Mizuko and Yokohama Mary

In 2005, a documentary /movie was released named “Yokohama Mary.” It centers on a figure of an elder woman, dressed in a white Western aristocratic-era dress, with a parasol, and high heels, painting her face in white with bright red lips, almost like a Butoh form character, who wandered around the train stations and city streets in Yokohama. She was seen by the Japanese public over and over for about a decade. Then in 1995, she suddenly disappeared from sight.  In Japan, rumors began……….

And she became an urban legend.  There are books written about her.  A few actors and actresses have crafted plays and stories around her, calling her slightly different names.

The film is told through the film narrator and a well-known Japanese male chanson singer who sang in Japanese cabarets and in Kabuki halls, who befriended Yokohama Mary and did an theater piece about her and paid tribute to her. In the film, Yokohama Mary is invited to see his performance and she does show up to thank her.

She was known as a strong-willed, stubborn woman, of fairly gentle disposition yet direct in speech. Very thankful and grateful to most of the people she came in contact with. In some ways, I think that she lived psychologically, through the Japanese caste system, internalized, perhaps punishing herself for such a lowly life and viewed her unfulfilled loves, desires and tragedies as punishment and part of her “place” in life. And yet her attitudes were not dark. She, until her disappearance/or passing, stayed hopeful that her American soldier man would return one day after all, for them to be together. 

They had met during the postwar years–the American man and her. He promised to return but never did. She refers to wandering around the port area and whenever she heard one of the port ships and found that they were from America, she would go there with hope. But he never came down to the planks for her.

She would visit the Negishi Cemetery. She had two children she buried there. Because it is never quite said, I think they were Mizuko, and thought of as so–one of the over 800 babies buried there. For Yokohama Mary, she did mark the graves and people can see it today.

She was a bar girl, and sold her body once in a while, to make ends meet. Because she had become “degraded” in the eyes of society, she had to craft a life there, around the Yokohama area, near where the American base thrived.


LINK for film information: http://www.viennale.at/en/films/yokohama-mary

FILM Trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsMRNGTjWfY  

JAPANESE film trailer:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IK2mNOktA94

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