is a Japanese Enka
singer and actress.
Life and career
In 1970, with little success but extensive experience in the movie business, Meiko Kaji signed up with the Nikkatsu
movie studio and was subsequently cast in more or less important roles in the Stray Cat Rock
series. The films concern juvenile girl gang confrontations and, although inventive, they suffer from poor scripts throughout the series. In 1971 Nikkatsu started moving into the financially lucrative pink film
business. To avoid this Kaji moved to Toei
where she met director Shunya Ito
and made four women in prison films
in the Female Prisoner Scorpion
series, which made her famous throughout Japan. The films were adapted from a well-known manga
by Toru Shinohara
. In the fourth installment Toei replaced director Shunya Ito with Yasuharu Hasebe
, a decision that Kaji was unhappy about, and she subsequently left the series, which continued until 1998 with six new installments of markedly lesser quality.
In 1973 she took on the role of Yuki in the revenge-themed film Lady Snowblood, which later gained popularity as a cult film in the West. It was based on a manga by Kazuo Koike who also created the Crying Freeman and Lone Wolf and Cub manga series. The film was one of the inspirations for Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill films. It was followed by the sequel, Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance.
Kaji went on to appear in several of Kinji Fukasaku's films, most notably Yakuza Graveyard (1976). In 1978, she starred in a film adaptation of Sonezaki Shinju, for which she earned nominations for Best Actress at five different awards shows, winning four of them. However, the film remains unseen by many of her fans, due to the fact that it has never been released on video or DVD.
Kaji's singing career was closely tied to her movie career, and she often sang on the soundtracks of films she starred in. The theme song to Lady Snowblood, "Flower of Carnage" (Shura no Hana), and the theme song of the Sasori series, "Urami Bushi" (lit. Grudge Song), both sung by Kaji, were used in Tarantino's Kill Bill films. Owing to this, she has seen a surge of renewed interest in her work.
In 1989 Kaji portrayed Omasa, an informant, in the television jidaigeki ''Onihei Hankachō (the Shochiku-Fuji Television version starring kabuki actor Nakamura Kichiemon II).
- The Blind Woman's Curse (1970) (Kaidan nobori ryu) (d. Teruo Ishii)
- Stray Cat Rock series
- Female Juvenile Delinquent Leader: Stray Cat Rock (1970) (Onna banchô: Nora-neko rokku) (d. Yasuharu Hasebe)
- Stray Cat Rock : Wild Jumbo (1970) (Nora-neko rokku: Wairudo janbo) (d. Toshiya Fujita)
- Stray Cat Rock: Sex Hunter (1970) (Nora-neko rokku: Sekkusu hanta) (d. Yasuharu Hasebe)
- Stray Cat Rock: Machine Animal (1970) (Nora-neko rokku: Mashin animaru) (d. Yasuharu Hasebe)
- Stray Cat Rock: Crazy Rider '71 (1971) (Nora-neko rokku: Bōsō shudan '71) (d. Toshiya Fujita)
- Sasori series
- Female Convict 701: Scorpion (1972) (Joshuu 701-gō: Sasori) (d. Shunya Ito)
- Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41(1972) (Joshuu sasori: Dai-41 zakkyo-bō) (d. Shunya Ito)
- Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable (1973) (Joshuu sasori: Kemono-beya) (d. Shunya Ito)
- Female Prisoner Scorpion: #701's Grudge Song (1973) (Joshuu sasori: 701-gō urami-bushi) (d. Yasuharu Hasebe)
- Lady Snowblood (1973) (Shurayukihime) (d. Toshiya Fujita)
- Battles Without Honor and Humanity: Hiroshima Deathmatch (1973) (Jingi naki tatakai: Hiroshima shito hen) (d. Kinji Fukasaku)
- Lady Snowblood 2: Love Song of Vengeance (1974) (Shurayukihime: Urami Renga) (d. Toshiya Fujita)
- Yakuza Graveyard (1976) (Yakuza no hakaba: Kuchinashi no hana) (d. Kinji Fukasaku)
- Lullaby of the Earth (1976) (Daichi no komoriuta) (d. Yasuzo Masumura)
- Sonezaki Shinju (1978) (Sonezaki Shinju) (d. Yasuzo Masumura)