Japanese media reported that she died of multiple organ failure due to colorectal cancer, in a Tokyo hospital on Monday (July 25, 2022).
Born in 1953 in Kumamoto, a city on the southern island of Kyushu, Shimada made her TV debut in the 1970 drama “Osanazuma.” She became popular in the 1970s playing pure and virtuous types on TV and in films, including the 1974 hit “The Castle of Sand.”
Despite limited English-language skills, she had one of the few English-speaking roles in “Shogun” when she was cast in the role of Mariko (aka Lady Toda Buntaro), the love interest of Richard Chamberlain’s shipwrecked British navigator turned samurai. Nevertheless, her portrayal as an aristocratic woman who dies saving her foreign lover’s life earned Shimada her first and only Golden Globe.
The series, an adaptation of the James Clavell novel, was a massive hit in the U.S. But it played in Japan in a theatrical version that disappointed at the box office. NBC, Paramount Television, Asahi National Television, Toho Company and trading firm Jardine Matheson had production credits.
Following “Shogun”’s worldwide success, Shimada essayed other roles in Hollywood, while continuing to work in Japan, mainly on television. One such international project was “Little Champion,” a 1981 biopic of Japanese-American marathoner Michiko “Miki” Suwa Gorman with Shimada playing the lead.
But Shimada found herself embroiled in scandal when an affair with married rock star Uchida Yuya became tabloid fodder. She was reported to have had alcohol problems and amassed debts that she tried to clear by appearing in a nude photo book 1992. The book was a bestseller, but it damaged her standing as an actor. A kind of nadir was reached when she appeared in an adult video in 2011. Her last screen role was in the 2016 Saiga Toshiro drama “Kanon.”