Yoshiko Yamaguchi – The Manchurian Candidate

Yoshiko Yoshiko Yamaguchi and Isamu Noguchi and Isamu Noguchi

She met Isamu Noguchi in New York in the fall of 1950. They were married in Japan in May 1952 (From Noguchi org.)

Yoshiko (Shirley) Yamaguchi (born 1920), is a noted Japanese film star, television reporter and politician. Yamaguchi’s parents were Japanese, but she was born and raised in Manchuria. After the Japanese invasion of Manchuria she adopted a Chinese name, Li Xianglan (in Japanese, Ri Ko Ran), and appeared in propaganda films and other movies produced by the Japanese for Chinese audiences. At the end of World War II she avoided execution for treason in China by revealing her Japanese identity, and then established a career as Shirley Yamaguchi in Hollywood and on Broadway.

She went through radical changes as she assumed new names, new locations and new professions.
As Lixiang Lang (fragrant orchid) she sung like Judy Garland. Persian bird(Перская птица) (ペルシャの鳥) sang by 李香蘭 (Interesting find from youtube – she appears in a Russian film)

Born in turbulent times, Li Xianglan lived a complex, controversial life in which everyone seemed to have experienced multiple identities.

“What was that war all about?” remains the fundamental question. For me, “Li Xianglan” often reminds me of my father and my mother, living in their memories that are an
integral part of their personal history. Telling the story of Li Xianglan is my personal tribute to the memory of my late parents (Kore eda from Night Fragrant Flower)

Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, she avoided being recognized as Japanese in Manchuria and when in Japan she hated to see the Japanese feelings of superiority to Chinese.
More here from an interview – Looking back on my days as Ri-kolan

As Yoshiko Yamaguchi she left the land where she grew up to start afresh in Japan.

Scandal Mifune Toshiro and Yoshiko Yamaguchi in Scandal - Kurosawa film Yoshiko with Toshiro Mifune in a Akira Kurosawa film.

As Shirley Yamaguchi she appeared in Hollywood films, one of them A House of Bamboo is a film noir directed by Samuel Fuller.

As Yoshiko Otaka, she ran for office and visited the Middle East and became an advocate for the Palestinian cause.

I went to Vietnam to report on the war. I saw the front lines in Vietnam, and next I became interested in learning what the Middle East War was all about. (Looking back on my days as Ri-kolan)

Here is her early years slide show on youtube interspersed with a story of Mao and Chang Ching.

Here is another film clip – A woman of Shanghai..

I (this blogger) was in this film as a film extra with other Chinese classmates when I was around 7 years old. Every morning a bus from film studio came and pick us up from our school in Tokyo. We did lots of running around in Chinese orphan costumes. We even had a song to sing.

This was my mother’s favorite song which is banned by the Chinese government today.
Suzhou is the theme song of a sequel of the popular 1940 movie “Xina no Yoru” (China’s Night). The song’s lyrics depict the separation of two lovers — a Japanese sailor and a Chinese female guerrilla fighting against Japanese invaders.

Of her life with Isamu Noguchi, she was in awe and overwhelmed by his severity and steadfast dedication to his craft, to his art and his vision. (This I pulled from my memory from her old interview she did in a Japanese magazine. Frieda Kahlo had an affair with Noguchi. Compared to Frieda, Yoshiko seems more conventional.)

Li Xiang Lang (Yoshiko Y.) and T.E Lawrence.

She visited the Middle East several times and in her report THE ARABS UNWRITTEN she wrote that she met a young Bedouin Sherif in Egypt whose uncle claimed that he had adopted T. E. as a son(!)

See Billy Rose Sculptural Garden designed by Noguchi in Jerusalem another side by side comparison to Yoshiko work as a politician for the Palestinians’ causes.

  • Update: R.I.P Yoshiko Yamaguchi – Diva of China and Japan (see more photos here)