1958 - 2014 d.

1958: Second Marriage: to Hiroshi Otaka: a Japanese diplomat
whom she had met in NYC (he was posted to the United Nations) when he attended the Broadway play Shangri-La. She became a diplomat's wife, attending to those types of duties, and lived for a while in Myanmar (Burma). They remained married until his death in 2001.

There aren't many photos available of Yoshiko and Hiroshi.

a wedding photo of them taken in Rangoon, Burma in 1958:

Yoshiko with a Burmese harp music instrument: (Otaka was posted to Burma)

in the role of housewife:

during a trip to Fiji in the 1960s:
(he passed away in 2001) 

above photo taken in 1966 - Yoshiko is holding Spanish castanets while learning the Flamenco dance.

October 12, 1966: Hiroshi was posted to the Japanese mission to Switzerland from 1963 - 1968. While living in Geneva, Yoshiko wrote handwritten greetings to the public on a picture taken by a reporter:
"From her conversation with the reporters, it was easy to see deep inside her loneliness and pain; because her husband was busy working, and she had no child companion, so she had raised two black Scottish terriers as "godsons".
The above photo was taken by a reporter during an interview at Geneva Park, it shows Yoshiko and her two "godsons" walking in the park. The right side handwriting says "say hello to all my friends!". The left side is signed and dated: "Li Xianglan 12 Oct. 1966 Geneve."
The above photo can be found at this website:    http://goo.gl/1SwJFM     and
The above provides several insights into her somewhat lonely life at the time, while also confirming her use of the name Li Xianglan (the name by which most Chinese remember her even while knowing she was of Japanese descent). And we now can better understand the emotions that impelled her to 'return to the public arena' as a world-travelling
journalist, TV personality, and LDP politician.  

Journalism Career: 1967 - 1974
In 1958 Yoshiko Yamaguchi retired from films and went into the phase of being the wife of a diplomat. Until that is, she decided to resume a childhood interest in journalism, and in 1967 became the host of an afternoon Japanese TV show named "The Three O'clock You" (Sanji no anata) or "You, at Three O'clock". 

here she is with fellow "Three O'clock You" hosts:

The show was targeted at married woman and often covered such topics as fashion. But that wasn't interesting enough for Yoshiko, so in August 1970 she decided to go report on the Vietnam War:
traveling to the front lines in Vietnam as well as Cambodia. A photo of her taken in Cambodia:
She was ardently anti-war and did not hide her views.
Here is short clip of Yoshiko on TV during a 1968 interview:
and another short clip where she discusses her first adoptive father Li Jichun:

She was also interested in "learning what the Middle East was all about", so she traveled all over that region interviewing people in the news. Here she is at the site of the attack on Israel's Lod Airport:
One of the people she met was the Palestinian airplane-hijacker named Leila Khaled:

This is what Leila asked later in life: Who planted terror in our country?

Regarding the Palestinian issue, Yamaguchi was outspoken in her views:
All the Palestinians I met were incredibly proud and refined. I marveled, thinking "these people are so poor and are living in refugee camps and yet..." The children also had a great attitude. I even saw little children in the refugee camps walking around with armfuls of books. I sensed a strong will to study hard.
here she is cradling a baby in one of her many visits to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon: this photo especially poignant since Yoshiko bore no children of her own: 

I noticed the New York Times did not mention any of the above in their obituary of Yamaguchi.

The number of famous personages that she interviewed is remarkable (if any American reporter had done similarly they would've been lauded as "world-famous reporters") but in most of the obits and summaries of her life, this achievement is barely noted. The great New York Times says of this time: "Ms. Yamaguchi became a talk-show host on Japanese TV in the 1960's under her married name, Otaka".

Well, perhaps the NYT could've been more generous in it's praise - look at the pictures below and judge for yourself whether she deserved better than "talk-show host". She interviewed the caliber of people such as Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher.
Here are some of Yoshiko's interviews:
with Pearl Buck and family:

with Margaret Thatcher:

 with Saudi King Abdullah:
with Libya's Moamar Gaddafi:

with Jordan's King Hussein:

below, in an unfortunate smiling pose with Ida Amin. 
Unlike today's public figures, Yamaguchi was not perfect, and was un-managed.  
Maybe the smile was just the result of standard Japanese courtesy in diplomatic meetings: to smile no matter the thoughts present, or perhaps the photographer said something funny: in any case, this pose itself was seized upon by Ian Buruma, author of "The China Lover", to unfairly portray her in general as an 'airhead' with no sense of right and wrong. 

