Misa Uehara  Misa Uehara (上原美佐)
  Date of birth:
  March 26th, 1937
  Fukuoka, Japan
  Date of death:
Acting Filmography


The very brief acting career of Misa Uehara might've never been were it not for the stubbornness of the man who directed her in her screen debut. When it came time to cast the role of Princess Yukihime for Akira Kurosawa's samurai adventure picture The Hidden Fortress (1958), hundreds of women—trained professionals and young starlets alike—auditioned, and were consistently rejected. Kurosawa, ever loyal to his vision, wasn't seeking an experienced talent or a bombshell with marquee value; he wanted "a girl with a fresh and princess-like dignity" who had "the intensity of a samurai's daughter." Dissatisfied with the auditions, he put out a nationwide call, alerting all Toho employees to keep their eyes peeled for his princess.

Twenty-year-old Misa Uehara, then a student at Bunka Women's Junior College, was discovered while visiting her school's former president in Nagoya. One night, the professor escorted her to the movies, to see The Antarctic Continent (1957) at a local Toho-owned theater. A theater employee caught sight of Uehara and alerted the manager, who contacted Toho's main office, and word eventually got around to Kurosawa that they'd found his princess. "When I returned to Tokyo," Uehara recalled many decades later, "Mr. [Hiroshi] Nezu of the Kurosawa team got hold of me and asked me to come to the studio." Kurosawa was more than pleased with his ingénue, particularly with her "miraculous" eyes, and he instructed his staff to model Uehara's makeup after a Noh mask. To prepare herself, Uehara took equestrian classes, and she was coached in acting by Eiko Miyoshi, who would play her lady-in-waiting in the film. And despite Kurosawa's reputation as something of a tyrant, Uehara had nothing but respect for her director and greatly enjoyed the experience of filming.

Uehara never worked for Kurosawa again, but she did make eight more films at Toho, working under a number of reputable directors including Hiroshi Inagaki, Shue Matsubayashi, and Kihachi Okamoto. Twice more—in The Three Treasures (1959) and Saga of the Vagabonds (1959)—she would play a princess; she also became something of a regular in the films of Okamoto, acting in three of his films, including his 1959 Desperado Outpost. In the early 1960s, Misa Uehara retired.

Even though she never made a second film with him, Uehara would eventually reunite with Kurosawa—along with her The Hidden Fortress co-stars Minoru Chiaki and Kamatari Fujiwara—in 1981, when all four appeared in a Fuji-TV program devoted to their movie. As they looked back on the shoot, Uehara continued to show, all these decades later, nothing but complete respect and admiration for Kurosawa. Despite the short length of her career, she was forever grateful for the fond memories making his movie had given her.

Acting Toho Filmography

Date      Title ROLE Type
1958 The Hidden Fortress Yukihime, Princess Produced
1959 The Three Treasures Kushinada, Princess Produced
1959 Daigaku no nijuhachin - Produced
1959 Saga of the Vagabonds Koyuki, Princess Produced
1959 Desperado Outpost Bandit Chieftain's Sister Produced
1959 One Day I... Yuriko Shiroyama Produced
1960 Daigaku no Sanzokutachi - Produced
1960 The Storm of the Pacific Keiko Produced