Minamida Yoko

The wideshows this morning were replete with stories on the death of the actress Minamida Yoko. She passed away on the 21st of a subarachnoid hemorrhage at the age of 76. Minamida entered Daiei in 1951 and first came to fame appearing in the "Seiten" (sex book) series with Wakao Ayako. She moved to Nikkatsu in 1955, the same year she appeared in Season of the Sun (Taiyo no kisetsu), the first of the sun tribe or taiyozoku films that brought Ishihara Yujiro to fame. But her co-star in that film was Nagato Hiroyuki, whom she eventually married in 1961. 

This brought her into the royal family of Japanese cinema, since Nagato's grandfather was Makino Shozo, the "father" of Japanese cinema (who discovered many of the great jidaigeki stars such as Onoe Matsunosuke and Bando Tsumasaburo); his parents, Sawamura Kunitaro (who appears in The Pot Worth a Million Ryo, and is the brother of Kato Daisuke, of Kurosawa fame) and Makino Tomoko, an actress in her own right; his uncle, the great jidaigeki and yakuza film director Makino Masahiro; and his brother, the actor Tsugawa Masahiko, who appeared in the next taiyozoku film, Crazed Fruit (Kurutta kajitsu, 1957) and has recently been directing films using the name Makino Masahiko. 

The Japanese Wikipedia has a quite extensive diagram of the Makino family tree, which has even more famous people than I mentioned, including the man who brought us Amuro Namie and Speed.

Minamida's relationship with Nagato tended to overshadow her acting career, even though she appeared in a wide variety of films, my favorite being Kawashima Yuzo's Sun in the Last Days of the Shogunate (Bakumatsu taiyoden, 1957). She also was a major star on television, both in dramas and variety shows such as Music Fair, which she co-hosted with Nagato for 16 years, and Quiz Derby

She once published a book about taking care of her bedridden father-in-law, so it was perhaps ironic that when she started suffering from dementia around 2005, Nagato took care of her. This became the subject of a television documentary and other media.

Minamida was one of my more favorite actresses: bright, quick, strong and witty, if a bit melodramatic at times. She is definitely worth another look.

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