with Yasir Arafat: (she met him on several occasions):

interviewing Fusako Shigenobu of the Japanese Red Army:
Fusako was involved in the formation of JRA and planning of the Lod Airport attack, conducted by three JRA members; you can read about the details here: http://www.palestinefacts.org/pf_1967to1991_lod_1972.php
conducting a 1973 discussion about Fusako and the JRA:
view this discussion here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rXIUjCImv1M

She also interviewed Korea's Kim Il Sung, Muammar Gaddafi, and Nelson Mandela. Oh, and President Bush too:

Here she is toasting Kim Il Sung (who it turns out was one of her fans):
Kim recalled watching her "China Nights" movie in 1941 while fighting in the hills as a guerilla against Japanese forces. This particular meeting meant a lot to her: you can find a picture of this toast in Yoshiko's living room in the 2010 set of pictures.

meeting President Gorbachev in Moscow:


On a lighter note, apparently she also liked her dogs. (find an explanation of this same picture taken in Oct 1966, above):

in 1971 with same dog:

In September 1972, while hosting her TV show Three O'clock You, Japanese PM Tanaka Kakuei and Chinese President Zhou Enlai were shaking hands and drinking toasts at the signing of the friendship treaty between Japan and China. Yamaguchi had to go hide her tears of joy behind some speakers in the studio - she recalls that day as being "the best day of my life", indicating how high a value she put on peace between Japan and China.   

I think that's Zhou En Lai on the right:


The next phase of Yoshiko's life would take her into the world of Japanese politics as she campaigned for a seat in the upper House of the Diet (Japanese parliament).

always with a clear-eyed view of the world:

while campaigning for office:

In 1974, at age 54 Yoshiko Yamaguchi was elected to the upper House of the Japanese parliament where she served for 18 years (3 terms) until 1992. These 18 years in the Diet are usually characterized as "she became a politician in her later years". An American who serves in the U.S. Congress for eighteen years is usually a notable item in the news (even if that achievement is the only notable thing this recipient of a government pension for life ever does). 

Meanwhile she was fighting hard for more truthfulness about Japan's actions in WW2, campaigning for greater understanding and peace between Japan and China (nay between all peoples), heading many delegations to visit China to encourage a better relationship, and trying to lead a more truthful direction for Japan's youth who are increasingly remote from the war-deeds of Japan's soldiers. 
She saw clearly how Japan's youth were not working hard enough to learn about the past (so they would not repeat it). She exhorted them to "not take peace for granted", and to look at Japan's actions in the war truthfully, as 'looking in the mirror of history' (this phrase being a well-known Chinese saying). 

here she is upon winning the election in 1974, accompanied by her husband Hiroshi:  

at an LDP meeting:

meeting Prime Minister Tanaka:

1978: during a visit to China: this photo is with her fellow actors, standing in front of the Xinjing (Changchun) Film Studio where they had all worked some 40 years ago "in the spring of their youth":
This same film studio, originally built by the 'hated Japanese' is today one of the cornerstones of modern film production in China:

the following document is an example of the "intelligence files" which the US maintained on Yamaguchi (she is mentioned in the second half of the below doc):


singing once again in 1981: according to Yoshiko's memoirs, this was a reunion between Li Jinguang (composer of the great hit "Evening Primrose"), Ryoichi Hattori, and others held at the Hotel New Otani in Japan:

if you click on this video, it should begin where the above scene at 43:50 begins. If not, you'll still find this 46 minute video to be an excellent summary of Yamaguchi's life story.

Li Jinguang, the composer of "Evening Primrose", watches as R. Hattori plays piano and Yoshiko sings "Evening Primrose" once again:
this is an mp3 of the Suzhou Nocturne from the same meeting:

with her 'Continental films' co-star Hasegawa Kazuo (the actor who slapped her so violently in the 1939 film "China Nights"):

below, with song-writer Chen Gexin's son Chen Gang: Yoshiko confirmed to him that "your father and I . . . ah well. . ." or in other words she and his father had been lovers at one time. The story goes that he wrote the famous hit "Too Late when we meet" (ie, already married) specifically for her. Although they had a brief affair, Chen Gexin broke it off because he decided to marry another lady.
Chen Gang followed in his father's musical footsteps, becoming the famous composer of "Butterfly Lovers Concerto" a symphonic piece for full orchestra, played with er'hu and western instruments:
a mix of 50 beautiful Chinese Concertos beginning with Butterfly Lovers: 
A Japanese government site confirms that Hiroshi Otaka was the ambassador to Sri Lanka between the following years:

It was during President Reagan's November 1983 visit and speech in the Diet chambers that Yoshiko met again with him (she had met him way back in the 1950's during her Hollywood years - they had a great time talking about their old Hollywood memories). 


