Early Life & Childhood
Erika was born on April 8, 1986 to Yoshikatsu and Lila Sawajiri and is the youngest of the three children of her parents. She was born in the Nerima-ku region in Tokyo. While her father is Japanese, her mother is Algerian.
Her father owned professional racehorses, and Erika often indulged in horseback riding as a child. Her father died of cancer and later one of her brothers die in a traffic accident. These unfortunate incidents ensured the family looked out for each other, and remain closely in touch with each other. Erika’s surviving brother is also an actor.
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Erika Sawajiri began her career by successfully passing the Stardust audition after completing her elementary schooling in 1999. She went on to become a part of ‘Angel Eyes’ and started working as a model for teen magazines such as ‘Cutie’ and ‘Nicola’. She also briefly worked as a bikini model.
Eventually, she began to gain attention through different variety shows and started appearing as a regular on the news program, ‘Harajuku Launchers’, in 2001.
In 2002, she made her movie debut in a film titled ‘Mondai no nai Watashitachi’. Alongside films, she continued working in television, including Fuji TV’s ‘Visual Queens’, NTV’s ‘The Yoru Mo Hit Parade’, CX News’s ‘Chou VIP Fortune no Tobira’, and CBC’s show ‘Bijou Dokyuu’.
She received her first break in the main role when she was cast in the TBS drama ‘Hotman’ in 2003. This served as her launchpad into mainstream television.
2005 proved to be the most crucial year in Sawajiri’s career as her first hit movie ‘Pacchigi!’ was released. Other notable movies from this year include ‘Shinobi’ and ‘Ashura-jô no hitomi’, both of which received critical acclaim.
She was cast in the lead role in the TV series ‘Ichi Rittouru No Namida’ ('One Litre Of Tears'). Erika played play the role of Aya, a teenager who suffers from a terminal disease. The plot revolves around Aya and her family.
In 2006, she was seen in the movies ‘Sugar & Spice’, ‘The Angel's Egg’, and ‘Ghost Train’.
In 2007, she acted in the movie Closed Note’ and thereafter went on a long acting hiatus. The hiatus was trigged by her terse response to a reporter’s question, which received wide criticism in the media.
Erika later postes an official apology on her agency’s website. After some time, there were rumors that her talent company, Stardust Promotions, would end the contract with Erika. The cause for this termination was citied to be Erika’s substance abuse, but her mother denied such allegations.
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She started her singing career under the pseudonym ‘Kaoru Amane’. Her first single ‘Free’ was released in 2007. It was ranked number 1 and was certified platinum. Meanwhile, she stated her desire to comeback into acting.
In 2010, she refered to the original incident of 2007 saying that she was forced to apologize by her agency and spoke out against the might talent agencies hold in Japan. This received both positive and negative press.
She made her comeback with ‘Helter Skelter’ in 2012. This action film directed by Mika Ninagawa saw Erika in the lead role of Liliko. The film went on to become one of the highest-grossing movies of the year.
Her performance in the movie ‘Helter Skelter’ won her the Best Actress in a Leading Role award at the Japanese Academy Awards.
From 2012 to 2018, she would also work for different TV dramas, including ‘First Class’ (2014), ‘Ōoku’ (2016), and ‘Haha ni Naru’ (2017).
She has four releases scheduled in 2018 titled ‘Impossibility Defense’, ‘The Cat in his Arms, ‘Taberu Onna’, and ‘Million Dollar Man’. With her successful resurrection as important actress, Erika continues to remain an active part of the entertainment industry.
Personal Life & Legacy
Erika Sawajiri married the writer-filmmaker, Tsuyoshi Takashiro, on January 20, 2009 at the Meiji Shrine. Their marriage was in the news as she is 20 years younger to Tsuyoshi Takashiro.
In 2013, Erika and Tsuyoshi announced at a press conference that they are officially divorced. Erika Sawajiri later visited Takashiro’s parents to apologize for their failure to continue the relationship.
Erika considers her mother her biggest influence and has often stated that she always consults her before making a big decision. The duo remains very close to each other, often appear together in public conferences.
Erika is known for being one of the most outspoken actresses and this has often put her in the negative limelight. However, her fearless attitude continues to win her many fans.