It's apparent from the number of page views from countries all over the world, there is great and continuing interest in the life-story of Yoshiko Yamaguchi. On this page I will be adding items of interest which are pertinent to her life and historic legacy following her death in Sep 2014.
As westerners in their minds-eye hold the legend of Camelot dear to their hearts,
so the Japanese have a similar nostalgia for the place named Manchuria.
Manchuria was (and will always remain) a land of fascination for the Japanese people
who invested so much sweat and toil, heart-ache and blood
and so many dreams, making this place into their Camelot.
Except that in the case of Japan
Manchuria was not just a fairy-tale
in a sky so blue it hurt your eyes

below is some Japanese soul-music to accompany the many pictures of 'the continent' Manchuria
which still give the Japanese pride in their workmanship:

Shortly after the death of Yoshiko in September 2014, the Japanese magazine dedicated to film named Kinema Junpo published an 18 page retrospective article in their November 2014 issue. We don't have a complete translation as yet; here is the entire article:

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The following is a translation (courtesy of a friend of this biography) of part of the above 2014 article on Yamaguchi which appeared in the Japanese magazine Kinema Junpo. It has some fascinating details of her later life also. Note that the author, Oono, is apparently a Japanese playwright who interviewed the elderly Yoshiko Yamaguchi:
"In 1950, Yoshiko Yamaguchi visited the US to promote her movie ' Shuubun (Scandal).'
It was only natural for a born cosmopolitan like Yamaguchi to go beyond the limits of Asia.
She changed her name from Li Xiang Lan to 'Shirley Yamaguchi' and appeared in
movies like 'East is East' as well as on stage in Broadway.

She met a nisei sculptor Isamu Noguchi during her stay in the US. They shared the
pain and hardship they experienced during the war, and also the solitude that
existed because they were cosmopolitans. They got engaged and just around then,
they were invited to Charlie Chaplin's home party.

Shirley brought along a small koi nobori ( a streamer in the shape of a carp. May 5
is a national holiday to celebrate the health of boys. From mid-April, families celebrating
the birth of sons hoist koi nobori in their gardens. Carps are known to 'climb' rapid
waters, and people have been regarding them as good signs in wishing the boys
good health.) Chaplin called together his children and began running around the room
so that the carp would 'swim' in the wind. The children clapped their hands and Yoshiko
was surprised to see how very well-informed Chaplin was in things Japanese.

Chaplin had recently completed composing the theme music for 'Limelight'('52).
He began playing the piano to introduce the music to his fellow artists. Noguchi
and other artists, who tend to be critical about everything, did not easily praise the
music. Chaplin countered it is supposed to be played by violin and began playing
the violin. Yoshiko was strongly impressed by his accomplishments and how far a worldwide
figure like Chaplin would go in trying to persuade his guests the excellence of his

Several weeks later, Chaplin's wife invited them to come and see the recording of the
theme music. When they rushed to the studio at 9am, Chaplin himself was at the
podium with his baton. The rehearsal continued but Chaplin was not convinced.
He began giving directions to each performer. When at last they were ready for
recording, it was 5pm. Nobody was looking at the score but the performance was
outstanding. Yoshiko never forgot the words that Chaplin kept repeating. ' There is a
sound where there isn't supposed to be one.'

[When Oono heard this from Yoshiko as she was approaching 90 years of age, she sang the
theme music to herself in lovely soprano.]

Some time later, Shirley cooked sukiyaki at a party at the Eames home in Santa Monica.
Guest of the party, Chaplin decided to thank Yoshiko by dancing Japanese style. He held a
fan and began to dance impromptu. Y was again startled to see him dance well
and also to witness him having trouble in playing the game 'charade' that evening.
She knew intuitively that this genius was a hard worker.

Shirley and Charlie's friendship continued for a long time. In 1961, when Charlie visited
Japan for the fourth time, he called Shirley from the airport. (He also phoned his stock
company. Oono thinks it is rather interesting that his destitute childhood must have
had a strong influence on his financial senses.) Shirley accompanied him to his favorite
tempura restaurant. When edamame was served as an appetizer, Charlie ate the entire
pod. She told him, 'You aren't supposed to eat the shell.' 'What ! I ate the suitcase
and all.' At age 72, his sense of humor was still there.