1986: It was about this year when Yoshiko suffered a bad case of Shingles. She spent two and a half months in hospital and a recuperation (lasting almost a whole year) during which time she continued working on her autobiography along with her co-author Sakuya Fujiwara. Apparently, she had commenced writing her memoir in 1984. She felt the sickness was symbolic of how resurrecting her past caused her much anguish as she struggled to bring up all the old memories once again. 

It was also at this same time that Yoshiko's 92 yr old mother in failing health could "no longer quite recognize" her daughter. So all-in-all, it was quite a trying time. 

She candidly describes her early life experiences as "not being truly worthy of self-narration" from her point of view as someone "preoccupied with just playing my given roles under given circumstances." But given the embellished and false accounts of her life by others, she decided to set the record straight in as truthful a manner as she could. 

She recounts that after watching the 3 'continental films' (White Orchid, China Nights, Vow in the Desert) they caused her so much pain that she lost sleep for 3 months and even thought of suicide. No wonder she developed a case of Shingles!

1987 the part biography, part autobiography "My Early Life as Ri Koran" was published in Japan followed by it's translation into Chinese. It was a bestseller, translated into different languages and sold a million copies. You can understand as you read this book how it probably was not welcomed by various sectors of Japanese society (and especially the right-wing) because it exposed a lot of truth, but by this time Yoshiko had decided to 'set the record straight' about her life and the excesses of the Japanese military in China. Her postscript states that she felt that some degree of atonement for her role in the whole tragedy was necessary from her. 

here is a summary video about her life containing many images not available elsewhere:  
14 10 21 AK CUG 山口淑子 李香蘭 by marron-news-edit
1989 TV Movie 
an excellent sino-japanese co-production about her life in China titled "Goodbye Ri Koran [Li Xianglan]" was made, starring Yasuko Sawaguchi and featuring the hit song by Jackie Cheung named after Li. 
The 1992 VHS tape version of "Sayonara Ri Koran" is below:
if you want to watch 24 clips of this movie on YouTube, please click this page of videos:
the main credits of the movie begin at 6:30 in this clip.

1989 Interview Magazine Article
by Ian Buruma, who obviously had ulterior motives which he did not divulge to Yoshiko. He labels the below movie still from her 1956 film "Madame White Snake", "a eurasian fantasy":

In this article (and Buruma's other fiction work such as "The China Lover") there is not much doubt that he held Yamaguchi in great contempt and doesn't see her in a positive light at all. Buruma paints her as a shallow-minded seeker of fame. He wants to make her look bad on every conceivable level, so he chooses this type of imagery:
"THREE MONTHS before the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki: the star steps onstage in a bright red Chinese dress and high heels. She raises her head, basking in the colored spotlights, and sings a lilting Chinese song." Mr Buruma is so good at pushing buttons! the horror of the atomic smoke cloud of tens of thousands of souls juxtaposed with "the star" in a tacky red costume "basking" - well done Buruma - we get the picture!  Yoshiko is a bad person!
In his next sentence, Buruma gives us the Japanese army killing of civilians in Nanking (and elsewhere) as prelude to a famous scene from one of her memorable movies, "China Nights". Again, Mr. Buruma herds us toward accepting his misjudgement of Yamaguchi. Some other samples:
"She is sixty-nine years old, but makes an effort to preserve her glamour" [instead of the obvious truth that her beauty is astounding for her age.] 
"her hair is dyed black, her makeup is heavy" [sniff - how catty!]
"the main reminders of her former beauty" [sniff]
"she is surprisingly small" [sniff]
"power, clearly has its attractions" [sniff]
"but fame kept beckoning" [my goodness, such a human failure, sniff]

If you can get past Buruma's inanity, Yamaguchi herself made some revealing statements in the above article. When asked where her true home is, she answered without hesitating, "China" ! when asked how she feels when she returns to China, she says "nostalgic, of course, a feeling I don't have about Japan."   

She says that Shenyang (then Mukden) with it's White Russians, Jews, Chinese, Manchus, Europeans, and Japanese, had profound influence on her cosmopolitan style.

