Well-dressed in Ginza

I'm back. The move is complete, the dishes are in their cabinet, and my telephone cable is aYouTube with broadband. Let us begin the new age of No-sword... with a newsprint photograph of Helen Keller in a kimono.

Keller visited Japan several times after her celebritification, and documentary evidence is all over the web. But I had never seen this uncredited photo from the 1948/11 issue of Shufu no tomo (a.k.a. "the Shufu-no-Tomo", a.k.a. "Home Journal for Ladies", literally the "Housewife's Friend").

The woman next to Keller in a kimono of her own is Keller's secretary, Polly Thomson. The man almost out of frame to the right staring directly at you is Shufu no Tomo president ISHIKAWA Kazuo, who presented them with these new hōmongi on behalf of the entire Shufu no Tomo organization.

Keller: "I took great care of the kimono I received last time I visited [in 1937], but my house burnt down and everything was destroyed. I never forgot that kimono. That marvelous kimono." ("前回お訪ねしたときにいたゞいた着物は、大切にしていましたのに、私の家が火事に遭つたので、皆な焼けてしまつたのです。いつも忘れられなかつた着物。素晴しい着物。")

After thanking Ishikawa for the new kimono, she then directed him to tell his readers that she was about to tour Japan and do everything she could for its still-suffering people, wherever she found them. Then, she was off to Korea, China, and parts west.

(Not the most tactful of postwar East Asia mercy mission itineraries, I suppose, but she did arrive from Australia.)

Bonus link: Can Helen Keller Lead Secure Life in Japan? (PDF).

Popularity factor: 4


There's a better shot of the kimonos in the gallery over at the Tokyo Helen Keller Association



Hey, that is better. You can actually see the pattern. (The loss of Ishikawa's eerie gaze is a small price to pay.) Thanks!


はじめまして。 通りすがりのものです。 ヘレン・ケラー女史が1937年に来日した折の歓迎式のときに花束を渡して握手した、という女性に数年前にお会いしたことがあります。当時彼女はまだ小学生だったそうですが、握手したときに、ヘレン・ケラーさんの手がとても柔らかかったのを今でもはっきり覚えている、と言っていました。その女性とはカルチャースクールでしばらくいっしょでしたが、当時80歳を超えていましたけれど、とても上品でお元気な方でした。懐かしくて、思わずコメント書かせていただきました。

I have met a woman who gave Hellen Keller a bouquet and shaked hands with to welcome in 1937. The woman was a child at that time, and she told that she remembered clearly Hellen's very soft hands. She was one of my classmates in an adult school, who was more than 80 years old and very refined and active.


Thanks, Hiro, that's a nice anecdote. I sometimes wonder if Japan is especially fond of Helen Keller or if every country she visited is that way...

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