Their last meeting was in 1963. Yoshiko's husband Hiroshi Otaka was a diplomat in
Geneva. Chaplin was living in Switzerland after being ousted from the US. On their
first Sunday in Geneva, the Otakas decided to make a casual visit to Chaplin's
residence. Without an appointment, they were obliged to wait at the entrance. After a
while, Charlie cried out 'Shirrrrrrley !!!' holding a tennis racket in his hand, and he ran
across his enormous garden like a young man. That was Chaplin at 73.

Yoshiko told Oono, 'The influence I got from Chaplin was not a theory.' 'Chaplin loved the
heart of poor people. It connected with my love for the Palestinian people.' She
recalled the nobility of Palestinian children. No matter how destitute they were, no one
touched her purse. When Oono commented that such nobility is also evident in
Chaplin's films, she heartily answered 'Yes'.

Late in life, Yoshiko kept an AIBO (it's a dog-shaped robot created by Sony) and named it
'Charlie'. She laughed when she called out the name and said 'I do feel him close by'.
As the problems she tried to tackle as her lifelong pursuit, crises in the middle east and
the comfort women issue, are becoming intensified, how we wish we could feel Shirley
to be near us. We shall remember what Shirley inherited from Charlie, and the
cosmopolitan and unrestricted way she sang to us.

Gasshou ( it means pressing one's hands together as in prayer.)"

a translation of a revealing 2014 article in the film magazine Kinema Junpo:
A Woman Who Could Not Sit (Remain) On Tatami
By Tadao Sato, b. 1930
Film critic and President of Japan Film University.
Author of numerous books.

Sato saw Ri Koran for the first time in 1940, when his mother took him to see 'China Night.
As a fourth grader, he was not interested in this love romance movie, but he
knew that the movie was extremely popular and the theme music a great hit. The star
of the movie was Ri Koran, a Chinese girl whose beauty and ability to sing so well made
her immensely popular.

By 1940, Japan-Sino War was in its second year, and people in Japan who made light
of the situation that military clashes could not last long were beginning to feel uneasy that
this war was taking a different course. The government needed to carry out a propaganda
that the majority of Chinese were 'good citizens', and that evil-minded Americans and
British were behind Chang Kai Shek's government to suppress the citizens and urge them
to fight against Japan. In Japan, newspapers took up examples of 'good citizens' in China,
and the most effective example was without any doubt Ri Koran, who had already planted
a strong impression even to young children. In 'China Night', a Chinese girl who continues
to behave in an anti-Japanese manner is bullied by rough Japanese men in a street corner
in Shanghai. A madroos (Dutch word for a sailor), played ay Kazuo Hasegawa, saves her from
the bullies, but she continues to be rebellious. He slaps her, and not only does she become
obedient, she begins to gaze fondly at him. The beginning of a love romance between the
two countries.

Years later, Hong Kong Film Festival (1985) made plans to include this movie as a special showing.
During the war, it was shown in Shanghai as well, so that she also had many fans in Hong
Kong. Regarding this plan, I was consulted by both sides, the HK Film Festival and Ms. Yamaguchi.
She preferred to have a showing of another movie, 'Akatsuki no Dassou' (Escape at Dawn), made after the war in 1950 with an anti-war message. Sato persuaded her that if it is the wish of people in HK, 'China Night' should be shown.

Sato was present at the film festival, and following the special showing, he went around
asking the audience how they felt about the movie. Unanimous reaction was that they all
knew about the propagandistic nature of the story and that such expressions did not bother
them. But they resented the part about the girl falling in love with the Japanese sailor,
just after being bullied by some Japanese men as it did much to disgrace the Chinese people's self-respect. When Sato told Yamaguchi about this feedback, she regretted why it did not occur to the Japanese side, including herself, to be more sensitive about the Chinese people's pride. 

Sato moves on to include Yoshiko's birth and upbringing in Manchuria, and how she was
exploited by Man Ei (Manchuria Film Company). Her perfect command of both Chinese
and Japanese did give rise to suspicion 'Isn't she Japanese?' Such doubt did not
surface because scandalous nature of journalism was not as evident, and her very presence
in these movies convinced the ordinary Japanese that Chinese people do like them.
After the war, when she confessed her identity. Sato remembers feeling 'Ah! Just as I
expected' and also believes most people felt the same way.

