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Okinawa Prefecture comprises more than one hundred islands with a population of about 1, The islands reach to the southernmost tip of Japan where the climate is subtropical.
Inafter the end of the Pacific War, the U. The American military seized many privately-owned lands for this purpose, violating basic human rights and igniting widespread protests. Relations between the American military and local residents were strained, to say the least. Yet, even under these circumstances, large s of American soldiers and Okinawan women fell in love, married, and moved to the United States.
Brides : Their Lives in America explores this little-studied aspect of postwar history during the U. The book presents interviews of women who discuss their lives in the U. The English version based on it was completed in and published in Readerships of the English and Japanese editions have been different so, naturally, reactions have differed as well.
Readers of the English edition were surprised because most of them had no idea so many Okinawan women had married American soldiers and lived in the United States. They might have heard of Okinawa, but knew nothing about its complex relationship with the United States.
More than seventy years after the end of the Pacific War, the bases continue to pose enormous political and social problems in Okinawa. But the treaty severed Okinawa politically from Japan, and U. Even after Okinawa reverted to Japanese sovereignty as Okinawa Prefecture inthe American military bases have remained there in overwhelmingly disproportionate size and s compared with the rest of Japan.
Starting from the years just after World War II, marriages between Okinawan women and American military personnel have continued to this day. The U. Such attitudes often reflect racial prejudice which remains deeply seated in American society. Even after the reform of immigration laws to permit the entrance of Japanese, several states maintained anti-miscegenation laws prohibiting inter-racial marriages. In July ofafter the Battle of Okinawa, but while war continued between Japan and the United States, the American occupation army in Okinawa began publishing a newspaper in Japanese to inform the public of occupation policies and report local news.
Its August 1, edition reported the first marriage between an Okinawan woman and an American soldier.
The couple brought the marriage they had obtained in Ginowan. According to the article, Mr. However, the U. Moreover, interracial marriages were illegal in some American states. On July 16, the U. Military Government released a memorandum listing the marriages of American citizens in Okinawa. Sixty-three such marriages were recorded in Okinawa during the initial one-month period of the law. Most of them, fifty-three, were to Japanese American soldiers. Eight were to white soldiers, one was to a black soldier, and one was between two Japanese Americans.
A total of such marriages were recorded in all of Japan, including Okinawa, during this period. On April 1,the U. The concern was that, if soldiers became intimate with local women, troop morale would suffer. Furthermore, in the case of marriages to Japanese women, including those from Okinawa, racial prejudice in the United States was considered too pervasive.
After only four months, however, the ban was rescinded. As a result, marriages were now permitted for U. Also permitted were the registration of such marriages at civilian government offices and participation in religious wedding ceremonies. The marriage ban seems to have been so hastily rescinded because intimate relations between American military personnel and Okinawan women had become a widespread reality.
Although the U. Even after the ban was lifted and these marriages became legal, the military continually pressured soldiers not to become too friendly with local women. This policy was described by some of the women I interviewed. Her job dealt with compensation when land was confiscated for base construction. It was standard procedure, she said, to discourage newly arriving troops from dating local women. The company commander told them it was all right to play around with the girls in town, but never to get serious.
The military especially pressured high-ranking officers not to marry. They were always told they had to set an example for the other soldiers. Tokiko recalled a friend who had fallen in love with an American Air Force officer. The couple was living together, but when his commanding officer found out, he was threatened with forcible return to the U. Tokiko herself had married an American, but his commanding officer had tried hard to talk him out of it. The ship bound for San Francisco carried about two thousand passengers. Aboard ship were movies and dance parties, so most of the passengers and crew enjoyed the trip.
But Sachie, suffering from severe sea-sickness, missed out on all the fun. The only things I could keep down were sips of Coca-Cola and apple slices. I thought I was going to die by the time we got to San Francisco. Yukiko Nevada, age 62 explained. When I arrived inI felt no special culture shock, but the next year we travelled from California to Florida by car, and the country seemed incredibly wide.
American men often lived in comparative affluence as U. A year-old woman living in Connecticut also recalled that, soon after marriage, her chronically ill husband temporarily changed jobs. For a while, she made soup from weeds she picked in the yard. I often asked women what had attracted them about their husbands.
