Thursday, December 7, 2023

Actress Yoshiko Yamaguchi China expelled as a traitor: Divorced for not getting visa, bowed to Japanese government for 4 lakh Sex Slave

Actress whom China expelled as a traitor: Divorced for not getting visa, bowed to Japanese government for 4 lakh Sex Slaves
          Yoshiko Yamaguchi @angadkumarsharma

Actress whom China expelled as a traitor: Divorced for not getting visa, bowed to Japanese government for 4 lakh Sex Slaves


  • Lee Siang-lan and Ri Koren in China
  • Yoshiko Yamaguchi in Japan
  • Shirley Yamaguchi in America
  • And Yoshika Otaka on the Japanese TV channel….


These five names belong to the same woman. Real name was Yoshiko Yamaguchi. She was the top actress in both China and Japan, but her life itself was no less than a thriller film. During World War II, when China and Japan were bitter enemies of each other, she was one of China’s top actresses. At that time few people knew that she was of Japanese origin. When the Chinese government came to know about this, they were arrested. Kept in prison for nine months. Then the death sentence was pronounced. Barely the death sentence was postponed, but China expelled him from the country.


Resumed career in Japan. She became a top actress there too, but politics changed her life. During World War II, the Japanese army kept Korean, Chinese and Filipino women as sex slaves (comfort women) in their army base. Japanese soldiers tortured these comfort women a lot. She was the first Japanese politician to speak against the Japanese army on this issue. When the nationalist leaders of all Japan were in favour of the Japanese army on the issue of comfort women, Yoshiko Yamaguchi conducted an awareness campaign all over Japan.


These were two aspects of Yoshiko Yamaguchi’s life, but the whole life was full of ups and downs. First love remained incomplete. One of the two marriages failed. Worked under different names in China, Japan, America because they were accused of espionage, betrayal of the country.


So, in today’s Unseen Tales, the story of actress Yoshiko Yamaguchi, who raised her voice for women who were tortured by their own country’s army.


Yoshiko Yamaguchi was born on 12 February 1920 in Manchuria (Republic of China). His Japanese father Fumio used to work for the South Manchuria Railway. According to Chinese custom, each child is made a godfather, who christens him. In such a situation, Yoshiko’s godfather became Chinese, who gave her two Chinese names, Li Siang-lan and Pan Shuhua, which later became her stage names.


Got TB then learned music on the advice of doctors


Yoshiko was diagnosed with tuberculosis at the age of 13. To get rid of shortness of breath, the doctor told him to take voice lessons. The family wanted to teach her traditional Japanese music, but Yoshiko learned Western music at her insistence. Yoshiko did her schooling in Beijing along with music.


Impressed by her voice, Yoshiko started getting opportunities to sing Chinese tunes on the radio at the age of just 14.


The first film made a star


In 1938, Yoshiko made her debut in Chinese films with Manyurio Film Production’s Honeymoon Express. Along with acting in this film, he also sang songs.


Hiding the real name, created identity with stage name


For Chinese films, she changed her stage name from Japanese Yoshiko Gamaguchi to the Chinese name Li Siang-lan. Actually this was done for economic and political benefit from them. From the very first film, the beautiful Yoshiko became a star, who knew two languages – Japanese and Chinese and knew how to sing as well as act. For years, Yoshiko Yamaguchi was credited in films under the name Lee Siang Lan.


Controversy arose as soon as the truth of the name came to the fore


Even the Chinese co-stars with whom Yoshiko worked were kept hidden that she was a Japanese. Yoshiko lived mostly with the Japanese, was given white rice instead of the local Chinese dish sorghum, while she was paid 10 times more than Chinese actors. Even after seeing all these things, fellow artists did not doubt that she is Japanese, they hesitated thinking that Yoshiko is half Japanese.


Yoshiko was a Chinese heroine, but most of her films promoted Japanese national policy or Manchurian interests in Tokyo. Prior to the Sino-Japanese War, Yoshiko never paid attention to hiding or revealing her identity, but this issue became the reason for ruining her life after the Sino-Japanese War.


First Love and Incomplete Love Story


While working in films, Yoshiko met Kenichiro Matsuoka, the son of Japanese diplomat Yosuke Matsuoka. In her biography Ri Koren: My Half Life, Yoshiko described him as her first love. Yoshiko wanted to marry Kenichiro, but was reluctant to marry him during her studies. So Yoshiko distanced herself from him. Years later, after the end of World War II, the two met where Kenichiro had fallen in love with Yoshiko, but by then was engaged to architect Isamu Noguchi.


Japanese actor slapped, the film was in controversy


In 1940, Yoshiko appeared in the film China Night. It was dubbed a film based on Japanese national policy, as it showed a positive image of Japanese soldiers. In the film, Yoshiko played an anti-Japanese girl who falls in love with a Japanese boy. In one scene of the film, the Japanese actor was seen slapping Yoshiko, which caused a lot of uproar. The Chinese people could not bear to see a Chinese actress being slapped by a Japanese actor. There was a lot of controversy and the film was also banned in many cities. Despite this, 23 thousand tickets were sold for this film.


