Youki Kudoh
Birth Date:
Hachioji, Tokyo, Japan
Birth Place:
January 17, 1971
5' 2¼" (1.58 m)
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Youki Kudoh_290612
Mystery Train


Japanese actress Youki Kudoh first gained recognition in the United States in the late 1980s thanks to her Independent Spirit nominated turn as Mitsuko in Jim Jarmusch's “Mystery Train” (1989). She enjoyed further attention with her roles as Ethan Hawke's lover in Scott Hicks' “Snow Falling on Cedars” (1999), for which she picked up a Golden Satellite nomination, as Pumpkin on Rob Marshall's “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005) and as Jasmine on Brett Ratner's “Rush Hour 3”(2007). Kudoh started her career in Japan as a singer before making an impact in the Japanese cinema by winning the Festival Prize for Best Newcomer at the 6th Yokohama Film Festival for playing Erika Kobayashi in the cult hit  “The Crazy Family” (1984). She went on to become the youngest person ever to win her country's Best Actress Award for her starring role in “War and Youth” (1991), where she also took home a Hochi Film Award and a Blue Ribbon Award for her performance. Kudoh also has appeared in many other Japanese films, such as “Typhoon Club,” “Congratulatory Speech,” “The Wind Carpet,” “Death Note: L Change the World” and “Zatoichi: The Last,”  as well as starred in the winner of Sundance Film Festival's Audience Award for Dramatic, “Picture Bride” (1994), and in the Australian film “Heaven's Burning” (1997, with Russel Crowe).   

Tokyo Girl

Childhood and Family:

Youki Kudoh was born on January 17, 1971, in Hachioji, Tokyo, Japan. She was discovered on the streets of Tokyo when she was still 12 years old. She learned French and English by herself.  

Youki married from January 17, 1995 until 1998.  

Snow Falling on Cedars


After being spotted by talent agents, 12 year old Youki Kudoh began her career as a singer in her native country Japan. She immediately gained a solid fan base as a pop sensation, and had released over ten albums by the time she reached 22.   

Kudoh quickly added acting her endeavors. In 1984, the talented teen made her debut as Erika Kobayashi in the Japanese movie “Gyakufunsha kazoku” (“The Crazy Family”), directed by Gakuryū Ishii. The film was screened at the Cannes Film Festival and became a cult hit in Japan, and she was awarded the Festival Prize for Best Newcomer at the 6th Yokohama Film Festival for her promising performance.

Kudoh next starred as Rie Takami on the Shinji Sōmai directed film “Typhoon Club” (1985), which won Tokyo Sakura Grand Prix at the 1st Tokyo International Film Festival and was the 2nd Best Film at the 7th Yokohama Film Festival, Fusae Saotome on Tomio Kuriyama's “Congratulatory Speech” (1985), Michiko Sawaki in Shinichi Nakata's “Honba jyoshikou manual: Hatsukoi binetsu-hen” (1987), Fuyumi on Shunya Ito's “Hanazono no meikyu” (1984), which received three nominations  at the Award of the Japanese Academy in the categories of Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best Lighting, and Shinko Terazawa in Kôichi Saitô's “Aoi sanmyaku '88” (1988).   

However, Kudoh did not steal the attention of American public until she was cast as Mitsuko in the Jim Jarmusch anthology film, “Mystery Train” (1989). Playing half of a teenage couple from Yokohama making a pilgrimage to Memphis during a trip across America in the first story, “Far From Yokohama,” she was nominated for a 1990 Independent Spirit Award in the category of Best Female Lead.

In 1991, Kudoh starred as Yukari Hanafusa / Sakiko in Tadashi Imai's “Sensou to seishun” (“War and Youth”), from which she netted a Hochi Film for Best Actress, a  Blue Ribbon for Best Actress and an Award of the Japanese Academy nomination for Best Actress. Three years later, she played the lead role of Riyo on the Japanese-American independent film “Picture Bride,” which was nominated for Palme d'Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, where it premiered, and won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. Kudoh received the International Actress of the Year Award from the Japan Film Critics for her work on the film

Kudoh was cast opposite Russel Crowe on the Australian film “Heaven's Burning” (1997), directed by Craig Lahiff and written by Louis Nowra. The film earned mixed reviews from film critics and scored $55,780 from its limited release in Australian theaters. She closed out the decade with a notable turn as Hatsue Imada, the Japanese American love interest of reporter Ishmael Chambers (played by (Ethan Hawke) in the big screen adaptation of David Guterson's novel, “Snow Falling on Cedars” (1999), directed and co-scripted by Scott Hicks. The role brought her a 2000 Golden Satellite nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama. The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

After providing the voice of Saya in the Hiroyuki Kitakubo directed animated film “Blood: The Last Vampire” (2000), which was nominated for an Annie Award in the category of Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Theatrical Feature, Kudoh broke into American television with guest spots on Syfy's “The Chronicle” (2001, as Mina Shen) and Fox's “Undeclared” (2002, as Kikuki). She returned to the Japanese cinema with Kamal Tabrizi's drama “The Wind Carpet” (2003), which became the winner Special Jury Award for Best Directing at the 2003 Fajr Film Festival, before landing the much loved character, Pumpkin, on “Memoirs of a Geisha” (2005), a film adaptation of the novel of the same title by Arthur Golden. Produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Rob Marshall, the film was nominated and won many awards, including nominations for six Academy Awards, and finally won three: Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. It grossed $162,242,962 against a budget of $85 million.  

2006 saw Kudoh appear in an episode of Showtime's “Masters of Horror” called “Imprint” and star in the Jaoanese film “Granny Gabai,” opposite Kazuko Yoshiyukia nd Yûji Miyake. She played a Triad assassin named Jasmine on “Rush Hour 3”(2007), starring Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, Kimiko Kujo in the Japanese box office hit “Death Note: L Change the World” (2008), directed by Hideo Nakata, and Yoshie Ozaki in the drama film “Haru yo koi” (2008). In 2009, she reunited with Jim Jarmusch for the American film “The Limits of Control” (2009), which earned mixed reviews from critics. It was followed by roles on two Japanese movies, “Zatoichi: The Last” (2010) and “Daichi no uta” (2011).

Kudoh will play a role on the Japanese/Canadian production drama “Karakara” (2012), directed by Claude Gagnon.    


Blue Ribbon: Best Actress, “Sensou to seishun” (“War and Youth”), 1992
Hochi Film: Best Actress, “Sensou to seishun” (“War and Youth”), 1991
Yokohama Film Festival: Festival Prize, Best New Actress, “Gyakufunsha kazoku” (“The Crazy Family”), 1985

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