Karayuki-San: The Making of a Prostitute

“Perhaps the most brilliant and feeling of Imamura’s fine documentaries.” — Joan Mellen, “The Waves At Genji’s Door: Japan Through Its Cinema”

After covering in his previous ‘70s docs the tribulations of “unreturned” WWII Japanese soldiers in exile, Shohei Imamura turns to a different, even more invisible brand of exile altogether: the countless Japanese women who were kidnapped or otherwise sold into sexual slavery, in order to service Japanese military men in Southeast Asia. At this heartrending tale’s center is Kikuyo Zendo, a 74-year-old who offers frank, harrowing testimony of her horrific wartime experiences, and runs down the factors that have led her to choose exile in Malaysia over repatriation. Still living in relative poverty, Kikuyo’s positive attitude throughout this captivating first-person tale is a marvel to behold.

“While researching the project, I met around twenty old ladies who had been Karayuki-san, but none of them seemed right for the film. And then I met Kikuyo Zendo, a gentle old lady of seventy, who came from the family of a poor fanner in the Hiroshima area. She was very open with us from the start, but I had to ask her a series of shockingly direct questions: “How many men did you have to sleep with every night?” “Did you enjoy sex with your clients?” and so on. Despite everything, she remained astonishingly kind and tolerant towards us.” — Shohei Imamura
Dir. Shohei Imamura, 1975, HD presentation, 70 min.

Watch an excerpt of “Karayuki-San: The Making of a Prostitute”!