Karayuki-San, The Making of a Prostitute
Directed by Shohei Imamura • Documentary • 1975 • 75 minutes
From the late 1800s to the mid-1900s, Japanese girls and women were trafficked out of Japan and sent to foreign countries like China, Singapore, and beyond to serve as indentured prostitutes. These women were called Karayuki-san.
Shohei Imamura discusses this unfortunate history with Zendo Kikuyo and retraces Kikuyo’s steps as a 19-year-old girl who was tricked from her hometown in Japan and ended up in Malaysia. With Kikuyo, they revisit the docks where she landed and was transferred, her old brothel—Number 20 on Malay Street—and together they visit other former Karayuki-sans in their homes.
"Imamura extends quiet patience towards his subject, encouraging her to reclaim the humanity that had been stolen in the wake of Japan's imperial hubris."—Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader