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Three daughters tell the story of Japanese women who landed in 1950s America -- the brides young GIs brought home from an enemy nation.
Three daughters tell the story of Japanese women who landed in 1950s America -- the brides young GIs brought home from an enemy nation.
398 backers pledged $37,919 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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$37,919

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Less than 24 hours to go! It's been a thrilling 30 days of fundraising -- and we'll see what we can do in the final hours of our campaign. Stay tuned!!

Inspired by the response to our appeal, we are raising our ambitions for our short film and multimedia Japanese war bride project.  We had a bare bones film budget and extra funds would allow us to add more material that we think is important. We will need some funds to take the film to festivals and classrooms -- already a museum has asked us to show the film and speak about the project.  Extra funding will allow us to reach out to war bride families so that their stories can be preserved on our web site and made available to researchers and anyone interested in this unique group of post-WWII immigrants.  Please help us bring this story to a larger audience!

Here are some of the comments we received during the campaign:

"It is very heartwarming to know others have had the same feelings about their Japanese mothers and are willing to share them with the world.... It's something that I feel needs to be told, and it seems you folks will be the perfect ones to tell it. I really do wish my own mother was still around to see the final product."

"So many Americans do not know what it is like to move to another country where the customs and way of life are completely different. In particular, a Post WWII America that still held grudges and discriminatory views of the Japanese. This is important work and I am proud to support your project!"

"As a producer, I loved your trailer and believe in the project. As the daughter-in-law of two holocaust survivors, I wish I had been able to tell their stories before they passed away."

"Even though it's just a small donation I felt I had to as the story hits close to home for me. My mother is a war bride as well, my dad was stationed in the Philippines during Vietnam and met my mother. Although we are not Japanese the theme still resonates."

"The part that really got me was when one of the filmmakers said that she didn’t really understand her mother when she was growing up. And wow, I think we are all looking to understand our family and hope we will ask the right questions while we can."

Follow our progress on TwitterFacebook and our website.

Here's our project:  We are three journalists and daughters of Japanese war brides seeking your help to produce a short documentary about our mothers and the many Japanese women who married American soldiers after World War II. Despite lingering wartime enmity, tens of thousands of Japanese wives -- the biggest influx of Asian women in U.S. history -- crossed the Pacific. They began new lives in difficult and to them mysterious circumstances, scattered across the country in places where they were often the first Japanese ever seen. What was it like to abandon family, friends and country, and marry a former enemy? Even for those whose choice of spouse proved to be a tragic mistake, there was no turning back. Many in Japan viewed them as social outcasts and even today the words "war bride" in Japanese carry such a stigma -- of bar girls, even prostitution --  that people don't like to say them. Now these women are in their 80s. This is their story, of lives shaped by one irrevocable decision.

Starting with an interest in our mothers' stories, we began interviewing other Japanese war brides across the country and found threads of our mothers' lives in all of them. Strong, Japanese and yet not Japanese, now with deep roots in this country. We begin by telling the story of one war bride, Kathryn's mother. Hiroko Tolbert, 83 years old, has lived for more than 60 years on the outskirts of Elmira, N.Y. Her volatile marriage to Samuel  was foreshadowed before they even got home. Over his angry protests, she insisted on arriving at his parents' muddy, rundown chicken farm wearing her kimono, her most beautiful piece of clothing. She could see her in-laws' discomfort, she says, in their silence about her outfit. She quietly went upstairs and changed into Western clothes.

Our documentary will include archival photos and film as well as interviews and footage of the lives sometimes endured as much as lived, equal parts comedy, sadness and joy.

The film is part of a larger exploration of the Japanese war brides and their era.  We have started a web site at http://fallsevengetupeight.weebly.com where we will gather stories told by war brides and their families.

Meet the featured war brides

Hiroko Tolbert on the farm in Elmira, NY
Hiroko Tolbert on the farm in Elmira, NY

Hiroko Tolbert

Hiroko Furukawa met Samuel at the PX in the Ginza, where she worked as a salesgirl. She knew his family had a chicken farm, and although she loved theater and city life, she thought rural America would be more welcoming to a Japanese wife. Her in-laws were kind but completely baffled by her. They called her Susie.