The songs of the film were banned


Yoshiko’s song Suzhou Serenade was banned in China after World War. When Chinese journalists at an event booed her for being part of such a song, Yoshiko apologized to the Chinese for joining the song instead of revealing her identity.


Identity revealed in Japan


The displeasure of the Japanese began to increase with Yoshiko, who was continuously favoring China and identifying herself with a Chinese name. When Yoshiko reached Japan as the Goodwill Ambassador of Japan-China, there was a lot of uproar. Yoshiko arrived wearing a traditional Chinese dress during the event in Japan. The customs officer of the airport stopped him and said, don’t you know that we are superior to Japanese, Chinese people, don’t you feel ashamed to wear these third grade clothes and speak their language. As soon as Yoshiko arrived at the event, Japanese journalists exposed her true Japanese identity.


Yoshiko was arrested from Shanghai as soon as World War 2 ended


As soon as the news of Yoshiko being Japanese spread, angry Chinese people were after her life. As soon as Yoshiko returned to Shanghai, she was arrested and sentenced to death by firing squad for working with the Japanese, despite being Chinese. He was to be hanged on 8 December 1945 at the Horse Track in Shanghai. At the same time, Yoshiko’s parents were also arrested in Beijing. Just before Yoshiko was executed, a friend of hers managed to meet her parents and get her birth certificate. The friend secretly gave this certificate to the head, which clearly stated that Yoshiko is half Chinese and half Japanese, but she has Japanese citizenship. After receiving the certificate, all charges against Yoshiko were cleared.


The court had given orders to leave the country


Despite stopping the execution, the Shanghai court asked Yoshiko to leave the country, saying that angry people could kill her. Yoshiko finally moved from China to Japan in 1946.


The people of China continued to consider Yoshiko as a spy for Japan after World War 2, which they hated as a traitor. He was accused of being a spy, due to which he was sentenced to death. Yoshiko did not visit China, where she enjoyed star status, for 50 years after being ordered to leave the country by a court. Yoshiko used to think that people would still consider her a traitor even after years. Yoshiko had said during an interview – My only fault was that I worked in films of interest to the Japanese while living in China.


Came to Japan and apologized for working in Chinese films


Coming to Japan in 1946, Yoshiko publicly apologized for working in Chinese films. According to Yoshiko, they were used to make propaganda films.


Coming to Japan, she resumed her acting career, but this time with her real name, Yoshiko Yamaguchi. Most of his films revolved around the stories of the Japan-China War, which were well-liked.


Name changed again for Hollywood and married


In 1951, Yoshiko Yamaguchi married Japanese American sculptor Isamu Noguchi while working in Hollywood. Being identified with Japan and China, Yoshiko Yamaguchi has always found herself torn between the two countries. In her biography, Yoshiko wrote that her husband Isamu also lived in two countries, so she quickly became attracted to him. Yamaguchi wanted children, but she miscarried twice. They realized that they were not fit to have children.


While working in Hollywood films, he got a chance to work in the film Limelight (1952). During the shooting of the film, his name was associated with Charlie Chaplin.

While working in Hollywood films, he got a chance to work in the film Limelight (1952). During the shooting of the film, his name was associated with Charlie Chaplin.

Marriage broken due to not getting visa on charges of treason


In 1952, the US denied Yoshiko a visa while her husband Isamu was still in the US. There was a conversation between the two through letters. In a letter, Yoshiko wrote to her husband, “If I do not get a visa soon, we will get divorced, because the allegations against me are affecting your private and professional life.”


After her divorce from Isamu in 1956, Yoshiko appeared in dozens of Chinese-language films produced in Hong Kong under the name Li Siang Lan, which she had previously used for Chinese films. Most of these Chinese films were destroyed in a studio fire, leaving no trace of them.


Distance from films and second marriage


In 1958, Yoshiko left the film world forever after marrying Japanese diplomat Hiroshi Otaka. After retiring from films, Yoshiko wanted to be a housewife.


In 1969, Yoshiko became the host of The Three O’Clock You Show, which led to her

He covered the Vietnam War and the Israel-Palestine conflict. The coverage had such a profound effect on Yoshiko that after this she entered politics in 1970, supporting Palestine. In 1974, Yoshiko was appointed to the House of Council in the Japanese Parliament. She remained in the Liberal Democratic Party for 18 years. During her political career, Yoshiko worked to improve relations with China and Asian countries.


Compensation given to women used for sexual favors in war


Yoshiko was the first Japanese citizen and leader to speak openly about the atrocities committed by the Japanese during World War II. He started a campaign to get compensation for those women who were subjected to sex slavery by Japanese soldiers during the war. Such women were called ‘comfort women’ during the war. While the people of Japan still shy away from apologising on this issue.

Written By – Angad Kumar Sharma

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