Sato mentions a number of movies as Ri Koran's masterpieces.
In addition to movies produced by Chuka Denei and others during the war in Shanghai,
Sato must include Eternity. It is about the Opium War, but is also a wonderful musical in which Yamaguchi dominates the screen by running about the opium den. She sang and danced to tell about the damaging effects of opium.
Another great melodious movie 'Watashi no Uguisu' (My Nightingale, 1943), was directed
by Yasujiro Shimazu for Man Ei, and included former Imperial Russia's court musicians
living in Manchuria. A truly unique movie. In Japanese movies, Yoshiko was received as a
foreigner and even after she was able to call herself Japanese, she was often cast as an
exotic being of high caliber. People could not imagine her as an ordinary Japanese
woman sitting quietly on a tatami floor. This may be the reason for her being considered a
remarkable actress. She never managed to take root in traditional Japanese scenery.

Not before long, she made use of her language skills and keen sensitivity to global issues
to become a journalist on Japanese television and then to become a politician. She
focused on diplomatic relations and Sato feels she must have recollected a lot about her past when she was taken advantage of by others and she was no doubt regretful. At times when Sato did get to meet her, he "enjoyed being with an honest and charming personality".


In contrast with the above articles, is Yamaguchi's New York Times obituary, accompanied by one of the most negative portrayal's of her they could possibly have dug up (what kind of a house is this, that has men laying on a bare mattress? hmmmm?). 

However, the obituary does have a passable version of her life story, despite all the slights, back-handed compliments, and inaccuracies throughout the piece. 

These videos contain early clips of Yoshiko singing and many pictures of her which I have not seen in any other summary of her life:


On Oct 14, 2014, the Changchun Evening News published an interview with Yamaguchi which had been recorded on Mar 12, 2009: Due to the subject of the article (Yoshiko Kawashima, picture below) one wonders if the Changchun News waited until Oct 2014 to publish it.
Link to article:  (if you have the google translate button installed on chrome, you can instantly get a readable translation): The headline reads "Kawashima disguised as a man, Li Xianglan was a "little brother":

Yoshiko autographed and dated the picture and gave it to the reporter: the photo below shows Yoshiko and the reporter named Zang Yu:

The article mentions how Yamaguchi felt tearful when she heard the name of her "little brother" (Kawashima) mentioned.

Early 2015. Another Memorial Service was held in Japan:

Sep 2015
The one year anniversary. In memory of Ri-Koran and her Musical which they performed so many times, the Shiki Theater displayed the following memorial: 

Dec 2015 
These next videos are [were] quite interesting since they show an interview with Yoshiko's younger sister Seiko (who is 12 years younger, making her about 83 years old this year). The interview was conducted inside Yoshiko's apartment in central Tokyo. And here was Seiko at age 5 in 1937:
I think both videos were made for a two-part TV series since both are about 25 minutes long and cover Yoshiko's whole life history: here's Part 1:

and Part 2:

(why did they blur-out so many of the photos that we've been so interested to see? it appears this was an amateurish attempt to convey a sense of mystery rather than any photo having a copyright problem).

[Ed. Unfortunately, YouTube removed the above videos due to some kind of copyright problem. However, I did save some photos of Yoshiko's apartment:

The above 2 videos were shown on Japan TV in October 2015:
I have written to Google (who owns YouTube) to try and get the videos back online.

Jan 2016
Here is the Koga Masao Museum of Music in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo:

There is a large display in the museum about Yoshiko (Koga wrote many of her hit songs):

below, the actual 'Test Record' recorded in 1944 and only re-discovered in 2012 (it contained 2 beautiful songs which are included in the CD album "World of Legendary Diva Li Xianglan Yamaguchi Yoshiko" shown on the left-hand side of the picture below:

June 2016:
CHINA: INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S FILM FESTIVAL at SHENYANG STATION presents "Li Xianglan World", a documentary film. 
[Ed: when I saw those magic words "Shenyang, ie, Mukden Station" with all it's historic significance in Yoshiko's life, my hopes were seriously raised that at last she would receive a well-deserved 'welcome home dear'.]
had the Chinese government decided to 'rehabilitate' the legacy of Li Xianglan? 
Taiwanese film-director Chen Meijun produced the documentary called "Li Xianglan World". The opening ceremony on June 19th even featured Shen giving a talk about her film:

However, at least one Chinese reviewer feels the documentary is an insult to the memory of Li Xianglan, as expressed in his review here. (you will need to translate from Chinese).