In a passage from her autobiography, Yoshiko says of her face: it "seemed to contain something universal, and not of the Japanese people. I am sure this accounts for doubts about my nationality. You can't tell my country from my face. I hated looking at myself in the mirror."  

When asked whether there is a connection between her past in China and Third World causes she says "Yes, I think there is a connection. You see, when I was a young girl in Manchuria, I saw that the weak were being dominated by the strong. The strong thought their power made them right, but I realized that the weak are always right and the strong always wrong. I was in Vietnam, in Cambodia, in Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, and Israel - I am not afraid of war, you see. Now don't get me wrong, I like the Jews - they are so talented and are real survivors - but they have no right to occupy other people's land.
further on in this exchange about Leila Khaled and the Middle East she says "Of course, I know terrorism isn't right, but to be kicked out of your home, well, that isn't right either . . . "

1991: The popularity of Yoshiko and her life story reached a new high following the publication of her memoirs. The 180 page Mainichi Magazine Collector's Special Edition featuring her came out in June 1991. It had many pictures, newspaper articles, etc from her personal files which had rarely been seen:

The Asahi Journal published this article in 1991 also:

1992 (November 10th) visit to the Pan household in Peking where she had lived from age 14 to about 18 (1934 - 1938) while war raged around her: 
as described in her memoirs, the house had once been palatial but now was in ruins:


1991: In April she personally selected her best seven films for the 16th Hong Kong International Film Festival. These seven films were: "1. China Nights", "2. Sayon's bell", "3. My Nightingale", "4. The Shining Day of My Life", "5. Escape at Dawn", "6. Scandal", and "7. Madame White Snake."  (note no American produced films were included).

1991 Interview with Sing Tao Daily:
In 1991 during an alleged interview with Sing Tao Daily (a Hong Kong newspaper), Yoshiko is said to have revealed some important biographic details about her past. Interestingly, these details were only posted on the website following her death in September 2014.  This is the Chinese language website where this information appears in a series of posts:

In his account, the reporter evidently had the skill and tactfulness to encourage Yoshiko to 'tell the outside world' what had before been only suspected. The reporter asks her in this way: "you love the Chinese music, the Chinese land, food, and Chinese people; how come you never love a Chinese man?" which causes an eruption of tears as Yoshiko starts to weep; until she 'pulls herself together' and answers the reporter as follows:
First, that the well-known 'Shanghai film-cultural personality' of Liu Na'ou (who was later assassinated) had indeed been one of her lovers. Second, that the famous composer who wrote many of her hits, Chen Gexin, had also been a lover. And the third, Zhu Gongyi, a musician who worked with Yoshiko during her last 1945 concert in Shanghai (but they had lost contact due to the upheavals after the war). The whole topic had always caused her a lot of pain because both sides were accusing her of being a traitor over these "deep feelings in her heart". 

In another post on the same page as the link above, the following important information:
"Look at Yoshiko's childhood photos and you will find a miracle. Father Fumio Yamaguchi, born in Kyushu in Saga Prefecture, mother Aiko with the other five children, all have that "flat plane, flat nose and small eyes typical of the Japanese face". The exception is the eldest daughter, Yoshiko (Li Xianglan), who has a high nose and big eyes, and chiseled features. During the 1991 interview visit, a rare face to face, [the reporter] was direct and asked her about this. She frankly replied: "My great-grandmother, it was once said, was French." She was afraid I did not catch this, that is to say, that she has at least some percentage of French ancestral descent! but I had heard it well. 

And after this baby [Yoshiko] grew up, it was surprisingly beautiful, but it also had good voice talent. The Japanese cultural program made use of this very rare combination of beauty, cultured person, and singing ability. The kind of beauty that Yoshiko had was called by the English: stunningly beautiful and very enchanting, mixing as it did oriental elegance and a wild western type of eroticism. The whole package was combined into the most wonderful presentation in both famous songs and films."

