Edith Hanson is known in the West primarily for her appearances in the TV program THE SPACE GIANTS (Japanese title : MAGMA TAISHI) and the Gamera film variously titled ATTACK OF THE MONSTERS, GAMERA VS. GUIRON, and GAMERA VS. GUILLON. Even then, her name is filed under "obscure trivia" rather than "essential knowledge." Ah, but in Japan? In Japan, she is far better known, and might truly deserve the title "renaissance woman."
Edith Hanson was born August 28, 1939 in Northern India to Methodist missionary parents. One of Edith's siblings was a much older brother named Robert M. Hanson. Robert was a Marine Corps pilot who shot down 25 Japanese planes in WWII before being killed in action in February 1944. That distinction is a little ironic when you consider his sister's later pursuits in that country.
Edith Hanson came to Japan in 1960, and resided in Osaka until 1966. I believe I saw something about a marriage during that time, but my translation skills are not at a level where I'd be willing to say for sure. Regardless, Hanson ended up in Tokyo, and that was where her show business career really took off. After having made her apparent film debut in 1964, she landed a part in the 1966 Toho film ALPS NO WAKAIDAISHO - part of the popular "Wakaidaisho" ("Young Boss") series starring Yuzo Kayama. Though she seems to have curtailed her acting roles since 1987, Hanson has appeared in films as recently as 2003 and on TV as recently as 2006.
What makes Edith Hanson far more worthy of discussion beyond her thespian work is her humanitarian efforts. From 1986-1999, she served as director of the Japanese branch of Amnesty International. She wanted to slow down after leaving that post, but ultimately accepted a position as the director of a non-profit organization called EFA-Japan in 2004. EFA-Japan is dedicated to improving the education and overall situation of children in the countries of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.
Just in case you aren't impressed so far, Hanson is also a published author and essayist. Her credits stretch back at least as far as 1969, and go up to at least 1998. I have no idea if any of her work has ever been published outside of Japan, but getting anything into print at all is a major accomplishment.
I wasn't kidding when I called Edith Hanson a "renaissance woman" in my introduction. In addition to what we've already discussed, she also plays the French horn, and once considered pursuing music professionally. She has also studied Japanese dance, flower arrangement, and tea ceremony. She is a big fan of baseball (the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes were her team before they merged with another club to form the Orix Buffaloes), and, perhaps oddly, professional wrestling. All-Japan Pro Wrestling grappler/owner Shohei "Giant" Baba was a favorite of hers, and she was seen frequently at ringside. She even attended Baba's funeral.
Today, Edih Hanson resides in Tanabe, Wakayama, Japan. She was recently (2010) named a guest professor at Kinki University in Osaka. You can read an English language discussion regarding her work with EFA-Japan at this link.
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