Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Episode 237 – Princess, Lover, Soldier, Spy

This week, we take on the scintillating story of the Manchurian princess Kawashima Yoshiko, who grew up in Japan before becoming an agent for Japanese intelligence.

 

Sources

Birnbaum, Phyllis. Manchu Princess, Japanese Spy.

Cheung, Ester, et al. A Companion to Hong Kong Cinema.

Fogel, Joshua. Late Qing China and Meiji Japan.

Images

Kawashima Yoshiko in high school with her beloved horse.

Kawashima Yoshiko at the time of her wedding to the Mongol general Jengjuurab. The marriage was a political convenience that would end up going nowhere.

Kawashima Yoshiko in her Manchukuo military uniform.

Kawashima Yoshiko in a recording studio in Manchukuo, c. 1930s.

From left: Kawashima Yoshiko, Kawashima Naniwa, and Gen. Tanaka Ryukichi. Though she would never cut contact, Yoshiko’s relationship with her adoptive father would always be fraught.

Kawashima’s political orbit would naturally take her close to some major figures in the Japanese hard right, including the ultrarightist leader Toyama Mitsuru (shown here).

Hong Kong singer and actress Anita Mui as Kawashima Yoshiko in 1990.

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Episode 236 – Never Look Away

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Episode 238 – Hell is Empty

2 Comments

  1. Jason

    What did you think of Maggie Han’s portrayal of Kawashima in 1987’s Bertolucci’s “The Last Emperor” where the character went by the name “Eastern Jewel”? I realize that movie wasn’t about her per se but it’s how I first learned about her as a person.

    • ijmeyer

      With the caveat that I haven’t seen The Last Emperor in….oh god a good long while: I thought it was a solid performance, but definitely grounded in the media image of Kawashima as this vampy femme fatale. Which, given that it’s a not a huge role, is probably all they could fit in there. That movie is bursting at the seams as is!

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