The reporter himself did not know Yamaguchi prior to this hours long interview in 1991, but recalls her face and skin as being "absolutely smooth and without wrinkles"; he was completely enchanted and attracted by her; recalling personally her famous Hong Kong movies of "Madam White Snake" and "Mysterious Beauty". 
Interview Details:
The reporter writes on his website that he prepared for six months in advance of the interview. The interview took five hours, between the hours of six in the evening until eleven at night. Time seemed to fly as Yoshiko happily discussed seven decades of her life, the joys, sorrows, politics between countries, and her prominent new friends in the vibrant Hong Kong interested in making a movie about Li Xianglan.  
Since she was in the Japanese government at the time, the interview took place in Yoshiko's government offices located in "Nagatacho, Chiyoda-ku, Senate Hall room six two II: "Yamaguchi Yoshiko Office", using her original real name. But in letters and emails correspondence, she used her husband's surname: "Otaka Yoshiko" originating from her 1958 second marriage to Japanese diplomat Otaka Hiroshi. 
One important reason why this particular reporter had succeeded in gaining an interview with Yoshiko was the fact that he spoke Japanese as well as Chinese (many other reporters had been pursuing her for years but had failed). 
Another reason for his success was that Yoshiko looked favorably towards Hong Kong (rather than Taiwan) in pursuit of a film project, ie, the true life story of Li Xianglan. Evidently there were notable film people involved, trying to bring this movie to life: the famous actress Gong Li was to play Li Xianglan, and directors would be Mabel Cheung and Alex Law (who made one of Yoshiko's favorite films "Autumn's Tale " in 1987). 

Ed. John M. opinion: After reading further the Chinese website, I have little reason to doubt the truth of what the above reporter has written about Yoshiko. It means she could have been 1/8th eurasian, ie, 12.5% French and 87.5% Japanese or other, which would explain her "exceptionally bright features" (using the reporter's own words). 

For Japanese researchers, please see the following link to Waseda University "Intelligence Magazine Issue No. 8" for another interesting interview with Yamaguchi: 
I will post this once I have a copy of it.

and now for some interesting jargon:
The "musical opera" noted above is the famed Japanese Shiki Theater Company performances of Yamaguchi's life throughout major cities in Japan from 1991 to 2006, with overseas performances in China (1992) and Singapore (1997). There were fifteen performances in the China cities of Beijing, Changchun, Shenyang, and Dalian.

Pu-yi rather enjoys this moment with Reiko-san below:
you can view the whole 1992 Shiki Theater production of Ri Koran here:
Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-13-gOiWag and
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3fH_QETFWU

In 1993 came another book titled "War, Peace, and Songs".
note the Palestinian kefiya on the right:

1993: In November, Yamaguchi was awarded the Order of the Precious Crown, a high honor in Japan.

1994: She assumed the post of Vice-President of the Asian Women's Fund, whose purpose regarding the wartime 'comfort women' is summarized on this page: Introduction message of Asian Women's Fund.
The guidemap to the interesting "Digital Museum" of the AWF.

1995:  in her role as Vice-President of the Asian Women's Fund, presenting testimony of the comfort women to then Prime Minister Murayama:
 she campaigned for this official Japanese government apology to the comfort women:
Here is an interview with Yoshiko concerning the role of the Asian Women's Fund:


1998 - Yoshiko travels back to her roots in China

This heartfelt Japanese video shows many of the scenes of Yoshiko's life, including a long segment on Lyuba, her Russian childhood friend:

this was her home country where as a child she ran through the fields and 'had the best time of her life'. You see her sitting at her elementary school desk in the Yong An school, playing the same "grando piano" in the Yamato Hotel, and in this striking photo, standing on the rim overlooking the great Fushun coal mine:
She takes the same train through what was once south Manchuria and meets her old friends, all happily conversing in Mandarin. But the most touching scenes are her meeting with Lyuba, the joy of these two old friends, and the sad heart-felt parting between them which ends the film. Extraordinary and sensitive film about Yoshiko revisiting the old China places after more than fifty years.

Yoshiko looking at the fields of home where she grew up:
below she watches herself acting and singing her hit songs in the 1943 film "Glory to Eternity": 
Below, Yoshiko visits the Pingdingshan Memorial Museum outside Fushun. At the age of 12, she witnessed the killing of a Chinese partisan by Japanese soldiers. This happened following the attack on the Fushun mine works the day before. Unbeknownst to her at the time, the Japanese army had also attacked the village of Pindingshan, machine-gunning and liquidating the entire village because of it's suspected collusion with Chinese partisans. Amazingly, a few people had survived this nightmare and escaped into the nearby woods (see pictures below of Pingdingshan delegation in Japan):

In her memoir Yamaguchi writes: "Wars without fail incite fanaticism among human beings, bring madness to nations, and transform the times into periods of lunatic chaos.

from the 918 Memorial Museum outside Fushun:

some of the survivors of the Pingdingshan massacre petitioned the Japanese government:

