Rentarō Mikuni

Rentarō Mikuni
Rentarō Mikuni.jpg
around 1950s
Masao Sato

(1923-01-20)January 20, 1923
Gunma, Japan
Died April 14, 2013(2013-04-14) (aged 90)
Occupation Actor
Years active 1950–2013
Height 1.81 m (5 ft 11 12 in)
Children Kōichi Satō

Rentarō Mikuni (三國 連太郎, Mikuni Rentarō) (also sometimes credited 三国連太郎; ; January 20, 1923 – April 14, 2013) was a Japanese film actor from Gunma Prefecture. He appeared in over 150 films since making his screen debut in 1951, and won three Japanese Academy Awards for Best Actor, and a further seven nominations. He also won two Blue Ribbon Awards for Best Actor, in 1960 and in 1989.[1][2] The 1987 film Shinran: Path to Purity (親鸞:白い道), which he wrote and directed, was awarded the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.[3] Actor Kōichi Satō is his son.


Mikuni was born the son of a woman who had become pregnant while working as an indentured servant. His mother then married an electrician who had learned his trade while serving in the military, the man Mikuni considered his father. His stepfather was a member of the burakumin, and Mikuni experienced prejudice as a child, such as automatically being suspected of theft when a bicycle was stolen. He was educated to elementary school level and hoped to then start work with his father, but his father insisted that he should attend middle school. Part way through middle school Mikuni dropped out and left home. He was repeatedly sent home from Tokyo by the police. Finally he escaped and from the age of sixteen to twenty, where he wandered around Japan and Korea (then under Japanese control) doing a variety of jobs. At the age of twenty he received a call-up papers for the Japanese military.[4]

Mikuni attempted to evade the call-up but was arrested by police after his mother informed on him. Instead of being punished he was simply sent to serve in China. He served his time in a unit of unfit and incompetent soldiers, and never fired a weapon at the enemy.[4]

After returning to Japan, he drifted between odd jobs. His career as an actor started when he was asked to do a screen test by a scout. At the time he had no intention of becoming an actor and did the test merely because he was promised some meal tickets.[n 1][4]

He took his stage name from his first role in the 1951 film The Good Fairy directed by Keisuke Kinoshita, for which he won the Blue Ribbon award for best newcomer.[5]

He died in 2013 of acute cardiac failure.[5] In accordance to his wishes, he doesn't need a posthumous dharma name.


Selected television appearances