Legendary Japanese actress Setsuko Hara, of ‘Tokyo Story,’ dies at 95

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Legendary Japanese actress Setsuko Hara, who is best known internationally for her roles in the Yasujirō Ozu films “Late Spring” and “Tokyo Story,” has died. She was 95.

Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported on Wednesday that Hara, whose real name was Masae Aida, had died of pneumonia at a hospital in Kanagawa Prefecture on September 5. It was not immediately known why it took nearly three months for her death to be reported, as she was one of Japan’s most beloved movie stars, though Hara had lived in seclusion since she retired in 1962.

Born in 1920, Hara made her debut in film in 1935 when she was just 15 years old. She appeared in a total of 101 films throughout her 30-year film career, including her role as Noriko Hirayama in the 1953 film Tokyo Story, which is widely regarded as Ozu’s best movie. Other notable credits included her 1937 breakthrough movie “The Daughter of the Samurai” (also known as “The New Earth”), “Late Spring” (1949), “Early Summer” (1951), and “No Regrets for Our Youth” (1946).

Hara unexpectedly announced her retirement in 1962 after appearing in her 101st film, “47 Samurai.” The sudden departure shocked the Japanese film world and was the subject of many rumors, but Hara herself explained in her announcement that she had never enjoyed acting, saying that she was only doing it to support her family. There were rumors that Hara, who was never married, had been romantically involved with Ozu, who died around the time of Hara’s announcement.

After her sudden announcement, Hara completely disappeared from public life and for decades refused all interviews and requests for photographs, until her death in September. Hara spent her retirement in Kamakura, where many of her films with Ozu were made.

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