A last visit with her best friend from childhood, Lyuba, in Yekaterinburg, Russia:

meeting in 1998, Lyuba and Yoshiko, after 53 years apart:
Yoshiko meeting Lyuba, website with all photos.
Lyuba and Yoshiko visited the family grave-site where Lyuba's brother's name is carved on a tombstone:
When Yoshiko asks how he passed away, Lyuba is only able to quietly mumble a few words about the Japanese Army 731 Unit (which conducted horrendous torture and medical experimentation on prisoners in Harbin, northern Manchuria). This explains why Lyuba developed a strong hatred of the Japanese and gave up speaking (nay, intentionally forgot) the language she had once been so fluent in. But despite all this, she retained her love for her childhood friend Yoshiko, calling her a beautiful angel.   

Lyuba's photo collection of Li Xianglan:

a final poignant photo of the two life-long friends:

Lyuba passed away in September of 1999. May she rest in peace.

'Lyubochka' would have appreciated this poem by Marina Tsvetaeva (Ed: my loose interpretation is shown below): 

Oh, how many, into this gaping chasm have fell?
My time will come and I as well
Will go one Night,
And all that struggled, shone, loved and rejoiced
Will be ensnared.
My emerald eyes, my gentle voice, my golden hair,
All turned to ash.
And life with it's daily bread will continue,
Everything will be as if I never was under the sky!
Like there was no me so alive and real on this tender earth,
To all - who are friends and strangers
I turn to you with my faith's demand and love's query,
For at the age of twenty, I'm often full of despair.
O listen to me! Love me ever,
and for that, I shall die someday.

2000: Happy at age 80:

2001 - Her husband, Hiroshi Otaka passed away in 2001.
She gave an interview to the Asian Women's Fund: http://www.awf.or.jp/e6/news-18.html in which she stated:
"I want to talk to young people about the horrors of war, to help ensure peace in this new century.” 

In 2002, Yoshiko said that the young people of Japan should know about the dangers of militarism and the great harm that Japan's military had done in China during the war. By this time she had become quite candid and outspoken in her anti-war views.

with Taiwanese author Chen Peng Ren - his books (including War, Peace, and Songs) co-authored with Yoshiko are shown below, signed by her:

In 2005, at age 85, Yamaguchi wrote a strong (and public) letter to then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, telling him not to attend the traditional yearly visit to the Yasukuni Shrine: It "was too hurtful to the hearts of the Chinese people".
[Ed: I have searched in vain for this letter and can't find a copy! Please send me a copy if you locate it.]
you can read about the controversial Yasukuni Shrine here:


here is a playlist of videos about a Shiki Theater performance, during which she is invited to join the actors onstage:   https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLC1A6CCB24291E81E

2006  with Aya Ueto, the girl who plays Li Xianglan in the Japan Fuji TV four-hour series:

The drama tells the story of Yamaguchi Yoshiko, a Japanese woman born and raised in China during the Japanese occupation of Manchuria. She debuts as the Chinese singer and actress Li Xianglan (Ri Kouran in Japanese), in the hopes that her efforts will work towards the benefit of both Japan and China. Hiding her true nationality, however, she slowly discovers herself becoming a puppet of the Japanese military’s propaganda efforts in Manchuria, starring in “national policy” films that humiliate the Chinese people. But billed as the “star of Greater East Asia,” her popularity soars across borders to Japan, where she holds a concert that draws thousands to the Nihon Gekijou Theatre and leads to a riot that injures several people. Based on her autobiography, this is the story of her personal struggle amidst military strife between her two homelands."
Ri Kouran Cast:
* Ueto Aya as Ri Kouran (Yamaguchi Yoshiko)
* Hashizume Isao as Yamaguchi Fumio (Yoshiko’s father)
* Natori Yuko as Yamaguchi Ai (Yoshiko’s mother)
* Kikukawa Rei as Kawashima Yoshiko
* Nakamura Shido as Amakasu Masahiko
* Sawamura Ikki as Kawakita Nagamasa
* Ozawa Yukiyoshi as Kodama Hidemi (Eisui)
* Ono Takehiko as Yamaga Toru
* Nakamura Fukusuke (中村福助) as Hasegawa Kazuo
* Kaneda Akio as Azuma Keizo
* Tsuruta Shinobu as Uchida Tomu
* Nishida Ken as Lt. Gen. Yoshioka Yasunao
* Nakayama Megumi as Chen Yunshang
* Saito Yoichiro (斉藤陽一郎) as Tamura Taijiro
* Fukami Motoki as Matsuoka Kenichiro
* Ishibashi Tamotsu as Noguchi Hisamitsu
* Maeda Koyo as Hattori Ryoichi
* Kawamata Shinobu (川俣しのぶ) as Atsumi Masako
* Noda Yoshiko (野田よし子) as Kawakita Kashiko
* Honda Shinya (本多新也) as Tsuji Kyuichi
* Yoshimitsu Ryota (吉満涼太) as Koide Takashi
* Saito Satoru as Yamanashi Minoru
* Tokui Yuu as Makino Mitsuo
* Matsuzawa Kazuyuki as Ueno Shinji
* Suzuki Masayuki as Watanabe Kunio
* Ayata Toshiki (綾田俊樹) as Police Capt. Kanazawa
* Ishii Hideaki (石井英明) as Negishi Kanichi
* Saito Bunta (斉藤文太) as Ikeda Sentaro
* Taguchi Shusho (田口主将) as Kume Masao
* Nogiwa Yoko as Narrator / Present-day Ri Kouran
* Wang Wei Hua (王偉華) as Puyi
* Li Lin (李琳) as Wan Rong
* Feng Min Min (馮敏敏) as Miss Liu
* Yao Ke Qin (姚克勤) as Li Jichun
* Wang Min (王敏) as Pan Yugui
* Lu Xiao Lin (呂曉霖) as Wen Guihua
* Lu Yi Jun (鹿宜均) as Meng Hong
the four-hour Japan/China co-production, Part 1 - 2 hrs:
hopefully this link works: Part 2 - 2 hrs:

