Looking for Understanding: A Story of Japanese War Brides

Hiroko Furukawa or "Susie" and Samuel

Have you ever wondered how it would feel to be raised by a parent who came from a completely different culture than you grew up in? It is unimaginable how hard it would be to understand this parent, and understand the world they came from. This is exactly what it felt like for Karen Kasmauski, Katheryn Tolbert, and Lucy Craft, three women who grew up with Japanese mothers who married American soldiers who fought in Japan during World War II. In an effort to gain a better understanding of their mothers and connect with them on a deeper level, these journalists are compiling a documentary that explores their mother’s and many Japanese women’s experiences living in post –WWII America, raising children and adapting to life in a culture where they were outsiders. Tens of thousands of these women immigrated to America seeking out better lives than they would have had by staying in their war torn homeland. These women experienced extreme hardships adapting to western culture, especially because many times they were extremely isolated in farming communities and on military bases. These women were scattered around the U.S. and had no opportunity to build a community, like so many other immigrants create and are incorporated into, when they move to large cities. The documentary, “Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight: The Japanese War Brides”, will be available digitally and will begin screening in independent film houses, festivals, museums and many other places in August 2015. Karen Kasmauski, in an interview, explained that

their project is about the perseverance of the human spirit.

She explained the most important lesson we can learn from the Japanese war brides is that “You must be proactive with your life and hopefully things will work out for you.” There are no guarantees, but we can learn a lot from these women, who had the courage to buck social norms and the grit and independence to make a space for themselves in a society that viewed them as the enemy in many cases.

The film will also look at how the experiences of the war brides is akin to all immigrants’ experiences and can transcend cultural and social boundaries.

As both a TCKs and Military Brats, Karen, Katheryn, and Lucy are uniquely qualified to tell their mother’s stories, and show the world how the Japanese war brides embody the ideas of hope and survival. See the promotional trailer for the documentary, here.

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  1. This reminds me of the novel, “How to Be an American Housewife” by Margaret Dilloway. There are lots of similar stories and I think a lot of TCK’s can identify with this strange generational culture difference even if their experiences are very different.

  2. Great article! Having been born and raised in the same house, I don’t really understand the challenges TCK’s and other culturally mobile people face. I might have to check out the documentary after reading this article!

  3. This is an awesome piece, very unique and great writing that tells a story and reviews the documentary at the same time. I could see this in a larger publication honestly, because it’s so well written. Great job.

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