Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

Yoko Shimada as Mariko and Richard Chamberlain as Blackthorne starred in “Shogun,” a 1980 television adaptation of James Clavell’s novel. (Paramount)

Rafu Wire and Staff Reports

TOKYO — Yoko Shimada, a Japanese actress best known in the U.S. for her role in the 1980 miniseries “Shogun,” died on July 25 at a Tokyo hospital, her office said. She was 69.

Yoko Shimada in December 1987. (Kyodo)

A native of Kumamoto Prefecture whose real name was Yoko Nakamura, she had been battling colon cancer, according to sources.

She rose to fame for her performance as the heroine in the 1971 sequel to the Japanese television series “Hyouten” (Freezing Point), based on the best-selling novel of the same name.

Yamada played Hiromi Nohara in the 1971 series “Kamen Rider” and Yoko Sugita in the 1974 series “We Are Youth.” She also appeared in such films as “Suna no Utsuwa” (Castle of Sand), directed by Yoshitaro Nomura, in 1974; “Wagahai wa Neko de Aru” (I Am a Cat), directed by Kon Ichikawa, in 1975; and “Inugami-ke no Ichizoku” (The Inugami Family), directed by Ichikawa, in 1976.

In 1981, Shimada took home a Golden Globe for best actress in a television drama and received an Emmy nomination for her portrayal of Mariko in the five-episode NBC miniseries “Shogun,” based on the novel by James Clavell. Set in 17th-century Japan, the series also starred Richard Chamberlain as Blackthorne, Toshiro Mifune as Toranaga, Frankie Sakai as Yabu, and Damien Thomas as Father Alvito. Much of the dialogue was in Japanese, with Mariko serving as Blackthorne’s interpreter.

“Shogun” was an international hit, but a theatrical version released in Japan did not perform well.

Shimada starred in an international project, “Little Champion,” a 1981 biopic of marathon runner Miki Suwa Gorman, guest-starred in an episode of “Chicago Story” in 1982, and appeared in “Sanga Moyu,” an NHK drama about Japanese American history.

According to Variety, Shimada became embroiled in scandal when her affair with married rock star Yuya Uchida became public knowledge in 1988. Heavily in debt, she appeared in a nude photo book in 1992. It was a best-seller but damaged her reputation as an actress.

Her subsequent foreign film credits include “The Hunted” (1995), “Crying Freeman” (1995), based on the Japanese manga, “Hero Zheng Chengong” (2001), and “Undiscovered Tomb” (2002).

Her most recent Japanese films include “Shinku” (The Deep Red) (2005), “Shimada  Yoko ni Aitai” (To Live as an Actress) (2010), in which she played herself in a comedic role, “Mikkai” (2011), “Hei no Naka no Kamisama” (God in Jail) (2016), and “Kanon” (2016).

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  1. Very gifted actress who opened up another world of history for me to study. She was as beautiful as she was talented….I am sorry for the loss of her.