10.11.2010

Japan and African Americans: Postwar Brown Babies


I was researching brown babies in Japan and I found some incredibly fascinating facts.

First, I found tons of old Ebony and Jet pictures and articles abhoring the fact that many of these half-Japanese, half Black children were being underfed in orphanages and teased mercilessly for being half-blooded Americans



There were many "Brown Babies" left over Germany and Europe, but you don't hear too much about "Brown Babies" in Japan and how incredibly difficult their lives must have been. Of course, the U.S. millitary and government's official policy was "not to intervene". The U.S. state department broke down some of the barriers to African American couples wanting to adopt these orphans, but only a few were able to provide homes for these children. You look into these children's eyes and just are longing to know what happened to these poor babies. Did they get adopted? Did they stay in Japan? Did they try and find their fathers or their fathers' families? Do they STILL live in Japan to this day?

Then I found some slightly happier stories. Against all odds and discriminatory policies, some children were adopted. Below is the story of Emiko Althea Mae King who was adopted by a single mother in Charleston, West Virginia.


My favorite picture is the one of a Japanese couple who adopted a Brown baby, Ruri-chan, whose father drowned while trying to save a friend. She is adorned in a Kimono as her beautifully kinky hair adorns her head. The smile on her adoptive parents face as they look on their new daughter is just heartwarming and you know she must've had an interesting life.



Another Ebony search led me to the story of Michi Morie, a Japanese Brown Baby who, as a teenager, was vying to represent Japan in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics in track.
I love this article because she is Black yet Japanese and is vying to represent Japan as a biracial child of a Black GI. It's fascinating because you see her life as a fully integrated Japanese young woman, adorned in her Japanese School Girl outfit, hanging with friends, and living with her Japanese mother and grandmother. I wonder what became of her and if she made it. I hope she did because what a fascinating story (*cough* underdog sports movie) that would be. As the 1968 Olympics was the sight of the famous raising of the Black Power fist, how fascinating that would be to see the dichotomy of identity this woman holds. Further Google searches revealed nothing but it makes you want to do research on what became of these children.

And finally, the story of the plight of these children was told in an award winning 1959 Japanese film called "Kiku and Isamu" by director Tadashi Imai.



This controversial film was unyielding in the showing the prejudice Brown Babies in Japan faced in post-war Japan. Kiku and Isamu are brother and sister growing up with their maternal grandmother as the children of a Japanese prostitute and a Black GI soldier. With the prospect that one of them may be adopted to a Black family in America, they fight to try and stay together. This film one numerous awards, as well as "Best Japanese Film of 1959" and tops some of the "Best 100 Films of Japan" lists. The 1960 Ebonyarticle documents the search for the young actors who would play these roles that called attention to theirs and thousands of brown babies mistreatment. I literally spent two hours searching for at least a trailer for this movie, but alas no success. Apparently it came out on DVD in Japan but no luck for American fans. I am dying to see this; perhaps my Japanese department might have it or can help procure it.

I will write more next time pertaining to the pre-WWII history between Blacks and Japanese, including the fact that Black support for Japan was high before WWII as they were the only non-white nation to be a member of the League of Nations and they defeated Russia in the 1905 Russo-Japan War. This resulted in communication and support between Black intellectuals such as W.E.B. DuBois and Tokyo, and rumors of Ethiopia and Japan's Royal Families marrying to form an alliance of two non-White nations resisting European colonialism. But I shall leave you with this tantalizing statistic of the day: "Right after Pearl Harbor, one-half of Negroes interviewed told black interviewers that they would be better off, or at least no worse off, under Japanese rule". I'll write more later

Sources:
http://www.columbia.edu/cu/ccbh/souls/vol3no3/vol3num3art2.pdf

http://www.flickr.com/photos/vieilles_annonces/3684740885/

http://books.google.com/books?id=3kOsUZgXbjMC&pg=PA89&dq=Japanese+Brown+Babies&hl=en&ei=15myTJ_GLIKfnAfjyvH5BQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=8&ved=0CFAQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=Japanese%20Brown%20Babies&f=false

http://books.google.com/books?
id=OkbpkXl3lMwC&pg=PA58&lpg=PA58&dq=japanese+brown+babies&source=bl&ots=p0UNei90dK&sig=Kj05TT3UMcv45BgL37HFCNEGjr8&hl=en&ei=75eETKHlMdOkngf3l7xM&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CB0Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false

18 comments:

  1. This is a good post, btw, always good to hear from youy. I hope you get a hold of that movie too.

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  2. Very cool. I just spent a good time trying to find that movie lol. Its not even on amazon.jp. I'm just glad some of them had happy endings. :-)

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  3. Thank you and sorry about the messiness I finished it at 2 in the morning (no excuse I know but I wanted to share). I really really need to find this movie like yesterday lol

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  4. Even in today's world, Japanese tend to have issues with anything "different" and that includes any "differences" among full-blooded Japanese people (insert laughter). Bullying or psychological terror is the order of the day in this society. At least these kids were bullied for being half-American and not just half-Black. Their situation was made worse because the sperm donor didn't stick around to raise them. Such is the case today and being illegitimate, one without a family registry, makes a person "different" not particularly skin color. Even these people can get over that.

    Sachio Kinugasa - Tetsujin ("Iron Man" was probably one of these children. I doubt anyone questions about his racial heritage because he's JINC (Japanese in name and culture). By the way, Cal Ripken did not break his record. Ripken rested during the MLB strike! I just had to get that out there.

    rumors of Ethiopia and Japan's Royal Families marrying to form an alliance of two non-White nations resisting European colonialism.

    Ah... no. This was seriously wishful thinking.

