Miyazaki Aoi began her acting career when she was only 4. Today, she is one of Japan’s most acclaimed actresses. Despite being only 25, Miyazaki holds more years of experience than many older talents.
Miyazaki started off her career as a child model and later starred as an extra in various television dramas. Her claim to fame though was in the 2000 film, Eureka that she starred in with her brother Miyazaki Masaru and Yakusho Koji (Memoirs of a Geisha).
Despite being a ridiculously long art movie filmed in sepia (almost 4 hours) with sparse dialogue, I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful scenes in the show when I watched it years ago. The amount of emotion expressed through by Yakusho and the teenage Miyazakis’ acting ability was amazing. The show won awards at the Cannes Film Festival and the Singapore International Film Festival.
Miyazaki Aoi is well known for being childhood friends with fellow actresses Aoi Yu, Becky and Kuriyama Chiaki. In a country where scandals are a dime a dozen, Miyazaki is one of the few celebrities who manage to keep a flawless record even after years of media spotlight. This is partly due to how conservative she has been off camera. Not many details of Miyazaki’s personal life are available to the public.
In 2007 however, Miyazaki married Takaoka Sosuke, whom she had been dating for more than 7 years. As an actor Takaoka Sosuke specializes in arty films too, his debut being Battle Royale. Interestingly, he plays the best friend of Kuriyama Chiaki in the show.
In 2008, she took the lead role in the NHK year long Taiga drama, Atsuhime. Her biggest television role yet. The drama eventually became the most watched show since 1997. Its final episode reached a viewership rating of 34.9%! Miyazaki’s stunning performance won her various awards for her portrayal of princess Atsuhime.
The public love Miyazaki for her wholesome personality. She rarely appears in dramas and instead focuses on portraying pure characters in depressing art films. Despite Miyazaki’s minimal coverage in mainstream media, the multi-award winning actress often comes out tops in popularity polls. This translates to her being one of the most endorsed celebrities in Japan.
Miyazaki can be frequently seen on television commercials promoting all matter of products. She also consistently appears in multiple magazines each month. Her influence among the Japanese public only wavering when held up against Nagasawa Masami’s.
Miyazaki Aoi’s most commercial film is probably the 2005 adaption of the popular shoujo manga, Nana. In this movie, Miyazaki starred alongside Mika Nakashima as the naive Komatsu Nana, one of the two titular characters.
Nana was Miyazaki’s most financially successful movie to date. Despite the success though, she did not return for the film’s sequel in 2006. It has been suggested that Miyazaki refused the role to maintain her pure image in front of cameras. Hachi’s lost of innocence is instead portrayed by the rather irritating Ichikawa Yui.
Miyazaki is known for being an avid photography enthusiast. She initially used a Nikon but signed up with Olympus as their spokesperson 3 years ago. She was previously seen promoting the 400 and 500 series Olympus cameras. She now appears in advertisements for the company’s recent line of PEN camera models.
Since 2008 up until last month, Miyazaki could also be seen promoting the Tokyo Metro. She was featured in an series of Tokyo Metro Posters advertising the railway line. She has now been replaced by Aragaki Yui in the campaign.
Miyazaki Aoi’s most recent work is another manga based film called Soranin. Based on the trailer and posters that I saw around Shinjuku, it seems like yet another gloomy art film with Miyazaki in the lead role. It doesn’t help the theme for the movie is played by the melancholic Asian Kung-Fu Generation. Soranin looks like a depressingly enjoyable movie that will be loved by fans of the genre.
Images courtesy of Miyazaki Aoi’s now defunct photo blog for the older series of Olympus cameras.