Haruko Sugimura was a great stage and screen actress who gained world-wide fame in classic films by the masters of the Japanese cinematographic art – Akira Kurosawa, Yasujiro Ozu, Mizoguchi and Keisuke Kinoshita, among many others. She was also a “sacred monster” of the revitalised new Japanese stage in the style known as shingkei, strongly influenced by realistic European drama.
Sugimura was born in Hiroshima, but her parents died when she was very small, and she was adopted by a building contractor who was a shareholder in the Kotobukiza Theatre in that city. Her adoptive mother was a theatre fan, and from an early age took her to watch performances of kabuki, bunraku (puppet theatre), shimpa (a new form of kabuki using both male and female players) and visiting western ballet and opera. Haruko was spellbound by Pavlova in The Dying Swan but even more impressed by the great soprano Miura Tamaki in Madame Butterfly. So her early ambition was to become an opera singer.