Books. Mag Covers. Comments.

Yoshiko Yamaguchi wrote memoirs, and other authors also wrote about her life; unfortunately, little of her autobiographical work had been translated into English prior to February of 2015. What a fortuitous coincidence for us - because now we have an complete English translation!

On behalf of everyone who wishes to know more about Yoshiko Yamaguchi, our thankyou's go out to Chia-ning Chang, a Professor of Japanese literature at University of California, Davis. The original book by Yamaguchi/Fujiwara was not footnoted; Prof. Chang has given us a complete set of marvelous footnotes, chock-full of historical information, in addition to a chronology of her life, a filmography of her films, and a great index. It is a must have book! 

His translation of her autobiography "My early life as Ri Koran" (Watashi no hansei) was published by University of Hawaii Press: kudos to astute reader Peter M. (below) for bringing this book to our attention. Below is a screenshot of the book off the UH website:
If you try to search the UH website for the book, be aware that nothing comes up for any of her given names; the only way to find the book is punching in "fragrant" since this word is in the title. A better way to hide this publication from the general public could not have been found!
The 2015 price on the book ($45 + $7 s/h) is quite stiff but worth it.

There is another book by UH Press which has a chapter on Yamaguchi, and I'll post this also (see below).

this link has an excellent chapter summary of the book:

UH Press has also published "The Attractive Empire" by Michael Baskett, which contains an interesting chapter on Li Xianglan:

here are some Japan-published versions of Yamaguchi Yoshiko's famous memoir:

below book-cover picture was taken during the February 1941 Nichigeki performance series:

if anyone knows why this Chinese title is "And Then the Loneliness", please inform us:

the below image is of the original book "My early life as Ri Koran" written by Yamaguchi Yoshiko along with Fujiwara Sakuya:

this is the "War, Peace, and Songs" book:

a somewhat negative but well-expressed review from 'someone who doesn't get it': 
ps/ to the above commenter: Please see the Mainichi Magazine page if you want to see the maps and photos of cities and places in China where Yoshiko lived based on the addresses she provided (which you found boring). As for "it's not a picture of life in China, nor in Japan", the book is chock-full of details and so thick with historical information that it takes several readings to fully absorb it all. The account of her first visit to Japan in 1938 and the Nichigecki riots of 1941 certainly are descriptive of Japan during the war years. The chapter on the two phantom films ("Yellow River" and "My Nightingale") give us an eye-witness account of war-torn China in Kaifeng and the Russian/Chinese city of Harbin during 1943. 

Yamaguchi appeared on many magazine covers and product commercials:

Woman of Shanghai magazine cover:

And now some music album covers:
this 2 CD album came out in May 2015 and includes 2 beautiful 'mystery' songs never heard before:

Golden Best album:

Here are some reader comments and other testimonials (taken from a variety of sources).

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.

this is by Chan Julian:

This one is quite touching:

typical of comments from people recalling the beauty of Yoshiko's songs from their childhood:

 my reason in posting the above lies in the great truth of it's last line:
"it goes beyond ideology, direct access to the depths of the heart, always seemed superior to the movie"

other comments/tributes:

this was in response to one of the negative Beijing TV videos on Yamaguchi's life:

These next few perceptive comments were posted on the Singapore Car Forum:


and this beautiful parting thought:


  1. Her autobiography has just been translated into English. I believe it has been re-titled as Fragrant Orchid rather than Half My Life as Ri-Koran. I am attempting to obtain it from the publisher, Univ. of Hawaii Press. More info as it becomes available.

  2. Thanks for the kind words, John. It sure wasn't easy to get this info. A friend of mine in Japan tipped me off nearly 2 years ago that an English translation was in the works. Through her, I was able to contact the author, a Chinese professor in California. He advised me that the book would come out in the winter of 2015. And I finally had to contact U. of Hawaii Press to find out the new title or I would not have located it.

    The book should arrive within the next few days at my home. Can't wait to read YY's own words about her life.

    On a related note, another CD with many of her early songs is now available through CD Japan. The title is Horichintsairai.