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Fall 2016 News from F7GU8
washington/tokyo/san jose/points beyond

[For upcoming screenings, please scroll to end]




Toyo and Andrew Swartz

Kathryn's long-awaited magnum opus last week in the Washington Post has generated a huge and enthusiastic response...

Our inbox was crammed with moving letters, and not just from the families of Japanese war brides - we heard from a few Korean war bride kin and the neighbor of a German war bride, too, as well as other immigrants who found common threads in our stories. A sampling:

We have several Japanese firms in my small town...  your story helps me learn more about their culture and rich history
- (from a Korean war bride daughter) As I read the article, I was stunned at the similarities...have you  thought about expanding this project to include other Asian war brides?
- As
 I explored the stories, I read and heard my (own) mother... 

The portraits and old photos of four brides rotated through the display - here's Toyo Swartz

Kathryn's project - curating dozens of Japanese war bride family stories - was supposed to last just one year. But the treasure trove of family dramas has proved vast indeed - and so, work continues, in her spare time. The archive is accessible at and will provide background for our second film on the brides.

Speaking of screenings, Kathryn and Karen took to the stage just days ago for a presentation before a capacity crowd at the
 Japan Information and Culture Center, Embassy of Japan. While the story of three moms and three daughters is a strength of our short film, they noted, it is also a weakness -- which is why making a second, full-length film is critical. 

Grants update: We are proud to announce we have received a seed grant of $10,000 from the Japan-US Friendship Commission. This represents a fraction of what we need to make a one-hour documentary on the Japanese war brides, but nonetheless it is an important start. Because our main characters are fast disappearing from the scene, time is off the essence, and this grant will be vital for shooting interviews with subjects missing from our short film, in particular, the story of a GI dad, and that of a black-Japanese war bride family. We hope to shoot main interviews in early 2017. 

We have decided not to take on another Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, but we welcome grants and donations of any amount as we move ahead, piecemeal, with production on our full-length film. Please contact us at for details on how you can help us reach our goal - and please let us know about grants we can apply for.

On the festival beat, meanwhile - F7GU8 picked up its fourth award at the recent Asian Film Festival of Dallas... this is in addtion to honors received from the Boston and Philly Asian-Am film festivals, and the California Women's Film Festival... for information about where we have screened around the world - and where we'll be shown - please see the "Watch" button on our website. (Upcoming list also pasted at the end of this newsletter.)

Skype is my go-to app for overseas communication nowadays, but using it for presentations was a whole new challenge. It is one thing to Skype with your kid while folding the laundry, video turned off, and quite another to rise before dawn for an audience half a world away - in this case, our recent showing at the Japanese-American Museum of San Jose.

    Unnerving doesn't begin to describe having your sleepy mug projected across the width of a movie screen - all this, while not be able to get a good look at who you're talking to! The video was so dodgy, in fact, it was like trying to look at people through a swimming pool! 

Visual handicaps notwithstanding, the format offered the unique experience of being able to observe our audience head-on, unnoticed, as they watched our film - there were frequent laughs, and also, I would hear later, plenty of tears, too. It was a relief to have psychologist, author and professor Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu running the show. Stephen, who has taught at Stanford and the University of Tokyo, is one of the most prominent academics working in the field of multi-ethnic cultures and transnational identity.!about/f7ujw

We were able to swap painfully poignant similar stories - in his case, growing up as the son of a Japanese mother and Irish-American dad. Stephen recalled walking into the kitchen one day as a boy, and was startled to discover his mother, prostrate - sucking an egg off the floor! That trait - of those who had survived wartime starvation - was instantly recognizable. I recalled the time I found my mom struggling to gulp down most of a carton of milk, lest it expire unused.

The overwhelming emphasis on scholastic achievement is familiar to many children of war brides. In Stephen's home, the presenting of report cards was serious ritual, a point driven home one day when he dared to bring home less than straight As. "There's nothing good about 'B'!" she railed. The slights continued at dinnertime, when his sisters were called to the table by name, but Stephen was simply called, "Science B!"

After the San Jose film event, we received a number of enthusiastic notes from the audience, including one from a man named Richard, who described himself as the husband of Chihoko, a "peace bride." 

Families are continuing to discover us online. We were thrilled to hear recently from Barbara, the daughter of Kiyoko nee Kawata, and Jeter Blaine Harrison. 

Barbara says:

Mom... was sick often, missing her normal diet of fresh seafood and rice and pickles. Once, she took a train into Asheville, NC, just to buy fresh shrimp. But by the next day, it was gone - her mother-in-law didn't care for the smell and had thrown it out!

But my mother never let [prejudice] stand in her way. She volunteered in our classrooms to teach origami and haiku, and cooking classes at a local gourmet store. 

Kiyoko was blessed with a great sense of humor - a trait that helped many brides weather the tribulations of life in a new country. "She never harbored any bitterness or sadness or resentment," Barbara recalls. 

The focus of our film is on the women who "got out" -- those who persisted through the ordeal of paperwork in order to obtain visas, whose husbands and fiancees were waiting as promised on the other shore when they arrived.

