Actors & Actresses
(Kanagawa Prefecture, 1973- )
Blood type: A
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Many beautiful young actresses get their start as a 'campaign girl', or swimwear poster girl for a Japanese corporation. In this case of Matsushima, an 18-year old aspiring model, the company was Asahi Kasei - a pharmeceuticals company with no relation to swimwear whatsoever. A year later, in 1993, she got the more visible 'image girl' job with Asahi Beer. Another couple of years of slogging saw her make her TV debut in a forgettable TV drama. Her break came when she auditioned for and got the lead in the 1996 NHK morning drama series Himawari (Sunflower). Unlike the commercial TV stations, NHK has the reputation in Japan of producing 'quality' programs and successful exposure there often brings the prestige of being a 'real' actor.
The following year saw the job offers come flooding in. Suddenly Matsushima was everywhere, appearing in TV dramas, commercials and movies. In 1998 she had no less than three starring roles in serial dramas. She got a huge break when she starred in the popular horror movie Ringu (The Ring) in 1998 and continued the role in spinoffs Rasen (The Spiral, 1998) and Ringu2 (1999). In 2000, she co-starred in the big action movie of the year, White Out alongside Oda Yuji. She also carried a major three-part, end-of-the-century series entitled Hyakunen no Monogatari (100-year Story) in which she played three different, but related, heroines over three generations. Her popularity was widespread and she regularly topped such polls as 'best jeanist' or 'favorite female star'.
In February 2001, she hit the headlines again when she married the popular actor Sorimachi Takashi. The two starred together in the TV drama series GTO: Great Teacher Onizuka a couple of years earlier. They have since had two children and perhaps it was the new role of mother and homemaker, but Matsushima's career went into a relative lull. She remained popular but was eclipsed by other female stars of the same age, in particular Shinohara Ryoko.
But her career was by no means on an interminable downward spiral. In 2011 she gambled somewhat in wearing makeup that aged her and portraying a housekeeper completely devoid of emotion in the NTV series "Kaseifu no Mita" (above). But the show was a huge success and drew the first audience ratings of 40% in more than a decade. "Mita Fever" ensured that Matsushima's career had entered a new and upwardly mobile phase.
Matsushima trivia: she is very short sighted (she wears contacts); her hobbies include painting watercolors, calligraphy and piano; and for some reason she often appears barefoot in commercials.