Masako Natsume

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 Natsume
夏目 雅子
Masako Natsume calendar.jpg
Masako Natsume on the cover of a 1997 calendar
Masako Odate

(1957-12-17)December 17, 1957
DiedSeptember 11, 1985(1985-09-11) (aged 27)
Keio University Hospital, Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
Resting placeHōfu, Yamaguchi
Years active1976–1985
Height1.64 m (5 ft 4+12 in)
Spouse(s)Shizuka Ijūin (1984–1985)
AwardsBest actress, 8th Hochi Film Award (1983)


Masako was born Masako Odate in Shibuya, 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 role in Nihon TV's drama Ai ga miemasu ka ("Can you see love?"). 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 look down on me!" (なめたらいかんぜよ, nametara ikan ze yo, literally "if you look down [on me], it would be regrettable"), became a very popular catchphrase in Japan.[1]

She won the award for best actress at the 8th Hochi Film Award for The Catch and Time and Tide.[2]


In 1984, she married Japanese author Tadaki Nishiyama, known under the pen name Shizuka Ijūin. But after only a year, she died from acute leukemia at the age of 27 in 1985, and is buried in Hōfu, Yamaguchi under the married 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 entitled Himawari – Natsume Masako 27-nen no shōgai to haha no ai ("Sunflower: Masako Natsume, a 27-year life and a mother's love") based on the book Futari no Masako written by her mother, Sue Odate. Yagi Yūki played the part of the young Masako and Nakama Yukie portrayed her as an adult.



Year Title Role Director Notes
1977 Ore no Sora (My Sky) Masashi Matsumoto
Truck Yaro: Otoko Ippiki Momojiro {translation required} Masako Norifumi Suzuki
1980 The Battle of Port Arthur Sachi Matsuo Toshio Masuda A Russo-Japanese War Drama about the Siege of Port Arthur. Masako plays the role of an Imperial Japanese Army officer's girlfriend who stays in Japan.
1981 Masho no Natsu (The Summer of Evil Spirits) Sode Yukio Ninagawa
1982 Onimasa Matsue Kiryuin Hideo Gosha It was Japan's submission to the 55th Academy Awards for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film but was not accepted as a nominee.
Dai Nippon Teikoku (The Great Japanese Empire) Kyōko / Maria Toshio Masuda A WW2 drama where Masako plays two roles. A terminally ill Japanese student striving to become a painter and a Filipino woman.
Future War 198X Laura Gain Tomoharu Katsumata / Toshio Masuda Voice, An animated film with Masako providing the voice for a pilot in the United States Airforce.
1983 Time and Tide Mayumi / Misato Azuma Morisaki Jidai-ya is the name of a shop. Masako plays two roles. The wife of the shops owner who walks out on him and the customer he falls in love with because she looks like his wife.
Antarctica Keiko Kitazawa Koreyoshi Kurahara
Shōsetsu Yoshida Gakkō (Yoshida School) Kazuko Asō Shirō Moritani
The Catch Tokiko Kohama Shinji Sōmai
1984 MacArthur's Children Komako Nakai Masahiro Shinoda
Fireflies in the North Narrator Hideo Gosha (final film role)


Year Title Role Network Notes Ref(s)
1976 Ai Ga Miemasu Ka (Can you see love?) Michiyo NTV Lead role
1977 Akuma no Temariuta (Devil) TBS
1978 Ōgon no Hibi Monica NHK Taiga drama
Y no Higeki (Tragedy of Y) Fuji TV [3]
1978–80 Monkey Tripitaka NTV
1979 Kaze no Hayato NHK
1980 Nijiko no Bouken (Adventures of Nijiko) Nijiko TV Asahi Lead role
The Shousha NHK
1981 Downtown monogatari NTV
Nonomurabyouin Monogatari Noriko Kitami TBS
Onna Taikōki Oichi NHK Taiga drama
1982 Bakumatsu Seishun Graffiti: Sakamoto Ryōma Oryō NTV
1983 Dokkiri Tenma-sensei 2 Fuji TV
Tokugawa Ieyasu Yodo-dono NHK Taiga drama


Year Award Category Work(s) Result
1981 4th Japan Academy Prize Best Supporting Actress Port Arthur Nominated
1982 6th Elan d'or Awards Newcomer of the Year Herself Won
1983 4th Yokohama Film Festival Best Supporting Actress Dai Nippon Teikoku Won
25th Blue Ribbon Awards Best Actress Onimasa Won
8th Hochi Film Award Best Actress The Catch and Time and Tide Won
1984 7th Japan Academy Prize Best Actress Nominated
1985 8th Japan Academy Prize MacArthur's Children Nominated


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 Candies died on April 21, 2011 of breast cancer.[4]

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


  1. ^ "早世のマドンナたち③ 夏目雅子 死の12年後に公開された幻のヌード秘話(3) | アサ芸プラス". アサ芸プラス (in Japanese). Retrieved 2018-04-14.
  2. ^ 報知映画賞ヒストリー (in Japanese). Cinema Hochi. Archived from the original on 2011-03-25. Retrieved 2010-01-24.
  3. ^ This television drama was the first Japanese drama based on an Ellery Queen novel.
  4. ^ Ex-Candies member Tanaka dies The Japan Times April 23, 2011

External linksEdit