Reels of 1949 films and photo negatives of Kinuyo Tanaka, one of Japan’s most famous actresses, have been found among the belongings of a late relative, the relative’s assistant said Monday.
The 300 negatives and 11 spools of 16 mm film were shot during a visit to the United States and owned by Masaki Kobayashi, a film director who was Tanaka’s second cousin. His assistant, Koko Kajiyama, made the find.
Tanaka (1909-1977) was Japan’s first postwar cultural envoy and went to the U.S. for three months in October 1949. She met Hollywood stars, including John Wayne, learned about U.S. makeup styles and visited Japanese-Americans, many of whom had been interned during World War II.
After returning to Japan, she took part in a parade in Tokyo’s Ginza district, after which the media called her “too Americanized.”
The popular actress, who enjoyed fame in and outside Japan from films by Kenji Mizoguchi, Yasujiro Ozu and other renowned directors, was shocked at the criticism. Afterward, she never spoke about her trip.
The footage, about 1 hour and 40 minutes, includes scenes of the star visiting the home of Bette Davis, according to Kajiyama. Most of it shows Tanaka in kimono traveling across the U.S. and giving messages of encouragement to Japanese-Americans.
“The criticism at the time was groundless,” Kajiyama said. “I hope these records will be helpful in re-examining her accomplishments, which were buried in history.”
The footage has been edited into a 20-minute movie and will be shown next month at a film festival in Hokkaido. , Kajiyama said.
During her long career, Tanaka also directed six films of her own.
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