    "Right after Pearl Harbor, one-half of Negroes interviewed told black interviewers that they would be better off, or at least no worse off, under Japanese rule".

    I wonder if this is the same book I have. I vaguely remember the word, sedition, in the title.

    Oh, more importantly, when you look for Japanese movies, you need to search under the Japanese title. In this case,
    キクとイサム. There are only two copies left. It's about $45.00 plus postage. I hope the link works. I'll probably buy a copy if there's one left by the time I log into my home computer this weekend.

    This site has a few images from the movie. More images can be found if you google under the Japanese hiragana name.

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  5. I found some information about the young lady (she is now 62) from the movie, Takahashi Emiko, professional name Takahashi Emi.

     本名は高橋恵美子。父はアメリカ人、母は日本人。1959年に映画「キクとイサム」でキク役を演じ、好評を得る。その後、吉田正、江口浩司に師事し、1976年に「旅立ちの詩」で歌手としてデビュー。1977年に「ブルース」、1994年に「生きる」「ありがとう おばあちゃん」を発表。

    Her real name is Takahashi Emiko. She has an American father and a Japanese mother. In 1959, she played the role of Kiku in the movie, Kiku and Isamu, and earned rave reviews. Afterwards, she became the disciple/apprentice of Yoshida Tadashi and Eguchi Koji (or Hiroshi - the name is read both ways). In 1976, she released her debut song, "Tabidachi no Uta/Song of Departure." In 1977, she released "Blues" and in 1994, "Ikiru/Live" and "Arigotoo Obaachan/Thank you Grandmother"
    source

    This site also shows a recent image of her from 2009 as they celebrate the 50th year release of the movie. Just click on her picture to enlarge it.

    I must get back to work now and try to get home before 10 p.m.

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  6. The Amazon.co.jp link got java voided. Obviously, I shouldn't do this while I'm earning my salary. :D Sorry for the muliple posts. Go here to order the DVD.

    http://www.amazon.co.jp/gp/product/B000BD87WY/ref=s9_simh_gw_p74_d0_i1?pf_rd_m=AN1VRQENFRJN5&pf_rd_s=center-1&pf_rd_r=12ANMKA3W7SG39BBBY5G&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=463376736&pf_rd_i=489986

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  7. @Hateya
    Thank you for all these links; I don't mind at all :D . Just soooo cool that you found what she looks like now at 62. I love the fact that she release a song called "Thank you Grandmother" since it was she who raised her. Ah this just made my day. Oh and I had my Japanese Language Major friend search for me and our school library DOES have it (on VHS of course). So I will definitely be watching it. I hope you get to see it as well.

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  8. @AM
    That's what I was counting on :D

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  9. @Bcbgrl33,

    I'm thrilled to have been useful in some small capacity!

    Now scream "banzai, banzai, banzai" with me because now I have my very own copy of Kiku and Isamu This blasian history won't be buried any longer.

    When time permits, I will watch and join in your commentary about it. On this end, it'll be rather torturous because there are no subtitles, not even in Japanese. Nonetheless, I'll do what I can.

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  10. I watched the movie once and I'll watch it again and try to settle on something useful to share. Basically, it is a typical Japanese film, emphasis on Japanese, not anything else. It actually should have been titled, "Kiku and Grandma." What made Kiku and Isamu extraordinary is that there were two of them, not one.

    Please do not misunderstand. The movie was inspiring in its own way, but neither race nor racism was the true topic. Even when these subjects came up, it made the Japanese themselves look ridiculous. This turned out this way because Kiku was no one's whipping girl and Isamu was just a naughty little boy. More than a few other characters were almost on the receiving end of a real beat-down. Many Westerners would be displeased with the ending; however, for a Japanese ending, it was probably among the best.

    Two of my Japanese buddies were appalled by the reactions some of the town folks had when Kiku and Isamu arrived on the scene. Yet, my husband had the same experience when he and a friend went to Selma, Alabama. Human beings are incredibly stupid everywhere.

    Anyway, Kiku is my new heroine. She rocks! Even when her spirit was nearly broken, with her grandmother's help, she came back. Grandma ruled because she wasn't a Japanese Grandma, she was just GRANDMA.

    I'm going to make it a point to try to meet Ms. Takahashi. I want to bow and shake her hand for simply existing. If her own grandmother was even remotely like the movie character, then I should visit her grave and pay my respects.

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  11. Spoilers, please. Some of us will probably never get to see this movie.

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  12. @Hateya I still have yet to see it I am so excited. Stupid school has prevented me but I will I will see it. Thank you for this.

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  13. i remember hearing about "brown babies" from a documentary when i was younger. i recall the documentary stating many "brown babies" where killed so that japan,korea and china was cleansed.

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  14. @Mikki

    i recall the documentary stating many "brown babies" where killed so that japan,korea and china was cleansed.

    Do you recall the time frame? Did this happen prior to or after WWII? For certain, Africans and their descendants have been in North East Asia for quite some time.

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  15. I am a brown baby. I was one of the lucky ones adopted by a woman from DC working in Japan at the time. I just wanted to say that many of us who were b-iracial didn't have such happy lives once we arrived in the US. Glad to see that there seems to be a curiosity about us still. Wish I could tell you my story. However, too much to post here.

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    1. Why don't you come back with a name and tell us your story. This site exists for people like us to have a voice. We don't treat our members/readers like objects of "curiosity."

      If your story is too much for one click of the "reply" button, use as many as you wish. Or you can email your story to a narrator and one of us will post it on your behalf, in parts, if needed. Trust me, I KNOW life is not a happyfest for most bi-racial people, especially a Blasian.

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  16. Can someone post the names of the black soldiers who fathered children in Japan during WWII 1942-44

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