Sunday, September 7, 2014


They say "life writes the best stories". From her humble beginnings in a coal-mining area of Manchuria, to super-stardom across all of Asia, to imminent execution by firing-squad, to re-building her career in post-WW2 destroyed Japan, to the heights of Hollywood and bright lights of New York's Broadway, to yet another career as a world-travelling journalist, author, and TV personality, followed by eighteen years serving in the Diet (Upper House of Japan's Parliament), and then years working on behalf of the Asian Women's Fund, through her final years bravely speaking truth to power: such a life-story is truly one of the best you will ever find! 
Yoshiko Yamaguchi set gold-standards for perseverance, courage, honesty, inner and outer beauty, linguistic ability, unforgettable singing, opposition to war, and a marvelous energy for the work of life. 

Please click on the pages above to show biographic details, etc. between the years shown. 
If you would like to listen to a mix of her songs while reading her story, click here
This is a work in progress, check back sometimes to see the latest version. 
Below is a list of updates, etc, beginning with most recent:

25: Has China decided to 'rehabilitate' the legacy of Li Xiang Lan? The China International Women's Film Festival presented in June 2016 at Shenyang Railway Station prominently featured a documentary film on her life by the Taiwanese film-director Chen Meijun.

24. Recently found: about 150 news-clippings between 1950 - 1960, posted on a new page for easy reading. Yoshiko was one of the most quotable starlets in America and the gossip columnists had a field day with her vivacious and witty style. Some of them even got her charming accent right, letting us know she was "very hoppy" to be in the United States. 

23. Amazon eBooks will be publishing The History of Yamaguchi Yoshiko as an eBook which can be downloaded and viewed on many types of device. Click here for the ebook.

22. Author Edward Moreno has penned a 5 part series on Yoshiko (on the Discover Nikkei website) chock full of interesting information: click here for the first article in the series.  

21. New page: Mainichi Magazine. This 180 page Japanese collector's edition of June 30, 1991 (cover page on right) contains many pictures of Yoshiko that have never been seen on the internet; all in high-resolution. Enjoy! 

20. New page added named Postscript. I will be adding pertinent items from time to time. Such as this Kinema Junpo November 2014 article reviewing Yoshiko's career in film: (cover page on right):

19. A Hong Kong newspaper interview with Yoshiko made in 1991, in which she allegedly says "one of her great-grandmothers was said to have been French". You can read further details about this interview at this point in the biography. 

18. Added a list of 127 Yamaguchi songs on the Songs page complete with their YouTube links.

17. Received the sad news that the great actress Setsuko Hara (1920 - 2015) has passed away. You can see a glimpse of her in the below video at Tokyo Haneda airport greeting the arrival of Yoshiko Yamaguchi:

16. This short 1954 newsreel highlight shows Yoshiko arriving in Tokyo and also on the set of House of Bamboo in Hollywood. Unfortunately it does not have sound. How playful and uninhibited she was: a proper Japanese girl would never allow herself to be picked up in public - and by an American ! "Hey, put me down, put me down!"

15. Since the basic outline is finished, I am rereading the memoir and filling in/adding information as I go; also offering summary thoughts on each phase of her life. (see bottom of pages).

14. 1950 Live Performance page added. These are some rare and beautiful songs recorded in California; they feature Yamaguchi singing and speaking. They are in the public domain for now, but who knows for how long? 

13. Intelligence file page added - has samples of the type of data collected on Yamaguchi by military intelligence. A fascinating look into the shadowy intelligence world circa 1950. Many old newspaper articles from this file have been added to 1952-1958 page; in addition to many other files included on other pages.   

12. we have a new source of information: yanagi470 a Japanese blogger who has many unusual photos and stories about Ri Koran (use the Google translate feature in Chrome to get instant translation)

11. onwards to the 1947 - 1958 page, and the others.

10. a new CD of Yamaguchi favorites was issued by Columbia/Japan (copy shown on right) - click on The Songs page for details:

9. finished the 1943 - 1946 page.  

