Teshigahara was born in Tokyo, son of Sofu Teshigahara, founder and grand master of the Sogetsu School of ikebana. He graduated in 1950 from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and began working in documentary film. He directed his first feature film, Pitfall (1962), in collaboration with author Kōbō Abe and musician Tōru Takemitsu. The film won the NHK New Director's award, and throughout the 1960s, he continued to collaborate on films with Abe and Takemitsu while simultaneously pursuing his interest in ikebana and sculpture on a professional level.
In 1965, the Teshigahara/Abe film Woman in the Dunes (1964) was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film and won the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. In 1972, he worked with Japanese researcher and translator John Nathan to make the movie Summer Soldiers, a film set during the Vietnam War about American deserters living on the fringe of Japanese society.
From the mid-1970s onwards, he worked less frequently on feature films as he concentrated more on documentaries, exhibitions and the Sogetsu School and became grand master of the school in 1980.
In 1978, Teshigahara Hiroshi directed the final two episodes of the long running and popular Japanese television series Shin Zatouichi, starring Shintarō Katsu as the blind wandering Yakuza. During Akira Kurosawa's 5 year hiatus from filmmaking, he watched a lot of television and was particularly taken by the final episode of Shin Zatouichi - Episode: Journey of Dreams (新座頭市「夢の旅) (1978). The influence of this particular episode included the initial casting of Shintaro Katsu in the lead roles in Kagemusha and the extended artistic dream sequences contributed to those seen in Kagemusha (1980).
Complete filmography of Hiroshi Teshigahara include: