Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Hollywood, Atsuhime, Inarizushi And More

One of my favorite multi-culti works of art features four female statues standing on the corner of LaBrea where it meets Hollywood Boulevard. Made of some type of silver metal (I'm not sure what), the four of them together support a contraption atop their heads which, in turn, holds a vertical sign that reads 'Hollywood'.

More or less representing the four main races are likenesses of actresses Dorothy Dandridge (African American), Mae West (Caucasian), Anna Mae Wong (Chinese American), and Dolores Del Rio (Mexican American).

Well-known back in the day, each of these ladies broke barriers in her own way. Because I've written several articles about Anna Mae Wong, I'm most familiar with her story and how she became an actress after being chosen as an extra during a shoot in her neighborhood. Although her life ended in 1961 when she was just 56, Wong enjoyed an unprecedented show biz career despite being forced to portray Asian stereotypes. Never allowed an onscreen romance that came to fruition, Wong often joked about having to "die a million deaths" in her films. Indeed, Wong was an enigma and her career a paradox. Acting during a time when white performers would don makeup to look Asian (or as it was called "appearing in yellowface"), Wong was even forbidden to kiss any "Asian" played by a Caucasian actor.

Dorothy Dandridge's life was also a dichotomy. Her highest achievement as the third African American actress nominated for a Best Actress Oscar was negated by a host of personal tragedies. And, like Wong, Dandridge suffered from being forced to play stereotypes--mostly of sexually promiscuous women with loose morals. Also like Wong, Dandridge died young--at age 42 of a drug overdose.

Were these women victims of their race or their gender, or both?

There are plenty of women victims in the NHK taiga series Atsuhime. Briefly, Atsuhime (left) is a princess of the Satsuma clan who was pressured into marrying Shogun #13 to unite her clan with the larger ruling Tokugawa clan. But the Shogun has since died leaving Atsuhime a young widow and "mother" to the new Shogun. In the latest episode, the Emperor's sister, Kazunomiya (right), has finally recognized that Atsuhime is her ally. Forced to marry the new Shogun (Atsuhime's "son" in order to unify the "royals" with the Tokugawa samurai clan, Kazunomiya was at first horribly unhappy having to adjust to life in Edo (Tokyo) after leaving the Emperor's Kyoto digs. I love watching this show where chicks rule! And, having my mother explain her Japanese history during each episode is an added treat.

Speaking of treats, my mom decided to get into the mixed-race game recently by making both brown rice and white rice inarizushi. Check it out. She even marked each row
with flags for easy identification.

Hey, thanks again to the Mixed Chicks for having me participate in their November 26 podcast to talk about interesting names of multi-ethnic folks. I've explained mine so many times here that I'm sure you don't want a repeat.

At last, the new Watermelon Sushi website is up! Some tweaking remains to be done, but that will happen over the next few weeks. For now, please check it out and email me your comments. So many folks over the years have been supportive of this film endeavor, so I send you all a shout-out.

Also, if you've purchased a Hapa*Teez t-shirt, drop me a line to make sure I have the spelling of your name correct.

HAPA Hollah Daze!

Your Hip Hapa,


Tornadoes28 said...

I have been watching the TV show Atsuhime. I am interested in J History and had been reading about this time period when I came across the show. I thought Atsuhime was a family member of the royal court, not the Satsuma clan. Isn't she the daughter of the emperor?

Yayoi Lena Winfrey said...

Atsuhime was adopted by someone (I missed the beginning) and, thus, ended up a Satsuma daughter after coming from a lower class. I came into the show after she married the Shogun #13. He was sickly and died leaving her to be the mother of the next Shogun #14 who was selected (he did not inherit the position). Kazunomiya is the sister of the Emperor. Her marriage to the Shogun #14 was arranged in order to bring unity between the "royals" (Emperor/Kyoto folks) and the Tokugawa Shogunate (samurai ruling class of Edo/Tokyo).

This time period was just before the Meiji Restoration. My mother has been feeding me bits of info all of my life.

I love the way the Japanese have statues of these historical figures all over the place. One can just walk around and learn the history.

Did you also watch Shinsengumi and/or Yoshitsune?

Your Hip Hapa,

Tornadoes28 said...

I watched most of Shinsengumi a few years ago. I liked it. In reality though, Kondo Isumi was a pretty brutal man responsible for the deaths of a lot of people. The TV did not really show this aspect of him.

Atsuhime married the 14th shogun. After he died, Yoshinobu became the 15th and last Shogun.

cy said...

Extremely interesting discussion sis. I remember having a similar discussion with somebody concerning Lena Horne's career. I always learn when I visit your blog. And just for fun, you've been TAGGED which means, if you haven't already, post 6 little known tidbits about yourself, the 6th foto from the 6th album on your pc and tag 6 more. peace/health/radiance, Cy

Yayoi Lena Winfrey said...

Aloha Tornadoes,

Atsuhime married the 13th shogun--the crazy one, my mother says--named Iesada. He died of illness and a very young Iemochi (Yoshitomi) became the next shogun because Iesada had no heir. Atsuhime then became Iemochi's mother by default. Evidently, Iemochi/Yoshitomi also died young after marrying the Emperor's sister, Kazunomiya, in hopes of uniting the samurai with the royals and expelling the foreigners. The 15th and last shogun, Yoshinobu (who the Satsuma wanted as shogun in the first place), became the "Last Shogun" which, of course, is nothing like the "Last Samurai" thanks to Tom-no-Japanese-knowing-Cruise.

btw, Japanese gossip magazines have been reporting the conflict between the two women stars playing Atsuhime and Kazunomiya. Grr!

Your Hip Hapa,

Yayoi Lena Winfrey said...

Aloha Cy,

What a treat to hear from you again! I enjoy reading about your vegan/raw adventures.

I'll try to follow your "Six" directives, but I'm not always so savvy about stuff like that. Wish me luck!

Your Hip Hapa,

Ethel said...

"btw, Japanese gossip magazines have been reporting the conflict between the two women stars playing Atsuhime and Kazunomiya. Grr!"

Check out this link. It's Aoi Miyazaki on Top Runner (NHK). From what I could understand in the interview, Aoi and Maki were good friends. OR search yuotube: T.R. 081117(1/5)