Japanese War Brides: An Oral History Archive

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Photos of two interracial couples
Wedding photos courtesy Amato family (left) and Carrie Olejnik and Cris Sanchez (right)

After the end of World War II, more than 45,000 young Japanese women married American GIs and came to the United States to embark upon new lives among strangers. The mother of Kathryn Tolbert, a former long-time journalist with The Washington Post, was one of them. Kathryn noted,

I knew there was a story in my mother’s journey from war-time Japan to an upstate New York poultry farm. In order to tell it, I teamed up with journalists Lucy Craft and Karen Kasmauski, whose mothers were also Japanese war brides, to make a short documentary film through a mother-daughter lens. Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Japanese War Brides was released in August 2015 and premiered on BBC World Television. To show the experiences of many more women like our mothers, I spent a year traveling the country to record interviews, funded by a Time Out grant from Vassar College, my alma mater.

The Japanese War Brides Oral History Archive is the result of her interviews. The archive documents an important chapter of U.S. immigration history that is largely unknown and usually left out of the broader Japanese American experience. In these oral histories, Japanese immigrant women reflect on their lives in postwar Japan, their journeys across the Pacific, and their experiences living in the United States.

SPICE developed five lessons for the Japanese War Brides Oral History Archive and a teacher’s guide for the film, Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Japanese War Brides that suggest ways for teachers to engage their students with the broad themes that emerge from the individual experiences of Japanese war brides.

DVD cover for the documentary film "Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Japanese War Brides"
DVD cover for the documentary film "Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Japanese War Brides"
SPICE would like to express its appreciation to Adrian Arima and Monica Yeung Arima for funding the development of this curriculum. SPICE would like to thank Kathryn Tolbert for her unwavering support as the primary content advisor and editor of the curriculum, and would also like to thank Lucy Craft, Karen Kasmauski and Kathryn Tolbert for their support from the conceptualization of the curriculum to its completion. The directors of the film, Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Japanese War Brides, would like to thank the International Marriage Friendship Club, the Minnesota Nihonjinkai and the more than 70 individual contributors to The War Bride Experience, Inc., for making the teacher’s guide possible. The teacher’s guide is available below and the film can be accessed for classroom use here.