Emiko Kasmauski
Emiko Kasmauski

Emiko Kasmauski

The youngest of six sisters, Emiko Fukumoto lived in a small fishing village named Sajima. When the U.S. military moved into nearby Yokosuka Naval Base, the smiling, easy-going Americans, who had enough money to take a young woman dancing, fascinated her.  She had dropped out of school  in order to work, but never lacked admirers, who were smitten with her flirtatious smile and personality. Emiko dated many Americans, but her mother decided Steve was the most reliable. After Emiko and Steve moved to the United States, the Sajima clan kept in touch via thin blue airmail letters and brown boxes filled with Japanese goodies.

Atsuko Craft
Atsuko Craft

Atsuko Craft

Atsuko Onda found her future husband by placing an ad for an English-conversation partner. She talked Arnold into lending her money to study in the U.S., picking up a microbiology degree, and a spouse. Now retired from the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Md., Atsuko at 85, still churns out scientific translation. (When asked if he ever got his loan back, Arnold Craft says, "many times over!")

Why tell this story now?

The many efforts to record first-person stories from World War II, including the stories of returning soldiers, have largely overlooked the Japanese women who married U.S. servicemen. They won't be with us much longer.The U.S. Occupation of Japan resulted in the largest influx of Asian women to the United States to that point. But where did they go? Not to Japanese-American communities, who maintained a separate identity and often scorned them. These women were scattered throughout the country. Were they shunned? Ignored? Accepted? Unlike other immigrant groups, they had no existing support network, no one they could contact to help them navigate their new lives. Today, if they speak of what they've achieved, they speak of raising successful children. So we, their children, must tell their story now, before we lose them forever.

How the funds will be used:

Your contribution will allow us to complete production of this short film by hiring a professional camera crew, covering travel expenses, and obtaining archival footage.  It will be additionally used to cover the post-production costs of editing, music composition, and sound mixing.

 

Where the film will be screened:

We seek to show the film to as wide an audience as possible, including festivals, independent film houses, community screenings, special events and at museums, where the film can be augmented with text, audio and stills to create a rich, interactive experience faithful to the odyssey of the Japanese war brides. We aim to pursue broadcast options as well. 

Team:

Lucy Craft, war bride daughter
Lucy Craft, war bride daughter

Lucy Craft is a freelance broadcast reporter and producer based in Tokyo, but hails from Washington, D.C. Piqued by how her Japanese mother ended up with a Jewish guy from the Bronx, she eventually drifted to Tokyo, even settling in mom’s old neighborhood of Suginami. Lucy used to say it was in search of roots, but working on this war bride documentary has convinced her it’s more about a shared DNA for somewhat reckless adventure and wanderlust.

Karen Kasmauski, war bride daughter
Karen Kasmauski, war bride daughter

Born on a U.S. Naval base in Yokosuka, Japan, Karen Kasmauski is the daughter of Steve, a career sailor who served in three wars, and Emiko, who still lives near the base in Norfolk, Va. Inspired by her father’s love of photography, Karen spent most of her career as a contract photographer at National Geographic, where she broke new ground covering fields from medicine to migration. Her work has taken her to every continent except Antarctica. This documentary is an attempt to better understand a mother who often seemed more like a neighbor than family.

Kathryn Tolbert, war bride daughter
Kathryn Tolbert, war bride daughter

Kathryn Tolbert has worked for The Associated Press, The Boston Globe and The Washington Post as a reporter and editor. When she worked for the AP in Tokyo, and later for The Washington Post's Tokyo Bureau, she often wrote about Japanese women.  The war bride story is one she has known she should tell, but looking into the lives of others comes more naturally than delving into her own mother's. Working with Lucy, Karen and the Blue Chalk team has made it possible to finally tell her story.

In order to produce this film we will be partnering with Blue Chalk Media, a digital media company founded by people who believe in the power of nonfiction visual storytelling. It is headquartered in Brooklyn, NY, and has a West Coast office in Portland, OR, as well. With roots in photojournalism, documentary film, cable television and digital communications, the Blue Chalk team is equipped to serve third-party clients and partners as well as to publish independently.

Some of our Rewards:

$ 50 -  Illustrated background pamphlet on the project and digital download of film - The brochure for Fall Seven Times, Get Up Eight includes both current and historical photographs and quotes from recent interviews with war brides. A partial bibliography includes scholars who have written about war brides and generously offered their help with this project.

$75 - Jazz Performance CD - Berklee College of Music grad Hiro Takada  is a veteran jazz keyboard artist, teacher and composer who has performed at the US Department of State, and with renowned American musicians like drummer San Francisco-based Akira Tana, a sideman with Art Farmer, and Sonny Rollins and bassist Rufus Reid, who performed with luminaries like Dexter Gordon and Stan Getz. We will send you one of Hiro’s three CDs recorded in NY and Japan. This also includes a digital download of the film and the color PDF pamphlet.

