The Other Side of Lost in Translation


Blacks in Japan part 1

First of all,
I will try to talk about this subject as frank as possible.
If I offend anyone, please pardon me.

These black & white pics you are seeing are
from the film called "Kiku and Isamu"(1959)

Though I myself never seen this movie,
according to the books and articles I read, this is the film
about two mixed breed kids, half Japanese-half Black,
growing up in a rural area and post-war era of Japan.

Their mother was a prostitute,
as many Japanese women became ones for survival in those days,
and had a couple of kids with American Black GI.
Then he left by himself, as it's a same old story,
and their mother dumped them to her mother
who lived and worked as a farmer in a very rural area of Japan.
As kids grew up to be very naughty
and out of control of their granma,
they had to face lots of discrimination
and be teased & bullied by other kids as well.
They were called "Kuronbo" which is Japanese N-word.

In those days, many mix-breed kids were born in Japan
and most of them were between Japanese women and American GIs as this film suggests.
Now they are called "Half" but then they were called
"Ai-no-ko(合いの子)", means half-breed,
or "Konketsuji(混血児)" means mixed breed.
At that time it did not matter half breed with White or Black,
all mixed breed kids were teased and bullied.
That certainly does not happen only in Japan,
but especially in an almost homogenized society like Japan,
more likely to happen.
However, probably it was more difficult
for the kids with Black heritage, I guess.
Because Japanese has a great racial complex toward White
but a comtempt to other races, generally speaking.

Untill '60s, Japanese had quite bad stereo type images toward Blacks.
I do not want to blame everything on Hollywood
but it was mosdef a big factor.
Untill '60s, you could rarely see any possitive images about Blacks
in Hollywood films.
And Japanese love Hollywood movies, like "Gone with the Wind"
which features walking stereo types like Hattie McDaniel.

Back then, "Chibi Kuro Sambo (Little Black Sambo)" was
one of the most popular kids books in Japan.

And this was the most popular toy in '60s called
"Dakko-chan" which means like a haggie kid
because the structure of this toy allows it to hang on to your arm.

Even today, if you ask Japanese what is wrong with this image,
they do not understand why and they think they are cute.

Okay, let's go back to the movie "Kiku and Isamu"
I heard this is a not depressive movie.
Even though Kiku(older sis)and Isamu(younger bro) were discriminated,
they try to live their lives strongly.
However, the people from adoption agency came
and granma agreed to send only Isamu to U.S.
(I do not know why only Isamu was sent)
After Isamu was gone, Kiku tried to commit a suicide
by hanging herself.
But the rope snapped off because she was too heavy.
And becuase of the shock of that incident, she had her first period
and her granma said to her that
she would tell all farming skills to Kiku
so she could be independent to live her life
no matter what would happen to her.

Even during '50s and '60s,
as there were many devoting Jazz fans in Japan,
many Black Jazz musicians were invited to Japan to perform.
In those days, Jazz was the music for intelligent
and sophisticated people in Japan.
So not all images Japanese had about Blacks were negative.
But of course, Jazz has never been a music for the majority in Japan.
It was for the educated class generally.

However, the images about Blacks in Japan started to change
in mid '70s.

To be continued

This is how the girl who played the role of Kiku looks like now.
Her name is Emiko Takahashi and she is a singer.

There used to be a few half Japanese-half Black singers in Japan
like Ken sanders, Michi Aoyama and Joe Yamanaka.

"Manhattan Blues" by Michi Aoyama

Joe Yamanaka sings his signature hit "Ningen no Shomei"
Theme song from the movie of the same title, which is
the tragic story about Half Japanese-half Black boy
comig back to Japan to look for his mother
but being killed by her who did not want to have any scandal
that possibly would destroy her new political career.

This is the CNN clip that Jero talking about
his half-Japanese mother's experience in Japan.


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