Her first appearance was in the Shochiku studio's 1929 film Mother (Haha), which brought her tremendous popularity as a child actor, billed at the same level as Shirley Temple in Japan. Some of her film appearances from the 1930s and 1940s are no longer available as they were lost during during the Second World War when Japan's film archives suffered from bombing and fires.
In 1950, she made what was considered a very daring move by breaking with the Japanese studio system, leaving the Shin Toho Studio and becoming a much sought-after freelance actress. Her films with directors Keisuke Kinoshita and Mikio Naruse during the 1950s made her Japan's top star. Her performance as a dedicated small town teacher observing her students' lives over several decades in Kinoshita's The Twenty-four Eyes is credited with that film's tremendous success and enduring popularity. Another powerful performance was as a tenant farmer's daughter who is raped and forced to marry the cruel landlord's crippled son in Immortal Love.
Takamine was especially favored by director Mikio Naruse, starring in a dozen of his films and portraying strong-willed, hardworking women struggling in poverty or lowly positions, and often held down by the traditional family system. Some of her more moving roles include the tragic, love-struck heroine in Floating Clouds and an aging Ginza bar hostess desperate to escape her circumstances in When a Woman Ascends the Stairs.
She married director-writer Zenzo Matsuyama in 1955, but set a precedent by choosing not to give up her acting career. She made many of her most memorable films in the 1960s and retired from making movies in 1979.