Thursday, March 8, 2018

heARTing Japanese war brides on International Women's Day

Yuri dances in drag;
playing a man's role in a kimono she sewed
konnichi-wa, heARTists and heART lovers everywhere.

it’s the 8th day of the 3rd month and time to celebrate International Women’s Day around the world. while we do so, let’s also remember our pioneering war brides from Japan.

after interviewing several brides last year, many of their children, some of their grandchildren and even one of their great grandchildren, i have come to admire the amazing accomplishments of these women—Yuri the heARTist included.

first of all, to meet, fall in love with, and marry a man who was a former enemy who helped bombed their country and possibly killed or maimed their loved ones, these women were able to find within themselves the capacity to forgive. they also embraced hope by becoming involved with foreign men despite incurring the wrath of their relatives—some who disowned them—and being shunned by other Japanese who saw their marriages to Americans as an act of disloyalty.

Yuri sewed this heart from fabric

some Japanese women had relationships with military men who abandoned them and left them to raise mixed race children alone. in the mono-racial society of post-WWII Japan, it was very difficult for a gaijin or outsider to find acceptance, especially a child who looked different and served to remind Japanese they had lost the war.

this whimsical dancer and cherry blossoms were painted on a piece of driftwood by Yuri

for the Japanese women who married American GI's, it was challenging to move to America during Jim Crow and segregation. at the time, 16 states still upheld anti-miscegenation laws forbidding whites to marry anyone other than whites.

Japanese women who married African American men became 'black by default' and were denied housing, dining out privileges and other recreational activities reserved only for whites.

Yuri carved this sparrow inside a thick piece of wood

most brides spoke broken English and were discriminated against by store clerks, cashiers and others who held anti-Japanese sentiment because of WWII. 

many Japanese war brides lived in isolation if they weren’t in dependent quarters on military bases. often, these women were the singular war bride in their neighborhood, the only one in an interracial marriage, the lone Asian and always the only person of Japanese ancestry where they lived.

one of Yuri's many oil paintings depicting the sea and a longing for her home across the ocean

with no long distance calls back then, nor daily flights overseas, war brides resorted to writing letters back home. many were homesick for the culture they had grown up with and for the foods they had eaten which were not available in most of the US.

Yuri's all-American apple pie, one of the many 'foreign' foods she grew to love cooking

yet these women persevered, creating families and holding jobs, often sharing knowledge of Japanese culture with others in their environment. to those wonderful women, we have created a documentary film that honors them just as we honor all women on this day.

these Heian-era dolls with plum blossoms were painted on wood by Yuri

as for Yuri, please enjoy the art she created seen on this blog post. as an artist, poet, dancer, chef, tailor, gardener, mother and wife, she embodied the spirit of the ever achieving Japanese war bride.

until June 8, we are...
Yuri's Fans Forever

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