "Onimasa". One of her lines from this movie "Don't you shit with me!" became a very popular catchphrase in Japan.

She won the award for best actress at the 8th Hochi Film Award for The Catch and Time and Tide.[1]


She died from acute leukemia at the age of 27 in 1985 and is buried in Hōfu, Yamaguchi under the name Masako Nishiyama.


In 1997, Canon produced a television commercial for a copy machine, featuring her photocopied images, which offered 100 free compilations of the images in a book. Canon received 230,000 applications. Masako Natsume picture books and calendars are still popular in Japan today.

In 2007, TBS broadcast a documentary on Masako's life titled "Himawari - Masako Natsume 27 - sai no Shougai to Haha no Ai" based on the book "Futari no Masako" written by her mother, Sue Odate. The documentary stars Yagi Yūki as Natsume in her childhood and Nakama Yukie as a grown Natsume.



  • Kaze no Hayato (1979)
  • The Shousha (1980) - Maki Matsuyama
  • Downtown monogatari (1981)
  • Nonomurabyouin monogatari (1981) - Noriko Kitami
  • Onna Taikōki (1981) - Oichi
  • Dokkiri Tenma-sensei 2 (1983)
  • Tokugawa Ieyasu (1983) - Yodo-dono

Television in a starring role[edit]

  • Ai Ga Meimasu Ka (Can you see love?)
  • Akum no Temariuta (Devil)
  • Ougon no Hibi (Platinum Age)
  • Y no Higeki (Tragedy of Y)
    This television drama was the first Japanese drama based on an Ellery Queen novel.
  • Saiyuki (Monkey)
  • Nijiko no Boukan (Adventures of Nijiko)



Both of Masako's brothers, Kazuo and Toshiaki Odate are professional golfers. Toshiaki won the 1993 Woodone Open and the 2001 JCB Classic. Masako's sister-in-law, Yoshiko Odate, an actress and former member of the popular 1970s pop group The Candies died on April 21, 2011 of breast cancer.[2]

Mawaru-Penguindrum, a 2011 Japanese anime series produced by Brain's Base has a character named Masako Natsume.


  1. ^ 報知映画賞ヒストリー (in Japanese). Cinema Hochi. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  2. ^ Ex-Candies member Tanaka dies The Japan Times April 23, 2011

External links[edit]