Sakura Sakura: How one guy from Hokuriku helped more with American-Japanese International exchange than you may realize

Last fall, an open cast call came through IFIE and some of our folks got to do a little acting in a movie placed in Ishikawa, Toyama, Tokyo, Scotland, and the U.S back in the early 1900’s. There’s a lot to the story, though, that has a great deal to do with a significant aspect of Japanese-American international exchange and even more to do with a love story.

The movie that that these folks were asked to act in is called “Sakura Sakura.” The focus of the movie is on a Takaoka-born scientist named Jokichi Takamine.  Takamine is a national and local hero, as well as being an internationally renowned scientist. If you are an ALT in Ishikawa, your junior high-school third years compete each year for a special prize in science and mathematics in his name. In America, one of his greatest cultural contributions is well know, and most of us have no idea that it was he (and several other key figures) that made it possible. Takamine is the one financially responsible for the famous cherry trees planted all over Washington D.C. as well as other key locations in the U.S.

He is remembered most for his ground-breaking work in chemistry. The movie focuses on his personal life,  what is considered a love-meant-to-be, and his American wife – Caroline Field Hitch.

The movie website (excuse my rough translation)  says this about the story:

“The wife, Caroline, and Jokichi Takamine, the father of the modern biotechnology, fall in love in New Orleans in 1884. Jokichi is 30 years old, while Caroline is 18 years old. Their love was destined, and they marry. This was the first marriage on record between an American and Japanese person.

“This is the magnificent story, depict both the life and loves of the chemist whose work in identifying both adrenaline and taka-diastase are still ground-breaking in today’s modern medicine. The movie introduces us to the world this couple fell in love in, the middle of the Meiji period, when Japan was entering the world stage and how his life with Caroline, twelve years younger than he, changed in both countries.

“However, this first mixed marriage between an American and Japanese person, was not without turbulence and Jokichi and Caroline faced many trials together. Together, they overcome all the hardships, and a testament to their true love and their union of America and Japan, is the bridges they created for two nations – the cherry trees that still stand along the Potomac and Hudson Rivers.

Takamine had an extraordinary life and I’m surprised that he is not more widely known in the U.S. I hope this movie will help people in both Japan and the U.S. learn more about early Japan-U.S. relationships, both cultural and political as well as what the love of two people can do.

The part of his wife is played by Japanese actress, Naomi Grace

Ishikawa’s own Marc McCrum and Brian Eick are both floating around in the movie! The feature will premiere this weekend at the Korona World Theater! Please go out and show them some support!

Here is the theater and showtime information:

Korona World

Date: March 20, 2010      Showtime: 13:00

Google map, here.


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