Filmmakers (from right) Katheryn Tolbert, Lucy Craft and Karen Kasmauski are all first-born daughters of Japanese war brides.

Three American journalists — all first-born daughters of Japanese women who married American GIs and occupation personnel during the 1950s — are producing a short film about their mothers’ remarkable lives: “Fall Down Seven Times, Get up Eight: The Japanese War Brides.”

They are seeking donations through a Kickstarter campaign to help shed light on a rarely told, fascinating slice of modern Japanese American history.

Emiko and Steve Kasmauski in 1952 in Japan.

“I started working on the project 20 years ago, because I knew it was a great story that hadn’t really been told,” said Kathryn Tolbert, a long-time Washington Post editor whose mother, Hiroko, is the film’s central character. “This is a finite group of women from Japan who married American soldiers and sort of gave up everything and put down roots. It’s a very particular immigrant experience with impact in all sorts of ways.”

Veteran National Geographic photographer Karen Kasmauski said the film will reveal the characters of women who put aside tradition, custom and family to leap into the unknown. “To move to the country that used to be their enemy — I don’t think I would have been able to do it,” she said. “Maybe you had to be somewhat narcissistic, driven, focused and manic in order to make that jump. In some ways, those are characteristics for people who are pilgrims, and explorers!”

Lucy Craft, who made her mother’s journey in reverse and has lived in Japan for 30 years, freelances for CBS News and NPR from Tokyo. She said the film will convey history in broad strokes but remain highly personal. “Americans of any age or ethnic identity will be able to glimpse the extraordinary and dramatic circumstances that brought these women to the U.S., and trace, through their eyes, what happened after they scattered to towns, cities and rural communities across the country. Their story speaks volumes about who we are as Japanese Americans, and as Americans, period.”

Tolbert, Kasmauski and Craft will partner with documentary filmmaking company Blue Chalk Media, based in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Portland, Ore. They will film in Elmira, N.Y. and use archival film and photographs as well as current interviews and footage.

The title, “Fall Down Seven Times, Get up Eight,” a Japanese proverb, conveys the resilience, endurance and stubborn refusal to give up that characterized their mothers and the many others they interviewed in the Japanese war bride community.

The film’s Kickstarter fundraising campaign started Sept. 16. According to Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing rules, if the target goal of $24,000 is not pledged within 30 days, the project receives nothing. Donations large and small are needed.

For online donations, movie trailer, rewards, and more, go to:

For donations by personal check, email:


Kathryn Tolbert’s mother, Hiroko, on a farm in 1953.

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