But what about those who - perhaps living on impossible dreams - never made it? 

This is a question I've been asked often, both by war bride kids, college students and other members of our audience. It's not a subject we can address with any expertise, but fortunately this area has attracted the attention of a number of Japanese scholars, some of whom presented their work at this year's meeting of the Japanese Association for American History, where F7GU8 received a warm reception. 

There is a line in our film where Kathryn's mom voices regret about having a large family and her initial anxiety about raising mixed-race kids. This angst stood out for the historians who comprised the audience gathered on a recent Sunday at Meiji University in Tokyo. The focus of the event was the fraught atmosphere for fraternization and mixed-race children, and the theme was "the legacy of sexuality regulation under the US Occupation."

Prof. Kazuko Hirai, of Hitotsubashi University, eviscerated the closely-held notion that the American occupation of Japan was an unalloyed success and a template for other American interventions abroad, as enunciated by George W. Bush, post 9-11. The success of the Occupation of Japan is usually equated with the purported "liberation" of Japanese women from the yoke of a backward and feudalistic society. 

But the liberation trope, to Japanese ears, often comes off as patronizing and messianic - something our viewers may have sensed particularly during the "brides school" segment of our film. First of all, the liberation meme denies Japanese women any agency, effectively erasing efforts, albeit unsuccessful, before the war by feminists themselves to win the vote and other rights. Second, focusing solely on the progressive aspects of McArthur's regime is to ignore the less flattering and even destructive repercussions wrought by the arrival of nearly half a million troops in a devastated country. Huge numbers of working-class women, propelled by desperate poverty and hunger, became prostitutes for the US military. Initially, a system of brothels was set up at the instigation of the Japanese government, but with the collusion of the American Occupation, or GHQ.

Inevitably, after venereal disease reached epidemic proportions, GHQ pulled the plug on the government brothels, and the sex workers were forced to ply their trade on the street. Publicity about the unpleasant collateral damage, so to speak, of the Occupation was minimized thanks to strict censorship by GHQ.

So the real legacy of the Occupation was not just the much-advertised women's liberation, but a burgeoning sex industry and a surge of illegitimate children, many wanted by no one, viewed by Japanese as living symbols of disgrace and a threat to Japan's vaunted sense of homogeneity. Not all were born to sex workers; many, in fact, were the products of sexual assault. Others were born to mistresses abandoned by GIs who moved on to fight in Korea or were repatriated to the US.

The founding of Japan's most famous orphanage, the Elizabeth Saunders Home, came after a Japanese heiress was horrified to discover the lifeless body of a mixed-race infant, left on a train.

It's impossible to know how many mixed-race kids were born in the postwar period - numbers range from the thousands, to the hundreds of thousands. A number were adopted by American families. 

The sad and desperate circumstances after WWII led Japan to become the world's first country to legalize abortion, in mid-1949; the number of abortions peaked during the Korean War, according to Prof. Seiji Kamida, of Yokohama National University. 

And finally, in the not-lost-in-translation dept: Prof. Dias of Tokyo's Aoyama Gakuin University kindly passed along some of the reactions from students to our recent presentation... one of whom was taken aback by the brutal frankness of some Japanese war bride moms:


Watch online or on DVD
To watch the film online with Vimeo On Demand, please go to:

Vimeo On Demandの動画配信サイトで観るのに

To purchase a DVD of F7GU8 for home use only, please go to:

SET UP YOUR OWN PRIVATE SCREENING OF F7GU8 at your local cafe, library or school! (USA)
Our film has sparked some incredible conversations among families, friends and colleagues - why not in your local coffee shop, rec center, or home? If you are interested in setting up a community screening, please contact our distributor, Roselly Torres Rojas, at TWN Distribution, As a bonus, for all private screenings we will send you our carefully researched and lavishly illustrated pamphlet to help get the ball rolling!

For school and university and other private screenings/libraries in Japan:
Please contact our distributor, United People
We are selling DVDs for the unlimited-use educational fee of ¥20,000. 

『七転び八起き – アメリカへ渡った戦争花嫁物語』教育機関向けDVD 
価格:20,000円(税別) 送料350円(日本国内発送に限る)




Upcoming Screenings

USA (米国、欧州上映)

Upcoming Events, North America:

Oct. 2 and 4 @ Honolulu Museum of Art, Doris Duke Theatre. Lucy and producer Megumi Nishikura will join via Skype; a member of our war bride family community, Marlene Blackwell, will join for a Q&A.

Oct. 13-15 @ Louisville International Festival of Film

Oct. 15 @ Vassar FilmFest, U. S. Navy Memorial’s Burke Theater, 701 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. Event runs noon to 7 pm; our film screens 2:45 - 4:00 pm.

Nov. 6 @  Women's Film Festival sponsored by the National Council of Jewish Women/Essex,  Leon & Toby Cooperman JCC, West Orange, NJ.

Nov. 23 @ Northern Exposure program WE FOUND GRIT at Trylon microcinema,
3258 Minnehaha Av, Minneapolis, Minn.
July 30 Powell Street Festival, Vancouver.

Oct. 13-15 @ Louisville International Festival of Film

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