Why had they made the momentous decision to move to faraway America? Chizuko North Carolina, age 72 told me that she had hated Americans after the war, but her feelings changed because, she said, American soldiers seemed so gentle, courteous, caring, and honest toward women. Many other women I interviewed gave the same answer.
American soldiers opened doors for women getting into cars or going outside; they carried heavy packages for them; and they pulled out chairs for them to sit down. From the time of their first meeting with American soldiers, women were amazed, and deeply impressed, by such good manners. At first, she was surprised by his aroma. When I approached him to sell the ticket, he smelled like soap. In those days few homes had baths, so people went to the public bath a few times a week.
I knew I had to marry a man who really cared about cleanliness. At a time when Okinawans stitched their clothes from military surplus fatigues, American soldiers wore uniforms with neatly pressed khaki trousers and crisply starched shirts. The smell of soap they emanated seemed like the aroma of civilization.
To be sure, their kind ways, sweet words, and generous gifts were calculated to lure women, but with the grim conditions in Okinawa at the time, women were undeniably impressed. Each woman told of her experiences while the others listened quietly, nodding occasionally. I never felt lonely after leaving Okinawa.
My whole family had opposed my marriage. The quarrel with them over my marriage was still dragging on after five years, so I was anxious to leave for America as soon as possible. My father told me he would pay my airfare if I came back to Okinawa, but I had no intention of returning. Kazumi Texas, age 50 was the fifth of seven children.
But Kimiko and Kazumi still feel the pain inflicted by the hurtful things their parents said to them before marriage. Okinawan women live throughout the United States, but many reside in cities and towns adjacent to military bases or in nearby communities. As in North Carolina, the wives of American soldiers founded associations throughout the country.
These women maintain a strong Okinawan identity, especially as distinct from Japan. Although Okinawa is now a Japanese prefecture, they felt a connection to its past history as an independent country. They identified closely with a homeland located far from most of Japan that differs from it in climate, natural surroundings, culture, and language.
Today, Okinawa is a leading tourist destination in Japan, and people from all over the country want to move there. During the Battle of Okinawa, mainland Japanese soldiers expelled evacuees, mostly women and children, from cave shelters to make room for themselves, massacred civilians, and ordered mass suicides of local residents. This deeply troubled history has also helped to forge an Okinawan identity. It is shared by Okinawans living in the U.
She was an officer of the local Okinawa Prefectural Association, and a dedicated instructor of eisa, the Okinawan summer festival dance, which includes both karate movements and drumming. Teruko had married her airman husband when she was twenty-two and he was twenty-six. She met him after graduating from college when she was working at the Morning Star, an English-language newspaper published in Okinawa for a readership mainly of American military personnel. Al was witty and I enjoyed his company.
He could speak Japanese with beautiful pronunciation. He also acted like a true gentleman, and was well-dressed and groomed. We both fell madly in love. After they decided to marry, she took Al to meet her mother and elder brother. Their first child, a daughter, was born in September of Many people in their neighborhood had never seen a Japanese person, and thought Teruko was strange. During their three years in South Carolina, she had a second daughter. Four days later Al left for deployment to Vietnam.
Teruko was to go later with their children to Okinawa. My husband said that if he served in Vietnam, he could choose Okinawa as his next duty station. So, whether he lived or died, we would be there. There, he rented a house for the family, and waited for them to arrive. Inhe retired from the military, having completed twenty years of service. In December,they bought a house in New Jersey where they decided to settle down. His health had begun to fail in Okinawa after his tour ended in Vietnam. Induring his first Christmas holiday after returning from Vietnam, he started looking pale.
His stomach hurt, and he threw up everything he ate. Always cheerful and constantly joking, Al was now weak and sullen. At first the doctor said it was pancreatitis, but further tests showed that his stomach, intestines, and other organs were all infected. Sometimes he would lose consciousness, and was hospitalized as many as three or four times a year.
It was two days after Christmas during his third hospital stay of Teruko was at work when the hospital phoned asking her to come as soon as possible.
Sal had just been admitted the night before and his condition had stabilized, so she thought the doctor probably wanted to explain the plans for his treatment or for surgery. But she arrived to learn that her husband had died. A white sheet covered his body and a rubber tag was attached to his ankle.American woman married to japanese man
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