Tokyo: Japanese actress Setsuko Hara, star of “Tokyo Story” and a host of other classic films, has died aged 95, media reported on Thursday, nearly three months after her death.
Hara had been in hospital since mid-August and her death on September 5 from pneumonia was not immediately made public “as she wished no fuss be made”, her 75-year-old nephew told Kyodo News agency.
A private funeral service was held, he added.
Hara, whose real name was Masae Aida, made her debut in the 1930s, but rose to prominence after World War II working with famed director Yasujiro Ozu, most notably on his acclaimed “Tokyo Story”.
In that 1953 film, considered a masterpiece of global cinema, she played a woman widowed by the war who treats the ageing parents of her late husband kindly during their visit to Tokyo, in contrast to their own children, who are too busy.
A poll of noted regional filmmakers and international critics published last month at the Busan International Film Festival rated the drama as the best Asian film of all time.
In Ozu’s “Late Spring” and “Early Summer”, she played a modest and elegant woman, in movies that tackled the issue of fraying family bonds as Japan’s economy rapidly modernised.
She appeared in “No Regrets for Our Youth” and “The Idiot” by Akira Kurosawa — director of “Seven Samurai” — and in the work of Tadashi Imai and Mikio Naruse.
Hara — who reportedly never married and was known in Japan as the “Eternal Virgin” — abruptly withdrew from the movie industry after her last film in 1962.
In retirement she lived in a house next to relatives in Kamakura, a scenic seaside city south of Tokyo that served as Japan’s medieval capital.
She never explained her sudden departure from the industry, adding to the mystique surrounding her.
But in a rare interview with a newspaper in 1992, she played down her accomplishments as one of Japan’s foremost actresses during what some herald as a golden age of cinema for the country.
“It was not just me who was shining,” she told the top-selling Yomiuri newspaper.
“At that time everyone was shining.”