Teaching about Japanese War Brides and Immigration
Reflections on the SPICE and the Center for Advanced School Education & Evidence-Based Research (CASEER) course that was offered at the University of Tokyo in fall 2022.
The following is a guest article written by Kana Yoshioka, PhD student at the University of Tokyo. Yoshioka enrolled in a course at the University of Tokyo’s Graduate School of Education called “Introduction to International and Cross-Cultural Education,” which was co-taught by SPICE Director Dr. Gary Mukai and former CASEER Director Dr. Hideto Fukudome. SPICE will feature several student reflections on the course in 2023.
I am a first-year doctoral student at the University of Tokyo studying Japanese higher education. I took “Introduction to International and Cross-Cultural Education” offered in fall 2022. We discussed important topics such as teacher professional development, multiple intelligences, and culturally relevant curriculum. In addition to offering lectures, SPICE Director Gary Mukai also invited several guest speakers to our class. One of the most impressive lectures was by Kathryn Tolbert, who spoke about a documentary film called Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Japanese War Brides, which she co-directed with Lucy Craft and Karen Kasmauski.
The term “Japanese war brides” is defined as the women who married American soldiers and immigrated to the United States after World War Ⅱ. More than 45,000 Japanese brides went to the United States during the 1950s and early 1960s; however, such history, including Japanese immigration history to the United States, is rarely taught in Japanese schools. There is only a brief introduction to the history of Japanese immigrants to Brazil in junior high school history classes and geography textbooks. Naturally enough, I had never learned anything about the history of “Japanese war brides” in school. However, I believe that studying the history of immigration is important and should be taught in schools to broaden students’ perspectives and have them grasp the diversity of the world.
Therefore, as part of my coursework in “Introduction to International and Cross-Cultural Education,” I decided to develop a lesson plan on Japanese war brides for Japanese junior high school history classes. I began by reviewing the descriptions of Japanese immigration in as many Japanese junior high school history and geography textbooks as possible. In addition, I viewed Japanese War Brides: An Oral History Archive, collected by Kathryn Tolbert, and reviewed serialized newspaper articles from 1987 about Japanese war brides in order to help determine which oral histories might capture students’ interest. From those many stories, I chose two stories to recommend to Japanese junior high schools. The first included a reference to the atomic bombing in Hiroshima, and the second included the topic of racism in the United States. I thought that these two stories would be important because I feel that it is important for students to grasp the journey of Japanese women within the larger historical context of World War II and the post-war period.
In one class period, my lesson can help to familiarize students with what happened to the Japanese war brides. Also, I suggest that teachers pose the following fundamental questions to their students.
- What did you learn about the Japanese war brides in the United States?
- How do you feel about the stories?
- Do you have any relatives who immigrated to another country?
I recommend the “Think-Pair-Share” pedagogical strategy as a useful way for having the students think about these questions. First, students think about the questions for a few minutes, and then in pairs, share their opinions with one another. I also recommend the third question, “Do you have any relatives who immigrated to another country?,” as homework since it is important for each student to discuss the topic with his/her family.
This course gave me a precious opportunity to rethink schools in Japan. I strongly felt that we should study more about the history of immigrants like “Japanese war brides.”
Sirouzu, T., & Eguchi, Y. (1987, January 3 - February 15). “Kokusai Kekkon America no Sensō Hanayometachi” [International Marriage: Japanese war brides in the United States]. A morning edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun, Tokyo.