Ed: From what I have been able to gather about the film "Li Xianglan World", the title is misleading in that only a small portion of Li Xianglan's life is featured (and mainly those events in her life which involved Taiwan). Readers of this biography will already know which events these are. 

the "1905 Creative Space" building in Shenyang, a striking architectural re-purposing of a train-shed:

inside the "1905" building (note the original structural steel):

what the original building may have looked like:

to be cont'd:


Aug 2016:
A friend of the blog sent the below pictures showing a Toshiko Yamaguchi name as it appears in the "Founder's Circle" of SOKA University (located in Aliso Viejo, California):


October 2016:
A Hong Kong exhibition featuring pictures, memorabilia, vinyl records, tapes, etc, was held in the Wan Chai area:
Thanks to reader Kit Yu (whose comment appears on the 1952 - 1958 page), we have a link to the 85 page scrapbook which they posted on their website. You can save this pdf file to your computer in case the link goes down in future. The scrapbook contains many striking pictures of Li Xianglan from her 1950's Hong Kong films and earlier which are unavailable on other sites.

May 2017
A six minute black and white film was found, showing Yoshiko singing at a Japanese temple:

August 2017
It is here I would like to acknowledge the many contributions to this biography made by my friend Z. Peter Mitchell, Ph.D. a fellow admirer of Yoshiko Yamaguchi. He recently donated several rare films and sent me the below acknowledgement which he received from Mr. Jim Cheng, the Director of the C.V. Starr East Asian Library of Columbia University:
link to C. V. Starr East Asian Library
link to CV Starr collection of Ling Long, rare Chinese women's magazine - 1930's


The below video was posted in June 2017: it shows a 1998 Japan TV movie about Yoshiko's trip back in time to her roots in China. It is a high-quality production (one of the best such documentaries on the internet) and a must-see for it's historical content of touch-stones in Yamaguchi's career. Of course, the picture below is of the Yamato Hotel in Mukden where Yoshiko commenced her stellar singing career: 

typical of the striking images in the above video:
Yoshiko sitting at a desk in the former Yong An Elementary School:

and at the great open-pit coal-mine in Fushun, staring at the chasm of history . . .

and walking into the distance with her best friend Lyuba:



24 qipao costumes of films from 1949-2001 are on display, bringing you on a cultural journey through early Republic years to 1960s. Some once worn by stars such as Zhou Xuan, Bai Guang, Li Xianglan (aka Yamaguchi Yoshiko), Li Lihua, Linda Lin Dai and Betty Loh Ti in the early black and white films are restored to their full-coloured glory for the first time!
Reader Kit Yu has graciously forwarded this picture of the beautiful Qipao worn by Li Xianglan in her 1958 movie An Unforgettable Night 夜風流 :

For those of you who have come this far: The Mystery of Yoshiko Yamaguchi - some final thoughts.

More Photos of Li Xianglan - March 2018



  1. I know her since I born, and she used to come and visit me in Lebanon, in 1982 the was a war in Lebanon, and she wanted to see me and make sure i was safe, but the Japanese embassy in Syria didn't allow her for her safety to enter Lebanon, she asked a journalist to find me and to bring her my pictures.
    We traveled a lot because of the war, but she always managed to find me.

    She was a great person, and I used to call her mom, for the last few years couldn't get hold of her.

    I tell my children about you, how famous you are, how beautiful you are and about your big heart.

    We love you, and will always remember and miss you.

    Your Son Walid

    1. Thank you Walid for your comment!
      John M.

    2. The above comment from Walid is insightful as to why Yoshiko is beloved by people all over the world who remember her "big heart".