$500 - Calligraphy - Hiro Takada has received many awards for his calligraphy, starting at age 14, when he won Japan's national championship.  He continues to enjoy the art of creating Japanese characters in brushstroke. Please order one of the four “kanji” characters we have selected to exemplify the war bride experience:

Endurance
Endurance
Love
Love
Dream
Dream
Strength
Strength

(shinobu, or endurance), (ai, or love), (yume, or dream), and (go, or strength.)

$750 - Diane Abt artwork

An original piece to be created for this documentary about a generation of Japanese women in America.  Artist statement: "My work is rooted in East Asian calligraphy and my long experience as a journalist. Living in Japan for more than seven years, especially studying calligraphy, helped me discover the elegance of understatement, as well as the beauty and power of emptiness. The vibrant earthiness of my hometown, Chicago, taught me to search for complex texture beneath the surface. My 35-year career as a reporter and editor also shapes my work. Story telling remains important to me, though my tools have changed. Art making enables me to see the world's beauty with more delight, to witness its tragedy with more clarity and compassion, and hopefully, to create a similar feeling for the viewer. In the words of Paul Klee, 'Art does not render the visible, but renders visible.'"

See examples of her work at www.dianeabt.com.

Mainichi: Bagdhad Sisters (2008), Mixed media, photo transfer and collage on Japanese paper.  Diane intends to create a piece that references the experience of Japanese war brides in America. The size will be about 20 inches by 17 inches.
Mainichi: Bagdhad Sisters (2008), Mixed media, photo transfer and collage on Japanese paper. Diane intends to create a piece that references the experience of Japanese war brides in America. The size will be about 20 inches by 17 inches.


$10,000 - Exclusive insider's walking tour of Tokyo - Experience one of the greatest cities on earth the way insiders do! Lucy Craft will guide you around the fascinating nooks and crannies of Japan's capital and mega-city, where she has worked, raised a family, and has written about, for 30 years. Tour will make the most of your limited time by customizing sightseeing to your own interests, whether it's authentic Japanese culture and tradition, Japan's famous cuisine and culinary customs, its colorful and lively festivals, anime-manga, avant garde fashion, outdoors and sports -- or a combination of all of the above.

Risks and challenges

All of us have day jobs (editor, photographer, producer.) The major risk is that a sudden assignment would sideline one of us for a few days. Since there are three of us, we are confident about being able to keep the project on track by reassigning duties to other team members as required.

The health and energy level of our subjects is, of course, another concern, which is why must move quickly to capture their story. We will be diligent about transparency and about communicating any issues if they arise.

The bottom line is that we have been working on this project since 2011 and are committed to completing the film in time for the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two, in August 2015. Most of all, we are anxious to complete the film expeditiously in order that our stars — the war brides themselves, many of whom are in their 70s and 80s — are able to see it.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    A “shout-out” of thanks on Twitter and Facebook and personal e-mail to express our gratitude for helping make this film a reality.

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    Digital download of our film. A “shout-out” of thanks on Twitter and Facebook and personal e-mail to express our gratitude.

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    Digital download of our film and downloadable illustrated background pamphlet. Name added to our donor list on our website.

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    Above + signed CD by Tokyo-based jazz artist Hiro Takada.

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    DVD of our film with personalized note, our pamphlet and a shout-out. And of course your name included on our donor list.

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    A personal Skype session with the Daughters and 2 copies of our DVD (one to give away). Plus all of the recognition you deserve as a backer of our film!

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Japanese original calligraphy on 9.5 x 10.6-inch "shikishi" board. Your choice of Endurance, Strength, Dream or Love.
    Your choice of DVD or digital download and your name on our donor list.

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    Pledge $750 or more About $750

    Berkeley-based artist Diane Abt, whose work is rooted in East Asian calligraphy, will create an original painting inspired by this documentary about a generation of Japanese women in America. See examples of her work at www.dianeabt.com. We will also send you a DVD of the film and list you as a backer.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Your name listed as a sponsor on the closing credits of our film and a DVD and digital download.

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    Personalized downloadable guide to Tokyo's best tourist sites, customized to your interests. A digital download of the film and your name listed as a sponsor on the closing credits.

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    Your own personal tour of Tokyo (transportation to Japan not included) by Lucy, who has lived in Japan for 30 years. Also, digital download and name on closing credits.

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Funding period

- (30 days)