at a 2006 interview:
with Shiki Theater performers of the play Ri Koran:

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-13-gOiWag
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3fH_QETFWU

In this interview after the above show, Yamaguchi is very candid about Japan's war-deeds:

 in 2008: toasted at one of the plays about her life:
below: with fellow author of her memoirs Fujiwara Sakuya on the left, leading lady Reiko Nomura, 
and Asari Keita, director of Shiki Theater on the right:

in April 2008, still with a twinkle in her eye at age 88:

in 2010:

2010 Interview.  members of a delegation from Fushun, China visited her:
here is the translish of the interview:

The headline on an article about these photos reads:
October 2010: An Indirect witness to the Pingdingshan Massacre
Yesterday, the reporter linked to Fushun Pingdingshan Massacre Memorial Museum curator Zhou Xueliang, spoke to Yoshiko Yamaguchi:  in 1932, when Manchukuo Wing station was the Japanese exclusive residential area, Yamaguchi's home was a small building next to the road. September 1932 was Yoshiko's freshman year in the Fushun Girls High School. 
Coinciding with the sixth Pingdingshan Massacre Symposium in Japan, 周学良 several museum staff-members attended the Symposium and went to see Rainbow Leung (Yoshiko) at her home.  Zhou Xueliang recalled that Rainbow Leung had mentioned that as a child she had seen [Chinese] tied up in public and paraded in the street. The museum staff had brought a photograph showing this street scene from the Fushun Pingdingshan memorial for her express confirmation. 
When we asked whether Rainbow Leung saw this scene, she said "yes". Zhou Xueliang said "Rainbow Leung was 90 years old, with the body still in good health, and also able to still speak well.
(Chinese Business Morning News reporter Kang Xiao of Chinese business network)
in 2010, as ever:

above photos were taken during the interview with Fushun, China dignitaries and published on the following website:  (this site is also filled with Fushun historical information) http://www.fs7000.com/news/?4608.html

with her Umehara Maiden Portrait of 1937 behind her on the living room wall:

In 2012, a Chinese "Apple" correspondent visited Yamaguchi in sickbed - although the 'translish' is hard to understand, it conveys many thoughts well. It appeared under the title "Famous Ri Koran in lonely old age with no children at her knee":
Hopefully this reporter was not so rude as to ask her about the "accused traitor view", after she had graciously allowed him this interview . . .

2013: Ties between China and Japan are strained by a territorial row over a group of islands, known as the Senkaku islands in Japan and the Diaoyu islands in China.
In a final message through the media, Yamaguchi voiced a strong criticism about the rising worship of nationalism represented by PM Abe, as it applies to these islands and contemporary Japanese society.

