“Picture Bride”

Picture Bride

Picture Bride photo courtesy of the Hawaii Council for the Humanities

“Picture Bride”
Aired on NPR’s “Morning Edition,” May 16, 1995

By Heidi Chang

In the early 1900s, more than 20,000 Japanese women crossed the Pacific to marry Japanese plantation workers in Hawaii. Because those marriages were arranged through photographs and letters, the young women became known as “Picture Brides.” Their story is told in a new movie. It follows the journey of a young woman from Japan who is lured to Hawaii to marry a man she’s never seen, except through photographs. And when she arrives, she’s shocked to discover he’s old enough to be her father.

Listen to the Story (6:23)


“Picture Bride” won the Audience Award for best dramatic film at the Sundance Film Festival in 1995. The groundbreaking film was directed by Kayo Hatta. She was inspired by the stories and voices of women singing work songs on Hawaii’s sugar plantations. Hatta said, “the hole hole bushi songs were what I feel kind of a parallel to the slave songs that Blacks in the cotton plantations used to sing, call and response… It was kind of like the Japanese blues, a way of expressing in a very direct and poignant way, the hardship of their lives.”  Hatta died in California in 2005.  She was 47.

Picture Bride
Click on images to enlarge

The film stars Youki Kudoh, Akira Takayama, Tamlyn Tomita and Cary-Hiroyuki TagawaToshiro Mifune makes a cameo appearance in what turned out to be his last movie role.

Director Kayo Hatta and actor Toshiro Mifune

Director Kayo Hatta (lower left) rehearses a scene with actor Toshiro Mifune


This story won a National Communicator Award in 1998.

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