From The Age:
OVER the course of nearly 200 films, Hideko Takamine, developed from an endearing child star into an actress who powerfully represented the Japanese woman's search for identity and autonomy in the years after World War II. She has died in Tokyo of lung cancer, aged 86.
Takamine, who often seemed to be gallantly fighting back tears with her famously gentle smile, was widely regarded by Japanese and foreign critics as one of the three great actresses of the classical Japanese cinema.
Her two peers were the aristocratic Kinuyo Tanaka, who worked extensively with the director Kenji Mizoguchi and Setsuko Hara, whose portrayals of modern middle-class women were associated with the films of Yasujiro Ozu (Tokyo Story).
Takamine was most notably the muse of Mikio Naruse, who, although not as well known a director in the west as Mizoguchi and Ozu, is frequently ranked as equally important in Japanese film history. For Naruse, Takamine often played women from rural or lower-middle-class backgrounds who were forced to make their own way in the world, often saddled with weak or unfaithful men.