8. the Japan Society of NYC presented a film series in April 2015 called: THE MOST BEAUTIFUL: THE WAR FILMS OF YOSHIKO YAMAGUCHI & SETSUKO HARA.
included are five of Yamaguchi's films: click here for info on this outstanding series of films

7. finishing up the 1937 - 1943 page.

6. adding more info on Manchuria to the 1920 - 1933 page, and 1933 - 1937.

5. news: we have a new source of information: Andrew Knoski - click here to see the Japanese website featuring comprehensive information which Knoski has posted on Yamaguchi. (use the Google translation feature in Chrome to get instant translation)

4. completed the basic details of the 1920 - 1937 and 1937 - 1938 pages, moving on to the 1938 - 1943 page. 

3. added the new page 1937 - 1938, based on a close reading of the new translation of Yamaguchi's memoir by UH Press (see  Books link for more details on this book).  

2. updated my remarks on Buruma's Fiction Novel page.

1. added close to fifty pictures to the Knoski Photos page

to be continued:


  1. I saw the screening of China Nights on Saturday. The subtitles made it a gripping, dramatic film. Sadly, many in the audience laughed at the portions that might seem out of place today because of the ugly history between China and Japan at the time. Ms. Yamaguchi's performance was superb and quite believable despite some of the improbable twists of the plot. I expect to attend the other showings as well.

  2. 返事が遅れてすみません。
    am sorry that an answer is late.
    With blog to feel strong passion, I was impressed as 李香蘭 fan very much.

    I am weak in English, and it is the place where does not understand a small nuance to be disappointing.

    > Intelligence file
    It is great discovery.
    >1950 Live Peformance
    李香蘭 fans in Japan wanted to watch this animation including me.
    I had you introduce me, and thank you very much.
    By the way, where is your country?

    1. Thank you Yanagi. I appreciate your comment very much.
      Yes, the small nuance is hard to understand.
      John M. is a United States blogger.

  3. Thank you so much for posting all these. And one thing I want to confirm, that in her biography she wrote she was born in 北烟台,and then soon moved to Fu Shun.

    1. Yes, you are correct, she was born in North Yantai, in the suburbs of present-day Shenyang, and the family moved to Fushun. I have corrected the page accordingly. Thank you for mentioning this.
      John M.

  4. John, you have created an amazing tribute. I would be fascinated to hear what motivated or continues to motivate your interest. Do you have a family or historical connection?

    Having asked that question, let me explain my "connection". I learned some years ago about the movie "My Nightingale". It was mentioned in a book called "Harbin and Manchuria: place, space and identity". I was searching for my grandmother, who I know as Nina Engelgardt, although she is called Engelhardt in that book. She played the role of the older woman with pearls around her neck, arguably the supporting woman's role. Nina was a mezzo-soprano, although she does not sing in the movie. She was born with the family name Orlova, in Kaluga Russia, but used Engelgardt as a stage name (it was her mother's maiden name). I don't know exactly when she arrived in Harbin, but possibly around 1918. She and her husband (Nikolai Zavadsky, and later Tonoff-Zavadsky, a well-known violinist) divorced soon afterwards, and in about 1922 she married Vladimir Trachtenberg.

    Engelgardt was no doubt paid to perform in "My Nightingale" in 1943, at a time when her son (my father) Anatole N. Tonoff was a prisoner of war in Hong Kong. Trachtenberg (who was bald) can be seen playing principal violin in the half shell, just under an hour into the movie, and just before the most beautiful singing in the movie (between 1:00:00 and 1:01:00). Trachtenberg was Dean of the First Harbin Music Academy in the 1920s, and maybe much longer, and led his own orchestra. Engelgardt had her own opera troupe. I'm very interested in learning about their history in the 1920s and beyond... they eventually moved from China to Sydney Australia in 1959. Is it possible that Engelgardt was one of Yoshiko's vocal teachers in Harbin?

    Thanks for your efforts. I apologise for not focusing more on Yoshiko, but will be very grateful for leads towards the history of music in China from around 1920 until the late 50s.

  5. Sorry for my late reply (a glitch in Blogger). You have an interesting history there, and I just wish I could offer you some helpful specifics. John M.