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IMG_0723The first night in Yokohama I couldn’t sleep and so I made good use of my time by finding the story of the little girl with red shoes. First let me share the lyrics of a Japanese song about this little girl.  The title is “Akai Kutsu no Onna no Ko,” which means  “The Girl in Red Shoes:”

The little girl in red shoes,

Gone away with foreigners 

On a boat from Yokohama,

Gone away with foreigners

By now her eyes must be blue,

She must be in the foreigners’ country

I think of her every time I see red shoes

I think of her every time I see a foreigner.

 According to The Japan Times, this is a song taught to schoolchildren and most Japanese know the song very well.  So, initially, it seemed like this little Japanese girl was adopted (hopefully not kidnapped!) by foreigners or “Gaijin”.  However, as my search continued I found that there were many versions of what happened and how it happened, all ending with the “gone away with foreigners” idea.  Then I came across an item from The Japan Times.  A woman had written in, asking for clarification of the details of the story. The Times’ story was researched and written by Alice Gordenker  concluded that the song was incorrect.

 The little girl’s name was Kimi.  Her mother found herself in financial hardship and could no longer care for 3 year-old Kimi.  She gave Kimi to a trusted friend who promised to find a good home for her.  Her mother didn’t hear anything definitive about little Kimi’s fate, but came to believe that she was adopted by foreign missionaries and taken overseas.  

 What actually happened was quite different and quite sad.  The plans were, indeed, for Kimi  to be adopted…by “foreigners” and live overseas.  However, just before departure, it was discovered that Kimi had tuberculosis and was not allowed to leave Japan.  She died at age 11 in a Japanese orphanage, her mother never having seen little Kimi again.

 Since then I’ve asked people about the story and specifically, how it ended.  Most people said that the little girl with red shoes was adopted by a foreigner and lived the rest of her life overseas.  I like that ending better.