2014 March:
below: Yao Lee (the last diva remaining) bids Yoshiko farewell. The two old divas were friends and Yoshiko visited Yao one last time in Hong Kong, six months before she died. The two of them went to their favorite restaurant in the Peninsula Hotel to eat 'Beijing cuisine', where they both hummed the famous songs of Yao Lee's brother, Yao Min. (oh, to have been at the next table listening to these old songbirds. . . )
the building where Yoshiko lived in Ichibancho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. It was "only ten minutes" away from the National Diet and hence convenient for her:

In 2010 she remarked how "unnatural" it was to live on the high floor, looking at life scenes below:

her name plate reads: 507 Otaka-Yamaguchi:

A fourteen story building was constructed close to her building (in 2009 she had fought against this project, protesting that 2 meters was not enough space between the buildings)
and the recently completed building:

Several sources say she was in ill-health the final three years and in and out of hospital.
Her relatives said she led a normal although reclusive life, watching DVD's and her favorite movies from different countries, etc.

According to a Nikkei Asian Review article, (she met with the sympathetic author in 2013):
     She maintained her captivating, starlike beauty even after leaving the stage and screen. She was known for her clear, lyric soprano voice, and her frequent laughter. But those who talked with her could not help but feel that she was also full of conviction and strength. 
     Her home was filled with books on Manchuria and the history of the Showa era (1926-1989), which she said she read from time to time. Last year, when I spoke with her, she asked about herself, "Am I Japanese or Chinese?" Throughout her life, she never shied away from her tale as a person torn between two lands. 
My answer to her above question: You were gloriously both my dear.

She passed away on the morning of September 7, 2014 in her apartment.

 Rest In Peace, Yoshiko Yamaguchi.


Reaction from China:

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei (above) said "Miss Li Xianglan supported the postwar reconciliation of Sino-Japanese friendship and made many positive contributions toward this end; our condolences on her death." 

A Korean website reported that even former Chinese President and Communist Party Secretary Jiang Zemin had good words for her, "personally, I think she was a great woman". 

a remembrance showing some of her books at a library in Saga Prefecture, Japan (where her father was born):


her Memorial Service was held in Tokyo on January 23, 2015:



Her biography co-author, Fujiwara Sakuya, who gave a very beautiful eulogy describing her as "A great human being, Otaka Yoshiko" ( I hope to provide a passable translation of the eulogy someday):

for our Japanese readers, a good video about her life:

housute_rikourantoyamaguchiyoshiko... by soekosan

another video with many little-seen clips and pictures of her:

Yoshiko's hand-print in Japan's walk of fame. I believe the characters say something about "go my way":

a final heartfelt haiku:


Some final thoughts on The Mystery of Yoshiko Yamaguchi.


  1. Hi there!
    I am very happy to have stumbled across your blog today. Thanks so much for the detailed insight into Yoshiko Yamaguchi's life, she was a remarkable woman. I am currently researching Yamaguchi's political career as part of my PhD thesis, but as you have mentioned above this is often only dealt with as a cursory mention in the literature and any sort of biographical account of her life tends to focus solely on her film career. I was hoping that you might be able to point me in the right direction in terms of finding out more information about her political career? Any guidance would be much appreciated.
    Many thanks,

    1. Thank you Alison, good luck with your thesis and pls feel free to email me at any time. I'm gratified knowing about your continuing interest in Yamaguchi's life and work.
      As she mentions in her 1987 memoir, by intention there is no discussion of either her husband or herself in the political sphere because "it is much to soon to refer to this phase of life as history at this point." When she began writing her manuscript in 1985, she could not have imagined surviving another 30yrs! And it is our loss that she apparently did not write a further memoir concerning the 'political' years 1974 - 1992.

    2. Great, thanks for that John, I look forward to chatting with you about YY in future. Thanks for highlighting that quote, it does explain a lot but it certainly is our loss that they left it at that.

  2. I had previously read that Ms Yamaguchi was perhaps 1/4 Russian, usually attributed to a grandmother. This is the first time I read that she was 1/8 French, attributed to a great-grandmother. I find it strange that none of her siblings or parents have the Eurasian physical characteristics. I don't think this question of ancestry is that important, but what she chose to do with her life and her talent as a singer and actress made her a historical figure. - Eddie

  3. Glad to have found this website. She was one of my mother's favourite singers. I grew up with her songs in Mandarin and Japanese which I do not speak but have learnt to sing. My mother told me that she was a Chinese-born Japanese and I knew little about her legendary life until now. Must share this with my siblings. What a great lady! Integrity and honor, the old values.... There is only one nationality - the human race. JC